It’s that time of year again. Green bunches of grapes hang from the vines, nets begin to appear over the vineyard and a sense of a deep breath drawn in and held in anticipation of another coming vintage. The days roll by and there are no longer months but days remaining until we begin harvest and crafting wines for another year. With each day forward a sense of excitement and anticipation grows.
During this time a few things are happening. Maintenance, preparation and vigilance take precedence. We’ve been busy for some time now, checking the vineyard for any repairs that need to be done, and making sure they’re complete. A vineyard is like any farm: there’s never a lack of work to be done. We’re beginning to move indoors, greasing equipment, replacing gaskets and ensuring all the practical considerations are seen to in order to hit the ground running and turn our grapes into the best wine possible.
Above all is the vigilance required to grow a high-quality crop. Nathan and I are walking the rows of vines daily, checking for health and monitoring ripening. Any day now I expect to see the Cabernet turn from green to red. We are always watchful for pests, nutritional deficiencies or damage to the vines. I’m quite pleased to report that every time we take these walks, we’re astounded by how healthy the whole vineyard looks. There’s also the more positive aspect of this monitoring where we attempt to estimate when we will harvest and what yields we should expect.
Summer really is a great time to be in Margaret River. Why not get away for a weekend and come and visit us? From now until the end of April you’re likely to get an insight into winemaking that you’ll rarely be exposed to. As you drive up the driveway you may well see our teams out picking grapes in the morning. In the winery we may be pressing grapes, filling barrels or carefully monitoring fermentation as juice literally becomes wine.
I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, something I’m reminded of this time of year. Summer in Margaret River is a truly remarkable time. Long, warm days of cloudless blue skies. Evenings spent outdoors with the cool, sea breeze blowing in. It’s the perfect time to explore all of the natural beauty this unique region has to offer… visits to the beach where the sand is perfectly white, and the water is crystal clear, shaded the most beautiful blue.
Nestled between the coast and some incredible farmland, Margaret River is lucky to have access to amazing produce and indulge in the fresh, local offerings – always best enjoyed over long lunches and summer dinners. Whether it’s fresh seafood, or the local land food of cheeses, meats and fruit, it’s easy to spend hours grazing long into the afternoon with a bottle of wine shared with friends.
Taking a sip and enjoying that glass of wine is well earned for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to the vines all year. Summer is a busy time. It means long days that start before the sun comes up and end long after dark. It means working weekends and holidays, as the grapes are ready when they’re ripe. They wait for no one. It’s a labour of love when the time comes to pick the fruit and begin crafting our wines with the highest of hopes and the best of intentions.
At the end of those long days are the most memorable of evenings spent gathered with those closest to us. Whether it’s around a barbeque or watching the sun set down at the local pub, summer evenings will always be linked to the nostalgia of warm evenings, stories shared with friends and the taste of cold Chardonnay. When it all winds down there is a deep satisfaction of knowing that another day, week or vintage is over and that we worked hard to accomplish something that will bring people enjoyment.
If you’re planning a visit to our neck of the woods, head to Brown Hill’s other blog posts for activities to try, places to eat and stay, or beaches to take a dip in… there’s plenty of information about great things to do. And, don’t forget to drop into our cellar door while you’re in the area too – we’d love to give you a taste of Margaret River and Rosa Brook’s warm hospitality!
Brown Hill’s guide to summer in Margaret River
For beach lovers
From Gnarabup to Hamelin Bay, you’ll feel the sun on your face and the sand under your feet at these top beach spots in our region.
If you’re looking for a delicious meal to complement a glass of your favourite Brown Hill wine, here’s a list of restaurants around Margaret River that serve our drops. Bon appetit!
For art lovers
Margaret River is a hub of creativity, so for the art lovers on holiday, there is plenty of choice when it comes to deciding how to spend your day… from art galleries and jewellery studios to collaborative workshops, there’s a creative scene for everyone.
Spring fever has hit! One of the benefits of the new season is all the wonderful produce that becomes available from Margaret River. So allow us to introduce you to a few Brown Hill favourites that are on high rotation in our kitchen throughout spring.
