Located just 25 minutes drive from Perth, the Swan Valley is Western Australia's (WA) oldest wine growing region and a premier food destination offering wineries, breweries, distilleries, restaurants and fresh produce like strawberries. Instead of worrying about drinking and driving, I decided to take up the easy packaged option from Out & About. This 2009, 2010 and 2011 Tourism Award winner promised the best of Swan Valley including a pick-up from Pensione Hotel, visits to family-run vineyards and popular wineries, lunch platter, cheese boards, beers and chocolates. Here are 7 reasons to spend the day with Out & About Swan Valley Wine Tour:
1). Waters Edge Estate
My first stop was the Waters Edge Estate located at the entrance to the Swan Valley. The highlights of this historic 1829 vineyard was it housed the oldest underground wine cellar in Western Australia and also produced the State's very first vintages. Some of the premium wines available for tasting included the Kingfisher Chardonnay, Turnstone Riesling, Sandpiper Sauvignon Blanc, Swampen Shiraz, Spoonbill Cabernet Merlot, Wagtail Sparkling and Frogmouth Tawny Port.
With a generous tasting to start the trip, we made our way to the second vineyard, which offered to woo us with their wine and local gourmet cheese. Lancaster featured an outdoor and rustic tasting shed among some of the oldest vines in the Swan Valley. These vines produced Lancaster's popular wines including the Old Vines Shiraz, Viognier on Oak, Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Sticky Shiraz, Late Picked Chenin and Reserve Liqueur Muscat, some of which have made their way to international markets like Singapore.
3). Windy Creek Estate
Next stop was the Windy Creek Estate, the Cobanov family vineyard established in 1937 by a Croatian immigrant who spent 13 years working and saving up to purchase this Swan Valley property. The family has been selling fruit to other wineries for 25 years and produced wine for over 70 years. Their first wine label was only introduced in 1980.
In 2011 and 2012, their wines were awarded 13 medals at the Swan Valley Wine Show. Some of Windy Creek Estate's outstanding and award winning vintages include their Old Vine Shiraz 2011, Family Reserve Shiraz 2011, Cabernet Merlot Classic 2011, Classic Dry White 2012, Verdelho 2012, Chenin 2012, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Autumn Harvest 2012, Caprice - Rosť 2012, , White Port, Liqueur Muscat, 8 Year Old Tawny and Liqueur Shiraz.
Established in 1998 by Simon and Maaike Berns, the winery is known for its Verdelho and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon produce from grapes with flavour, richness, balance and style due to the climate and rich alluvial sandy loam soils. The muscat family of grapes grows well in the Swan Valley and Sittella produced a 2010 vintage that was light, fresh and sweet.
5). Heafod Glen Wines
Owned and operated by the Head family since 1999, the Heafod Glen Winery is a relatively new producer of semillon, chardonnay, viognier, chenin blanc, verdelho, cabernet sauvignon and Shiraz.
The 4 hectare estate vineyard and winemaker Liam Clarke have established a reputation for its viognier and gold medal-winning chardonnay. Of note is their 2008 Heafod Glen Reserve Chardonnay. The winery also boast an outstanding stable-converted restaurant, Chesters, operated by an award winning kitchen team.
6). Elmar's in the Valley
With too much wine on the palate, it was time for a change to beer at Elmar's in the Valley, a local brewery in the Swan Valley. The highlight of the brewery was its giant glass kettle, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The container was used to enhance the purity and flavours of their beers.
Unlike the Little Creatures Brewery, Elmar focused on producing the perfect brew based on the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 which dictated the sole use of barley, hops, yeast and water as the chief ingredients. The ingredients were imported from Germany and the beers were preservative and chemical free. Elmar produced an excellent range of German beers including Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Alt Bier, Bock Bier, Rauch Bier, Marzen and Schwarzbier that tasted better than the imported versions I usually consume at the European Bier Cafe and Hofbrauhaus in Melbourne.
Ending our alcoholic reverie on a sweet note was the visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Company. The final stop on the Swan Valley Wine Tour has been producing award winning chocolate products since 1999.
There wasn't any viewing of chocolates being made during the visit but the retail space stacked with countless chocolate bars, hand made truffles, novelty chocolates, chocolate coated sweets and chocolate sauces was enough to make kids out of perfectly rational adults.