Stay in touch with the latest news and happenings at Vasse Felix, in Margaret River and on tour around the world.
We were thrilled to celebrate the Vasse Felix Restaurant team last week as they were named Top Regional Restaurant in WA, as well as being one of three venues to receive a coveted '3 Star Rating' in the WA Good Food Guide Awards;
"The restaurant business is tough, and many would argue it can be tougher in the regions. But, visit Vasse Felix year on year and you’ll see a continuity that any restaurateur would envy, wherever they are. Service is polished yet has the appropriate amount of country charm under Caleb Dreaver, and despite a changing of the guard in the kitchen newly minted head chef Cameron Jones is flexing his creativity and talent. There can be a temptation to categorise winery restaurants as a class apart, but really Vasse Felix is simply a class act."
The WA Good Food Guide Top 100 Restaurants list is generated from over 5,000 restaurants in Western Australia. It was a joy to be recognised amongst such esteemed company, with the full review from the WAGFG judges below.
Peerless plates meet iconic wines at one of WA’s very best.
"Chef Brendan Pratt’s departure means that the reins have been handed over to Cameron Jones in the Vasse Felix kitchen, but this winery-restaurant still remains one of the state’s essential bookings. Above all, it’s because of its unbridled commitment to going all out, layering fat, acid, salt, umami and all the rest in dishes that almost radiate flavour.
Take an opener of fried flatbread topped with beef intercostal meat, strips of translucent fried lardo, tomato and anchovy XO sauce and burnt butter: a more is more moment that really works. Then there’s the half quail, deboned and stuffed with mortadella, then glazed to a cartoon-like sheen as if it were char siu – pure deliciousness in novel form.
Mains see toothfish coated in salted egg glaze brought back into check with onion dashi, spring onion and pickled enoki, while quadretti are heaped to form a sort of free-form lasagne, with onion and kombu béchamel and spinach and hazelnut pesto. All the while, the service remains pitch-perfect, charming but never stuffy, with estate wines bringing an air of luxury to match the room and the setting. Occasion dining, that’s undimmed."
A huge congratulations to all of the outstanding venues in the 2024 WA Good Food Guide Top 100. Explore the full list here.
Author | Virginia Willcock, Chief Winemaker
Paul had invited Tom Cullity to the Estate in 2007, the ﬁrst time (we believe) he had been back to the vineyard since he sold Vasse Felix in 1984. Paul wanted to discuss the idea of making a wine called “TOM CULLITY” and I was fortunate enough to be invited to the lunch as the Winemaker. I mentioned that I had tried one of his early wines, the 1974 Cabernet, and I said it had a remarkable perfume of Peppy Trees, and that I thought the Cabernet from his original vines had a similar character in the vintage just gone.
He laughed and said, “Peppy Trees….that figures. When we racked the wine from the vat, we had no cleaning equipment to clean the lees out, so we grabbed a bucket of water from the Wilyabrup Brook and snapped a branch of the Peppy Tree outside the cellar and used the branch as a broom to clean the vat before we returned the wine back into the vat….no wonder it smelt like a Peppy Tree.”
TUNA, UMEBOSHI, BONITO, SHIITAKE, POTATO CRISPS
By Head Chef Cam Jones
A truly unique summer pairing designed to highlight the 2021 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon.
1 shallot ﬁnely grated
2cm piece of ginger ﬁnely grated 100ml light soy
100ml rice vinegar
15ml sesame oil
40g umeboshi paste (or whole umeboshi plums ﬁnely diced)
400g fresh, high quality tuna ﬁllet
40ml light soy
4ml sesame oil
15ml rice vinegar
250ml vegetable oil
100g shiitake mushrooms diced
40ml vegetable oil
5ml sesame oil
1 dried bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1tsp toasted sesame seeds
Your preferred potato chip, we recommend Kettle Sea Salt
Umeboshi dressing (prep 24hrs prior)
Combine all Umeboshi dressing ingredients and store in the fridge.
Dice Tuna, cover and leave in fridge.
