There’s a lot to love about the Swan Valley – including award winning wineries and breweries, incredible food and fresh local produce. But best of all? It’s only a quick 20 minute trip from the CBD (and even closer from my place). If it’s been awhile since you’ve visited, here’s part one of my top picks of things to see/eat/do in the Swan Valley.
The Cheese Barrel and Olive Farm Wines
What can I say – I’m a sucker for a good cheese and a glass of rosé, and you can definitely get both here. The Cheese Barrel is the newer of these two ventures, which are right next door to each other, so you can either hit up the winery first to try their HIUGE selection (which includes four delicious sparkling wines, loads of whites including a lovely late-picked Verdelho and Pinot Gris, a dozen reds and about seven varieties of ports and dessert-style wines) or head straight to The Cheese Barrel, to match your wine to your cheese.
The best thing about The Cheese Barrel is that you can completely customise your own cheese board – and that’s essential when you’re a bit picky when it comes to cheese (no blues please!). There are also about 20 cheeses on the menu that are vegetarian (ie made with non-animal rennet). Choose from fresh/soft/white moulds, washed rinds, semi hard/hard/other and blue cheese – think OTM Triple cream, Barrel Aged Feta, Grana Padano Parmesan Provolone, Manchego, French Brie and Jensen Red, just to name a few! Each cheese board is served with fresh bread, lavosh, seasonal fruit & fruit paste, and I recommend ordering an extra serve of bread if you’re having your board as a meal.
Mandoon Estate and Homestead Brewery
Combining a winery, brewery, restaurant, beer garden and deli, Mandoon is the perfect place to visit on a sunny winter’s day. It’s got an awesome grassed outdoor area looking over the Swan River (the kids playground is fenced so no need to worry about them running off) and when the sun goes down, there’s a cosy fireplace inside the restaurant, which is open late. While outside you can enjoy a picnic style menu with things like hotdogs, wood fired pizzas and a cheese selection, and they even had someone walking around selling hot chips. Although I don’t drink them, the beers here seemed to be a hit, with a unique selection and more on the horizon. This huge and modern destination is the perfect spot to spend a long, lazy day sipping wine and enjoying the vibes.
Taylors Art and Coffee House
OK so it’s not ALL about wine in the Swan Valley. For years Taylors has been my favourite spot to grab breakfast, lunch or cake in the Valley, and it’s only getting better. Fresh, organic, seasonal food is key here, and they even grow some of their own veggies onsite. They do a good veggie burger, the pancakes are always delicious, and their range of cakes is spot on. Add to this a beautiful old character building, complete with a warm fire for cold days, and a lovely outdoor area with plenty of shady spots and you’ve got the best of both worlds, no matter the weather. It’s a great spot to go if you’ve got kids as there’s a nice big sandpit, you can bring your dog along, and it’s BYO! What’s not to love?
Taylors doubles as an artist studio, so you can peruse the works of local artist Jude Taylor while you’re there – think WA wildflower and landscape artworks, fabrics and wallpaper. With a quaint shop selling pretty vintage items, you never know what you might find.
There’s nothing fancy about Lancaster but that’s part of its charm. From the open-air tasting shed you can look out over some of the oldest vines in the Swan Valley, with great friendly service pretty much guaranteed. This is another great spot for wine-drinkers that like sparkling, rosé and sweeter wines (try to Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Late Picked Chenin Blanc and Sticky Shiraz) and I love that they give you a little plate of cheeses to nibble on while tasting their wines. They regularly have great specialist on too, so make sure you pencil Lancaster in for your next wine tour.
The Henley Brook
A recent addition to the Swan Valley, The Hen is a bustling, laid back, family-friend pub in the heart of the Valley. You can grab a table inside but if it’s a nice day I recommend heading outside, where you can spread out on a picnic blanket and enjoy a hearty meal. It looks like their menu has changed again recently but if they’ve got them you have to try the sweet potato fries! I also had a great big couscous salad that was delicious, and they’ve got a couple of other veggie dishes that look good including pizza and a cheese board. The outdoors area is great for kids as there’s plenty of room for them to run and play, making it a lovely spot to spend the afternoon after tasting your way through the Valley. When it comes to drinks they aim to showcase the best of the Swan Valley with additional international options. The wine can be a bit pricey but the selection is pretty good – last time I was there we enjoyed a French rosé that was under $40 a bottle.
Do you have a favourite place to visit in the Swan Valley? I’d love to hear about it!