A seasonal guide to the Swan Valley: what to pick, taste and shop
Foodies and wine lovers, unite! Here’s your complete guide to enjoying the flavours of Perth’s Swan Valley during Harvest season and beyond.
As the oldest wine-growing country in Western Australia and certainly the hottest, the Swan Valley never ceases to surprise and delight. Its proximity to the city makes ‘Perth’s pantry’ a favourite day trip for locals and a convenient one for visitors. Indeed, you could hypothetically hop off a plane and in 25 minutes find yourself wine-tasting, fruit-picking and high tea-ing in no time!
While the annual summer Harvest Festival draws in the food enthusiasts, the Swan Valley really is a year-round cornucopia of fresh produce, artisanal goods and unforgettable experiences. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best of the Swan Valley’s seasonal bounties.
There’s a sweet smell in the air come summer. Long days and plenty of sunshine mean grapes are ripe for the picking, marking the annual harvest season. Wine is the star of the show in the Swan, and the region’s fertile soil and Mediterranean climate make it an ideal spot for Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, though you can find almost all the major grape varieties here.
For a family-friendly morning among the vines, make a stop at Swan Street Vineyard. Owners Craig and Sandra will quickly put you to work with a basket and secateurs to pick grapes from their five-acre vineyard. (And yes, you’re invited to taste as many as you like along the way!)
While you’re there, the kids will also love picking fresh figs and collecting eggs from the boisterous resident hens. Before you leave, make sure to stock up on local honey (ask to sample some of the more unusual flavours, like garlic!), oils, relishes and more from the onsite Old Shed - just check the customs laws in your state or country before bringing and food products home with you.
Summer in the Swan isn’t done right without an alfresco meal among the vines. Upper Reach Winery is one of the most picturesque places to feast. The serene vineyard views are a perfect match for Ryan Fels’ seasonal menu celebrating local flavours. If you’re here during Harvest, take advantage of the extra events happening, including grape masterclasses with the winemakers, twilight concerts and more.
Forget a plastic magnet souvenir to remember your summer in the Swan – the house-made gelato at Katos @ 3000 will linger in your mind long after you return home. More than an ice-cream stop, Katos is a seasonal farm shop selling fresh melons and 15 different varieties of table grapes, which you’re invited to try before you buy. If you’re travelling with picky eaters, they’ll be hard-pressed to turn away from a grape named ‘Candy Crush’!
Changing leaves and a crispness in the air herald the arrival of apple season. And where there’s apples, there’s cider. Mention cider in the Swan, and most recommendations will have you pulling up a seat at Funk 2.0 by Funk Cider, where preservative-free, weekly-changing brew menus reign supreme.
Brothers Dustin and Martin take immense pride in their barrel-aged, fruit-infused ciders. Best go for the tasting paddle (you’re a practical traveller, after all) so you can sample the traditional cider recipe alongside more inventive flavours, including coconut and mango.
Bringing a bit of European flavour to the valley is Seasonal Harvest at Baba and Dida’s. Located a few minutes’ drive down the road from Funk, Baba and Dida’s is the place for seasonal produce like pumpkins, pomegranates, mangoes, garlic, eggs, homemade olive oil, jam and more. They also do a pretty decent Conti roll – a Perth must-do – making it a good lunch stop before an afternoon of exploring.
Got a sweet tooth? Then save some room for Mondo Nougat. Owner Alfonso Romeo migrated to Perth with his family from Italy way back in 1989 and has dedicated his life to la dolce vita ever since. At Mondo, you can witness the nougat-making process before settling down in the cafe with a coffee, fresh biscotti, or a slice of their famous nougat cheesecake.
Coat weather calls for cosy, indulgent experiences, and the Swan delivers in spades. Start at Whistler’s Chocolate Company, the state’s oldest family-owned confectionery company. Chocolate is taken so seriously here that there are six different varieties of hot chocolate available to try. Frankly, if the chilli and cinnamon hot chocolate doesn’t warm you up, nothing will. The showroom is something out of a Wonka movie: walls lined with everything from traditional chocolate bars to chocolate-coated popcorn, truffles and more.
Citrus fruits are at their peak at this time of year, and you can stock up at Keller’s Farm. The Keller Family’s roadside stand is piled high with juicy local oranges, limes, lemons and cumquats, as well as freshly baked bread and preserves.
Macadamias are also at their best this time of year, and the ones from Morish Nuts make the perfect addition to a winter-themed cheese board. Morish Nuts are available in a variety of sweet, spicy and salty coatings to appeal to any and all flavour cravings; if you’re after efficiency, the hot-and-spicy caramel glazed nut mixes should have most preferences covered.
When the grape vines start budding, it's time to mark your calendars for the wine region’s most anticipated event. Entwined takes place over a weekend in spring with a sizzling program of events by the valley’s makers, growers and creators. A weekend brimming with one-of-a-kind experiences, tours, long lunches, artisan markets, high teas and masterclasses to soak up the flavours, art and local culture of the Swan Valley.
Spring not only heralds the arrival of Entwined but also paints the landscape in a vibrant riot of colours as the wildflower season takes centre stage. It’s hard to tell if visitors or bees are more excited for spring blooms! Honey is serious buzz-ness in the valley; indeed, the House of Honey is home to two of Australia’s three qualified honey sommeliers (yes, it’s a thing!).
Kim and Rupert Phillips are the last word on the sweet stuff. They’ll be able to take you through everything from the life and times of worker bees to the process of honey harvesting and even the production of mead, the world’s oldest alcohol (tastings are also available). Devonshire tea at the cafe is a must to wrap up your visit. Make sure you request some fresh honeycomb with your scone - a game-changer.
For a fresh produce stock-up, it’s hard to go past the Swan Valley Sisters weekend produce cafe. There, you’ll find the season’s best broad beans, purple and green asparagus, beetroot, rhubarb, and eggplants, alongside olive oil, bread and more.
The Swan Settlers Market is another great stop for produce and a side of lunch, and it’s also where you’ll find Sin Gin Distillery. In the Swan Valley distillation is treated with as equal reverence as winemaking, evident in the passion owners Kate and Mark have for their spirits.
What started as a conversation between the pair back in 2016 is now a purpose-built distillery where you can learn the fine art of gin making and sample their award-winning range. A taste of the famous Perth Pink gin, blended with strawberry gum, lemon myrtle and rosella flowers, is a fitting way to toast your time in the Valley.