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The Mountain Wine Trail

Our Trails

The Mountain Wine Trail

Journey to a distinct part of the Great Southern, a little range of granite domes that not many people from Perth get to see. The Porongurups have the views, clear light and pure air of a classic hill station and the distinctiveness from their surrounds that all mountain regions seem to possess.

They rise like an island from a sea of surrounding farmland and 55 million years ago that’s exactly what they were: part of a chain of granite islands off a southern coastline of Australia that ran somewhere near the Stirling Ranges. The park is an island of biodiversity too, containing stands of Karri trees which are normally found in the higher rainfall areas further west and that are thought to have been genetically isolated here for more than 5000 years. There are ten species of plant here that can be found nowhere else. The cool and moist habitats are also home to some trapdoor spiders that are relics from when this was all part of Gondwanaland, including one that only builds its nests in old, unburned Karri logs. There’s giant earthworms, ringtail possums and carpet pythons – all protected fiercely by a dedicated group of locals who, when they aren’t producing wine, work hard to preserve everything that makes this area unique.

The name comes from Purringorep, which was the name given by the Minang Noongar guides Mokare and Nakina to Captain Wakefield, who led the first expedition to explore the range. Local Noongars believed the mountains to be the home of the Wagyl; and that malevolent spirits lived among the rocks. They only visited in search of bush-tucker, but never camped.

Just before we enter Porongurup National Park we pass the slightly incongruous sign of a Thai café at the foot of the ranges. Maleeya’s café, where Maleeya Form’s grandmother’s recipes have been kept alive via Swizterland before arriving here 22 years ago. The popular café sources it’s fresh herbs from its own gardens and the spicy dishes are popular with locals and visitors alike. The first of the Porongurup wineries (like Duke’s) can also be seen here.

But before we sample the many wineries this road has to offer, we are going to circumnavigate this granite island and take in a view that not many get to see. We turn right and head South on Woodlands road for 2 kilometers before a left turn to head east into the Porogurup National Park on Angwin Park road.

After a steep climb you’ll be rewarded with views to the North, across the 40 kilometers that separates the Porongurups from the Stirling Ranges. This view will also be across the sheltered north facing vineyards that the region is famous for.

We then return to Woodlands road and continue south until making a left and heading east along Millinup Road, which skirts the southern ‘shore’ of this granite island. This gently winding, shaded, gravel road offers a view of the south-facing slopes of the ranges that are not normally seen. The rich soil and high rainfall creates lush steep pastures full of fat cattle; it’s a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in the foothills of the Austrian Alps and is an example of one of the micro climates that a range like the Porogurups can create.

Because they run east-west, the Porongurups act as a barrier to the prevailing weather that blows up from Albany and the South Coast. It spares the north facing slopes the ravages of the southerly winds; and creates a unique effect at night, where the warm air rises above the denser cold air sliding down the hillsides and settling on the valley floor. This ‘air drainage’ dramatically reduces the likelihood of frosts and creates ideal conditions for the slow ripening phase that all cool weather viticulture relies. The region is famous for these distinctive cool climate wines, especially Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

As we reach Chester Pass road, then travel north for 2 kilometers before heading west along Porongurup road, we can see the benefits of this unique climate in the different wineries all clustered here. Castle Rock Estate, Mt Trio, Abbey Creek, Ironwood, Millinup and Jingalla, to name a few. Even before you’ve taken the turn west on Porongurup road from Chester Pass road, you may also have noticed signs for some wineries slightly east of the Porongurups, like Shepherds Hut and Zarephath. All of these wineries enjoy the mineral rich soil that is the result of these once mighty mountains gradually eroding down, creating the unique karri-loam and loamy gravels that are ideal for viticulture.

There are ten wineries in this area and many offer lunch to go along with their tastings in case you haven’t sampled the Thai food first. Then, once you’ve enjoyed the tastes and stories that each of these places has to offer, take a short diversion, north, down Nights Road to have a short stroll through the Twin Creek nature reserve. This was the passion of a lady whose name is still revered in these parts – Anne Birchall. In a time when it was a legal requirement to clear 95% of all land awarded through government grants, Birchall fought to have the nature reserve set aside and bequeathed to the Friends of the Porongurups, where it is held in trust to this day. It remains as a unique transition zone between the ecology of the Striling Ranges and the Porongurups and is a stunning place to visit during wildflower season.