Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | June 19, 2015

In the Margaret River Vineyards Winter 2015

Finally winter has arrived in Margaret River and with shorter daylight hours, cold weather and rainfall the grapevines respond with late autumn colours and leaf loss. The start of the dormant period in the cycle of vine life has begun.

Grapevines are very robust plants and have evolved over millions of years to survive harsh winters by losing their leaves and shutting down their metabolic processes. Dormancy is really the winter survival behavior of vines grown in temperate areas. Towards the end of the growing season as daylight hours shorten in autumn, vines lose their leaves. As temperatures further decrease, the vines undergo a number of changes in preparation for ‘shutting down’ for the colder months. Levels of water held within the plant tissues decrease, soluble proteins and carbohydrates in bark increase and cell membranes alter their function so that basically the vines set themselves up with the biological equivalent of ‘anti-freeze’ to ensure live tissue remains for the renewal of growth in the following spring. Vines are not dead or completely inactive when dormant. They do not photosynthesize as they have no green leaves, but they are breathing to maintain basic metabolic functions. Their energy source at this stage is carbohydrates stored during the late part of the growing season. An interesting fact with dormant vines is that the vines actually move carbohydrate from the external part of the plant back down into the trunk and root system to protect the vine in the event that severe frost or freezing should damage the above ground structure of the vine. This is important, as to take cuttings for propagation later into dormancy could result in poor carbohydrate levels and therefore less success in the nursery or grafting environment. To prune early could result in removing carbohydrate and lessen the effective bud-break potential and reduce early spring shoot growth. Of course pruning early could be a management tool if we needed to control excessive vigour, simply by removing more carbohydrate earlier from the vine.

Many growers now use bud dissection as a tool prior to pruning to determine the fruitfulness potential of retained buds and to help support the decisions made with bud selection at pruning. This is by no means an exact science but simply a tool that allows another set of information to help predict an outcome. Bud dissection requires the grower to supply a representative sample of the buds that could be left after pruning. These buds are dissected and observed under a microscope. Assessments are made for bud health (is the bud still alive), pests (vine mite can be found in the buds) and then the microscopic flower cluster primordia from the primary bud can be counted. After dissecting bud samples and documenting information, a prediction of yield for respective blocks can be made. We understand that there are many variables that will affect the final yield at harvest and that bud dissection is simply another tool to help with predicting a suitable ratio between fruit weight and canopy size; the long term goal being to improve wine quality.

Out in the vineyard today with a few hardy souls and sharpening my secateurs in preparation for my first days pruning. Cold and wet today and rugged up with my rubber boots tucked under the waterproof pants. Music loaded onto the phone and headset on will help pass the time. The first of around 20 days of pruning for the season and looking forward to a glass of Margaret river Cabernet tonight in front of the fire at home tonight. Looking forward to some fine weather forecast for early next week and some relief from the cold. One days pruning done and cheers from out in the vineyard!
Contributed by Bruce Pearse, Viticulturist (on behalf of Margaret River Wine Industry Association)

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | March 31, 2012

MARGARET RIVER DISCOVERY Co TOURS Suggested itinerary for your stay in Margaret River

Start planning your Margaret River holiday with this suggested itinerary.Feel free to download and print.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 29, 2012

Places We Go visit Margaret River.

The latest episode from the team at Places We Go featuring Margaret River!

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 26, 2012

Sting Rays to be protected at Hamelin Bay

Hamelin Bay Sting Rays

Wild stingrays and skates frequenting the popular Hamelin Bay tourist spot will be totally protected under new regulations that came into effect yesterday. (Saturday, February 25).

The regulations identify a protection zone in the area where stingrays and skates (members of the Superorder Batoidea family) cannot be fished or harmed.

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said he had called for community and stakeholder consultation, following an incident last year in which a well-known eagle ray, called ‘Stumpy’, had been legally caught and killed by a recreational spear fisher.

“While the fisher had done nothing illegal, the action created great concern among locals and tourists, including young children, who witnessed the incident,” Mr Moore said.

“The incident raised significant public concern that the species should be protected for conservation and observation.

“Given the need to protect the tourist attraction stingrays provide in Hamelin Bay, I agreed to change fishing regulations to ensure rays and skates cannot be taken within a defined area.”

The specified protection area incorporates locations where locals and tourists often interact with the rays.

Rays or skates accidentally caught by recreational fishers within the protection area would need to be released immediately without being harmed.

Existing penalties for taking protected species would apply to any fishers breaching the new regulations within the area. The maximum penalty for taking totally protected fish is $5,000.

The Minister said the new regulations and protection zone would enable fishers to still enjoy Hamelin Bay while locals would be assured the wild rays would continue to be an attraction.

“I appreciate the support Recfishwest and the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council have given to this solution,” he said.

Mr Moore said it was important that people understood rays were wild animals, which had the capacity to inflict a serious sting injury, and reminded visitors to pay attention to signs asking them to not feed the rays or skates; and to be aware of the risks when interacting with rays.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 24, 2012

Kelly Slater confirmed for 2012 Margaret River Pro.

