Located an easy 16 km from Perth’s city centre, Swan Valley has been a renowned grape-growing region for almost 190 years and has 40 wineries. But be warned, the locals take nougat, nuts, honey, cheese and chocolate very seriously, so take an empty suitcase if you love food.
The best way to experience Swan Valley is to fill the morning with sweet treats and then hit the wineries for lunch and enjoy more in the afternoon. If you want to indulge, join a tour so that you don’t need to drive, and then you can also take more goodies home.
Mondo Nougat and Morish Nuts
First up is a double-dipping treat on the Great Northern Highway, as in two adjoining buildings are Mondo Nougat and Morish Nuts. Both companies had humble family-run beginnings, but today each has claimed its rightful place on the Australian gourmet snack stage.
Many people assume that real nougat is chewy, but according to the manager of Mondo, this is not at all true – the nougat that Italians love is actually crunchy. The crunchy vanilla nougat is awesome, and other favourites include the salted caramel, the cranberry and pistachio. You can also taste some of their homemade gelati, and don’t leave without trying the famous Mondo Nougat Cheesecake.
A hop, skip and a jump and you’re in Morish Nuts. This family business, headed up by Principal Nut Archie Moroni and partner, Marie Mapp disrupted the snack scene more than a decade ago, using a family recipe prepared in their Swan Valley kitchen to reinvent the approach to bagged nuts.
There are some amazing combinations such as the hot and spicy caramel-coated cashews and pistachios, praline with hot and spicy caramel and chilli, lime zest and spices, abalone – and truffle-flavoured macadamias. There’s a peanut crunch (a slab of popcorn and peanuts smothered in a rich caramel butter coating with a sprinkling of coconut) and Peanut Brittle.
The House of Honey
If you have only ever consumed mainstream processed honey, then you haven’t really experienced true honey. Honey is a food worth dedicating your life to, according to the passionate beekeeping couple behind House of Honey – Rupert and Kim Phillips.
There are more than 20 different varieties of honey on offer to taste. The Jarrah variety is a stand-out. Amber-coloured with a malty flavour, it is renowned for its high antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The Banksia flavour is citrusy, ideal for peppermint tea. Blackbutt, on the other hand, (dubbed the Guinness of honeys), is heavy and thick. There are endless plants and trees that bees can extract pollen from, and the result means an enormous range of taste sensations. Also take time to taste the company’s range of meads and honey infused liqueurs. For those new to it, mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The drinks warm the belly and coat your lips with sweetness.
The Cheese Barrel
Set metres from Olive Farm Wines cellar door, The Cheese Barrel is all about enjoying local and international artisan cheeses and matching wines, locally roasted coffee, and more sweet treats if you so desire, in a shed with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open on to a wooden deck set up for outdoor tastings and lunches, with stunning views of Susannah Brook. They also sell Parisian style pastries.
Vineyards in Swan Valley
With 40 wineries up for tastings, it’s a tough job choosing which ones to make a beeline for these are some of the goodies, and you’ll no doubt get other recommendations as you swan about.
Faber Vineyard was established in 1997 by John Griffiths and Jane Micallef, named after the Latin word for craft. John has embraces the traditional varieties for the Swan Valley – Verdelho and Shiraz and he says that Brown Muscat is the “backbone” of Faber Vineyard. There’s a lovely indoor and outdoor spaces for tastings, and the vineyard it known for is monthly events such as local producer’s days, summer sundowners, Christmas BBQs and long lunches in the vineyards.
Upper Reach Winery
At Upper Reach Winery they believe that wine is one of life’s essentials, along with good food, family and friends. They hold Twilight Concerts in February and March, a series of intimate outdoor shows with soul, swing and jazz performances. There is also one lovely cottage on the grounds that is an original workers cottage built in 1907. It’s been refurbished and has two queen-sized bedrooms, making it ideal for a family or two couples spending a holiday in Swan Valley.
At Riverbank Estate, the focus is on unique handcrafted wines and it offers a rustic cellar door experience and superb dining experiences at the award-winning Riverbank Estate restaurant. The restaurant has amazing panoramic views of the vineyard and meat and seafood lovers can both rejoice, as Head Chef Marco Anglitti loves to showcase fine, locally produced dry-aged Australian Beef (afged 45 to 60 days in their aging cabinets), and West Australian seafood sourced straight from on-site live tanks.
Mandoon Estate is all about amazing wines in an incredible, but if you are after some luxury and downtime after a tasting, it is also a wonderful place to stay. The Colony is an exclusive collection of 32 beautifully appointed suites overlooking the historic Verdelho vines planted in 1895 and the banks of the Swan River. The estate has a few dining options to suit all tastes – enjoy the laidback eatery at the onsire Homestead Brewery, indulge in fine dining at Wild Swan, or order a gourmet picnic and enjoy the sunshine and company of others on the picture-perfect lawns by the river.
Sandalford Wines is one of the busiest in the valley, attracting large groups as well as those after an intimate tasting and dining experience. Founded in 1840, Sandalford is one of Western Australia’s oldest and largest privately owned wineries. The cellar door doubles as a large store offering all sorts of wine paraphernalia, and the tastings can include Estate Reserve, and Margaret River and Element Wines, as well as ultra-premium drops.
En route to the restrooms, check out the hallway and grand staircase where there’s barely any wall room left, as it’s plastered with framed concert posters showcasing the famous musicians who have performed here. The signed pieces from Sandalford’s colourful past are nothing short of gobsmacking. Pretty much any band you’ve ever heard of, and any musician of merit – and even all those awesome one-hit-wonders you may have forgotten – have entertained the crowds here in the Swan Valley.
Best Breweries in Swan Valley
If you are a beer lover, then you are in luck as there are plenty to explore in the Swan Valley.
Mash Brewing has a fun, cool atmosphere and they do great burgers and steak sandwiches. They have an awesome outdoor seating area where you can soak up the atmosphere of the Swan Valley and enjoy a beer. They are all about quality beer, not quantity. They have something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a sweet cider or a savoury IPA.
Homestead Brewery is a fan favourite in the Swan Valley. They’re famous for being open for a beer and breakfast from 7.30am. They serve tapas, burgers, pizzas and hearty main meals for dinner, and everything is made from scratch on the Estate.
If you have your dog with you, then head to ‘Cho-Ko’ (spelt Txoko) in the hills of Baskerville. It’s a relaxed place where you can hang and chat with other beer lovers, and they have some usual brews such as the Divergence Honey Hybrid Sour and the James the Dank Peach IPA with peaches and grassy hops expressions.
The Great Southern Distilling Co.
If you are a whiskey or gin lover, the Great Southern Distilling Co has opened up shop in the Swan Valley after its Albany headquarters doing so well. Its Limeburners brand whisky won Best International Craft Whisky in the World in 2017, and in 2018, its “Darkest Winter” whiskey was crowned as the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year. It’s Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey, is a uniquely Australian take on American bourbon and it was Australia’s first mixed grain whiskey.
You can find more mouth-watering foodie recommendations for Western Australia here.