Add egg, light soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and bonito to blender. Blend on high for one minute. Continue blending on medium and slowly add oil until combined. Set aside.
Heat oil in frying pan over high heat and sauté the shiitake mushrooms until lightly golden.
Add sesame oil, sesame seeds, bay leaf and thyme and toss in the pan for three minutes.
Set aside and keep room temperature (remove thyme stalk and bay leaf before serving).
Place 2 tbsp of bonito emulsion in the bottom of each bowl.
Divide tuna into eight portions and place on bonito emulsion.
Divide shiitake mushrooms into eight portions and place on top of tuna.
Dress tuna and shiitake with 3 tbsp of umeboshi dressing.
Cover with potato crisps.
Enjoy with the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon.
Over the last few weeks, our Viticulture team have been hard at work planting approximately 12ha of Gingin clone Chardonnay across our Home Vineyard (Tom's Plots) and Gnarawary Vineyard (Gnarawary and Darch Plots).
As a general rule, Chardonnay vines prefer heavier soils with high clay content and good moisture retention, their weaker root system requiring the support of these dense and fertile soil sections. Chardonnay tends to thrive in a slightly cooler climate, something we are blessed with in Margaret River, with our extreme maritime influence.
We look forward to sharing more updates as these beautiful new vines progress.
By Estate Sommelier Evan Gill
At Vasse Felix you may think we talk ad nauseam about the incredible drinking window our Cabernet Sauvignon offers. But did you know that we also espouse the ageability of our Chardonnays? Estate Sommelier Evan Gill explains.
Crafted with the utmost care - hand harvested, whole-bunch pressed, transferred to barrique as full solids juice for wild fermentation, and matured on lees in barrel for several months - these complex and powerful, yet balanced and seamless Chardonnays possess all the attributes required for cellaring.
Over time, these Chardonnays develop a vibrant golden hue and a long, persistent and softer mouthfeel as crisp, mineral acidity softens and their notable length (palate persistence) extends. Powerful and fresh primary fruit notes slowly merge, evolve and fade towards baked or dried notes whilst the secondary (from the wild ferment, maturation in fine French oak, battonage and full or partial malolactic fermentation) and mild tertiary notes (from oxygen ingress over time) become more prominent.
In general, the Heytesbury Chardonnay with less than seven years in bottle will offer primary aromas as the dominating flavour profile, though in a wine as complex as this, secondary characters such as vanilla, breadcrumb, dough, pie crust and even lamb fat are often evident at this young age. After more than seven years in bottle, the primary and secondary notes are joined by more tertiary characters, often in the form of hazelnut, cashew, almond meal and even nougat.
The same general ageing characteristics can be expected of the Vasse Felix Chardonnay, though within a time frame of (give or take) four years in bottle. With its slightly plumper and richer profile and portion of Bernard clonal selections, this wine tends to develop slightly quicker than the tauter and more powerful Heytesbury. In both examples, whilst the pristine, primary grapefruit, apple and stonefruit notes of youth fade slowly into the background both wines remain supremely well balanced as they age.
Balance is key for any Chardonnay you are considering for the cellar. In my experience, any imbalance will only be highlighted more with time spent in bottle, no matter how good the storage conditions.
This brings me to my final point; wine maturation is an organic process which is very dependent on the conditions of cellaring. However, given the incredible consistency of Margaret River’s vintages, the expertise of our winemaking team and the fact our wines are sealed with screwcap, our Chardonnays offer unparalleled consistency of ageing. The only question then becomes; how patient are you?
This past weekend, we united with fellow Chardonnay devotees for edition number three of Chameleon; an intimate exploration of the world’s original vinous chameleon and its Margaret River form.
The evening began on the Estate lawn where guests were treated to Idée Fixe Premier Brut poured from Magnums, paired with scallops. Guests then journeyed to the Art Gallery where they enjoyed an incredible strings and percussion performance paying homage to the wild funk of the Vasse Felix Chardonnay style.