World Surfing champion confirmed for 2012 Margaret River Pro.

In a massive coup for Margaret River, surfing legend Kelly Slater will be back next month to compete in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro 2012.

Announcing Slater’s entry, Premier Colin Barnett said the 11-times world champion completed a star studded line-up, regarded as the best in the event’s history and possibly the strongest non World Championship Tour surfing event field ever assembled.

“It is not a cliche, Kelly Slater is a living sporting legend and to have him back at Margaret River is fantastic news for the event and the region,” Mr Barnett said.

“Kelly’s appearance at the 2011 Telstra Drug Aware Pro gave the event a tremendous boost, with record attendance and media coverage, and this year should be no different.

“With four-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore heading a strong women’s field, fans are guaranteed a feast of spectacular surfing.”

Slater’s entry means all of last year’s top four male surfers will compete at Margaret River next month, with Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright and Taj Burrow already confirmed starters, along with reigning Pro champion Damien Hobgood, Josh Kerr, two-times world champion Mick Fanning, and exciting young guns John John Florence and Kolohe Andino.

Joining Gilmore in the women’s draw are former world champion Sofia Mulanovich, reigning Pro champion Courtney Conlogue, Pauline Ado and Laura Enever.

The Telstra Drug Aware Pro Margaret River is proudly supported by the State Government, through Eventscorp and Healthway.

“This is one of Western Australia’s marquee events, providing a major boost to tourism in Margaret River and great exposure for the region through valuable national and international media coverage,” the Premier said.

“It’s also a tremendous platform to spread the Drug Aware message. Congratulations to Surfing WA for pulling together another world-class event.”

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 24, 2012

Kelly Slater confirmed for the 2012 Margaret River Pro.

Kelly Slater Word Surfing Champion back for the Margaret River Pro 2012

In a massive coup for Margaret River, surfing legend Kelly Slater will be back next month to compete in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro 2012.

Announcing Slater’s entry, Premier Colin Barnett said the 11-times world champion completed a star studded line-up, regarded as the best in the event’s history and possibly the strongest non World Championship Tour surfing event field ever assembled.

“It is not a cliche, Kelly Slater is a living sporting legend and to have him back at Margaret River is fantastic news for the event and the region,” Mr Barnett said.

“Kelly’s appearance at the 2011 Telstra Drug Aware Pro gave the event a tremendous boost, with record attendance and media coverage, and this year should be no different.

“With four-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore heading a strong women’s field, fans are guaranteed a feast of spectacular surfing.”

Slater’s entry means all of last year’s top four male surfers will compete at Margaret River next month, with Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright and Taj Burrow already confirmed starters, along with reigning Pro champion Damien Hobgood, Josh Kerr, two-times world champion Mick Fanning, and exciting young guns John John Florence and Kolohe Andino.

Joining Gilmore in the women’s draw are former world champion Sofia Mulanovich, reigning Pro champion Courtney Conlogue, Pauline Ado and Laura Enever.

The Telstra Drug Aware Pro Margaret River is proudly supported by the State Government, through Eventscorp and Healthway.

“This is one of Western Australia’s marquee events, providing a major boost to tourism in Margaret River and great exposure for the region through valuable national and international media coverage,” the Premier said.

“It’s also a tremendous platform to spread the Drug Aware message. Congratulations to Surfing WA for pulling together another world-class event.”

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 14, 2012

Margaret River events February to April 2012

Margaret River Wine Festival 13 - 16 April

17 December 2011 to 21 April 2012: Movies in the Vineyard – Cape Mentelle
11 to 25 February 2012: 30 X 30 Small Works Exhibition – Margaret River Art Gallery
12 February 2012: Tracey Barnett – Settlers Margaret River
16 February 2012: Pugsley Buzzard – Settlers Margaret River
17 February 2012: Josh Pike – Settlers Margaret River
18 February 2012: Ben Merito And Band – Settlers Margaret River
19 February 2012: Ben Merito Stripped Back— Settlers Margaret River
23 February 2012: Van Walker – Settlers Margaret River
24 February 2012: The Domnicks – Settlers Margaret River
25 February 2012: Boom! Bap! Pow! – Settlers Margaret River
25 & 26 February 2012: South West Craft Beer Festival – Palandri
26 February 2012: Short and Curly – Settlers Margaret River
3 & 4 March 2012: Tropfest – Howard Park Wines
13 – 16 April 2012: Margaret River Wine Festival
13 April 2012: Long Table Feast at Leeuwin Estate
13 April 2012: The Herd – Settlers Margaret River
14 April 2012: Vintage Festival at Palmer Wines
14 April 2012: ‘Reds, Whites & the Blues’ Dinner at Woody Nook Wines
14 & 15 April 2012: Vin Fete Petanque Competition at Wise Wines
15 April 2012: Clairault’s Grand Degustation Lunch
30 April-6 May 2012: Arts Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival 2012

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | February 14, 2012

Margaret River vintage report 2012

Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

It would be fair to say that the recent January weather has been much warmer than what could be normally expected out in the vineyards in Margaret River. January 2012 has been the warmest on record and the warm night time temperatures haven’t provided a great deal of relief from the sweltering heat.

