I’m showing J around Perth at the moment as this is his first time on the west coast. I had the opportunity to show off some of Western Australia’s best wineries and it just so happens that the Swan Valley is only a 25 minute drive from the Perth CBD, so we decided to spend a day touring the valley on a food and wine adventure.

Some interesting facts about the Swan Valley, (taken from the Swan Valley website):

  • The Swan Valley is WA’s oldest wine growing region
  • The region’s specialty wines include Verdelho, full-bodied reds and fortified wines due to the warm and dry climate
  • There are over 150 businesses – wineries, breweries, distilleries, boutique beer outlets, restaurants, cafes and shops
  • Apart from great booze, there’s also plenty of locally produced food
  • There are also some beautifully restored heritage buildings and historic attractions

J, my dad, sister and I reached the Swan Valley by 11am on a Tuesday. It was an agreeable time between all of us, allowing a sleep in and a decent hour to start wine tasting (for the boys). For those like my sister and I that don’t drink, fear not, the Swan Valley isn’t just about wine. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and other food-tasting shops to get excited about! I had never been to the Swan Valley before but found the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail map online to be very useful. After a bit of research, I highlighted the food stops that I wanted to visit – the House of Honey, Mondo Nougat, Maison Saint Honore, Margaret River Chocolate company, Coward and Black Providore, the Cheese Barrel and Whistler’s Chocolate. I did a bit of research into the wine and booze side of the trail, and had picked a few wineries/breweries/distilleries to stop at, but mainly left it up to J and my dad to decide.

As it was 11am, my sister and I were a tad peckish and decided to stop by Maison Saint Honore, a French patisserie. On the way there, we saw a sign for Banara Wines and decided we might as well stop in. Unfortunately, the people there bluntly told us they didn’t do tastings and to just keep on driving. I had no problems walking out and not looking back. Funk Cider was close by and the next stop. We were greeted as we walked in and our cider person was happy to start us off with some cider tastings. Unfortunately, the pipes were being cleaned at the time and they suggested we come back in the afternoon. Not a great start to the trip.

Third time lucky, Maison Saint Honore was open and serving people! The small French patisserie advertises itself as a macaron and cake factory. All macarons and pastries are hand made in the Swan Valley by the French chef and his team.

Swan Valley Maison St Honore

The patisserie has a small gift shop selling lots of little packaged goodies such cookies, meringue kisses, chocolate and soft caramels.

Swan Valley Maison St Honore patisserie

The soft caramel came in some delicious flavours such as chocolate caramel, vanilla caramel and salted caramel hazelnut, the latter being the most popular. I purchased a bag of the salted caramel hazelnut in a bag ($10), which was cheaper than that in a box.

Swan Valley soft caramel

The palets croustillants looked interesting made from dark, milk and white chocolate. I’m regretting not buying one of these to try.

Swan Valley Wine Trail Maison St Honore

We could see the pastry chefs making macarons through the window into the kitchen.

Swan Valley Maison St Honore macarons

My sister and I decided on two slices of cake to share, while J purchased a coffee. I chose the caramel and chocolate mille feuille (around the $7 mark). The flakey layers were buttery and crispy. They weren’t too thin that the layers became soggy from the filling. The middle layer was actually a thin layer of pure peanut chocolate. The softly piped caramel cream was light and I didn’t think it was overly sweet. That chocolate middle layer was genius and provided a wonderful balance of chocolate and caramel. Simply decadent.

Swan Valley Maison St Honore mille feulle

My sister chose the banana and chocolate tart (around the $7 mark). The banana cream/custard at the bottom was light and my sister loved that some of the chocolate balls on top had melted into the tart. A simple tart done very well. And again, it wasn’t too sweet. Service was welcoming and polite, and this put us all in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Swan Valley Maison St Honore banana chocolate tart

Maison Saint Honore can be found at 100 Benara Road, Caversham.

Our next stop was at Lancaster Wines, an outdoor tasting shed. J had been told by the Funk Cider person to check it out, and he was happy to oblige.

Swan Valley Lancaster Wines

They started off with some of the whites. There was complimentary cheese tasting of Heritage Country cheese made in Balingup. We got to try the chilli and garlic cheddar, garlic and chive fetta and what I think was the club cheddar. The chilli garlic cheddar was our favourite cheese (voted by all 4 of us), even my sister who hates chilli. It was a very mild chilli cheese but had so much flavour. There are no cheeses made in the Swan Valley as the climate is too hot, so all cheeses are brought up from down south.

Swan Valley Lancaster wine tasting

The reds were next, and J ended up purchasing a bottle of 9 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon ($41).

