As is often the case, we meant to go much farther afield. We intended to go to Margaret River, but it is a 3 1/2 hour drive each way. Even staying overnight there would be a lot of driving, so we decided to taste wine closer to home, just outside Perth in the Swan River Valley. There is a readily available map (online and paper) that shows many of the vineyards, restaurants, and other stops in the area that extends from just NW of the Perth Airport northward through towns like Midland, Henley Brook, and Brigadoon.
Coming from Yanchep, we drove north to south, and after a brief stop and taste at John Kosovich winery, we stopped at Upper Reach. We chatted with Steve, who steered us to the rest of our day’s stops. We were only buying one bottle (we’re leaving shortly), and Upper Reach was only our second stop, so we put off a purchase. Armed with Steve’s suggestions and a bottle of wine to deliver to Tyler’s Vineyard for him, we went on to Faber Vineyard. I planned to taste their Verdelho, as Upper Reach was sold out of theirs, but we found that Faber had just sold out their 2018 Verdelho the previous day. New releases don’t start until August, and Swan Valley Verdelho appears to have plenty of fans. Rather than standing at the bar, Faber invites visitors to sit at tables facing a nicely landscaped area.
We both spit out most of the wine we taste, and we share a single glass to keep our tasting sips small, but you can still feel the alcohol after a while. We’ve found Australian vineyards generous in the range of wines offered. Each vineyard offers six to ten different wines for tasting. Even declining the sweet wines and most of the fortified wines, there is a lot to taste. Swan River whites are generally good, and the range of reds is enormous, definitely something for everyone.
From Faber we went to the most entertaining of our stops, Tyler’s Vineyard. We delivered the bottle from Steve, well-received as you can imagine. Tyler’s produces only grenache in a variety of forms, but they have a great gimmick. With the purchase of any bottle, you can get your photo taken and make your own label. In addition to what goes on the bottle(s), an extra label is produced that can be pasted on the walls of the tiny cellar door shed. The walls are covered with labels. You can see the celebration of anniversaries from first year to 60 years, marriage proposals, and lots of birthdays. While we were there, a couple was buying wine and making a label for his birthday. We had a nice chat, got a recommendation to her sister’s Barossa tasting room in Hahndorf (near Adelaide), and chatted about travel. It was great fun to see the process, especially since we didn’t need any wine ourselves.Making our way to four vineyards is more than our usual tasting tour, and our next stop had to be lunch. We followed Steve’s recommendation and stopped at Mandoon Estate. This is a larger operation than the others we visited. The bistro was packed, there were picnickers on lawn, kids playing on the jungle gym, we even watched the six young men of a wedding party sipping wine as they waited for their event to start. Our lunch was delicious–we went all out for a quiet lunch in the fine dining section. I finally had my glass of Swan Valley Verdelho along with my quail terrine and sous vide chicken. Jonathan had a glass of red with his carpaccio followed by pork belly.
After a long pause over our lunch, we headed home by way of Upper Reach, where we bought the bottle of Black Bream red (Cab-Merlot blend) that was so delicious when we first tasted it in the morning. We thanked Steve for his excellent suggestions and headed for home, pleased with our tasting tour and ready to recommend the Swan Valley to anyone.