This Rosa Brook organic farm breeds grass-fed beef and lamb that melts in your mouth. The owners also tend lovingly to 1200 olive trees that produce robustly flavoured oil, processed on the farm in a purpose-built facility. The owners of Agonis Ridge, Mike and Bev Pimm, believe they’re the caretakers of their land and treat it with respect so the practices they establish help future generations continue to cultivate high-quality produce in later years.
The Agonis Ridge Wiltipoll lambs have a winter breeding trait, so availability is subject to seasonal variations, but when it becomes available, we make the most of it. If you’re in the area, drop into Margaret River Farmers’ Markets on a Saturday to purchase Agonis lamb for yourself or email email@example.com. Serve Agonis Ridge Organic Lamb with our Trafalgar Cabernet Merlot.
The cheese from this producer comes from a small commercial goat farm in Rosa Brook, and it’s sensational. All the cheeses are hand made on the farm with the milk from its own goats. It’s available at the Margaret River Farmers’ Markets or directly from the farm. From feta and camembert to swiss and haloumi, Koonac’s cheeses are perfect for spring cooking (and eating!). Pair some goat's cheese with our Lakeview Sauvignon Blanc.
The eggs that are borne from this farm are so full of flavour. The owners want their hens to be happy hens, so they allow their chooks to exercise and forage on pasture every day. They believe you can taste “the sunshine in our eggs”. And we agree! They’re available all over the Margaret River region, in restaurants and supermarkets, as well at selected outlets in Perth.
Alan Darnell and his partner Debbie Serventy run a 120-hectare farm that borders Margaret River in Rosa Brook. It’s a lamb and beef farm, with potatoes and corn as well. Alan and Deb can be found selling their lusciously sweet corn and potatoes at the Margaret River Farmers’ Markets every Saturday morning. Alan’s claim to “Rosa Brook fame” is that his father started our local General Store called Darnell’s many years ago, which is still in operation to this day.
This local producer smokes its own beef, lamb and pork – and it’s superb. It’s a recent addition to the Margaret River Farmers Markets and it’s one of the first stalls to sell out. Why? The treatment of the stock (all stock is fed on high-quality grass), the attention to detail of the smoking at the butchery and the slow-cooking of the meat all contribute to creating produce with a holistic farm-to-plate approach.
Brown Hill’s Zafferano Zest dinner in June was a huge success – the view over Perth’s Swan River enthralled guests while we enjoyed several courses of specially matched dishes for Brown Hill’s wines. Host Elizabeth Killerby entertained us with an Olympic theme on the night: assistant winemaker Haydn Millard and winemaker Nathan Bailey were introduced as athletes competing in a sprint; Angela McCabe, our wine club manager, was introduced as a synchronised swimmer; Chiara Bailey was the torch bearer; and Jim Bailey, Nathan’s dad, was introduced as competing in the weightlifting.
Elizabeth presented two giant gold medals later in the evening to two different customers who have attended every single one of Brown Hill’s wine dinners (five!) to date.
Assistant Winemaker Haydn Millard took the Olympic theme to the sensory world by leading everyone on a sensory journey. He spoke of wine being a ‘five senses’ experience.
First, the sounds associated with wine – the crack of a stelvin, the fizz of a sparkling wine.
Then, the look of the wine – he asked guests to hold the glass up and appreciate the colour of the wine.
Thirdly, the smell of the wine.
When we were given the all-clear to taste the wine it was with eyes closed to understand the mouthfeel (the sense of touch).
Then finally, to appreciate the sense of taste, we tasted the wine with eyes open.
All five senses stimulated by one gift from Mother Nature.
As often happens at Brown Hill’s dinners, guests were treated to a ‘Mystery Museum’ wine – and the 2006 Fimiston Reserve Shiraz dazzled us with its youthful energy. We had a selection of museum wines available on the night to purchase in special packs. If you’re interested in Brown Hill’s museum stock, attending one of Brown Hill’s dinners is the only way to taste and purchase these rare wines. We don’t offer this stock at any other time throughout the year.
Brown Hill’s dinners are such great fun that fans now tend to book on their own or in couples because that way they meet more interesting people when Brown Hill is given creative license to make up the tables for them.