In the Restaurant, Head Chef Cam Jones prepared a thrilling degustation menu, paired with some incredible new and rare selections chosen by Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock and Estate Sommelier Evan Gill, and culminating with Margaret River icon, the Heytesbury Chardonnay.
Peruse the highlights below.
Enjoy this selection off festive food and wine pairings, each designed to highlight your favourite Filiius drop.
Author | Tom Pearsall, Margaret River Photographer
It's not unusual for me to have to stumble out of bed before the sun is up - if the surf is forecast to be good - but this shoot was unusual as the sun was nowhere near rising. It was 1am. Deep into the 2023 vintage.
I was searching for a team picking the king of grapes in Margaret River, Cabernet. It was as dark as the ocean depths as I turned into the Home Vineyard at Vasse Felix, camera bag heavy enough to set off the no-seat belt warning in the passenger seat. Bing, bing, bing.
I noted the distant glow of lights in the far valley as I wound down my window. Sleep fuzzed brain relieved I was in the right place. The Indian Ocean's cool breeze swept through the grapevines.
The distinctive scent of Margaret River, sea air and forest humus, hung in the night air as I arrived in the relative calm of the Valley Cabernet plots.
I was welcomed by a surprisingly (for the hour) perky bunch; working away, cracking jokes and drinking coffee between rows. For a moment everyone turned their head torches off. The silence, but for the wind through the vines and a lone early bird, in combination with the wonder of the infinitely vast southern sky sticks in my mind most. Likely a mundane moment for the men and women picking grapes night after night.
The harvest team worked tirelessly to ensure the grapes reached the winery in perfect condition. And the winery team wasn't sleeping either. The lights were on and everyone was on task. A humbling example of commitment to their craft.
In the quiet of that night, driving home to my warm bed, I found a connection between the grapes and the waves. Both were shaped by nature's rhythms, and both rewarded patience and dedication.
No fancy words could describe it – just a moment in time, a memory of Margaret River Cabernet under the starry sky.
More on 50 Years of Margaret River Cabernet here.
Author | Max Veenhuyzen
I’m going to come clean: I don’t like cabernet sauvignon. Or at least I didn’t think I did. Too big. Too tannic. Too much.
Then along come these sleek modern cabernets from Vasse Felix and other forward-thinking Margaret River wineries to make me question my life choices. These wines are supple, they're detailed, they’re approachable. And they’re worlds apart from the heavy-set cab savs that I grew up thinking I had to love and cellar for like 100 years.
I’ll admit, I can be pretty biased when it comes to wine. It’s nice to have my biases challenged and, in this instance, absolutely detonated.
Author | Emma Farrelly, Director of Wine & Beverages, State Buildings
Margaret River Cabernet is such an expressive and refreshing style of wine.
I absolutely adore the flavour profile of it and the fact that it has plenty of shape and frame. Drinking Cabernet never feels boring as there is so much energy and complexity.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety that expresses ‘site’ very distinctly. Here, it shows ironstone, sea spray and red fruit characters that speak very much of Wilyabrup.
Often the perception is that Cabernet is a heavier wine that needs plenty of time to age. While aging these wines is always rewarding, freshness and elegance is a hallmark of the Premier Cabernet style.
Something that really highlighted this for me was the Cabernet Society dinner held at Vasse Felix, late 2018. The dinner - based solely around this beautiful ‘king of grapes’ - provided an exceptional wine and food experience that is etched in my memory. I remember as we drank the 2014 Premier Cabernet with dinner, and tasted the 2014 Tom Cullity out of magnum after dinner, which to this day remains one of my favourite vintages of the past decade.
After dinner we were ushered into the red barrel hall where we had the chance to explore various expressions of Cabernet and its friends Malbec and Petit Verdot. There was a feeling of excitement and intrigue in the air, mingled with the rich aroma of the barrel hall and the alluring scent of Cabernet.
I honestly thought we were going to get tattooed or something that night! It felt like an induction into an exclusive club and something very fun to be a part of. Dark night, warm fire and Cabernet filled cool air. Really special.