A Pioneer of Premium: Margaret River
Woodlands Wines was established in 1973 by David and Heather Watson and was one of the original six vineyards planted in Margaret River wine region. Woodlands has two vineyards, located little more than a mile (2km) from each other in the Wilyabrup Valley.
The Wilyabrup Valley is a series of gentle slopes that rise up alongside tributaries of the Wilyabrup Brook, a water system in the heart of the Margaret River region. The gravel subsoil ensures good drainage, while the high clay content enables water retention throughout the summer.
The weather here is characterized by high winter rainfall and long, dry summers. However, the Indian Ocean surrounds the region to the north and west, providing a moderating effect on the temperature.
The Watsons and Woodlands Cabernet Sauvignon
Heather and David bought Woodlands after falling in love with the property on a visit at Easter 1973, and they commenced their winemaking venture with the aim of emulating the great estates of Bordeaux. They made their first planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in rows heading east–west along the south-facing contour of the property.
Woodlands came to fame with the release of the 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the first wine from Margaret River to achieve a National Red Wine Trophy in Australia. Subsequent Cabernets made by David Watson won more trophies and critical acclaim across the country.
For several years from 1992, Woodlands production virtually ceased while David and Heather brought up their children, who attended schools in Perth, and their grapes were sold to other high-profile producers in the region. In 1999, however, with the children out of school, Woodlands began to produce wines again, making the most of its fully mature vines.
Today, their wines are produced using state-of-the-art technology, utilizing gravity and vibration. Once harvested by hand, the grapes are placed in a vibrating hopper, which gently transfers the fruit into the destemmer. The destemmer utilizes lightweight shaking cages that separate the grapes from their stems. This innovative process is the gentlest form of grape removal in the world. Once destemmed, the fruit then passes over a vibrating sorting table, enabling the Woodlands team to sort through the crush berry by berry.
Woodlands Cabernet Sauvignon is still made exclusively from the original Woodlands Vineyard planting and has continued to garner awards and acclaim, including being rated Outstanding in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine.
Today, Woodlands is run by brothers Andrew and Stuart Watson. The siblings carry on the family love for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends and seek always to make wines that speak of the individuality of the Woodlands vineyards.
Situated in the heart of Woodlands Winery, the cellar door is open from 11am to 5pm daily. It offers the current range of Woodlands wines, and no appointment is needed. From the cellar door, visitors can head to the vineyard to the south, the barrel hall to the north, and the winery in operation to the west, including the remarkable vibrating separating and sorting system. Tours of Woodlands are usually given by a member of the Watson family, take place every Thursday at 11am, and should be booked in advance.
Things to do
Settler’s Tavern in Margaret River
The best pub wine list in Australia, George the Fox cider on tap, live music, and a very good menu using lots of local produce.
Margaret River Farmers’ Market
The market takes place every Saturday morning and is a one- shop stop for regional produce—from meats and vegetables, to honey and freshly made dumplings. Be sure to sample a coffee from the Margaret River Combie Coffee van.
34 Blue Seafood
This small shop in the industrial area of Margaret River stocks fresh oysters, as well as a wide range of fresh, sustainable fish and seafood. Excellent service and lots of great ideas for dinner.
Champagne Pools, Injidup
Crystal-blue, natural rock pools fill up as the waves break. A favorite spot with the locals, it is, nonetheless, often deserted, so you can relax in solitude.
Farm House Meats
This is an organic butcher and small-goods producer, and their Big Red belly bacon is the best there is. It is available to purchase at the farmers’ market.