One of the award winning wineries in the Geographe Wine Region.
You could easily miss the small sign that directs you to Smallwater Estate, one of several up and coming wineries in the Geographe Wine Region, as you travel along The South West Highway amidst the rolling hills from Donnybrook to Bridgetown.
But that would be a mistake.
A mistake which we actually made as we sailed on past the turning in a day dream. Actually we were marvelling at the colours; the ripe green vines, the bright orange South West Christmas Trees, and the golden countryside struggling under a very hot summer heatwave.
So we had to double back via a sharp u-turn to get onto Newlands Road and the gravel track leading to this boutique winery; one that we had heard such fine things about.
We’d first heard about Smallwater when we visited the Geographe Crush Wine event, and friends were drinking a bottle of Cabernet with their lunch on a rainy day. There were many other wineries in the Geographe wine region exhibiting that day, but this wine, we thought was a stand-out.
Not far from Donnybrook
The estate is between Donnybrook and Kirup. The winding driveway takes you down past more than one ‘Smallwater’ dam, which we were soon to discover house more than a few newts.
Hills and trees and vineyards make this a very pretty part of the South West, quite off the beaten holiday track. The drive led down to a small cellar door and restaurant with wonderful views across the vines, extensive dams, marron ponds and the countryside.
We were greeted at the cellar door by Gail Byrne who took us through a most enjoyable tasting of Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Roze.
We started with a luscious unwooded Chardonnay made from hand picked grapes. This quality tipple augured well for the rest of the tasting and we decided to order a bottle to have for lunch too. The Chardonnay is in high demand and it’s not sold by the case anymore – the best you can do is buy six bottles.
This was followed by a Roze, made from Zinfandel. John Small, Smallwater’s owner later told us how it’s made.
“We do it in what is known as a free run style. That is growing the fruit a bit riper, and then leaving it on the skins for only a short amount of time from about 4-6 hours, then pouring it through a screen to separate the skins etc. This gives a reduced amount of juice, as the skins have the colour and if we pressed it off it would be far too dark in colour. It also has more flavour and natural sugar (also alcohol) but is considered a dry style of Rose.”
“A Rose,” Gail said, “That even real men enjoy drinking.”
“What – with their quiche?” Chirped a fellow taster.
Multi award winning wines
Kiwi with a passion for Marron
A little later, owner John Small stumbled in from working in the vineyards, exhausted by the heat of the day (40 degrees phew) and began to greet the clientele like long lost friends. In fact it seems as if most of them were because Smallwater Estate is a favourite haunt amongst the Donnybrook and surrounding locals.
Always a good sign we thought as we ordered lunch from a small but tempting menu.
Wine and Dine
The small winery boasts a high quality lunch menu which really blew us away. Dave is still talking about it.
We started with a blue cheese and mushroom tart followed by a warm lamb salad with minted yoghurt and a sumptuous risotto – a Marron stack infused with Chardonnay which we washed down with an ice cold glass of the same. For pud we had a delicious fruit crumble and an orange and almond cake with chocolate sauce.
We also loved the olive oil infused with vanilla and apple which was served as a dressing over the freshly grated red cabbage with the starter. It’s available to buy at the cellar door.
I asked John: “How comes a Kiwi who’s been in Australia for thirty years came to be the inspiration behind Smallwater Estate in the deep south west?”
“Well, I’d always had a passion for Marron,” he told us. “I decided that I wanted to live in the South West and I wanted to develop a Marron farm but understood that Marron alone would not be enough to sustain a viable business, and so I married the idea to growing grapes as well.”
“The adjacent farm had had a successful business relationship with Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River back in the eighties and I contacted the owner and offered to grow fruit for them including one of Cape Mentelle’s flagships, Zinfandel. And so the story of Smallwater Estate had begun. After a few years we decided to make our own wine, and now we hand pick grapes exclusively for our own business.”
The marriage of Marron and wine is captured on the wine label which depicts the vine and a Marron crawling from a wine glass. It’s too gorgeous. You can’t miss it.
Athough selfishly I’d like to keep Smallwater as an off-the- map-hideaway estate, I have to highly recommend that you go and seek out this hidden gem because it’s really worth discovering.
Do you have a favourite wine estate – why not tell us a little about it in the Comments section?
I’m linking this post to Travellers Sandbox Thursday. Pop over and have a look at some other awesome travel articles there too.