Working out in the vines has proven to be a challenge and many of us have opted for early starts and a long break during the middle of the day… then working a few hours into the evening to beat the heat. The vines are responding favourably to the warmth and we have been sampling grapes much earlier than normal to establish the optimum ripeness for each variety.

Chardonnay is the earliest ripening variety that I work with and we started harvest on some first cropping vines on the 29th January. This is by far the earliest harvest date that we can remember in Margaret River wine region…. as usually we would start harvest in the middle of February. The fruit harvested to date has been excellent quality, with ripe seeds, great flavour intensity and the winemakers appear happy. The sugars in relationship to berry physiologic ripeness have been lower than normal and this will result in slightly less alcohol being present in finished wines… but with great flavour intensity and refreshing natural acid being present.

At this early point we consider that 2012 will be recognised as a great vintage. Generally we can use the time taken from veraison (berry softening) to harvest as an indicator of wine quality… the shorter the time taken to ripen, the better the quality in white wines. Bring on the 2012 vintage we say!!

Sampling of grapes prior to harvest is done to determine the sugar and acid levels found in the juice. This analysis gives the winemaker an appreciation for the potential natural sugar conversion to alcohol and also for the balance of acidity within the finished wine…. important attributes for mouth feel and also preserving the wine. Representative random sampling of bunches (usually 20 bunches are collected for a sample) is conducted along rows within blocks of vines and bunches are taken to the winery or laboratory for crushing and de-juicing. The juice samples are analysed and then the data is recorded and graphed to show trends throughout maturity. Tasting the juice samples will give indication of the fruit flavour, intensity and other attributes that may give further indication for the suitability for harvest to commence. The information is relayed to the vineyard manager and then a forecast on harvest date is made… transport and harvesting arrangements are scheduled and harvesting commences.

To a great extent, most of the grapes harvested in the early phase of vintage this year have been picked by hand. In this set of circumstances, we prefer to harvest Chardonnay with whole bunches and go straight to press to reduce extraction of phenolic hardness usually associated with crushing and then pressing (simply, it just means that by just pressing the free run juice out of berries that the finished wine has tantalizing mouth feel and makes the best quality wine….). Some of the hand harvesting is done for sparkling wine base and this requires delicate handling and cooling before processing to reduce colour extraction. We are certainly gaining a reputation for our sparkling wines from Margaret River and those that are lovers and “in the know” find the bubbles attractive (Yum!).

Hand harvesting can be a challenge, especially in hot weather and with helpers that come from all corners of the globe we have to be considerate and allow time for them to adjust to the climate and the job at hand. We are very fortunate that we have the environment that attracts travellers to Margaret River and creates the situation for employment with backpackers and travellers earning some money before moving on and roving further into the state. The recent hot spell of weather has tested the metal of a few new chums to Margaret River but the attraction of money, “all the grapes that you can eat” and the prospect of adding extra time for international working holiday visitors drives them on. After a hard day picking grapes, I’m sure a beer, a kind word and surf helps ease the pain and makes the stay in Margaret River pleasurable and memorable.

Many tourists come to Margaret River purely for the natural environment, the National Parks and Coastal attractions. We are incredibly blessed with natural biodiversity throughout the Margaret River wine region and at present we have the most spectacular Marri tree flowering in our forests. Observing the flowering we can see many buds yet to burst and therefore the promise of lots of blossom still to come. Eucalyptus Calophylla is the botanical name of what we know commonly as Marri or Red Gum and the significance of this flowering gum at harvest is flowers full of nectar are a preferred food source for the marauding silvereye birds. With the prolific blossom, the silvereyes are satiated on nectar and leave the grapes alone. In years like this when the blossom is so prolific there is little motivation to apply bird netting, a saving in labour and machine hours and making life a little easier out in the vineyard.

Contributed by Bruce Pearce, Viticulturist

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | January 11, 2012

Wine touring in Margaret River with Margaret River Discovery Co.

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Margaret River WA was originally a chilled out surfie town, but has evolved into the ultimate smorgasbord of fine wine, good food and spectacular scenery — just a three-and-a-half hour drive south of Perth. No trip to Western Australia is complete without a pit stop at Margaret River.

There’s a fine supply of world-class wineries, boutique breweries, and restaurants overlooking sweeping vineyards and surf breaks.

The wine is definitely top notch – the region produces less than three per cent of Australian wine, but wait for it – nearly 30 per cent of the country’s premium wine.

And with nearly 100 plus wineries to choose from, you won’t be stuck for choice.

One of the best ways to experience the wine that Margaret River has to offer is on a tour. This video features a tour with the The Margaret River Discovery Company hosted by expert local guide Sean Blocksidge. Armed with a luxury 4WD plus a canoe he plots a journey that takes you behind the tourist facade, away from the masses to discover people and places you won’t find on your own.

The aim is to give the traveller the most memorable wine touring experience ever, and in the process, really experience the richness and diversity of this unique corner of the world. He calls it ‘the tour for people who dont do tours’.

