This tourist trail, designed as part of the WA Trails initiative, has as its focus some of the world class produce of the Swan Valley – one of WA’s best destinations, a world away from the bustle of Perth, but less than half an hour from the CBD.
Following on from the success of the Swan Valley Cider and Ale trail, Sweet Temptations is a half day, 14 kilometre, self-drive tour of some of the many sweet treats the Valley has to offer – from outstanding dessert wines through amazing honey products to sensational French macarons.
Along with other bloggers and foodies, we recently hopped on a bus to be taken on an escorted tour taking in all of the attractions of the Trail. Organised by the City of Swan, Blue Dog Communications and the owners and operators of each of the venues on the trail, we were able to encounter all of the sensory experiences the trail has to offer.
Starting off at WA’s only macaron factory open to the public, Maison Saint-Honore, we were shown around the baking floor, watched as the chef prepared croissants, and sat down to coffee, a selection of scrumptious cakes, macarons and croissants and a glass or two of Pink Moscato Frizzante from their next door neighbour, Pinelli Wines, another stop on the Trail.
The owner of the Maison Alex Lui-van-Sheng and winemaker Daniel Pinelli were on hand to talk about their produce and business philosophies.
Pinelli’s, a second generation family owned winery, produces a great range of wines, including some newer varietals you may not have tried – Vermentino and Durif, among them. The Moscato, a sweetish wine with a pleasant spritz, has a bouquet of crushed rose petals and Red Delicious apples, and flavours of Turkish Delight, strawberries and ripe cherries. A nice start to the day at 9.30AM!
Then onto the Top Gun Tours bus and next stop Moreish Nuts and Mondo Nougat – here we sampled a selection of the range of nuts on offer – from coffee glazed macadamias to Wasabi and (something that really surprised) Abalone flavoured macadamias. The latter apparently proving very popular with Asian tourists – I can testify they are outstanding! Jenny McNamara was on hand to take us through the range of products on offer.
Through the doors into the adjoining building and we were in the world of nougat – and a taste of some fresh from the oven – and given a quick overview on how it is made using the best of local ingredients – honey, eggs and nuts.
Owner Andrea Romeo provided a commentary of the production process and history of the business, going back to its origins in his ancestral hometown in Italy.
And speaking of honey, our next stop was the House of Honey – through a wisteria covered walkway we entered an amazing exposition of honey and honey products – from mead, one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks, to soaps, hand and face creams, ice cream – the ginger and chocolate chip with honey drizzle marvellous – and of course the honey tasting station where we tried honey sourced from hives placed near differing trees and flowers all giving a different and unique taste – Yate gum, tea tree, marri and more – and a range of infused honeys – ginger, chilli. Owners Rupert and Kim Phillips provided an informative commentary on the business and the joys of bee keeping.
Getting back to the mead we tried traditional mead, spiced mead – the traditional infused with cloves, rosemary, ginger and cinnamon – and a lovely Swan Valley sparkling infused with honey adding a back palate sweetness. Will be back to get some of this!
On the road again and then Swan Valley Café – a vegetarian haven in the Valley – where we sampled examples from their extensive tea range, and a selection of savoury and sweet treats from their kitchen. All food is vegetarian and gluten free, and, I can say with confidence, delicious – the raw marinated mushrooms with walnut pâté and the chickpea kofta balls with Middle Eastern spices were sublime – and the cakes and slices also excellent.
They also do a fine range of lattes – I tried the turmeric with a dash of pepper – brilliant – others in the range include matcha and beetroot. The restaurant has an enchanting garden, and (to my delight) they are licenced with a range of local and Eastern States sourced organic wines.
Our final stop for the day – before being dropped off back at Maison Saint-Honore, was one of my favourite Swan Valley destinations, WA’s oldest winery Olive Farm (they started back in 1829 in South Guildford but are now housed in an architecturally award winning cellar door in the Valley, alongside their outstanding cheese café, Cheese Barrel) where under the guiding hand of Gemma Barnes we sampled some of their amazing fortified wines – Liqueur Muscat, Liqueur Verdelho and Liqueur Shiraz, each paired with chocolate from Whistler Chocolates. And then before a tour of the production floor, a sample of their top of the range fortified, Stari. The Swan Valley has long produced some of the finest fortified wines in Australia – and while not as renowned as those from Rutherglen, they lose nothing by comparison – and Olive Farm, along with Kosovich and Talijancich, are the quintessence of the Swan Valley.
The Stari – a blend of fortified wines ranging back to those made by current winemaker Anthony Yurisich’s great grandfather – is an extraordinary wine. Dark mahogany in colour, the bouquet redolent of golden syrup, caramel and dried raisins, thick and viscous with a complex palate – flavour after flavour rolling across the tongue – cold tea, milk chocolate, malt, honey, burnt toffee, coffee, dark chocolate, butterscotch, all spice, cinnamon, molasses – it goes on and on. Wow…
Out to the production floor to see Ian Yurisich (Anthony’s dad) loading hand-picked grapes into the crusher and de-stemmer, before the juice is siphoned off into refrigerated vats to start the fermentation process. Ian was happy to go through the stages of production and gave us all an overview of a working winery to bring our tour to a close.
Matt, our driver, then took us back to our starting point, and with a bag of goodies to take away, we all drifted back to reality after our morning of sweet temptation. Take it from me, this is a wonderful new way to see more of the Valley’s many attractions – head out soon and become a Trail Blazer.