When Sasha and Ben McDonald opened the Glenarty Road cellar door in 2017, they marked the occasion by putting a buzzer on the property's gate. That way they'd know when somebody had dropped by for a tasting and they could come in from the vineyard, pour some vino, and maybe sell a few bottles. After all, the then-little-known Glenarty Road was half an hour south of Margaret River in the pastoral hamlet of Karridale: who'd want to visit them? As it turns out, a lot of people. And what began as an earnest husband-and-wife show supplemented by wraps, slow-cooked meats and other home-style dishes has evolved into something far more polished.
These days, your car will be one of many parked up at the McDonalds's 240-acre farm and you'll be looked after by a dedicated, switched-on front-of-house team, whether you're camped at the tasting bar or snag a booking in the charming 50-seat dining room: a warm, woodsy fantasy of agrarian living set in a converted timber shed. But while the restaurant is where the action is, what's on the plate and in your glass is a direct reflection of what's happening on the property.
Of the care taken with raising Tamworth pigs and SheepMaster sheep that anchor the set-course lunch menus and the bar's charcuterie offering. Of the fruit and veg regeneratively farmed on-site and bought from like-minded producers. Of the estate grapes that get guided into bottles by friends at McHenry Hohnen or made into tiny-batch wines in the micro-winery: think single-clone pinot noirs and outré red blends. These are just some of the good things that can happen when committed partners join forces: doubly so when one is a winemaker (hi Sasha) and the other is a fifth-generation farmer with big can-do energy (hi Ben).
The other protagonist in the Glenarty Road story is chef Jess Widmer, a kitchen talent with the smarts to really do justice to the McDonalds' efforts. Rectangles of luscious chicken-liver parfait armoured in grape jelly, and smashed midnight pearl potato fortified with XO sauce speak to assured technique fine-tuned while working at Margaret River powerhouse, Vasse Felix. Widmer's time at Sydney's legendary Argentine fire pit restaurant Porteño, meanwhile, is all too evident in impeccably handled lamb: tender, full-flavoured and brought to life by the open-fire hearth. Welcome to farmhouse dining, Glenarty Road-style. Best of all, this is an operation and team that feels like they're just getting started. We can't wait to see where this road leads to.