Please note this video features the Margaret River Discovery Tour (Tues/Thurs/Fri). On alternate days Sean offers the Best of the Best Wine Tour (Mon/Wed/Sat). See for more details.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | December 22, 2011

Out in the Margaret River vineyards – Summer 2012

I always look forward to seasonal vineyard updates from Bruce Pearce. This is one is cracker. If you are a wine or vine nerd enjoy ….

The Margaret River wine region covers two shires (Busselton and Augusta – Margaret River) and is approximately 100km long and 27km wide. We are a large wine region that is influenced by the Southern and Indian Oceans. The Southern Ocean influence results in the southern vineyards having a somewhat cooler temperature profile and as we move further north the Indian Ocean influence kicks in and the climate warms. Over many years of viticulture excellence we understand and work with the variation in climate from south to north of the Margaret River wine region. Fortunately we are having a great growing season here in Margaret River and the spread of climatic variation adds to the complexity and depth of wines produced. As fate would have it, Margaret River had missed a lot of the inclement weather that occurred in the north and the southern areas of the state. Our geographic location has put us in a solid viticultural position again for vintage 2012…..

What we didn’t miss though was the fire that caused havoc and loss of property along the coastal mid section of the region. Thank goodness no one was injured. A couple of vines scorched and a lot of smoke that fortunately occurred at a time when vines would be least susceptible. With much of the smoke rising over southern vineyards and passing out to sea, the vineyards are OK. Unfortunately, a lot of lost hours worrying and fighting a fire and a few local mates that will need to rebuild and start over again…. mates with families that work in and around our wine industry! The strength of our local community spirit is working to help these families through and we appreciate the kind donations from Wine Lovers.

This year Margaret River wine region had a reasonably normal start to spring but with a wetter November than recent averages would suggest. The result has been earlier season vigour and a sprint for vineyard managers and viticulturists keeping up with canopy performance targets. One viticulturist recognised for his dedication to growing grapes and meeting targets is Bart Molony. Bart is with Vasse Felix and recently was awarded the prestigious Margaret River Wine Industry Association – Viticulture Excellence Award… Well done Bart!! (I have had the pleasure of working with Bart at Vasse Felix for a few years now!). Its guys like Bart that will ensure our drinking pleasure for years to come!

Viticulturists are enjoying grape vines growing actively from budbreak until flowering, this is positive for canopy surface area to fruit yield ratios and also fruitfulness for next years crop. We know that buds formed when active shoot growth occurs are more fruitful and the practices applied to encourage strong early season growth start in the previous year. By having strong early season growth we use the natural reduction in soil surface moisture taken up by the vines to encourage mild moisture stress in the surface root zone of the grape vine. This in turn slows shoot growth through the fruitset to bunch closure period and then hopefully will allow cessation of shoot growth at approximately 10 to 20 days before veraison (veraison is the period where berry colour change or softening occurs). This is exactly how we like our red variety vines to be leading into the fruit maturation period. We know that our red varieties have the best quality fruit when mild moisture stress occurs prior to veraison and harvest. As the surface root system dries, there is a change in the chemicals/hormones produced by the roots and this signals the vine to change from shoot growth to reproduction (berries with ripe seeds). The result is berries that have more colour, flavour and aroma… all natural attributes for a plant trying to promote seed dispersal. Vine health is maintained with the deep penetration roots that have accessed moisture in clay at depth, supplying the moisture for natural vine function.

We have put considerable effort into getting soils correct in nutrition and health and this also results in managing readily available soil moisture naturally and reduces the need for supplementary irrigation. It does go without saying (but I will anyway!), we do assess our vineyard soils and vine performance leading into flowering and veraison and if necessary we can apply supplementary irrigation to protect flowering and the berry maturation period. This is viticultural excellence at its best!

Pasture and cover crop growth in mid-rows this spring has been phenomenal and as a result the future of soil health and vine performance is looking very promising. Timing will see most vineyards complete canopy and fruit zone management by late December and we are hoping for some fine and mild weather through the next 3 months to ripen grapes. We forecast the 2012 vintage starting mid February…. it’s shaping up to be a ripper!

An amazing period to be out in the vineyard and we hope that all wine lovers have a merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Contributed by viticulturist Bruce Pearce

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | August 4, 2011

Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2011 finalist: Clive Otto, Fraser Gallop

With a hands-on approach to winemaking and a wealth of experience here and abroad, Clive Otto has been crucial to the rise and rise of Margaret River.

When he left Vasse Felix in 2005, few would have anticipated the revitalisation of Clive Otto’s career that would occur after he joined Fraser Gallop. Otto had come West chasing the Margaret River surf after he had finished his post-graduate diploma in winemaking at Roseworthy in 1989. He put his name down to do vintage at Vasse Felix and, when Bernie Abbott left, he found himself the winemaker working under David Gregg.

Gregg was a mentor for Clive Otto, leaving an abiding impression on him of the importance of drinkability in winemaking. When he retired in 1994, Otto took over as chief winemaker. During his time at Vasse Felix, production increased dramatically and the flagship Heytesbury wines were introduced. Importantly, Otto proved himself to be an outstanding winemaker as his record in wine shows indicates. His duties eventually took him away from the coalface into promotional activities and, in 2005, he was told that he was no longer required.

