South West Tour Part 2: Vasse Virgin Olive Oil Soap Factory, Happs Wines, Simmo’s Ice Cream and Flametree Wines
After our fabulous picnic lunch courtesy of the ladies at Cape Kitchen in Busselton followed by a quick choccie break at The Margaret River Chocolate Company (see South West Tour Part 1), we continued our tour of the South West region.
Vasse Virgin Olive Oil Soap Factory
Vasse Virgin Olive Oil Soap is a family business that began in 1993 when the Edwina and Louis Scherini’s three children were diagnosed with eczema and dermatitis. Unable to use most commercially made soaps and shampoos, they sought a chemical-free, natural alternative and soon came to the conclusion that the only way to ensure this was to make their own.
The soaps are made using locally sourced Dandaragan and Gingin cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, combined with pure Margaret River rainwater and all-natural ingredients including 100% essential oils, pure plant extracts, organically grown teas, flowers, herbs and spices, which add scent, texture and colour to the soaps, which are gentle on sensitive skin. I have sensitive skin myself and so was very interested in the olive oil soaps.
The soaps have subtle scents (there isn’t an overwhelming soapy smell about the shop) and look like blocks of creamy fudge (perhaps a glutton’s wishful thinking). The Vasse Virgin range has expanded over the years to now include scrubs, moisturising lotions, skin balms, bath and massage oils.
At the back of the shop there are soaps and scrubs to sample for free. After trying out some of the soap at the sample station, I buy a five-pack of soaps for me.
Around the shop you can watch videos demonstrating the soap production process. You can also watch soap makers in action in the factory. In the early days of the soap business, the ‘factory’ was the kitchen on the family farm in Kojonup.
But there is something here for food lovers (other than soap-fudge fantasies!). There’s a tasting room for Vasse Virgin’s gourmet food products. Just like the soap and skincare products, the food products are made with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. A wide wooden table is laden with goodies all free for tasting. We circle the table like predators, spearing olives with toothpicks, tasting spoons of pesto, tapenades, oils and mustards, and dip bread into dukkah. Scattered around are bins for olive pips and used spoons. Let’s just say the circling continues for some more than others.
The pestos are divine. I can’t resist buying a jar of macadamia pesto for Jac.
Vasse Virgin Olive Oil Soap Factory
135 Puzey Road
Cowaramup WA 6284
Telephone: (08) 9755 6111
Open 7 days 10am to 5pm
The Happ family planted their first vines in Dunsborough in 1978 and now produce wines under the labels of Happs and Three Hills. The winery and cellar door are located at the Happs Dunsborough estate; the Three Hills vineyard is in Karridale, 90km south.
We tumble out of the bus but instead of finding the cellar door, we are drawn to the fruit trees, herbs and vegetable garden. We spend a few minutes exploring the garden before we venture inside for some wine tasting.
I will admit, anticipating the scorn of serious wine drinkers, that I prefer sweet wines, though not the syrupy raisin-sweetness of dessert wines like muscat. During my university days, I worked in hospitality to pay the bills and took part in many wine tasting, appreciation and food/wine matching sessions. I sold many bottles of various wines of the month. But I’ve never really become a wine drinker. With a naturally low tolerance for alcohol, I can’t drink much – I’m a very cheap date. Despite my best efforts and the encouragement of friends, no amount of ‘training’ ever improved the situation. I gave onlookers many a laugh during those drinking days as I’d turn bright red after barely a drink, sporting what many refer to as The Asian Glow. These days, I’m very selective about what alcohol I drink and on most occasions am much happier sticking to non-alcoholic beverages.
Having said all that, I like the Happs White Fushcia 2010. It’s light and sweet and spritzy, very easy to drink. According to Christine, who’s pouring our wines today, it’s one of Happs’ best sellers. I also have a taste of the pink Fuschia 2011 and the 2010 Late Picked Verdelho, but the White Fushcia’s the clear winner. While the others move on to the reds, I’m happy to watch and listen.
If you’re into pottery, make sure you check out Happs Pottery, right next to wine tasting.
Happs Wines (and Happs Pottery)
575 Commonage Rd, Dunsborough WA 6281
Open 7 days 10am to 5pm
Telephone: (08) 9755 3300
Simmo’s Ice Cream
We get back on the bus and our driver asks “Does anyone feel like an ice cream?”
I’m the only one who responds with a rosy-cheeked “ME!”
We’ll be driving right past Simmo’s Ice Creamery. I’ve been to Simmo’s in Busselton and I know how good the ice cream is.
No one else feels like eating ice cream but my travelling companions are very kind and have no objections to making a quick stop at Simmo’s on the way to the next winery.
If you like ice cream, you will want to try Simmo’s award-winning ice cream, handmade made using local milk and cream right here in the South West. The original Simmo’s Ice Creamery in Dunsborough was established in 1993 by father and son team Gordon and Garth Simpson. There are 60 flavours available at any time. The Dunsborough store features BBQ facilities, goofy golf (an 18-hole mini golf course), a playground and plenty of lawn for the kids to run around and local celebrity Edward the emu, who is apparently known for stealing ice creams (I didn’t get to see Edward but I will next time I’m there).
It’s a difficult decision, but I choose coffee crunch. And then we’re on our way.
Simmo’s Ice Cream
161 Commonage Road
Dunsborough WA 6281
Phone: 08 9755 3745
Open daily 10.30 am to 5pm (except Christmas Day)
The original Simmo, includes park, 18-hole mini golf and Edward the Emu
Established in 2007, Flametree Wines sources grapes grown in the Margaret River Wine Region as well as Frankland River in the Great Southern region of WA. There’s something almost church-like about the building as we walk under the wide white eaves.
The cellar door is modern, bright and open, with red leather couches by the fireplace and the striking flametree leaf logo as the centrepiece on the main wall behind the shiny white counter.
It’s very tempting to sink into a couch, relax and let that ice cream digest…
…while the wine connoisseurs enjoy sloshing their Flametree reds. This is why hiring a tour bus is such a great idea. Especially when the driver can spot an ice cream lover among the wine buffs!
At Flametree, you don’t have to just stand around tasting wine; you can create your own cheese platter and sit out on the deck with a glass of wine, relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Cheeses include Cowaramup Crumble, Gracetown Blue and Camembert by Margaret River Organic Creameries; and Smoked Cheddar, Club Cheddar, Blue and French Style Triple Cream (one of the fattiest and one of my favourites!) by Blue Cow Cheese Company. In the fridge also are olives, relishes, dukkah and olive oil for creating a gourmet tasting platter. If we didn’t have a degustation dinner to look forward to this evening, I might well be tempted to choose some cheeses and pull up a chair on the deck.
Despite not being much of a wine drinker, I think wineries are beautiful places to be. Hard work and passion are always evident and such an important part of the appreciation of that glass of wine.
7 Chain Avenue, corner Caves Road
Dunsborough, Western Australia 6281
Telephone: (08) 9756 8577
Open daily 10am to 5pm. Closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day morning
We drove back to the Wyndham Resort Dunsborough for a short break before our final engagement for the day – the degustation dinner!
TFP visited Dunsborough and the Margaret River wine region as a guest of the Wyndham Resort Group.
See more blog posts about my recent trip to WA’s South West.