If you’re after something a little different then I recommend you treat yourself to an ‘edutour’ with Explore Tours. Managing Director of Explore Tours and our Chief Explorer (tour guide) for the day, Adam Saunders describes it as a, “hands on experience that tantalises your brain, not just your tastebuds” On this 7 hour tour, I tasted some exquisite cheeses and wines in Perth’s picturesque Swan Valley and learnt lots about them. An initial highlight is being chauffeured around in a comfortable coach that seats 24.
Adam reveals this Swan Valley tour has been 12 months in the making with the first public tour just launched last week. Our initial stop is The Cheese Barrel at 920 Great Northern Highway, Millendon located adjacent to Olive Farm Wines.
Once inside The Cheese Barrel we are presented with brand new aprons that we put on before venturing into a side room where Tanya Boretta – aka The Cheese Maker – asks us to pair up. Tanya here guides us through the surprisingly quick and easy steps to create our own ricotta cheese.
The ricotta cheese actually looks and tastes a lot like scrambled eggs. Once we have drained the liquid (whey) we all get to create something with our cheese. These are our canapes with avocado, strawberries and tomatoes:
And I am happy with our baked ricotta and chilli:
We sit on the decking for lunch to eat our creations along with an assortment of cheeses, breads and ham from The Cheese Barrel:
At first we think there is not enough food for us all but after a couple of slices of the tastiest and cheesiest garlic bread, we are all satiated.
We sit, chat, roam around the grounds and then head back to the coach as Adam fills the esky with tubs of ricotta that we are allowed to take home to eat. The trip to the welcoming Talijancich Winemakers on Hyem Road in Herne Hill, takes only a few minutes.
Third generation winemaker, James Talijancich takes us on a tour of his 15 acre estate. Established in 1932, the vineyard which produces Shiraz, Verdelho, and aged Liqueurs is not sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides.
Both sides of James’s family were winemakers. His maternal grandfather would also take three days by horse and cart to travel to New Norcia and help with barrel making. We are taken to the barrel room on the premises, which is a raw tin shed that can reach 40 degrees in summer. The Shiraz is kept in bourbon barrels but his grandfather liked to use English Oak. They keep separate barrels for each batch and keep adding different batches to the base wine to create a blend.
James blends the wines from May to October each year when it is cooler to work although the temperature has no effect on the wine. As we walk across the car park into the shop for our wine tasting, James explains that the gentlest way to crush grapes is with your feet and early February is grape-stomping time. With all the advances in technology James also admits that the best way to pick grapes is still by hand. We sit at a long table by the cellar door and James details the process from vine to bottle with each wine. We start with a very refreshing 2008 Verdelho, followed by three fortified wines.
One of the wines is a 25 year old Pedro Ximenes which James says should be drunk out of a brandy balloon as it exposes the flavours of the liqueurs more than a small glass. The majority of their wines are 20% alcohol so they are not meant to be sculled but savoured. With the official wine tasting complete we are encouraged to taste other varieties on offer and a few people purchase bottles for the weekend. Before we leave we again stroll over to the barrel room where James stands beside a large barrel. Inside it is an old style fortified wine that sells for $250 per half bottle. We are given a taste direct from the oak barrel.
After clambouring back on board, our affable driver, Adam, negotiates the traffic to ensure we return safely. Looking for something to do? I’d highly recommend Explore Tours.
The full day Swan Valley Cheese and Wine Maker Experience is $189, email email@example.com to find out more.
Disclaimer: foodie cravings was invited as a guest of the City of Swan.