Eat and drink your way around Margaret River wine region

By Robyn Lewis
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Vasse Felix, Margaret River, Western Australia

Vasse Felix, Margaret River, Western Australia [©Vasse Felix]

Vasse Felix, Margaret River, Western Australia
Essential Wine Touring Guide - Margaret River
Margaret River Wine and Food Recipe Book

 

There is a line between recipes for cutting-edge restaurant cuisine and dishes that are achievable at home, that is, without a full-sized commercial kitchen, blow torches, sous-chefs to do the prepping, kitchen hands to clear away, or the demands of hungry children.

As much as shows like MasterChef have raised the bar, and many kitchens now sport at least one additional piece of cooking equipment, most home cooks need recipes with a dash of inspiration, but which are relatively uncomplicated, and that work.

The Margaret River Wine and Food Recipe Book is a slender little volume, produced by the Margaret River Wine Industry Association, who asked their member wineries to draw on their own culinary flair and to provide a favourite recipe for an entrée, main or dessert that perfectly accompanies one of their own wines.

The result is eclectic and informal – as they say, a bit like the colourful Margaret River wine industry itself. There are some old standbys like chicken and corn soup, pear and rocket salad, lamb shanks in red wine and pears poached in the same, through to more modern but very do-able creations like (globe) artichoke soup, marron with pistachio, panko-crumbed prawns with mango and lime salsa, scallops with quince marmalade and another version with avocado ice-cream, and goat-cheese and roasted garlic soufflé.

Sure, you won’t find hand-massaged wagyu, Ortiz anchovies or Iberian jamon, but this is not Spain nor the new luxe but formerly ‘peasant’ food. Many of these recipes no doubt feature on the menus of winery restaurants such as Cullens, Cape Mentelle, Laurance and Voyager Estate (one oversight in this inaugural production is lack of a winery/vineyard index; you just have to thumb through to find your fave producer, although it helps a little that they are in alphabetical order by section).

The locally-farmed venison appears in a variety of forms such as venison osso bucco, steaks with redcurrant jelly, seasoned fillets with chargrilled asparagus, and an innovative recipe from Woodlands Wines for venison fillets crumbed in gingerbread with chocolate and red wine emulsion. There’s rabbit and roo, too – if you are into experimenting with game, for a mere A$10 you’ll find lots of ideas in the Margaret River Wine and Food Recipe Book.

Margaret River is also famed for its seafood, with the busy fishing port of Augusta near its southernmost tip. Western Australian crayfish are a different species to those of the eastern states (the latter now known as Southern Rock Lobster). They’re usually smaller and cheaper, giving rise to recipes like salt and pepper crayfish from Mongrel Creek, crayfish curry from Victory Point Wines, and crayfish sandwiches with curry mayo from Frazer Woods Wines. The Crumbed Abalone from KarriBindi is very retro 70s, although it’s hard to realise that back then there was almost no sauvignon blanc to match it with.

If you are fortunate to have access to WA’s famed marrons, cooking them with lemon-pressed EVOO and serving with an avocado and mango salsa in Knotting Hill Estate style sounds divine and very simple. The steamed snapper (or barramundi) with lime coconut sauce from Arlewood sounds equally tempting and one I will try this summer.

If you have the time try your hand at Cullen’s Beef, Mushroom and Truffle Oil Spinach Pies, served with their 2007 Diana Madeleine, of course. All the recipes have their own wine matches – I’m not 100% sure about the Margaret River chardonnays with several of the desserts however, as they often tend to be steelier and more Chablis-like than some of their eastern counterparts, but no doubt they are tried and tested combos.

In all, for the bargain price so A$10 it’s a lovely little recipe book; a souvenir of one of the country’s best wine regions and an inspiration to try a few different dishes from Australia’s west.

To find these vineyards you’ll need a map, such as the Essential Wine Touring Guide to Margaret River (Pocket Format, Edition 1) produced by The Road Less Travelled, whose author guide Conor Lagan (son of the founders of Xanadu Estate) operates personalised winemaker-hosted tours of Margaret River.

This fold-out map lists the six wine ‘precincts’ of the Margaret River region, which are from north-west to south: Yallingup, Carbunup River (including Busselton and Dunsborough), Wilyabrup – considered by some to ne the heartland of Margaret River’s premium red wines – Treeton, Wallcliffe and the largest and most southerly Karridale, famed for its chardonnays.

98 of the region’s producers are listed with year of establishment, location and contact details, GPS coordinates, standout wines, visitor tips and something called the X factor, which is a score out of 10 that attempts to include non-wine factors into the overall visitor experience.

Margaret River being a quality region (and the author no doubt a diplomat) there are no scores under 8, and having visited many of them ourselves we agree that you’d be struggling to find a dud. As Lagan says, ‘all wineries have positives, even if they don’t immediately just out and lick you’. Of perhaps greater usefulness is his list of ‘dress circle dozens’, his personal regional bests for grape/wine varieties from chardonnay through to semillon-sauvignon blanc blends.

To round out the offering there are some lists of local food producers, bars and eateries, eight microbreweries, a vintage chart, things to do if you ever tire of wine tasting, a seasonal vineyard activity guide – in fact it’s amazing what is packed onto this guide.

As its name suggests, it’s a handy little item to have in your pocket, and even comes with a plastic sleeve and neck strap if you don’t have a remaining spare hand with your camera gear and tasting glass, and don’t mind looking like a tourist. For navigation we’d still recommend Ray Jordan’s WA Wine Guide Map, but if you have a GPS in your car then this would be fine.

 

 

The Essential Wine Touring Guide to Margaret River (Pocket Format, Edition 1) by The Road Less Travelled/Conor Lagan is published by Oenonav Pty Ltd (Margaret River, WA 2010) and retails for A$14.95 (postage extra). It can be purchased direct from www.essentialwinetouringguide.com

 

The Margaret River Wine and Food Recipe Book 2010 Edition is produced by the Margaret River Wine Industry Association (sc, 62 pp, Rocket Frog Books, WA) and sells for RRP A$10 (postage extra).  It can be purchased from participating wineries, the Margaret River Visitor Information Centre or direct from www.margaretriverwine.org.au

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