Margaret River’s coastline puts on a show like no other from May through to December, showcasing the epic annual migration of whales from the Southern Ocean to the warmer waters of the Kimberly coast. Watching these magnificent creatures is a regular pastime for the Brown Hill team – in fact our own Nathan and Jim went fishing a few years ago during whale season and enjoyed a visit from a whale underneath their dinghy. Nathan was thinking to himself ‘this whale is going to tip us over’ but thankfully the giant made its way out to sea without even scraping the base of the boat. So here are our tips for watching these beauties head north.
Whales in abundance
Thanks to the tighter regulation of whale conservation, the whale population has been restored to the tens of thousands, with an estimated 35,000 whales making the journey from the icy Antarctic to the warmer waters in the north of Australia. The good news is that these majestic creatures take a while to reach their destination, so the whale-watching season spans from May to early December, providing ample time to spot a humpback, rare blue or southern right.
Where to find them?
In the early months, from May to September, whales can be spotted playing in the waters of Flinders Bay in Augusta. Take your binoculars and try to spot the rare sight of a southern right and humpback whale interacting. Well known for their agility, male humpbacks group together in a macho posse, where they tail slap and breach in amazing feats of acrobatics. This activity plays a major role in the courtship process.
After the first few months, the humpbacks head directly north where the pregnant females give birth to their calves. But they haven’t disappeared – they return to Geographe Bay near Busselton and Dunsborough to nurse their babies from September through to early December. Catch the tail end of the whale-watching season by joining a tour at or heading to Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Hillarys, or back to Busselton and Dunsborough.
Whale watching tours
The shoreline is a fine vantage point from which to catch sight of these beauties, but there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with a whale to fully comprehend the magnitude of their size and awesome agility, not to mention all the incidental marine life that presents itself while cruising the ocean. Most tours depart from Augusta, Dunsborough and Busselton. Head here for more information about whale-watching tours and specific vantage points for your best chance to view these gentle giants of the ocean.
Margaret River comes alive in autumn. The vineyards are breath taking – burnt orange and golden browns colour the landscape – and the mild weather (and lack of crowds!) makes it the perfect time of year to get out and about in nature’s glorious wonderland. Fill out your Margaret River itinerary with these ideas from the team at Brown Hill.
One of Margaret River’s most distinctive natural characteristics is its Karri trees. These tall, pale beauties stride high, reaching heights of 60m or more. Boranup Karri Forest is one of the best spots to enjoy these giants on their hilly slopes along with all the lush, green foliage of the forest. Jump in your car and do the Boranup Drive (suitable for conventional cars), winding through the forest to Boranup Campground, which makes the perfect destination for a picnic lunch. Along the way stop at Boranup Lookout where sweeping views back over the forest and the coast, west to Hamelin Bay, make it the perfect day out. Enter the forest drive from Caves Road.
Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin Lighthouses make magnificent locations from which to take in the grand views across the powerful oceans and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Both working lighthouses offer visitors guided tours, showcasing their life-saving operations that are carried out from dusk ‘til dawn. The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse is situated near Dunsborough and is an easy climb for visitors with a magical reward at its peak with views over Geographe Bay. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is Australia’s tallest lighthouse, perched at the most southwesterly point of Australia where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet.
Margaret River’s aboveground natural wonders are given a run for their money by the region’s caves. Lake Cave is home to the “suspended table”, a spectacular crystal decoration weighing several tonnes. The cave’s tranquil lake reflects all the delicate formations within the limestone cave and its dramatic entrance sees visitors descend a staircase beneath the towering karri trees.
Jewel Cave in Augusta is WA’s biggest show cave, and home to one of the longest straw stalactites found in any tourist cave in the world. This is a dazzling crystal discovery tour, and at the end visitors can enjoy the amazing Karri Walk or the educational, café or retail experiences on offer.
Mammoth Cave is the most easily accessed of all the caves in Margaret River, the first chamber being wheelchair friendly. Wander through this enormous self-guided cave at your own pace using an MP3 audio tour or be silently awed by the ancient fossil remains of giant animals known as Australian Megafauna marsupials. Visit this website for more information and tickets.
The chillier weather and the kaleidoscope of autumnal colours across the vineyards make autumn the perfect time to cruise around the region, tasting wines and taking in the tales from all our wonderful winemakers. Enjoy a long winery lunch then drop in to Brown Hill to make new discoveries or try old favourites. We’ll be ready and waiting with a glass in hand! There are also great guided Margaret River tours for food and wine lovers.
