With Christmas and New Year fast becoming a distant memory I can finish the series of posts I began about our short sojourn in the beautiful South West region of WA at the end of our winter (see here, here, here and here for earlier posts). We have enjoyed coming down to this beautiful area for many years now. On our first visit, way back in 1992, we had a superb and memorable lunch at Cullen Winery in the Wilyabrup locality on Caves Road. Monsieur Le Chic decided some wine tasting was the order of the day, whilst I endeavoured to keep our 2 little girls occupied!
An elderly lady was standing by the bar and before I knew it she had asked to hold our younger daughter (9 months old at the time) – she was evidently an experienced baby minder because baby “Mlle”, normally something of a handful, happily smiled and cooed away to the delight of the old lady. The point to this preamble is that we were told in hushed tones by the bar staff (once she was out of earshot!) that this was the winery owner, “Mrs Cullen”. She and her late husband, Dr Kevin John Cullen, had overseen the first planting of vines on their property in 1966 and subsequently founded the vineyard in 1971. They were pioneers of the wine industry in the Margaret River region – award-winning “wine royalty” . The late Diana Madeline Cullen was the most humble unassuming person you could ever hope to meet and we have always treasured that interlude all those years ago! She led an amazing life, not only helping to establish the winery, but being the chief winemaker until her retirement in 1989 when she handed over her duties to her daughter Vanya. Along the way she raised 6 children! Her biography on the Cullen web page says she was once described as ” “an inspiration in our own time and that of future generations”.
Therefore we always make time for a lunch and a spot of wine tasting at Cullen whenever we’re down in that neck of the woods. On this brisk late winter’s day, we were not disappointed. We turned up mid week without a booking and part of the restaurant was taken up with a touring party. They were not obtrusive, however and we were rewarded with a lovely table for 2 overlooking the beautiful gardens and vines.
Produce is local and as much as possible is picked fresh from the vegetable garden. My fish stew, one of the daily specials was beyond superb, the sharing plate starter including locally caught sardines, wonderfully tasty and the desserts simply divine. All washed down with their beautiful wines. I can only say we have never had a bad meal at Cullen!
Naturally after such a superb repast, Monsieur felt it would be only right to sample some of the wines available for tasting, whilst yours truly “the designated driver” relaxed by the log fire. The information signs on the wall caught my eye – Cullen has been Certified A Grade Biodynamic since 2004 . I hadn’t really understood what this meant in practice before our visit but in addition to the information board, Monsieur was given a thorough explanation by the staff as he tried to decide which of the many wines on offer to buy. Intrigued by the name, he decided to try their celebrated “Moon Opposite Saturn” wine. Planting, harvesting and wine production at Cullen are all conducted according to strict principles based amongst other things around lunar cycles and the position of the planets (hence the Moon/Saturn configuration).
As for Monsieur’s tasting deliberations he ended up with a mixed crate including a couple of bottles of the “Kevin John” Chardonnay – not normally a fan of Chardonnay but this one is very different in flavour to others I’ve tried. Monsieur’s wine collection back home also includes a few bottles of the “Diana Madeline” Cabernet Sauvignon, which is being cellared for future quaffing! Our curiosity piqued by talk of planets and moon cycles, we headed off into the grounds and gardens to discover more. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our visit next week!
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