With Jatinder intending to join us for lunch (he needed to keep the wheels of industry turning), the ‘Skipper’ (Ken) gathered Brian, Graeme and then Chris by 09:30 to head up the Roe for a day’s adventure in the Swan Valley. Graeme, Chris and Ken had done a similar trip a couple of years ago. We all agreed too much time had passed before what we were now calling the ‘Second Annual Swan Valley Sojourn!’
En route, we agreed it may be worth dropping by the SV Information Centre in Guildford to receive an update on the Valley’s highlights and to settle on an itinerary. The only ‘known’ when we arrived at the Centre bang on 10:00am was that we’d booked in at Edgecombe Brothers’ Café and Winery for 12:30.
As we crossed and re-crossed the Swan, passing rolling green fields, all the worries of retirement began to melt away. Ah, those lush river lands. As Daryl Kerrigan would say, ‘How’s the serenity?’ First stop along the Great Northern Highway was Whistler’s Chocolate Company and Café for morning tea at 10:30. Surprisingly good (borderline great) coffee and a mix of chocolate and savoury muffin accompaniments prepared us to launch northward once more for a brief stop at the House of Honey and Meadery.
Some small purchases (grandkids et al) made at HHM, we crossed the Highway to meander down the 400m driveway between vines to the Cheese Barrel and Olive Farm Winery (second oldest winery in Australia). Architecturally splendid, the Cheese Barrel visit entailed lustful inspections through glass cabinets of a wide range of common and exotic (and expensive) cheeses. We availed ourselves of the tastings on offer before tackling the 50m walk to the adjacent Olive Farm Winery (new premises fewer than 10 years old).
OFW was a pleasant surprise (to the wine savvy members of our party). The highlight was the huge, centrally located stainless steel device/vat that featured 10 dispensing tubes above 10 bottles of OFW wines on each of the four sides of the ‘vat’. By purchasing an electronic card for $10, a touch screen allowed a 20ml ‘pour’ to be dispensed for tasting each of up to eight wines of interest.
Somewhat superfluous to our purposes was the nearby ‘responsible drinking’ chart on display that showed that five, 20 ml pours were the equivalent of one standard drink. But, with a Skipper, neither Chris, Graeme nor Brian needed to give the chart the time of day! Who should drop by but Graeme’s son Scott – a national cellar door manager at Houghton’s. We said we might drop in to see him after lunch, if time permitted.
Soon after arriving at Edgecombe’s for lunch, Jatinder joined us thanks to his daughter who’d dropped him off. We had a table in the sun overlooking the vines and the Edgecombe dam. Wine, beer and cider accompanied our chicken breast, barramundi and fish and chips for lunch. One of the Edgecombe brothers chatted with us, informatively, during lunch, so by 2:00pm we were ‘full bottle’ in more ways than one!
The highlight of the day was joining Scott at Houghton’s (Australia’s third oldest winery) at 2:20pm. We got the ‘access all areas’ treatment. After seeing where the constabulary had caught up with Moondyne Joe, we were ushered down into the inner sanctum – the cellar where the best of the best wines are kept – the ‘not for sale nor public viewing’ category. Even the wine-ignorant Skipper’s eyes were out on stalks. The others were gobsmacked! The woman curating the art gallery we passed through en route exclaimed, ‘I’ve never seen anyone go down to that cellar before’! Thanks Scott (and Graeme!).
Some may think Houghton’s to be a high-volume winery but not one where very high-quality wines are produced. Or perhaps that was only the Skipper’s uninformed view. But, after being asked to pull up some leather chairs at the huge mahogany circular table (seats 16!) in the main foyer (we were still the only ones there), we proceeded to taste four of the best reds in Houghton’s catalogue. You might want to Google ‘C.W. Ferguson’, ‘Gladstones’, ‘Jack Mann’ and ‘Thomas Yule’ to begin to appreciate how our visit climaxed at Houghton’s.
Back on the road again by 3:45pm our day in the SV (actually six hours) saw everybody safely back in the burbs by 5:00pm. The third annual SV adventure awaits…