Margaret River Farmers’ Markets showcase many of the fantastic producers from our region every Saturday morning. Our friends and Rosa Brook locals Debbie Serventy and Alan Darnell have a stall where they sell their corn and other produce. Mike and Bev Pimm from Agonis Ridge sell their organic meat and olive oil products. Koonac Goat Farm sells its cheese and wares, and Mike from The Berry Farm sells his avocados (at a great price!). All year round these markets are a must-visit. Open every Saturday, 8am-12pm.
It must have been impossible for the residents of Margaret River in 1960 to imagine what their town would become. In that year, Margaret River was a small settlement a few hours south of Perth with timber and cattle industries as well as an emerging culture of surfers and hippies. It was, however, in that year that Dr John Gladstones came to town. Dr Gladstones hailed from the Swan Valley, with a family history in agriculture. On behalf of the University of Western Australia, he studied the soils, the climate and the local flora of the Southwest. Within a year he had published his findings, which suggested the suitability for viticulture.
Skip forward another four and a half decades and what we have is a wine-producing region, which is recognised worldwide for producing high-quality wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. There is nowhere known for growing grapes in this country more influenced by a maritime climate. The long warm days of summer slowly ripen Cabernet while the cool evenings allow the vines to rest and retain freshness and vibrancy in the grapes and winds from the West blow through the vines, keeping disease at bay and the fruit pristine. Meanwhile, the gravelly soils of the southwest drain freely, allowing intensity of flavour to build.
This climate, identified so early by Dr Gladstones, produces Cabernet of distinction and finesse: a unique style and character that is Margaret River’s own. While Margaret River Cabernet can be drunk young and vibrant, it becomes its own reward when aged a few years. Flavours of dark cherry, black currant and raspberry accompanied by smoky cedar and tobacco notes from savvy winemaking. Above all, the hallmark of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon is in its texture: full flavoured but just shy of full bodied. Expect fine, long tannins and a savoury finish, which lingers.
Finally, to honour this great variety from this unique region as it deserves, be sure to enjoy it properly. Red wine should ideally be served cool but not cold. Also, wine is very much alive and as such it is important to let it breathe. After pouring your wine, allow it to stand in the glass for just ten minutes. You’ll be amazed by the improvement. In closing, great wine is best served with great company. A wonderful bottle shared between old friends sharing memories and creating new ones is one of the finest experiences in life.
Margaret River’s art scene is one of the most thriving in Australia. From individual artist galleries, jewellery studios and furniture warehouses, to collaborative workshops and performance precincts, Margaret River’s art landscape makes the region’s appeal to the tourist even more compelling (given the barrel of wineries on offer as well!).
The Brown Hill team has done its fair share of gallery hopping, so we’d love to share our tips about how to make the most of Margaret River’s art scene. Margaret River Region Open Studio is held every year around April, where private art studios are open to the public so it’s worth organising a visit at this time if you’re an art lover – it’s Western Australia’s biggest art event. So be an armchair tourist and enjoy the ride from the comfort of your own couch, or get busy planning your next Western Australian adventure.
Don’t feel obliged to drop in to every single gallery or workshop on the block – follow your nose. The appeal of art is that it all comes down to personal taste, so browse the towns of Rosa Brook (Brown Hill’s home), Yallingup, Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River to discover personal favourites. Plus, so many of these wonderful artist sanctuaries are situated in pristine forest, bushland or wineries, where you can take in the artist’s inspiration while enjoying the art itself.
Margaret River Gallery offers a visual snapshot of local artists, as well as those on the national scene. Artists like Rosa Brook’s Rebecca Cool (pictured), who creates mixed media masterpieces and her partner Ross Miller, sculptor of pressed tin, clay and mechanical parts, are featured in this light, bright and airy space.
Margaret River’s intensely sculptural geography makes it incredibly photogenic for aspiring photographers. Rosa Brook photographer Stephen Blakeney has just launched his 9 Miles photography book, which features a curated collection of his shots taken of local Rosa Brook personalities, including Brown Hill’s own Nathan and Jim Bailey. So keep your eye open for art of the photography format while cruising the galleries – there are plenty to admire.
