Western Australia’s Swan Valley, located just half an hour north-east of Perth, has a history of almost 200 years of winemaking, but the region’s rich traditions can be tasted in more than just the award-winning drops. Across Swan Valley’s 70-plus wineries, dedicated distilleries, breweries, restaurants and cafes, you’ll find endless spoils, no matter the season.
Enjoy the crisp autumn air
As the leaves deepen into hues of rust and amber, the summer-harvested vines become their own work of art in autumn. Enjoy the scenery while also being educated during a ‘Wine and Food Pairing’ experience at one of Swan Valley’s heritage vineyards, Sandalford Wines.
“This is a culinary adventure that will treat your tastebuds to five seasonally crafted canapes, seamlessly matched with five carefully chosen Sandalford wines,” explains Sandalford CEO Grant Brinklow. The winery recently underwent a multimillion-dollar revamp of its restaurant and cellar door, which is where you’ll join Sandalford’s creative chefs and expert winemakers for the curated half-hour affair.
The cooler days of autumn also make Swan Valley ripe for exploration. The area is known for its boutique art galleries; First Nations-owned and operated Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery is a local gem that hosts the transcendent work of artists from south-west WA, as well as bush tucker talks, performances and cultural activities. For those who love to be out and about, the glorious outdoor Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park has 4.5 hectares of sculpture-dotted gardens to stroll amongst.
Cosy up in the cooler months
Winter is an excellent opportunity to sample the region’s shiraz, the grape Swan Valley has garnered a top-notch reputation for producing thanks to its warm, Mediterranean climate. Start with the Valley’s best: Faber Vineyard’s 2019 Millard Vineyard Shiraz, which took the top shiraz spot in the 2021 Swan Valley Wine Show. With notes of dark chocolate and berries, this special drop is made from two barrels’ worth of each year’s best hand-picked grapes.
Staying in also has its perks. During winter, temperatures dip towards zero and the area’s eateries know exactly how to cater for visitors when there’s a chill in the air. Mandoon Estate’s fine-diner Wild Swan routinely tops lists of the area’s best places to eat and has a roaring fire at the ready on winter evenings. Enjoy a refined menu that highlights local produce (desert lime-laced witlof salad or Geraldton wax-adorned scallops are two recent highlights) and bask in the warmth while sipping the estate’s own drops, such as 2018’s The Pact Shiraz, with delicious notes of mulberry, raspberry and plum.
Wine and dine in the sunshine
To get a real flavour for spring and summer in Swan Valley, simply step outside: a mid-morning stop at a farm gate spruiking fresh produce, including crunchy table grapes and juicy melons, will yield the best of the season, while a lunchtime break at a cellar door will highlight wines perfected throughout decades.
Experience a true taste of the region by opting for the chenin blanc, the area’s emblematic grape, at Sittella. “The Swan Valley is chenin blanc’s spiritual home in Australia,” says Sittella winemaker and owner Yuri Berns. “It’s one of the best white wine varieties in the world to drink and age.”
Named after a small bird that frequents the nearby Swan River, this relatively young winery has won a raft of awards, with their 2021 Avant Garde Chenin Blanc perfect for connoisseurs. “White pear, green apple and white flower notes dominate the aromatics while being subtly textured through leaving the wine on lees for several months before bottling,” Berns adds.
The warmer months also bring outdoor picnic and concert season to the region; a highlight of which is undoubtedly October’s Entwined in the Valley. The three-day event delivers a smorgasbord of lazy long lunches, masterclasses with local producers, ‘meet the maker’ opportunities, and unique dining experiences which, in previous years, has included a curated three-course feast matched with Bailey Brewing Co’s finest brews, all enjoyed under the picturesque Bell Tower gazebo.
A stay for every season
The Colony at Mandoon Estate is ambling distance from a cellar door, microbrewery, on-site restaurant and lawn with live music on weekends, and is the place to settle into indulgence. Rooms are slick and modern, while suites have balconies that overlook 126-year-old verdelho vines on one side and the winery’s gardens on the other.
Planning a trip during winter? You’ve never seen a wonderland quite like the singular Wine Barrel accomodation of Swan Valley Retreat. Shaped in honour of its namesake, this cylindrical room brims with luxury touches and character, including a private sauna and outdoor cedar hot tub.
Image credits: Tourism Western Australia (Mandoon Estate).