Here followed a short, difficult period which he filled by taking on consultancy work and securing a barrel agency. He did the 2006 vintage at Central Otago’s Amisfield and was then offered the winemaker’s job at Fraser Gallop. The 16-hectare, dry-grown vineyard at Wilyabrup, was planted by Nigel Gallop from 1999. Otto was attracted by Gallop’s emphasis on quality, his determination to keep yields low, and the focus on single-site cabernet and chardonnay.

Born in Tanzania and raised in Auckland, Otto did a horticultural degree at Massey University, then worked at Matawhero. Later, Hätsch Kalberer at Fromm shared his love of European wines with Otto and he became hooked on winemaking. After three years as a horticultural rep in the kiwi fruit industry and trips to Malibu and South Africa he enrolled at Roseworthy.

What excited him most about the move to Fraser Gallop was the opportunity to become involved once more in hands-on winemaking in a situation where those working in the winery needed to interact closely with those toiling in the vineyard.

In 2006, malbec was added to the small amount of petit verdot, cabernet franc and merlot grown on the property for inclusion with the cabernet sauvignon. In 2008, semillon was planted at the urging of distributor, Garry Steele, who believed that Margaret River could produce serious, oaked semillon sauvignon blanc in the style of Bordeaux. Otto spent time during the 2009 vintage at Graves producer, Domaine de Chevalier to see at first-hand how the French tackled this white blend. The Fraser Gallop Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is bright and lively with passionfruit and tropical flavours before a crisp, zesty dry finish, while the Parterre is more restrained, complex and textural yet fresh and zingy, finishing dry and long.

The Fraser Gallop Chardonnay is in the modern style, early picked so that it is tight, lean and linear with marvellous oyster-shell complexity, savoury rather than fruity flav-ours, seamlessly integrated oak, followed by a refreshing dry finish that lingers. The Fraser Gallop Cabernet Merlot has drawn attention because of its ripe blackcurrant flavours and lush approachability. The Fraser Gallop Caber-net is a first-rate Margaret River red.
Fraser Gallop has made a bigger impact on the Margaret River wine scene than any other winery established since the region’s early days: Clive Otto has been a vital element in that success.


This article is from the August/September 2011 issue of Gourmet Traveller WINE.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | July 21, 2011

COLD CHISEL at Sandalford, Margaret River.

Iconic Aussie rockers Cold Chisel have announced their biggest tour in almost 30 years.

The Light the Nitro Tour will see the band play 24 concerts throughout Australia and New Zealand from October to December.

The band has also released all of its recordings digitally for the first time with the release including 56 rare and previously unreleased tracks.

The set list will feature more than 20 of their classic songs including Khe Sanh, Flame Trees, Bow River, My Baby, You Got Nothing I Want, Last Wave Of Summer, Forever Now, Cheap Wine, Choir Girl, Standing On The Outside, Rising Sun and Saturday Night, with one or two new tracks to be showcased.

Since rising to popularity in the 70s and early 80s the music of Cold Chisel has remained an Australian favourite as shown by the appearance of two of their albums in a new Triple J listener poll of Australia’s 100 greatest albums of all time.

Cold Chisel will perform on Saturday November 26 at Sandalford Estate in Margaret River and on Sunday November 27 at Belvoir Amphitheatre in Perth.

Tickets are on sale from August 4 at and Ticketmaster.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | July 21, 2011

The WIN WIN principle.

One of my hero’s is renowned Western Australian photographer Christian Fletcher. He recently won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year for 2011.

But his photographic skill and artistry is only part of the reason he is among my hero list.

When I started my business nearly 4 years ago I approached Christian Fletcher with a request to provide high quality imagery of the region for my business. At the time I’d blown most of my money on other start up costs and I had nothing to offer him except a promise.

A promise to refer as many of my guests as possible to his galleries. Assuming I would even have any guests. And he embraced the idea, supplying high resolution imagery, signage, frames and enthusiasm for my endeavour.

Four years on, the MRDCo has proved itself a successful business hosting thousands of visitors to the region and I would like to think that Christian Fletcher Galleries receive more guests and more value than he ever imagined.

Christian Fletcher Galleries was one of several business that embraced the win win principle in working with The Margaret River Discovery Co. These included Blue Ginger Cafe, Cape Lodge, Seagardens and Fraser Gallop Estate. Similarly several businesses rejected the concept trying to negotiate a win/lose scenario ….. those same businesses, sadly, passed up the ongoing opportunity.

I thank Christian and all my business partners for their support and embracing the win win principle.

If you are headed down south be sure to visit the Christian Fletcher Galleries in Dunsborough, Margaret River and Mandurah. His recent work from the Pilbara and Kimberley are stunning and must been seen up close to fully appreciate.

One of the images that helped Christian win Landscape Photograper of the Year. Karlamilyi National Park is the largest national park in Western Australia and one of the largest in the world. In fact, it is more than two-and-a-half times a large as the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. But as well as being so vast, it is also one of the most remote places in the world.

