Grafting. A method used by horticulturists, and especially rose and grape growers – the age old art of inserting a part of a plant into another so as to become united with it. Michael Wright, Australian farmer and businessman, successfully grafted an entire Cape Dutch assemblage onto Western Australian soil, and the result is blooming.
Cape Dutch architecture is a style found in the Western Cape of South Africa. The style was prominent in the days of the Cape Colony and the name derives from the fact that the initial settlers of the Cape were primarily Dutch. Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognisable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornate rounded gables. In the late 80s and early 90s, Michael Wright, decided to take his passion for agriculture and use it to create sophisticated, luxury products of exceptional quality – wine. With a Margaret River location decided upon, Michael used his knowledge of soils and climate to track down the right property.
When he finally settled on Freycinet vineyard, the owner at the time Peter Gherardi, a qualified viticulturist, had already planted vines in the best soils, having started the vineyard in 1978. By the time Michael purchased it in 1991 and changed its name to Voyager Estate, the small vineyard was well-established and had a history of growing premium fruit. With this, the first half of Michael's vision was well on its way to being realized – to become a producer of exceptional wines.
To complete his vision, Michael wanted to create a stand-out cellar door that would appeal to wine enthusiasts, garden lovers, food aficionados and regional tourists alike. He has always had a fondness for the South African Cape Dutch style of architecture and, with a similar climate to the Cape wine region, he selected this style for its beauty, distinctiveness and suitability to the Australian environment. Voyager Estate is now regarded as a key tourism feature in the Margaret River region. As with the Cape farmsteads, this manor house flows with warmth and hospitality. The interior reflects the elegant and gracious exterior, with Cape Dutch antique and reproduction furniture, softened by curtains and cushioning. Oil paintings of Cape scenes decorate the hallway and dining room.
This handsome and functional style of architecture also reminds visitors that the first vines planted in Western Australia in 1929 at the Olive Farm, Guildford, were introduced from the Groot Constantia vineyard in South Africa. The Wright family also acquired the VOC name and trade mark in 1995. Founded in 1602, the ‘Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC)' was granted a monopoly on trade and navigation east of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch Republic. Until its demise in 1796 the VOC was the largest trading company of its kind. The VOC logo, together with roses (a traditional accompaniment to Cape Dutch architecture) and a cartouche of Australian flora and fauna (developed by the explorer Louis de Freycinet) are incorporated in the Voyager Estate's logos, trademarks and wine labels.
So, next time you are in the Margaret River area, visit Voyager Estate. Walk down the long pathway flanked by rows of vines, each row end-capped with a blooming rose bush, be greeted by the stature of the slave bell, stroll through the formal gardens, awe at the Cape Dutch gable, enter through the double doors, indulge in the traditional Cape interior, taste award-winning wines and treat your palate to some of the fine foods of Gold Plate Award standards. Reminisceabout the Boland in its full grandeur – lacking only two things though, the Cape language accent and the mountains.