Alexandra Bridge is located approximately 26kms north east of the township of Augusta, at the southern end of the Margaret River region. There’s a camp ground a little away from the river, and a day use area overlooking the river. We were already staying in the campground, but decided the day use area overlooking the river would be a better spot for a forest picnic. Being only 26 kms from Augusta, and not much further from Margaret River, we didn’t have far to drive to find some good food, and good wine, worthy of the gorgeous forest setting. If you happen to be staying anywhere towards the southern end of the Margaret River region, and you fancy a forest picnic, Alexandra Bridge is not far away, and well worth considering.
First stop was the cellar door at Brown Hill wines. Located at 925 Rosa Brook Road, this is not your traditional upmarket cellar door with all the usual boutique cellar door trimmings. Rather it’s a cellar door in the wine making area with all the noise of the wine making process, no trappings, and the owner, Jim, on hand offering the tastings. I’ve said it doesn’t have the usual trappings, and it definitely doesn’t. What it does have though is some amazing wines.
In 2018 the Brown Hill Estate took out the Best in Show award at that year’s Decanter World Wine Awards for it Perseverance 2014 Cabernet Merlot. It was one of just six Best in Show awards to go to Australian wine producers, and the only WA producer to take out one of the awards.
What makes Brown Hill Wines so special? Jim, the owner tells me that firstly the vines are non-irrigated. I’d thought in the dryness of a WA summer nothing would have survived without irrigation, but Jim assures me that grape vines, originating from the arid middle eastern area, send roots down for hundreds of metres in search of water. Apparently it results in small, vibrantly coloured fruit, with intense flavour.
Secondly, the wine is made in the vineyard, and the grapes, and the vineyard are treated with the utmost respect. All the fruit is hand picked, and hand sorted at harvest time.
The winery is a family run boutique winery. Talking to Jim it’s clear he has a passion for his wines and an amazing amount of knowledge. It’s also clear he’s not one of those, “ask me any question you like on wine making and grapes, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll make it up” – Jim clearly does know his stuff, and I’m sure if anyone visiting him came up with something credible that he didn’t know, he’d quickly be researching to update any gaps in his knowledge.
We walked away with a 2016 Great Boulder Cabenet Shiraz Merlot Malbec. And that wasn’t all, Jim invited us to pick some of the remaining grapes hanging from the vines so as we could taste what none irrigated grapes taste like, so we did. The berries aren’t the big, juicy, perfectly formed grapes that you’d buy in your local supermarket. They’re small, rich in colour, with only a small amount of juice – but the intensity of the flavour and the sweetness….. Wow!!! I think I understand now just what non-irrigated vines means when it comes to wines.
For our picnic food we headed to Blue Ginger, a gourmet grocery store located at 31 Station Street, in Margaret River.
Blue Ginger has a fine selection of antipasto ingredients, cheeses and cold meats.
They also stock a small selection of sausages and butcher’s meats if you wanted to try barbecuing instead of picnic food.
There’s also a good stock of general grocery items, including a great selection of crackers, and there’s a little green grocer’s next door as well for any salad items if needed. Of course what would a picnic or barbecue be without bread. Blue Ginger stocks loaves of Yallingup Wood fired bread which is a bread now famous all over the south west of WA.
We drove away with a small scoop of mixed olives, a platter of cold meats, a half loaf of sliced Yallingup wood fired bread, a block of some amazing washed rind sheep’s cheese, and a small cucumber, a tomato and some parsley from the shop next door. We had our bunch of little grapes from the vineyard too, and as it was getting towards 2pm by this stage, we also had an appetite ready to do justice to all our fine fare.
The picnic spot
The day use area is a popular spot for fisher folk, whether they choose to cast a line from the shore, or venture out into river in a small motor boat, or a kayak. It’s not uncommon to have kayakers pull in to Alexandra Bridge at the conclusion of a camping/kayaking adventure which they began several kilometres, and several days earlier upstream at Sue’s Bridge. There’s plenty of parking, and a boat launching ramp which makes the area an ideal place for launching and retrieving water craft. In the warmer months, the river makes an great spot for a cooling swim too. If nature calls in the most basic of ways, there’s flushing loos nearby too.
We had two picnic tables to choose from, and there’s also a sheltered gas barbecue area close by for those who fancy cooking a sausage or steak.
Lunch was delicious, and afterwards we had a couple of games of Jenga (also known as Tumbling Towers) before heading off for a riverside walk.
There’s a walking track that runs alongside the river in a south westerly direction towards Augusta. I imagine the track wouldn’t get a lot of use in the warmer months because of the risk of coming in contact with snakes, so the tracks currently a little overgrown. Now though with the cooler weather of winter on the way, we felt safe enough taking our pooch down the track. I don’t know how far it goes, but we walked about 20 minutes in either direction. It’s not what you’d call a well beaten track, but it’s beside a lovely meandering river with prolific birdsong, and there’s some gorgeous trees with a character that would justify a mention in Lord of the Rings.
Good food and good wine consumed in the forest overlooking a gorgeous river, followed by a walk in the great outdoors to finish up – what a pleasure!