The Margaret River Tour for people who don’t do tours.

A short Youtube video of the Margaret River Discovery Co wine tours and discovery tours.

If this video does not show in this browser please google the words –
“margaret river discovery tours youtube video” and watch the video on Youtube directly.

Australia’s most esteemed wine journalist, James Halliday, recently sent an email update to his Wine Club members regarding Margaret River.

Here is a small excerpt-

“Margaret River has the most reliable climate of all the major wine regions – indeed all – of Australia. Its latitude and the ever-present maritime influence of the Indian Ocean combine to give it high winter rainfall and a very even accumulation of heat throughout the growing season.

That accumulation of what are called Heat Degree Days is higher than that of Bordeaux (Coonawarra is closer) but not significantly so. Thus it is no surprise that the Bordeaux red varieties, headed by cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and the white varieties (sauvignon blanc and semillon) flourish in Margaret River – viewed collectively, the best in Australia.”

What a great piece of advice to consider next time you are facing a wall of wine in a bottleshop!

My general rule is that if it’s over thirty bucks, and produced in Margaret River, you can’t really go wrong.

You can join James Hallidays Wine Companion newsletter here

The Margaret River Best of the Best Wine Tour visits wineries that are Five Star rated by James Halliday, including a very special behind the scenes vineyard and winery tour at Cape Mentelle and degustation lunch in the Cape Mentelle Barrel Room.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | June 30, 2011

Out in the Margaret River Vineyards Winter 2011

Viticulturist Christo Edwards from Edwards wines

Out in the Margaret River Vineyards Winter 2011Contributed by Bruce Pearce

The winter is now with us and recent rainfall has been a welcome relief from the extended dry summer and autumn period. Those vineyards in Margaret River that have planted cover crops, now have the indication of seed establishment and we can see some fantastic germination of oats, rye, lupins and pasture mix out in the vineyards. Astute viticulturists have already completed soil samples and analysed to determine the soil mineral wealth for the cover crop and future vine requirements. Where necessary we have made some applications of the correct fertilizer to improve availability within the soil to the plants. Importantly, the cover crops that are grown through this winter and spring will eventually mulch in the soil and become the potential nutrition for vines and future cover crops… all part of the nutrient cycle.

Many growers now also use imported composts and mulches to help build soil nutrition and health in the vineyards. We can’t underestimate the value of building soil organic carbon in soil that eventually also introduce organic compounds such as humic and fulvic acid, these compounds benefit soil structure, moisture holding capacity and stimulate plant health. In most soil that has good levels of organic matter we will also have a adequate supply of nitrogen and this can be in the form of amino acids and protein, these compounds are plant available and the vines do well. The determination of soil nitrogen can be very complex and we tend towards looking at the total nitrogen in the soil as a guide. We do take into account the carbon to nitrogen ratio as an indication of available nitrogen to plants. Ideally we look for 15 parts carbon to 1 part of nitrogen as being correct and in balance. Soils that have a carbon to nitrogen ratio that favors nitrogen will be adequate for vine growth… but if there is more carbon in the ratio than nitrogen, then a fertilizer application containing nitrogen may be made to allow nitrogen for plant health. The total soil health has far reaching benefits in reducing chemical input and producing fruit of the highest quality for winemaking.

Recent rainfall has also been a perfect time to apply some selected microbiology to the soil. Microbe technology has come of age in modern viticulture and this know-how incorporates strains of beneficial bacteria, fungi and Mycorrhiza that improve soil health and interact with plants to improve plant health and performance. These microbes are generally supplied in freeze dried powder form and include nutrients that promote multiplication and establishment of cells in the soil or when brewed (similar to brewing beer or making wine). We generally brew the microbes for 24 hours to increase the number of cells and then dilute with fresh water and apply to the soil through a drencher bar in the early morning, evening or at night. It’s even better to apply these when there is rainfall occurring, so that contact into the soil is made. Where we have applied these microbes we can see an improvement in seed germination, seedling growth and plant survival. There are also complex symbiotic relationships between Mycorrhiza and grapevine roots that provide benefits to the vines with mineral uptake and general plant health. With careful management and the increase in soil organic matter, it is possible to establish and maintain effective populations of the desired “bugs” in the soil year after year. The benefit is in plant health and eventual wine quality.

With the soils in good shape and cover crops growing it is then time to turn attention to pruning. Time to break out the pruning shears, sharpen the blades and load up the i-pod with some music and podcasts for the next couple of months listening pleasure!

Pruning is the focus within Margaret River vineyards now and will continue into August until budburst occurs. We can see individuals and teams out in the cold and rain toiling away. Importantly, pruning sets the vines crop for the coming vintage and much reflection on the success of the previous growing period and wine quality as well as consideration for future crop requirements will be managed…. and then the cuts made.

Happy pruning everyone!

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | June 30, 2011

Upcoming Margaret River events July – December 2011

Upcoming Margaret River events July – December 2011

Cullen Winery celebrates 40 years.