Swan Valley Lancaster Wines

Although it was drizzling that day, it didn’t stop us from continuing on our food and wine adventure.

Swan Valley Lancaster Wines outside

We realised we had arrived in the Swan Valley just before harvest time with bunches of grapes ready to be picked.

Swan Valley Lancaster Wines grapes

We found the staff at Lancaster Wines to be very friendly, though they are salespeople and encouraged J to purchase a box. There was no fee for tasting and we appreciated the complimentary cheese tasting.

Lancaster Wines can be found at 5228 West Swan Road in West Swan.

Next, we drove to Providore featuring Coward and Black vineyards to check out some locally made goodies.

Swan Valley Coward and Black providore

There were plenty of tastings available of Providore’s balsamic vinegars, tomato sauces, oils, dessert sauces, jams, chutneys, relishes and more.

Swan Valley Coward and Black providore

There were three large ceramic bowls filled with small plastic spoons so you could sample to your heart’s content.

Swan Valley Coward and Black providore

My dad and J wasted no time in sampling some of the Coward & Black vineyards wines. There was no tasting fee at the time and the boys sampled a few whites, reds and the dessert liqueurs by Sambarino. J tells me the dessert wines were very sweet but ended up buying two as gifts – the hazelnut mousse which apparently tasted like liquid Nutella and can be drizzled over cakes or hot chocolate, and the macchiato made of dark chocolate and coffee which is ditto the above ($24.95 each for 375ml bottles).

Swan Valley Coward and Black providore wine tasting

Providore can be found at 5123 West Swan Road in West Swan.

My sister and I left the boys with their sampling at Providore and walked next door to the Margaret River Chocolate Company.

Swan Valley Margaret River Chocolate Company

Considering this is a supplementary store to the original at Margaret River, this store was larger than expected. There was also a small cafe attached to one end of the store. I did an initial walk around to scope out what was available – piles of rocky road, various chocolate bars selling plain and gourmet chocolate, pastelles, handmade truffles, chocolate freckles, sugar free chocolate, chocolate sauces, various chocolate coated items, single origin chocolates, cocoa powder, chocolate body products like soap, lip balm and moisturiser, and various gift hampers. I was a big kid in a big chocolate store.

Swan Valley Margaret River Chocolate Company inside

Who can resist free tastings of chocolate? There are three large bowls of Margaret River dark, milk and white chocolate pastelles to try. Although there are signs to use a spoon, we noticed several small children digging their hands into the bowls. Kids will be kids.

Swan Valley Margaret River Chocolate Company chocolate tasting

There was also a display cabinet of chocolate covered nougat, truffles and more if you only wanted to purchase one item rather than a whole box. A short video of that is below.

I like to think I showed restraint with my chocolate stash. I ended up purchasing the assorted milk chocolate clusters box, milk chocolate pastelles, milk chocolate bar with Jamaican coconut, a hazelnut chocolate bar and some cute love hearts.

Swan Valley Margaret River Chocolate Company purchases

It was time for lunch and we backtracked down the road we came from to head to Padbury’s Cafe Restaurant. There are so many restaurants, wineries and breweries offering lunch that it was really hard to choose where to go. Considering my dad and sister both enjoy simple inexpensive meals, I thought Padbury’s menu fit the bill with most mains in the $20-$30 mark. My sister and I started off with the Pretty in Pink cold pressed juice of watermelon, strawberries and mint ($7 each).  Great presentation for the juices which weren’t too sweet.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant

As J was mulling over the wine list, our waitress mentioned she could give him a tasting of two wines he was interested in. He ended up forgetting which was which, and wasn’t allowed to re-taste, but luckily he picked the right one when he ordered a full glass.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant tastings

For my main, I ordered the handmade pumpkin gnocchi with pesto and wild mushrooms ($25). This came served in a creamy sauce with plenty of shaved parmesan on top. The gnocchi was in a different shape – more like large thick strips of pasta rather than a traditional gnocchi. I loved the plentiful mushrooms on the plate.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant gnocchi

My sister ordered the linguine with Tiger prawns, chilli, garlic, capers, lemon, tomato and basil ($28). She forgot to ask about removing the chilli from the dish, so I offered to swap dishes at the half way point which worked out well. I can handle chilli a lot more than she can, so I found the dish very mild.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant linguineMy dad ordered the crispy skin pork belly with house coleslaw and salad nahm jim ($32). It was a decent sized piece of pork and the slaw was fresh and crunchy.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant pork belly

J ordered my first choice dish, the seafood chowder with prawns, fish, calamari, mussels and tomatoes with wood-fired sourdough ($22). I got to try a bit of the chowder which was so smooth and perfectly seasoned. There was a good balance of seafood, vegetables and chowder. It also didn’t taste too creamy to become overwhelming later on. The sourdough might have been freshly baked as it was served warm, and we both enjoyed mopping up the chowder with it.

