After a most disappointing start to our Margaret River sojourn yesterday, we are here today at Cullen Wines, home to some of the best cabernet sauvignon merlot in Australia.
This winery began with Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen planting a trial acre at Wilyabrup in 1966.
The encouraging results of this first planting led to 18 acres of new vines on their sheep and cattle farm in 1971, including their first cabernet sauvignon vines.
Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, semillon, merlot and cabernet franc were planted between 1976 and 1978.
Today, their daughter Vanya Cullen is the Chief Winemaker and Managing Director of this much-loved family business.
Some of Cullen’s most popular wines are on display in the dining room though the tasting counter is packed with wine enthusiasts today.
Three red reindeers are bringing smiles and laughter to the kids in the dining room.
We settle into our table at 1pm and the dining room is already packed with diners.
Unlike our lunch yesterday at Leeuwin Estate which charges a tasting fee despite a lunch booking at its restaurant, Cullen Wines appear more generous and customer-focused.
A waiter brings complimentary tastings of the day to our table and as far as service for wine lovers, I rate this a ten out of ten.
Practising food sustainability is a way of life for chefs at top restaurants in wine regions around Australia.
A summer update for the biodynamic garden at Cullen Wines shows the kitchen is currently harvesting beans, beetroot, leek, zucchini, radish, chard, salad greens, herbs and edible flowers.
We decide to share a few entrées and mains for our lunch today.
Heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella, olive, samphire
A medley of heirlooms cut into slices, wedges and bulbs create contrasting mouthfeel with a touch of dairy richness from a dollop of buffalo mozzarella.
Whimsical twigs of samphire add a subtle crunch of saltiness to this delightful salad.
Cured Abrolhos Island scallops, macadamia, radish
Mysaucepan cannot go past the cured Abrolhos Island scallops with hazelnut cream and wafer-thin discs of radish.
Edible flowers and bits of crispy puffed rice complement the nuttiness of hazelnut cream and delicate flavours of scallops.
Margaret River venison, hazelnut, garden bitter greens
Slices of seared Margaret River venison are like a pseudo ceviche, topped with crunchy hazelnut, cream and rocket leaves.
Being squimish about raw food, this dish surprisingly pleased Alice’s tastebuds.
Compressed watermelon, lime, chevre, shiso
We are pleasantly delighted by the freshness of a block of compressed watermelon sprinkled with diced cucumber, crumbly chevre and shiso leaves.
Generosity at Cullen has gained a few more points because this side dish is almost good enough as an entrée.
Pork belly, scorched coz, pear, buttermilk
Decadent chunks of pork belly are cleverly paired with the sweetness of pear, buttermilk and gentle smokiness of scorched cos leaves.
The meat is tender and bits of crackling tease with its salty crisp sensation.
Duck breast, warrigal, raspberry, kohlrabi, beetroot
Thick slivers of duck breast taste like they have been brined then seared to medium.
Roasted beetroot wedges, dollops of creamy kohlrabi and warrigal puree offer a savoury sweet mouthful when paired with crispy dried raspberry.
Crisp skin barramundi, eggplant, spring onion, pickled prawn
A slab of barramundi fillet is crisp on the skin and falls apart with a gentle yield of the knife.
Tiny pickled prawns are savoury against sweet and creamy eggplant puree.
Slow-cooked beef short rib, pho, kai-lan, green mango
Slow-cooked beef short rib arrives in a bowl of Asian-inspired pho broth with kai lan and green mango slivers.
One of the defining moments of our Margaret River sojourn is sinking my knife into this block of meat.
So tender and succulent, the meat comes apart like a diligent chunk of butter. Paired with the flavourful broth and tangy young mango, we chat about how this could be replicated at home with each subsequent mouthful.
The mark of a great meal is when each of us nominate a different dish as our favourite, mine being the beef, the duck for Alice and venison for Mysaucepan.
It is a beautiful summer day and visitors are soaking up the sun in the garden.
It is time for a walk to work off the lunch.
So dear readers, can you share which is your favourite winery restaurant at Margaret River?
4323 Caves Road, Wilyabrup
Tel: +61 8 9755 5656
Opening hours: Friday to Tuesday 11.30am – 4.30pm
Cellar door hours: Daily 10am – 4.30pm
Tel: +61 8 9755 5277
Your adventure looks wonderful! I do love wine tasting!
I was fixing some broken links on my blog (In Good Taste) today and came across some of your old comments. Love seeing that your blog is thriving and especially love reading about (ok and drinking!) wine.
Hope to see you around on my blog again soon!
The pork belly and the short-rib look DEVINE! I was blown away by Voyager Estate, the grounds are simply stunning. Kind of the perfect place for a destination wedding!