Every Monday: Karaoke at Settlers Margaret River
Every Tuesday: Ransack the Cellar at Must Margaret River
Every Wednesday: Acoustic Open Mic Night – Settlers Tavern (raises money for the Margaret River Primary School Band)
Every Friday: Friday Fizz – Must Margaret River
Every Sunday: Lounge on the Lawn at Palandri – transport from Margaret River on the Chauffeur Bus

1 July 2011: Degustation Dinner at Laurance of Margaret River
1 July 2011: Ben Merito Band – Settlers Margaret River
2 July 2011: Edwards Barrel Room Sale
2 July 2011: Arts Margaret River presents The Man The Sea Saw – Cultural Centre
2 July 2011: Chase the Sun plus: Cass Eager plus: Claude Hay – Settlers Margaret River
9 July 2011: Clare Bowditch – Settlers Margaret River
16 July 2011: WSET Level 1 Course – Margaret River Educational Campus
16 July 2011: A Night in New Orleans New Release Dinner at Saracen Estates
16 July 2011: Jebediah – Settlers Margaret River
22 July 2011: Skipping Girl Vinegar – Settlers Margaret River
22 – 24 July 2011: Cullen Wines celebrates 40 years!
23 July 2011: Fresh is Best Cooking Class – Cape Lodge
30 July 2011: Cabernet & Comedy with Peter Rowsthorn & Russell Woolf – Aravina Estate
31 July 2011: Capes Long Lunch Northern Region
15 – 18 August 2011: WSET Level 2 Course – Margaret River Educational Campus
20 August 2011: Light the Night for Breast Cancer – Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouses
24 – 28 August 2011: CinéfestOZ Film Festival – Busselton
27 August 2011: Fresh is Best Cooking Class – Cape Lodge
27 August 2011: Arts Margaret River presents Often I Find That I Am Naked – Cultural Centre
28 August 2011: Capes Long Lunch Southern Region
10 September 2011: The Herd – Settlers Margaret River
20 September 2011: Arts Margaret River presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Cultural Centre
24 September 2011: Fresh is Best Cooking Class – Cape Lodge
30 September 2011: Tijuana Cartel – Settlers Margaret River
1 October 2011: Tijuana Cartel – Settlers Margaret River
8 October 2011: Howard Park Wines International Pinot Noir Tasting & Lunch
15 October 2011: Cullen Wines Annual International Chardonnay Tasting
16-24 October 2011:Margaret River Cycle Trek
20 – 23 October 2011: Cape to Cape MTB – Margaret River Wine Region
25 October 2011: Arts Margaret River presents The Sum of Us – Cultural Centre
20 November 2011: Cullen Wines Annual Indian Indulgence Lunch
22 – 25 November 2011: Margaret River Wine Show
29 November 2011: Capes Art Market – Happs Vineyard & Pottery
3 or 4 March 2012: Sandalford Concert
30 April-6 May 2012: Arts Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival 2012

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | May 27, 2011

Migrating Humpback whales head north

For nature enthusiasts, witnessing the annual Humpback whale migration is a magnificent site. Wildlife officers have already received reports of whale sightings this year, across the Western Australian coast, from Rottnest Island to as far north as the Kimberley.

The majestic mammals annually embark on a staggering 13,000 kilometre round-trip as they migrate from Antarctica to breeding grounds in warmer waters off northern Western Australia between May and December each year. One of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth, it is subsequently one of the longest whale watching seasons on Earth. The west coast Humpback population is estimated at more than 30,000, so whale watchers have a good chance of getting a glimpse of them.

Humpback Whale migrating up the Western Australian coast.


If you're planning a trip to Augusta, then visiting in early June could prove the ideal option as Humpback and Southern Right whales are often seen frolicking in Flinders Bay as they make their journey northwards, before returning south to the cold seas to grow and mature in early August. In fact, these gentle giants are quite a curious bunch; it is not uncommon for them to approach charter vessels and swim a mere few metres away from them, which makes for exhilarating viewing!

From July to October, King George Sound in Albany provides optimum viewing for Humpback and Southern Right whales, as they typically mate and calve off the south coast. If you head north to Kalbarri between June and November, then you are likely to witness the migration of Humpback whales, particularly if you make your way to prime vantage points such as Natural Bridge, Eagle Gorge and Red Bluff. Further north, between June and November, Humpback whales can be seen migrating northwards along the coast to shelter in Camden Sound on the Kimberley coast, as well as Pender Bay and the sheltered waters directly off Broome's coast, where females give birth and suckle their young.

In Western Australia you're most likely to spot a Humpback, Southern Right or Blue whale on a whale watching tour. The best time to observe these serene mammals is at midday, when the sun is directly overhead. There is an opportunity for whale spotting on both the Best of the Best Wine Tour and the Discovery Tour. We regularly spot whales from our exclusive viewpoint atop the spectacular WIlyabrup Cliffs.

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | March 15, 2011

Margaret River Harvest 2011

by Bruce Pearce

Cabernet Sauvignon at Fraser Gallop Estate

Here we are out in the vineyard, the second week in March… Sunshine, warmth, suntanned and target harvesting ripened reds as quickly as the wineries can go. Honestly, through my 20 vintages in Margaret River I have never seen fruit mature so quickly. We are in the thick of vintage and two weeks ahead of typical harvest dates. Our time has been spent expediting harvest to take best advantage of parcels of perfectly ripened grapes. Margaret River, sunny one day….. Perfect the next…. How true!