Swan Valley Padbury's restaurant seafood chowder

Padbury’s Cafe Restaurant can be found at 114 Terrace Road in Guildford.

By the time we finished lunch, it was already 2pm. As most places at the Swan Valley close at 5pm, we had to make a move. Our next stop was the Great Northern Distillery – home of the Kimberley Rum Company. Selling a rum called Canefire, the rum has its origins from the sugar cane fields in Kununarra where it’s harvested into an unrefined sugar then brewed with yeasts. Tastings are limited to 3 samples per person. We left J to his sampling to head next door to a second chocolate shop, but it must have been good as he came out with a sample box set of all the Canefire rums and other spirits.

Swan Valley Great Northern Distillery

Right next door to the Great Northern Distillery is Whistler’s Chocolate Company.

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate

Again, the shop was much larger than anticipated with a cocoa lounge and a cafe inside. Products included two types of rocky road, various chocolate covered items, chocolate freckles, chocolate bark, chocolate bars and so much more. I wandered around for what seemed like ages.

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate inside

The display cabinet offered slices of various chocolate slabs in milk, dark and white chocolate.

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate slabs

I’m wondering if I should have just purchased one of the half slabs or full slabs of chocolate! I thought it would break in my suitcase / flight home, so I decided against it. The rocky road slab looked amazing too.

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate peanut cluster

One of the displays inside was of a giant chocolate jungle forest with a whole heap of animals dotted around. It was a very large display cabinet and I couldn’t fit the whole thing in one shot (short lens).

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate display

The cocoa lounge had another display cabinet filled with a massive chocolate dragon. Free samples of four types of chocolate items were being provided at one of the counters. I ended up purchasing two products and left before I decided to buy more.

Swan Valley Whistler's Chocolate dragon

Whistler’s is located at 506 Great Northern Highway in Middle Swan.

Next, we stopped by Mondo Nougat owned by an Italian family which set up shop in Midland back in the early 90s. Mondo Nougat sells both crunchy and soft nougat in different flavours such as chilli chocolate, orange, vanilla, lemon, cranberry and pistachio, cappuccino and more. The store sold nougat bars ($10 each), and smaller sized nougat in various packs.

Swan Valley Mondo Nougat

We were told by a staff member to head to the front counter for complimentary tastings. A menu listing the flavours available for tastings was shown to us. My mum absolutely loves nougat, so I purchased a 350g mixed plate of nougat for her ($15.50). There were other nicely packaged nougat packs available too – perfect as gifts.

Swan Valley Mondo Nougat

Apart from nougat, Mondo Nougat also makes honeycomb squares, chocolate coated dried figs, chocolate coated licorice and more.

Swan Valley Mondo Nougat display

Attached to Mondo Nougat is Morish Nuts selling its famous caramel coated macadamia nuts. There was one staff member working there at that time and we found her very friendly, chatty and happy to provide us with complimentary tastings.

Swan Valley Morish Nuts

Some unique flavours include abalone (slight fishy salty taste), coffee glazed nuts and wasabi nuts.

Swan Valley Morish Nuts

Mondo Nougat and Morish Nuts can be found at 640 Great Northern Highway in Herne Hill.

Our next stop was at the House of Honey. There was a honey tasting station with what I think were all the honey products either in a pump bottle or jar available for tasting. With small popsicle sticks on the side, visitors are free to taste each and every honey on offer.

Swan Valley House of Honey

I had quickly browsed through the House of Honey website and knew I wanted to try Jarrah honey which has a dedicated page on the site. This honey is found only in Western Australia as Jarrah trees are only grown in this region. This honey is  antibacterial and anti-fungal – you can apply it directly to a wound due to its healing abilities. Jarrah honey is currently in short supply, (there is a limit of 10 jars per customer), due to the diminishing forest reserves.

Swan Valley House of Honey

I ended up purchasing a 250ml jar of Jarrah Honey ($13.50) and Karri Honey ($8.50) which was another antibacterial and anti-fungal honey. I was tempted by the rose honey and lavendar honey, but figured I can always come back next year. Apart from honey, the House of Honey offers pure beeswax, apple cider vinegar with Jarrah honey, tea, confectionery, hand lotions, pollen in a jar, and there’s also a meadery at the back with free tastings of sparkling honey. There was a live beehive (behind glass) where you can watch the bees do their thing. There is also a small cafe – the Sticky Spoon Cafe, attached to the store selling honey scones with jam and cream, honey cake and other yummy items.

