White sands, blue waters, bluer skies: the coastal hamlet of Margaret River is, unsurprisingly, a popular summer destination. But it’d be a mistake to overlook the region’s cold-weather charms. This winter the region’s wineries and restaurants are holding the inaugural Cabin Fever Festival and inviting locals and out-of-towners alike to get in on the action.

Boutique winery Arimia, in collaboration with local chef George Cooper and butchery The Farm House, is hosting the Four Elements Feast during Cabin Fever’s second weekend. Arimia head chef Evan Hayter believes it’s vital to attract visitors to the region during the cooler months.

“Margaret River is crying out for a winter festival,” says Hayter. “It’s a great place to be, but people need something to come down here for.”

In his four years in the role, Hayter has transformed the restaurant’s garden into a fully organic operation and started raising pigs earlier this year. In a departure from Arimia’s winery-style lunch menu, the feast promises open-fire and charcoal cooking and no plates or cutlery. Any serving vessels will be edible, made from off-cuts or ingredients such as dehydrated leaves.

“It’s kind of a coming-out party for Arimia, to showcase what we’ve been doing,” says Hayter. “Everything will be individual, either served on sticks or bite sized. There will be a lot of snacks and some more substantial dishes. It’s going to be hard to pull off but we’ll make it happen.”

Other festival highlights include a dinner celebrating 50 years of Vasse Felix; Guy Grossi cooking at Voyager Estate; and a truffle-laden long-table lunch at Howard Park. More cerebral experiences include art masterclasses, viticulture lessons and knife-sharpening how-tos. And just as Cabin Festival is celebrating local produce, local venues and chefs are the stars of the festival.

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“Grossi is the only out-of-towner,” says Hayter. “There’s a real emphasis on what we produce down here. It’s a winter celebration of the region.”

*The inaugural Cabin Fever festival runs from July 14 to 23. More information and tickets are available from cabinfeverfest.com.au *

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