So many of Margaret River’s artists exploit the amazingly unique materials from our region. And none more so than the beautiful furniture and jewellery created by our locals. Jah-Roc Furniture is housed in its own gallery on Bussell Highway in Margaret River. The designers are committed to use discarded materials from demolished bridge, wool stores and fallen Karri trees left to rot on the forest floor. The gallery also exhibits fine art, glass, sculptures, jewellery, ceramics, and fine wood pieces. Certainly worth a visit among all the other local furniture galleries.
Brown Hill’s favourite artists are not necessarily international names or big sellers but what we love about them is that they capture the heart and soul of our region so beautifully and distinctively. Patricia Negus is a fine watercolour painter whose work has brought beautiful nature and children’s books to life for many years. Karin Luciano is inspired by Jackson Pollock and when you take in her rich, active, colourist work, you can see how the inspiration has played out. Leon Pericles is a highly acclaimed Margaret River artist, who has been commissioned to create spectacular stained glass windows and paintings, but his modest pieces are just as impressive.
The variability of our weather in Australia means that the condition of our precious wines can be jeopardised. The team at Brown Hill has compiled a guide to help you lock in the correct storage and serving temperatures for your cherished drops.
One of the most commonly overlooked factors when it comes to storing and serving wine is temperature. Temperature fluctuation poses one of the most serious risks to damaging the quality of a wine. The trick is to store wine at a stable temperature, and serve it at a temperature that maximises its characteristics. Stick to these simple guidelines and you’ll get the best out of your wine.
Before you consider the right serving temperature of wine, it’s worth addressing its storage. Exposing your wine of any variety or colour to high temperatures or to wildly fluctuating conditions will cause it to age prematurely, losing flavour and balance along the way. The ideal wine storage is in a dark, airy, cool cupboard or area in your home with minimal humidity (for wine with corks).
Respected wine journalist Jancis Robinson MW recommends keeping the storage temperature above -4°C (the temperature at which the lightest wines freeze and can force corks out of bottles). Equally, if the temperature rises above 30°C, a wine’s more volatile compounds may be boiled off forever, and the colour and clarity could be affected.
The ideal wine storage temperature for white wine sits between 7 and 12°C, and between 12 and 18°C for red wines. No great harm will come to wine stored between 15 and 20°C so long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too dramatically.
Wine dislikes light, too. Strong light can adversely affect the taste of wine, particularly sparkling wine and if the bottles are made from clear or pale glass.
So why is the serving temperature so important for white wines? A too-cold or too-hot white wine becomes flabby and flavourless with its alcoholic content overriding its positive qualities. Generally, if you serve whites somewhere between 6 and 11°C, you’ll get the best out of their characteristics, with lighter-bodied whites at the lower end and fuller-bodied wines at the higher end of the cool spectrum.
Light-bodied whites like Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, dessert wines and non-vintage Champagnes can be served between 6 and 8°C. Medium-bodied whites such as Riesling, Semillon, Viognier and vintage Champagnes can be served between 8 and 10°C. Full-bodied white wines, like a rich Chardonnay, sparkling reds and rosés, shouldn’t be served too heavily chilled – somewhere between 10 and 12°C will allow the complexity to come alive without the chill dampening the flavours.
The general recommendation for red wines is to be served at room temperature, but if you live in one of the hotter areas of Australia, room temperature can sit at 30°C. To bring reds to room temperature (about 18°C), place the bottle in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before serving.
Serve light, fruity reds that benefit from a slight cooling off at 12 to 14°C. For lighter-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir and Chianti, go for 14 to 16°C. Then heavier reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon will be at their best between 16 and 19°C.
So is it worth getting the storage and serving temperature of your wine right? Yes. Is it an exact science? No. But if you follow our guide, your wine will be stored and served at its peak condition, tasting and smelling its very best.
Ever wondered where you could enjoy Brown Hill’s wines while dining out? Here’s the full list of restaurants that serve our wine along with their superb food.
Four Hands Pizza in Terrigal
Margaret River Restaurants
Studio Bistro, in Yallingup
Laundry 43, Busselton
The Fire Station, Busselton
The Pour House Bar and Kitchen, Dunsborough
Augusta Coastal Cellars
Epicure on High
WA – Other
Captain Huon Motel, Esperance
The Palace Hotel, Kalgoorlie
The Blue Monkey, Kalgoorlie