Many would argue there’s nothing better than a day being driven from winery to winery, prancing among the grape vineyards and sampling some of the country’s finest drops straight from the cellar door… but what if I told you that here in Margaret River in Western Australia’s south, there’s an experience offering all of that, plus an opportunity to do so with one of life’s other great loves – you dog?
I’m always on the hunt for dog-friendly experiences on our travels so when I stumbled across an adorable photo of a great dane touching his snoot to a wine glass, of course I had to click on it. It’s there, I discovered local tour company ‘Grape Escape’ offers something I’d never seen before – a ‘Pawesome Tour’.
Don’t get me wrong, we did hesitate at the price – a cool $375 for the five-hour private tour with all tastings included. We don’t splurge on the road, so while something like this would normally sit outside our spending range, I just couldn’t pass it up – and on the phone I jumped – linking up with Paul – the business owner and our guide – and setting the date for our doggo + vino adventure.
After sussing out our tastes in wine and whipping up a brief itinerary, we were locked in – and it wasn’t long before we were greeted at our doorstep by a cheerful young chap in a schmick-looking people-mover. Yes, these guys come to you. We were camped at a farm-stay outside of town, so it took a bit to dust off the fancy clothes and relax into luxury, but we were delighted the team picks up and drops off from ANYWHERE in the Margaret River region – even campgrounds for feral nomads like us.
Ben and I had chatted the night before about how the day would go – would the floofers have to sit in the car at every stop? Would they have to be tied up out front? Would the guide send us in for tasting while he stood outside babysitting? Turns out it was none of the above. This was a doggy wine tour so just like the humans, the dogs were welcome inside too.
We are not fussy drinkers so we were happy for Paul to lead the way and suggest wineries that might suit our personalities as well as suggesting some of his personal faves. He stuck to boutique/ medium-sized wineries, and this worked perfectly for us. It was also a quiet day, so everywhere we went, we generally had free range of the place (which worked perfectly for a puppy who wanted to play and explore) and because Paul had called ahead, each winery expected us and welcomed us with smiling faces and pats for the dogs.
Across the day, we were taken to seven different wineries (including our lunch stop). This is a fair number and generally the team manages to squeeze in five or so – (I guess we’re quick drinkers? We do taste everything haha) All are vibrant and unique – bringing a different spin or traditional flare to the drops we all know and love (There are also like a bajillion wineries in Margaret River, so seven might seem like a lot, but that’s only a fraction of what’s actually here).
The scenery is breathtaking too – think rolling hills dotted with sheep, deer, dairy cows. Think vibrant floral garden beds and timber decks overlooking lakes. Think lush, forest roads and oak barrels. It’s just a dream.
Our first visit was to ‘Cape Grace’ – a boutique winery nestled in Cowaramup. Because Australia is so awkward about dogs being indoors, we actually hovered outside, and it took Paul to invite us in to actually move through the doors with the dogs in tow. Straight away, the winemaker was kind and friendly, excited to greet our boys and mention her old Jack Russell ‘Rusty’ and his features in the ‘Wine Dogs’ publications. Turned out we were in the presence of a four-legged celebrity.
Fast-forward a couple of hours of incredible stops and we arrived at ‘Black Brewery Co’ for lunch. This place is awesome – slick, modern and funky. We certainly didn’t expect dogs to be allowed in here, but again, we were proven wrong, and were marched right on up to the bar. They even explicitly advertise this outside – legends – but honestly, this was our entire day. The dogs were allowed everywhere we were – and we took great delight in watching tourists’ faces as they walked in the door and saw our fellas waiting at the bar like us humans.
Now this is in no way just a chauffeur service either – Paul and the team really do their research and bring a youthful, energetic flare to the job – the last thing we all want is a droning oldie wearing a headset regurgitating the same lines over and over. They call ahead to wineries where dogs are welcome and set up an itinerary to suit our tastes. He’s also like a winery/ Margaret River encyclopedia so the journeys between stops were filled with warm conversation and interesting insights into the community he calls home.
Would we recommend it? Yes.
Would we do it again? Yes.
Most importantly, did we taste some good wine? Yes. Lots of it.
So where did we go and what wines were too good to leave? (Click the name for a direct link to their website)
- Cape Grace – Purchase: 2017 Cabernet Shiraz
- Passel Estate – Purchase: 2016 Shiraz
- Stormflower – Purchase: 2016 Silver Lining Sparkling
- Credaro – Purchase: 2017 Kinship Gewurztraminer
- Black Brewery Co (Beer and Wine on offer) – Purchase (over lunch): Fresh Ale and Milk Stout
- Juniper – Purchase: 2016 Malbec
- Windance – Purchase: 2017 Rosé
If you love wine as much as you love your doggies, then definitely give this one a crack. It would also be fun with your mates and their pups too – they have larger vehicles for that.
You can of course self-drive to these places too, but what fun is that if the driver wants to drink? And for people like us who don’t know anything about the region, we appreciated the insider knowledge and information.
The only cost not included in the tour was our lunch and the bottles of wine we purchased. You can also request a catered picnic-style lunch for a fee, we just wanted to try a local eatery because we wanted to be fancy.
When you think about it, it makes sense, wineries are farms. Farms generally have farm dogs – so logically, many of these places actually are dog friendly and are owned and managed by people who share the same love for pets as we do. How darn awesome.
Interested? See the link below:
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