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The Margaret River wine Festival is a celebration of one of the State’s most famous exports. An enthusiastic supporter of produce from the South West, Julie-anne Sprague takes a look at what’s on for the two weeks from November 9.

THE festive season is fast approaching and, while we won’t get too carried away with Christmas plans just yet, we can still get very jolly at the Margaret River Wine Festival. The festival is held over two weeks from Friday November 9 and the South West will be abuzz with food and wine activity. While just about everybody will be doing everything, following are a few things worth having a look at.

Clairault

Open for lunch each day and tapas on Friday night, dinner on Saturday night.

Elle Deslandes’ Quartet will be entertaining guests between November 9 and 11. Enjoy tastings at this gorgeous winery, which serves some exceptional food.

Evans and Tate

The Margaret River 2000 Vintage Shiraz (the wine from the award-winning 1999 vintage) will be released at the festival. If you visit the winery for tastings you will go in the draw to win a case of the 2000 vintage shiraz. There will be live bands on both Saturdays as well as tutored tastings from 6-7.30pm. Join chief wine maker Steve Warne for an east meets west tasting comparing the Yarra Valley wines with the Margaret River varieties.

There also will be a range of local produce for you to nibble at, including seafood, olive oils, and sour dough breads.

Xanadu

Also offering the chance to win a case of wine (not to mention the chance to win a weekend away for the whole family), Xanadu is one to visit to taste award-winning greats.

The winery will be providing entertainment for the kids and I suggest you find out where the Xanadu name originated from so you’ve got a better chance of winning some wine! I’ll give you a hint – it has something to do with an English poet’s dream in 1797.

Howard Park Wines will be holding oak master classes on Saturday November 10 and 17. Among other things, winemakers will explain and demonstrate the effect of oak on wine and help to educate participants’ palates to detect the differences between American and French oak. Early bookings are essential.

Apart from winery hopping, there are heaps of good events taking place during the fortnight.

Sunday Novem-ber 11: Broadwater Sanctuary Gala Banquet. This black tie event brings together wine, food, art, and music of the most refined kind. Fraser’s Chris Taylor will be joining head chef Stephen Reagan of Newton House and the Sanc-tuary’s Dean Asford to create a seven-course meal to be complemented by wines sourced from various Margaret River wineries, including vintage, museum, and limited releases.

Tuesday November 13: Wine and Food Matching Challenge. Presented by the Margaret River Wine Industry Association, this evening will help you find the perfect marriage of wine and food. And to do that you need a team of experts, so head in to the host venue, Winos, and join wine writer Peter Forrestal; food writer Jan Oldham; wine retailer and proprietor of La Vigna, Michael Tamburri; winemaker & judge Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines; winemaker/chef Steve Flamsteed of Leeuwin Estate; and Fraser’s Chris Taylor to discover your senses.

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If you are looking at heading down for the festival, or travelling to wine regions at any stage through the year, be sure to pick up the recently released A Guide to Touring the Wine Regions of Western Australia. It’s a comprehensive guide of the various regions, north and south, and includes maps, accommodation, events and, of course, the wineries. For 12 months Duncan Gardiner and Julie Williamson travelled our magnificent State and have put together a detailed book of first-hand knowledge. And how popular it has been. At the time of writing about 900 copies had been sold – and it’s only been available for about a week!

The book was self financed after the couple was refused a bank loan. Who’s smiling now?

Pick one up at your local bookstore for $35.95 and keep it in the car.

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Leon Jung has confirmed his purchase of the West Perth icon Chianti on Colin. He worked overseas with Genting International, which had a stake in Burswood in the 1980s. Mr Jung now runs Grand Vatel, importers of Italian wines, and will operate the company as well as Chianti on Colin. There will be no sweeping staff changes with Mr Jung saying he is happy with the current Chianti On Colin crew. He says he’s been in the business long enough to know how to train and motivate them.

And as for changes to the style of the place, he says he is looking at going back to personalised service in a relaxed dining atmosphere and that, over time, they will gradually upgrade the restaurant from the cutlery to table settings- which will be old-style settings.

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It’s tough to compete with large wine festivals on throughout the State but the Swan Valley’s Olive Farm Winery will be the venue for the fundraising event Musical Delights At Dusk. Raising funds for the Citizen Advocacy Eastern Suburbs, the event features entertainer James Flynn and the Australian Army Band (Perth).

Being the Year of Federation, the event will, through the course of the concert, carry this theme, with the band playing the traditional Sunset Retreat and concluding with the rousing 1812 Overture.

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Millbrook Winery will be opening a tasting room at the end of this month. Located on Chestnut Farm in Jarrahdale, this is the next step for owners Peter and Lee Fogarty, who purchased the farm in 1989. Joining wine maker Millbrook is young winemaker Tony Davis, previously with Yalumba.

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Globe Wine Bar sommelier Ben Mayne has said farewell to the Hilton and has joined the team at Fraser’s … as a waitperson. While to some it may seem like a step back, Ben says it is the next step forward. He’s looking to become an assistant manager and this position provides the perfect opportunity, he says.

In other hospitality moves … with the opening of Must Wine Bar not far away, Anne Marie Banting has her crew of wine experts on deck. Natasha from Star Bistro will join a dedicated team of wine professionals, and Anne Marie says she’s looking at sponsoring a very experienced female sommelier from the United States to work at Must.

In the kitchen, Russell Blaikie has Andre Mahe on deck as head chef. Andre was involved in the opening of Observation City Hotel (now Rendezvous) and worked at Friends. Sous Chef is Geoff Hodder, who was previously at the Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant.

The cooking team at Gucce, nominated for a Gold Plate in the Mediterranean Dining category) is looking for new kitchen pastures after its recent sudden closure. While Gusto is yet to get an official word as to why and how the place closed, we can tell you head chef Peter Manifis and his cooking team are looking for work elsewhere.

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For all of you who missed out on heading out to Mt Barker for the wine show, never fear, for the wine show has been brought to you. Featuring at The Hyatt on Wednesday November 14 will be Australia’s Top 50 pointed wines. Between 4.30pm and 8.30pm you can taste wines from the Mt Barker wine show, including Houghton’s 1999 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, which won best wine of the show, best dry red, best cabernet sauvignon and the Department of Agriculture’s JS Trophy for the best and most distinctive character cabernet sauvignon.

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