Swan Valley House of Honey

The House of Honey can be found at 867 Great Northern Highway at Herne Hill.

The next stop was Olive Farm Wines. We drove down a long driveway past all the vineyards which had been labelled with the type of wine the grapes would be turned into. We parked near the ‘shiraz’ line of grapes.

Swan Valley Olive Farm Wines

The menu at the bar clearly states that tastings are $5 per person, but our wine person waived the fee that day. Lucky us! J  received some complimentary olives with his wine tasting so he was pretty happy. I remember there being something called a ‘Shimmer White’ on the menu – a blend of Verdelho and Chenin Blanc, but J didn’t like that one. He did however buy two bottles of the 2012 Reserve Shiraz ($42 each), so that must have been good.

Swan Valley Olive Farm Wines tasting

The Cheese Barrel just so happened to be next door, so we headed over there for some cheese tastings.

Swan Valley The Cheese Barrel

The Cheese Barrel has over 50 international and Australian cheeses on offer in the cheese fridge. The Cheese Barrel is also a cafe where you can sit down for coffee or wine, and choose from set cheese boards (from $40) or design your own cheese board.

Swan Valley The Cheese Barrel display

The three cheese tastings that day included a truffle delice from France, caved aged cheddar from England and a fior d’Arancio from Italy. I loved the print outs of the tasting notes for each of the cheeses. A must-visit for cheese lovers!

Swan Valley The Cheese Barrel tasting notes

Both Olive Farm Wines and the Cheese Barrel can be found at 920 Great Northern Highway in Millendon.

Our last stop on our food and wine adventure was at Old Young’s, a gin and vodka distillery. It was formerly known as the Wild Swan distillery before being recently taken over by James Young with a relaunched brand.

Swan Valley Old Young's

The distillery guy informed us that each of the tastings combined would equal one standard drink before he got started. It was a very entertaining and not your conventional tasting, with plenty of laughter. The distillery guy was clearly passionate about the products. Some of the more interesting flavoured spirits include Pavlova vodka and smoked vodka (described as like deep-throating a campfire).

Swan Valley Old Young's tastings

Taken from Perth Underground’s website:

Even though the takeover came just over 12 months ago, James has already made waves, taking out the title of Australia’s best vodka producer for his champion vodka Pure No. 1 at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. He also collected a silver for his Smoked Vodka and scooped up three bronze for his Pavlova Vodka, 1829 Gin and Old B.A.G (Barrell Aged Gin). These new products have also seen success at an international level winning a gold, silver and two bronze medals at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in Hong Kong last year.

J purchased the cold drip coffee vodka (which uses locally roasted single origin beans so it has caffeine in it) and the 1829 Gin (about $65 each). At the moment, these spirits can only be purchased in various cellars in WA and VIC. They would like to try to get into Molly’s in Canberra – so if anyone who works at Molly’s is reading this, take note.

Swan Valley Old Young's gin

Old Young’s can be found at 10581 West Swan Road in Henley Brook.

And that wraps up our adventure on the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail! 13 stops in just 6 hours (not including the first two we attempted). It was a long day but we still only saw about a slice of what was available in the region. I was very happy we made all our food stops. Apart from those we visited, I don’t think there are many other food stops but there are plenty more wineries and breweries to visit. We could easily have enjoyed two days at the Swan Valley.

Some tips

  • Do make an early start – most cellar doors open around 10 – 11am, with food shops opening around 9am. You could do breakfast first and then hit the wineries. Things start closing around 4 – 5pm.
  • Don’t let the rain deter you – we didn’t! And most things are indoors.
  • Download the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail map – it’s a PDF on the website and very handy to plot your route.
  • The Swan Valley is open seven days a week all year round. Please note opening days and hours for some places vary, so you’ll need to head to the winery’s website for specific trading hours. I noticed some places shut on either a Monday or Tuesday.
  • If you’re in a large group, make sure you make a group booking for tastings.
  • Hire a car or appoint a designated driver. We had an esky in the boot of the car to keep the chocolates and other food items cold.
  • Want to incorporate a bit of exercise? You can do walking and cycling tours in the Swan Valley too.
  • Remember that what we did was just a taste of the Swan Valley! Over 150 businesses and we only stopped at 13.
  • Check out the Swan Valley Visitor Centre for more information, maps and brochures.

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