The Taste Great Southern festival is a major event on the calendar in Western Australia. Tens of thousands across the state and, on top of that, international travelers, descend into Albany, Mount Barker, Denmark and other towns to enjoy the delightful local produce, immerse in the musical festivities and rub shoulders with renowned celebrity chefs and winemakers.
This annual event takes deep pride of what the region offers. The expansive coastline and fertile farmlands provide for fresh seafood, phenomenal farm produce and high-quality meat. Needless to say, the high density of exceptional wineries spread across this region promises visitors a taste of cool climate wines of distinction and the exciting opportunity to meet the winemakers behind them!
The timing of the festival cannot be better for me as late March into early April represents the harvest period for the late-ripening, cool climate grapes. The invitation from Rockcliffe to visit the Great Southern again and be part of the harvesting process still stands. I knew I cannot miss this.
As I make my second odyssey to the region, the sense of excitement and anticipation builds. The monotony of the drive dissipates quickly, although in part, due to a refreshed Spotify playlist. Anticipation turns a little into anxiety as the warm, gentle sunset departed for light rains as I departed from Williams town. The rainfall intensifies as I passed Mount Barker and can't help but wonder if this was an indication of the weather ahead. I've never been diligent in checking on the weather forecasts throughout all my travels. It is getting a little colder than I expected and I hope my go-to fashion choice (i.e. hoodie) provides practical comforts too. As it turns out, the heartwarming hospitality and vibrant festivities more than made up for this.
The tasting event at the Liberte, Albany was a blast. The opportunity to taste wines from more than a dozen estates was amazing. Differences in quality aside, I remain intrigued as to how the same grape variety can smell and taste so different between one wine to the next, coming from the same region. Clearly, I'm still a novice and there is much to learn about winemaking. As I'm told later during a visit to a 5 red star winery, the same grape, from the exact same plot, can be very different from one vintage to another. So, yes. There is much to learn.
The night market at Rockcliffe Winery was equally memorable. It had all the sights and sounds your standard tourist brochure had advertised. There were about 15 stalls selling an array of trinkets and food produce. The stage was also set for Miguel Maestre who serenaded and cooked at the same time for the capacity crowd. I had fun selling Rockcliffe's signature wine sorbets, playing a cellar door employee for the night. It was a night to remember also for ignorantly not recognizing Luc Longley at the event. Yes, the Luc Longley who played in the iconic Chicago Bulls team of the 90s. I was a fan in my childhood years, idolizing one of the greatest dynasties of the NBA. Oh well.
Despite a great experience, Taste Great Southern was merely the tip of the iceberg for what turned out to be a highly rewarding trip. I met several winemakers and fell in love with their wines. I participated in a night harvest and, as expected, the hoodie was utterly useless in the blistering cold.
Looking forward to sharing these experiences and many good news with you. Stay in touch.