Christmas Tree
During summer you’ll spot gorgeous orange Christmas Trees in the Geographe wine region. Their proper name is Nuytsia Floribunda and they give a bright flash of colour when South Western pastures have turned golden and are sunburnt by the summer winds and heat.

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.

wineries geographe wine region
Ripe and healthy bright green vines contrast at this time of year with pastures that display colours of burnt sienna and gold.

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.

Geographe Bay Winery
Smallwater Estate is a boutique winery with a small but welcoming cellar door.

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.

wineries in the geographe wine region
Scenes from the cellar door. Look out for the distinctive Smallwater wine label – it depicts a vine with a marron climbing out of a wine glass!

Multi award winning wines

Then we went on to the reds, and started with a well rounded Cabernet Sauvignon which Dave particularly enjoyed. From there we moved swiftly on to the  multi-award winning Shiraz, which has more award labels around its neck than Rafael Nadal. It’s a fruity wine with a hint of spices and a gentle peppery taste – a very smooth and drinkable Shiraz indeed. Finally we tasted Smallwater’s flagship wine, the Zinfandel. Now this was something special. So special that it’s no longer entered in competitions because there’s little need to market this best seller anymore.

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.

wineries in the geographe wine region
Gail composed and gorgeous … and John, who at the moment this photo was taken we think decided to pray to Dionysus (the Greek God of Wine) for a good harvest! Or was he giving me a “dumfounded look for free?” See right hand notice 😉

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.

wineries in the geographe wine region
Top left. Blue cheese and mushroom tart. Top right. Warm lamb salad with minted yoghurt. Bottom left. Marron risotto. Bottom right. Orange, almond and chocolate for pudding.

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.

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  1. Looks like a fun winery. We love visiting new wineries and trying new wine. It’s funny that just a few years ago I didn’t really like wine- wow, how time and age changing that!

  2. I have not been to a winery for years, but I will again one day, I am sure. Would love to be driving around the S.W. corner of W.A. again.

  3. Yes, we forget how lucky we are to have such a selection in the South West. Hope to see you back here one day!

  4. I know it’s funny how we change! I was once only a cider girl! Thanks for popping by Jade.

  5. Looks like a beautiful winery and you captured it in such a way that makes me want to visit (and I don’t drink wine.:) I love the question costs. I wonder if I could apply the same fees to my kids.:)

  6. Ha Jessica! Remembering back to those days I think it could be very useful when you’re busy doing something that requires attention! Thanks for your comments and I’m glad my words made you want to visit Smallwater – it is a lovely place.

  7. That first photo is a great one! And a new wine country to explore; never can have too many wineries, I always say!

  8. I love the countryside on the way to the winery. That orange Christmas tree is amazing. Sounds like a fun time at the winery. About 6 hours from where I live is the Okanagan region in the BC interior – and there are some delicious world class wines that come out of there. Yup – good wine from Canada.

  9. Hi Leigh, I’d love to explore some Canadian wineries one of these days too 🙂 Thanks for popping by 🙂

  10. We lived in the PHilippines for nearly 4 years, so I echo what you say, Aleah. Ahhh, but you have beautiful tropical islands to make up for the lack of wineries!

  11. The Christmas trees are amazing aren’t they? A lightning flash of orange. Yep, love wineries – hope you get to discover our SWA ones 🙂

  12. Nice story. I live on the edge of Northern California’s prime wine growing region and spend a lot of time there.

  13. Thanks Dick. Glad you enjoyed it. I’d love to taste some of Northern California’s wines in the future as well 🙂

  14. Hahaha! LOVE that sign!!! I’m sure anyone in the hospitality industry would want one!!! I’m lucky! I’m based quite close to the Barossa …

  15. It’s a goOd one isn’t it! Would love to see the Barossa one day as well. Thanks for popping by Red.

  16. looks like I will definetly have to visit next time I am down this way Jo and time our visit for lunch time! Thanks for bringing it to our attention! Always on the look out for new places to go to. Fabulous informative post.

  17. Thanks Jill, yes it’s definitely one for the ‘must-do’ list 🙂

  18. I love wineries and this one looks so charming. That tree in the first picture is stunning! There’s something relaxing about being in a winery. Awesome questions sign! We visited the Yarra Valley wineries when we were in Australia for our honeymoon in 2000 and loved the expansive region and all the wineries there. We’d love to go back and visit this part of the country.

  19. Hi Mary, thanks for popping by and for your comments. I’ve never been to the Yarra Valley, one for the list. Yes, you’ll have to come to this part of the country next time 🙂

  20. I know, how could they! Thanks for popping by @inside journeys, and wishing you a Happy New Year 🙂

  21. I know what you mean! I liken it to being in a sweet shop for grown ups!

  22. We certainly have a lot of wine choices down this part of the world Jo. and what a great way to spend an afternoon or weekend not far from our front door!
    ps – love your new beach header and new relaxed pic of you Jo!

  23. Thank you Jill, and yes it’s a lovely relaxing way to spend an afternoon, or a weekend 🙂

  24. Hi Johanna,
    The orange Christmas Tree is beautiful and fascinating! I love hearing about wine regions that are new to me. Geographe sounds beautiful. Gives me more reason to want to visit Western Australia.
    I love boutique wineries. I guess because they put so much personal attention and love into their wines:) I live in New York and my favorite local ones are in Long Island, where there are bunch of good family run wineries. My particular favorites are Pelligrini and Paumanok Vineyards. Check them out if ever you visit New York.

  25. Thanks Marisol! I’d love to visit New York one day and especially visit the wineries in Long Island you mention. Yes, if you enjoy your wines, we have plenty to discover in this region of Australia 🙂

  26. Tracey | Chronic Adventures

    The Barossa maybe famous for Shiraz but I found my favourite cabernet there at Rockford Estate. I agree the boutique wineries are the best. I also like the ones that charge a small fee for tasting (such as Two Hands) because you get All their wines to try

  27. Yes, love the boutique wineries, Tracey, and regardless of whether they charge, in WA. Yu can be assured of an interesting and often unique experience.

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