Only 20 minutes from the CBD, at the gateway to the Swan Valley, you’ll find the picturesque surrounds of Houghton Wines, which was founded in 1836 by a trio of British army officers. The winery became famous for its White Classic, originally called White Bergundy. It was created in 1937 by Jack Mann who began his apprenticeship in winemaking at Houghtons at the tender age of 16. They are now ranked the 10th largest brand in Australia, as the manufacturers of white and red bottled wine. In 2017, they celebrate their 180 year anniversary.
Houghton Wines is not just a winery, the property consists of acres of vineyards, an al fresco cafe, cellar door, historic buildings and beautifully manicured gardens. I recommend wandering the grounds before settling in. Beside the cafe, down a few stairs and in among huge wine barrels, you will discover Dez Smith’s vibrant Aussie inspired artwork, which is exhibited full time in Houghton’s underground gallery. Dez became a junior artist at 15 and hasn’t looked back. His watercolour paintings are infused with humour and include kelpie dogs in the back of a ute, koala’s with cracked glasses, a surfboard leaning against a Kombi van surrounded by pelicans, and 28’s sitting on a clothes line. His art is sure to brighten up any wall.
Next door to the art gallery is a museum. Large oak casks from last century line one wall while black and white photos adorn the other. One of the photos is of Dr John Ferguson who bought the winery in 1859 and created the inaugural wine that was sold to customers. Some traditional wine-making instruments are also displayed such as a basket press, piston pump and an ancient cash register. Though not a huge amount of artefacts to look at, what is there provides an excellent insight into the past and adds a little bit of nostalgia, providing a talking point for visitors.
Another interesting feature on the sprawling property is the Crofters Houghton Homestead, situated opposite the lush lawns of the main attractions. Built in 1863 it comprises a storeroom, hay loft, stable, kitchen and meat room and Moondyne Joe – WA’s answer to Ned Kelly – was caught stealing wine in the area in 1869.
After exploring the gorgeous grounds, we find a shady tree of which there are plenty, and make ourselves comfortable before popping open our own bottle of Houghton White Classic. We embrace the chance to relax in peaceful surroundings with the cold liquid the perfect antidote to Perth’s soaring temperatures. Our thoughts are only interrupted by the occasional squawking galah – both of the human and bird variety – and the squeal of energetic kids as they run, jump, kick balls and swordfight with plastic weapons around the vast garden space.
Houghton winery boasts a truly awesome landscape to admire while sipping cold drinks, picnicking or just chilling back.
You can sit indoors in the cafe or dine under the dappled skies of the outside area while eating morning tea, afternoon tea or be tempted by the a la carte lunch. The choice is yours. Both provide an ambiance to enhance your meal.
We chose to picnic on the grass with the “Cheesed to Meat You” platter which costs $45 and included pork terrine with mustard seeds, red ionion jam, Jarrah Ridge olives, leg ham, house dip, apple and fennel slaw, mild Hungarian salami, Maffra mature cheddar, quince paste, Cambray brie, sour dough baguette and crackers. One platter was more than enough for two people for lunch. It was fresh and delicious. Guests are welcome to bring their own food but should not BYO drinks.
The Cafe also offers a $35 “Say Cheese” picnic hamper which includes all of the above excluding the meats. Kids are not forgotten and can order a $9 meal of ham and cheese or vegemite and cheese baguette, with a 300ml juice/milk, mini muffin and cup of popcorn.
Throughout the day we were entertained by acoustic guitarist, Angus Kyle plus Fremantle duo, The Hunting Birds, featuring Connor Minervini and Kendra Fewster. Set up on a stage in the middle of the grounds the two acts sang a selection of songs that complemented the perfect weather, wine and food. They were not so loud as to be intrusive nor too soft to just fade into the background and did entice one audience member to ‘dance’.
Sufficiently full from the food and drink, the obvious step is to buy more! The onsite shop sells a variety of their wines, including White Classic as well as mouth-wateringly tasty packets of nougat, so you can continue to indulge at home.
Houghton Wines is located on 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan. Cellar door hours are 10am to 5pm each day.
Disclaimer: foodie cravings was invited as a guest of Houghton Wines. See disclosure policy for further details.