Take advantage of natural good looks, wealth
An Aston Martin offers a great Vantage point, writes Jonathan Porter.
You’re clear: go for it,” says the former motocross racer sitting in the passenger seat of a $240,000 V8 canary-yellow Aston Martin Vantage.
We are on the wrong side of the road, having just overtaken four out of five cars that were blocking our progress on a wide, sweeping bend.
After hesitating slightly, I nudge the throttle, delivering a tincture more fuel to the hand-crafted German-built engine, and kick the yellow beast past the last vehicle as if it were standing still.
I cut in front of the leading vehicle just as we glide onto a narrow bridge over a bubbling creek. I ease off on the petrol. The needle hovers around 190km/h.
If you are ever forced to go to Margaret River in Western Australia, I recommend you do it from behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Vantage with a former motocross racer coaching you.
My coach is Tony Howell, whose day job is head chef at Cape Lodge, the finest hotel in the region and on Conde Nast’s top 100 hotels on the planet. The hotel, which has 22 luxury suites, a two-bedroom cottage and private residence accommodating up to 10, was voted No. 4 in the world in for food.
Voted World’s Best of the Best Hotels 2011, Best Boutique Hotel in Australia,World’s Top 20 Vineyard Hotels 2010, Conde Nast Traveller Gold List “Best for Food” 2011.
Sitting on its own secluded vineyard in the heart of the Margaret River Wine Country is one of Australia’s finest small vineyard lodges .As you meander down the winding driveway of the intimate country estate you will discover why Cape Lodge was voted Luxury Travel Magazine’s Best Boutique Hotel in Australia and listed in Conde Nast Traveller’s Gold List 2011.
Surrounded by stunning forest, lake and parkland scenery Cape Lodge is only minutes away from pristine beaches, coastline and the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean and neighbours the great Margaret River wine estates of Mosswood, Vasse Felix, Cullen and Pierro.
Described as one of Australia’s finest new generation gourmet establishments the multi-award winning gourmet restaurant was ranked in the Top Ten in the World for Food and has recently opened a Gourmet Retreat and Cooking School.
Cape Lodge features 22 rooms and suites, the executive five bedroom Private Residence, an all weather tennis court and a beautiful free form swimming pool.
Cape Lodge is run with style and panache by Drew Bernhardt, general manager for the past eight years, who says he strives to create a “sense of place” for his guests.
Prices range from $325 a night for the luxury suite to $2400 a night for the residence, which Sting happily forked out when he stayed there last year.
So, why was Tony Howell’s cooking voted No. 4 on the planet? After a soak in the spa in my vineyard suite, I gird my loins and head to the restaurant to find out.
Dinner is pan-fried White Rocks Junction veal on lemon and roasted kipfler potatoes with verjuice. This veal is so tender I can cut it with a fork.
Later I ask Howell, who has been head chef at Cape Lodge for eleven years, how it felt to be No. 4 in the world. “It was probably the biggest privilege so far,” says Howell, who puts his success down to his team and to “the suppliers in the area supplying the great produce of the region”.
His secret: “I think not to take it too seriously. If you take it too seriously, you take the love out of it.” He also surfs most days with his team, and says they come to work “pumped and ready to try something new”.
The next day, Howell and I climb back into the car and head for Cape Mentelle. Although the car is equipped with voice-activated GPS and satellite navigation, with Tony in the car I can leave it off.
First stop is Meelup, but the water is a bit choppy and I decide not to go for a skin-dive. While we have been checking out the ocean, a sizeable crowd has gathered in the parking lot around our vehicle.
After a quick surf at Yallingup (wind offshore, waves 1.2m and pumping), it’s off to Cape Mentelle and the post-harvest Stomp at Voyager. On the windy roads, I appreciate the pickup (0-100 km/h in five seconds) given by the hand-assembled engine built at Aston Martin’s newish engine facility in Cologne, delivering a maximum torque of 410Nm.
With the skies scrubbed clean by a passing shower, the crystal air, the vine leaves turning yellow, it is a perfect drive on a perfect day.
At Cape Mentelle I meet Rob Mann, the chief winemaker, who comes from three generations of winemakers. His comments about the 2010 chardonnay, a Margaret River staple, are most apposite.
Mann says putting together the chardonnay is “a bit like driving an Aston Martin, to some extent. It’s got this big engine under the bonnet and you have to be careful how you drive it because you can lose control of it very quickly. We tried to give it some restraint and let the fruit come to the front. You have to hold back the oak.”
The 2009 shiraz is another classic of Mann’s art. “It’s more a burgundy style than a claret; more like the northern Rhone.
Mann says he strives to make wines that are not “monsters” but have a “certain elegance and refinement”.
After the Cape and the Stomp, where more than 500 people have gathered for a post-harvest bacchanal and where I finally meet local star Ian Parmenter, it is back to local institution Wino’s, where I meet people even merrier than I.
3341 Caves Road, Yallingup Western Australia
Telephone: +61 8 9755 6311
Facsimile: +61 8 9755 6322
Short URL: http://www.lunchmag.com/?p=1461