Out in the vineyard with the winemakers, that’s the best place for me right now, tasting grapes and programming the harvest (By the way, I’m tapping away creating this note in between vineyards and phone calls while sipping a well earned coffee… drive on Peter we have more grapes to taste!). The past month has been a sprint! With all the white varieties harvested and safely bubbling away in tank we moved straight into reds harvest. The traditional flow of red varieties into the winery isn’t the norm this year and we have Cabernet Sauvignon being harvested before usual earlier varieties such as Malbec, Shiraz and Merlot. The heat load that we have experienced in the past month is possibly one reason for this change and certainly the size and health of some of the vine canopies in relationship to the crop load does support a positive variation in rate of maturity. We know that a large canopy and a small crop will result in rapidly increasing sugar maturity; the canopy is like a solar panel in sugar production. Some of the Cabernet vines do have smaller crops this year, a result of rainfall and cold weather during flowering. I’m figuring that more canopy and a reduced amount of crop is probably why some of the Cabernet has matured earlier?

We can be certain that the quality of wine produced out of Margaret River this year will be exceptional. We are taking care to pick the ripest fruit. Most importantly, as we lead into harvest we frequently taste grapes on the vine and evaluate for the green, herbal, minty and astringent characters that indicate that the fruit is unripe; this unripe fruit simply needs more time to mature. In time and when the green fruit characters are gone, we can look for the free colour extraction from skins and then taste varietal flavour intensity and sweetness of the pulp as we determine that the fruit is ripe and suitable for harvest. If the fruit is ripe and sound, we can then decide if some “hang time” is possible to further increase the quality attributes of the fruit. This extended period of maturity on the vine can contribute further positive complexities to fruit flavours and outcomes in flavour and aroma nuances such as chocolate, coffee, pepper and violets. There are always risks to be managed and too much “hang time”, particularly if very hot weather occurs, can produce porty, jammy and other funky flavours. Regular vineyard visits, tasting and a great deal of experience results in gaining the very best that the vines have to offer. The pursuit of excellence, to produce the very best that we can and those very individual wines that are nurtured from the vineyard through to the winery is what drives us on and makes Margaret River wine “special”.

The region is harvesting grapes and counting the days down to the Margaret River Wine Region Festival. The festival is a highlight of our production year and lets us showcase the best wines of the Margaret River wine region. The entire endeavour that vintage brings culminates with a festival that lets us unwind a little. Palmer Winery near Dunsborough is the venue this year and I know the weather and the setting will be perfect. Time left to ring a few friends, organize festivities and then bolt out into the vineyard for one last fruit sample. Bring it on! I hope to see you there.

Contributed by Bruce Pearce

Posted by: Margaret River Discovery Tours | March 12, 2011

Kelly Slater surfing at the 2011 Margaret River Pro

The Margaret River Discovery Company is thrilled to learn that world surfing champion Kelly Slater is heading to Western Australia for the 2011 Telstra Drug Aware Pro Margaret River.

Acting Premier and Tourism Minister Kim Hames said the State Government, through Eventscorp, and Surfing Western Australia had been instrumental in securing Slater’s appearance.

“Kelly Slater is recognised worldwide as the most successful surfing champion in the history of the sport, having secured 10 World Champion titles throughout his career,” Dr Hames said.

Slater is showing no signs of slowing down, defeating WA’s Taj Burrow in yesterday’s final of the Quicksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, the first event of the 2011 tour.

The Acting Premier said the news of Kelly Slater’s participation in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro Margaret River was very exciting for WA.

“Kelly competed in the Margaret River Pro back in the early 1990s at the beginning of his career, so it’s great to have him back now that he is a legend of the sport,” he said.

“With Slater’s entry, this year’s Telstra Drug Aware Pro boasts the strongest field in the event’s history, with 26 of the top 32 men’s surfers expected to compete.

“To have a field of this calibre, headed by Kelly Slater, competing in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro is a major coup for this State.

“It’ll be a major boost for tourism in the Margaret River region during the event, and will increase awareness of Healthway’s Drug Aware message, especially among surfing fans in WA.”

The Telstra Drug Aware Pro will feature other surfing stars such as two times world champion and last year’s number four Mick Fanning, number three Taj Burrow and number five Bede Durbidge.

The women’s competition includes three of the world’s current top five – Tyler Wright, Laura Enever and Chelsea Hedges.

“The 2011 event will be the biggest and the best ever, not only showcasing some of the world’s greatest surfers, but also the biggest prize pool of any surfing event ever held in WA,” Dr Hames said.

The Telstra Drug Aware Pro is the only Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) prime-rated event in Australasia. The pro is a free event, to be held from April 3-10, 2011 at Surfers Point in Prevelly.

If you are headed to Margaret River for the event be sure to discover the best of the region with a Margaret River Discovery Tour.

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