Ch’ng PohTiong’s Travel Black Book

The grape escape: Margaret River region, Western Australia

Some of wine writer Ch'ng Poh Tiong's favourite vineyards are in Australia's Margaret River Region

Who: Singaporean publisher and journalist Ch'ng Poh Tiong, 60, is a wine expert who has published numerous books on wines and is a wine consultant to FairPrice and Finest supermarkets.

Favourite destination: Margaret River Region, Western Australia

Why: There is no shortage of sun, sea, blue skies, fresh air, great wine, delicious food and very nice people.

Margaret River brings back a lot of memories because I first visited 35 years ago when my parents were living in Lesmurdie, outside Perth. I have been back more than 20 times since.

Two years ago, I started writing an annual Margaret River Wine Report, which is posted on my website (

Favourite restaurant: Leeuwin Estate Restaurant ( is one of my many favourites. Head chef Dany Angove works closely with farmers and suppliers to create seasonal menus using local produce. Plus, you get to enjoy the beautiful view over the lawn and the majestic karri trees (one of the tallest trees in the world) while sipping a glass of Leeuwin Estate wine.

They offer paddock-to-plate style seasonal menus. The six-course menu with wine is A$155 (S$154) a person. They also have the Wine & Food Flights package (A$39 a person), an informal food and wine matching experience with five different pairings.

Favourite cultural institution: Margaret River Bookshop ( and River Tales Bookshop (, both on Bussell Highway. It is a joy to visit an intimate bookshop where the shopkeeper is knowledgeable about what he is selling.

Favourite tourist site: Smiths Beach, near Yallingup. When you are driving down the hill from Yallingup to Smiths Beach, the vista opens up to a vast and beautiful beach with white sand, great surf and breathtaking sunsets.

Favourite vineyards: Rosily, Cullen, Leeuwin Estate and Happ's, just to name a few. They are all family-owned and family-managed wineries. The people are charming and justifiably proud of their wines.

My favourite wines at these places include Sauvignon Blanc Semillon or Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Sauvignon Blends, as well as some of the more idiosyncratic offerings such as Cullen Mangan East Block, produced from Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes, and the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling.

The region is known for its Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Margaret River's mild Mediterranean conditions, proximity to the sea and relatively cool climate allow grapes to ripen fully and ensure the wines stay fresh and vibrant.

Best place for breakfast: Margaret River Bakery ( for bacon, bangers (sausages), eggs, toast and a latte for A$15 to A$20 a person.

Best view: One of my favourite views is from Castle Bay Beach, where the Margaret River Gourmet Escape food and wine festival holds a series of Gourmet Beach barbecues each year. It's the perfect, quintessential Australian experience. Castle Bay Beach is surrounded by parklands and beautiful trees, which makes it a very special place.

Necessary day trips: Boranup Karri Forest (, just south of Margaret River and part of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, is a natural wonder, where the Eucalyptus diversicolor - or karri trees as the aboriginals call them - shoot more than 60m into the sunlight. Driving or walking in the tranquil forest is a spiritual experience.

Event to bookmark: The annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape ( runs at the end of November and is attended by top chefs, food writers and wine experts from around the world.

Guests can enjoy a range of food and wine events held in extraordinary locations, from the beach to the forest to the sea and the caves.

Events include long table lunches in the wineries, degustation dinners with some of the world's best chefs, such as David Thompson of Nahm restaurant in Bangkok, winemaster classes and cooking demonstrations.

Best time to visit: September to November is when the sun is out, but it is not yet too hot and there is a chill in the evenings. This time is also wildflower season so the rugged coastline comes alive with brilliant colours.

Recommended guides: Margaret is my go-to guide for everything in and around the region. It is a must-visit website for anyone wanting to book accommodation, wine tours and bush walks as well as get driving itineraries and the latest news on the region.

Must-visit destinations: I would encourage visiting the many fantastic cellar doors, restaurants and producers. Don't forget to also take advantage of the region's wide open roads, beaches, forests and caves.

The Margaret River Farmers Market ( is held every Saturday morning and has more than 40 stalls selling cheeses, chocolates, fruit, preserves and jams - all of which are from local farms and producers.

Best souvenir: Truffles are a delicacy and the terroir of the south-western part of Western Australia allows farmers such as Al Blakers from Manjimup Truffles ( to produce some of the best truffles in the world. Manjimup produces fantastic black truffles, which retail at about A$2,000 a kg, making them one of the most expensive foods in the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'The grape escape'. Print Edition | Subscribe