This post is about both people and places. Mat Lewis is The Man From Margaret River, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Rose and I had decided to visit Australia again. In prior trips, we’d been around the Eastern and Southern edges, and met many wonderful people. This time we wanted to visit the interior, see Uluru (Ayers Rock), and head to Perth, then to Margaret River.
Preparing for the trip, we websurfed to learn more about Margaret River. Already familiar with the wines, especially the Cabs from Devil’s Lair (and their bargain Fifth Leg), and from Leeuwin Estate, we figured we could find some less-discovered wines.
I came across the website for Margaret River Wine Club (no longer available), and signed up on the spot. Immediately I received a gracious response, saying “if we were ever in the neighborhood, to let them know”. I immediately replied that we were on our way there in the next month. That’s when the fun began!
Mat Lewis, the proprietor of the MRWC, had worked with many of the wineries in the area, and ran a creative graphics business as well. He set up for us a range of “insider tours”, then arranged for special accommodations for our last night in the area.
We arrived in Margaret River, and spent our first day visiting our pre-arranged wineries. Mat was to meet us for dinner that night, and then show us around our second and third days. We visited Howard Park winery, and in a discussion with Val, their energetic tasting-room manager, realized that she was Mat’s girlfriend. We concocted a story for that evening’s dinner.
On the way to dinner, Val told Mat about the horribly rude Americans that visited her winery that day; ranted about how impolite “they” were. Then when they arrived at the restaurant, she shrieked “it’s them!”, pointing at us. She stomped off to another room (stifling a laugh). Poor Mat didn’t know what to do.
Val returned and told Mat he’d been set up. We had a nice dinner, sharing a bottle of the Leeuwin Artist Series Chardonnay, and the Devil’s Lair Cab. I love the more-civilized way some countries treat corkage as a gift for valued customers, rather than a profit center.
The next two days, Mat took us around to visit all his friends in the Margaret River wine trade; it is a good thing we spit; we probably tasted 200 wines. We capped off the two days with a very nice night at Virgin Block winery, in a Tuscan Manor. Again, thanks to Mat!
We have kept up with Mat through his adventures, including the excitement of an Export container filled with wine destined for Singapore that waited weeks for the bank letter of credit to arrive. We saw his success in organizing Wine Tourism Conferences in Western Australia, which have become well-sponsored, famous events.
Today Mat is working with the government of Western Australia (and other regions) to market their products and destinations. At the same time, he still demonstrates the graciousness of the young lad who gracefully recovered from our cruel conspiracy with Val.
This is a testimony once again that Wine People are a key part of the experience of wine. When you connect with the people in a winery, that wine tastes better for the rest of your life. When you experience the people of a wine area, all wines from that area grow in their flavor. Thanks Mat!