GOURMET FOOD & WINE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GEOGRAPHE WINE REGION
Local blogger and lifestyle writer Johanna Castro shares with us what not to miss on a gourmet food tour of the Geographe Wine Region. For more tales from Jo, visit her blog The ZigaZag Mag.
Download a PDF version of this Geographe Region Drive Trail.
Did you know that within an hour and a half of Perth you could be sipping new world wines and feasting on modern gourmet cuisine in the Geographe Wine Region? A weekend gourmet drive trail could take you from the city streets of Bunbury to the small towns of Donnybrook, Dardanup and Harvey on a quest to sample new age wines from family run wineries. Or perhaps you’d like to stock up on fresh produce from local growers, visit a brewery and then book in somewhere scenic for a long lunch? Wherever you choose to meander in the Geographe Wine Region you’ll be treated to beautiful forested, coastal or country vistas, travelling on quiet roads where the words ‘traffic jam’ have yet to be uttered. Read on below for what not to miss on your travels to the Geographe region.
Over the last few years Bunbury has come of age. Visually there’s no mistaking the fact that the café culture in Bunbury is growing and the city is also host to a number of acclaimed restaurants as well as to some vibrant food and wine festivals.The city wine bar scene is up-beat and vibey (there’s new offerings coming soon too), with many outlets offering acclaimed and award winning local wines from the surrounding Geographe wine region.
A watery escape
A competing array of al fresco cafes vie for attention along the cappuccino strip (the City’s main shopping and dining street) where the aroma of freshly ground coffee is never far away.
Around Marlston Waterfront (where you may encounter dolphins swimming right below your table) you’ll find a number of eateries in a beautiful waterside setting. Or you could choose a cosy restaurant in the city, or dine by the beach, the inlet or the bay and select from tapas, seafood, pasta, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and modern Australian. In fact take your pick from around 70 eateries, and a micro brewery serving both beer and food.
Travel on a more rural trail away from Bunbury and you’ll find fabulous wineries with a range of charming cellar doors, some also offering country-style restaurants with magnificent views.
There are six wine regions ‘down south’ but the Geographe Wine Region is the closest to Perth. The Geographe Wine Region refers to a coastal strip that covers the area from Harvey and Preston Beach in the north to Busselton in the South and inland to the hills of the Darling Range.
Purchasing straight from the farm gate is popular in this region, and friendly farmers, vintners and chefs are more than happy to chat you about their work and lives.
In the country towns of Donnybrook, Capel and Boyanup regular markets are held once a month when the farmers themselves come to town to sell their fresh produce.
The Geographe Wine Region
In 1999 this relatively new wine region was named ‘Geographe’ after the tall ship captained by French explorer Nicolas Baudin who discovered the bay of the same name in 1801.
In this area there are over 1,200 hectares of established vines dating back to the 1970’s and the area has four distinct wine producing districts – Harvey, Ferguson Valley, Donnybrook and Capel.
Its unique soil is suited to many different varieties of grape and due to warm days, cool nights, consistent climate and good winter rainfall, the area has had great success with wines made from semillon, sauvignon blanc and shiraz grapes which are considered the ‘regional heroes.’
However, the Geographe Wine Region has become home to plantings of several experimental varieties too (from Italy, Spain and Portugal) such as Verdejo, tempranillo and nebbiolo to name a few.
Although the region is young in a wine sense (just under 20 years old) it’s building a great reputation.
There are now around 40 estates producing wine under their own labels with many offering cellar door experiences and about 14 of these wineries can be found in the Ferguson Valley.
Wineries and micro breweries in the Ferguson Valley
The Geographe Wine Region boasts one of the most scenic and enjoyable wine sub regions in Western Australia known as the Ferguson Valley, which you can reach by car within about 20 minutes of Bunbury.
It’s a place of family run wine farms rather than large corporate owned estates, of casual rather than suited dining. Wineries are producing some excellent mainstream wines as well as a range of alternative varietals, and one estate in particular is serving award winning food.
Meander along Ferguson Road and Pile Road visiting the wineries (and a brewery), stop for something tasty to eat, and sample hand crafted cheeses before driving on through breathtaking scenery where vineyards, country farms and rolling countryside stretch away into the most fabulous distant vistas.
Driving south from Bunbury along the highway into Donnybrook when the fruit trees are either heavy with fruit or blooming with white and pink spring blossom is always a delight. Known as the Apple Capital of the south west, the town is situated on the banks of the Preston River amid undulating hills that support fruit and vegetable growing, olives, aquaculture and viticulture.
This historic town with its well known Apple Fun Park offers travelers a selection of cafes and bakeries along the main street as well as 6 nearby boutique wineries to choose from, two of which offer lunches at weekends, and a cidery.
A sneak preview of the culinary delights Donnybrook has to offer would include farm fresh marron, organic beef, olive oil, and masses of local fruit and vegetable produce. If you’ve ever munched a Pink Lady then you’ve eaten one of Donnybrook’s most popular apples.
At Donnybrook you can pick your own tree-ripened fruit in season, fresh fruit can be purchased at the numerous road side stalls, and you can sample sun dried fruit products too.
If you’re thinking of a BBQ then you’ll be happy to know that the Donnybrook Butcher has won numerous awards at the Perth Royal Show for his sausages, and four Donnybrook wineries have won prestigious wine awards.
The Big Orange, Harvey
Closer to Perth, your first stop on the drive trail could be at Harvey, a small town situated on the Harvey River and nestled under the Darling Scarp. It has a unique Italian heritage and since the first orchards were planted by early settlers in 1896 has gone on to showcase some of Western Australia’s most exceptional produce most notably fresh citrus fruits, export quality fruit juices, dairy products and well known Harvey Beef.
While you’re in the area sample fresh juices and sangria and take time to visit Harvey’s cellar door outlets. You’ll find five local wineries offering exceptional wines, plus there’s a well frequented brewery in the region too.
Collie Food and Wine
Moving on to Collie you’ll reach a small country town with some interesting historical attractions. Hit one of the pubs in town for a good old fashioned counter meal – meaning good value and even better portion sizes.
There’s a winery north of town which has recently added a micro brewery and it offers snack style meals but if you’re looking to throw some snags on the barbie then pop into the country butcher where you can buy locally renowned sausages.
Blueberries, available during the summer, are grown in the district (at neighbouring Cardiff 10km south of Collie) and the Collie River and Wellington Dam are popular spots for Marron in season with anglers also trying their luck to catch red fin perch and trout.
Farmers Markets and Events
Farmers Markets are a great way to purchase local fresh produce directly from the grower while regional festivals celebrate the wine, food and attractions of Bunbury and the Geographe. Some of these include:
- The Capel Farmers Markets, held on the 2nd Sunday of each month from 9am to 12.30
- Donnybrook Station Markets – 3rd Saturday of each month from 9am to 1pm.
- Boyanup Farmers Market – 4th Sunday of each month from 8am till noon
- Donnybrook Apple Festival – Easter Weekend
- Donnybrook Food and Wine Fest – Annually in November
- The Harvey Harvest Festival in March, and the Harvey Agricultural Show in April.4
- The Geographe Crush Food and Wine Festival, held each year in November. The Crush as it’s known locally, is a lively event where wine makers and wine producers from the Geographe region come together to showcase their wines, and chefs create gourmet dishes using fresh ingredients from nearby land and sea.