Stretching around 120 kilometres from around Chittering in the north to Jarrahdale in the south, the Perth Hills region encompasses many small producers clustered in four sub regions along and to the east of the Darling Scarp – Chittering Valley, about an hour from the City, with orchards, farms, bed and breakfast homestays and of course wineries; the Mundaring/Helena Valley area, or Heart of the Hills, with attractions, other than the wineries, of old country style pubs and taverns, State forests, Mundaring Weir, Lake Leschenaultia picnic grounds; Bickley and Carmel Valley, 30 minutes away from town, running from around Kalamunda to Pickering Brook, with Lesmurdie Falls, rolling hills and valleys, orchards, vineyards and restaurants and walking trails including the start of the iconic Bibbulmun Track; and Serpentine/Jarrahdale with the Serpentine Falls park a centrepiece, as well as historic timber towns and farmland.
Entrance to Brookside
I have been going to the Perth Hills for many years and with the Bickley/Carmel Harvest Festival coming up in early May, I thought it an opportune time to revisit many of the attractions of of the region and over the next few weeks that is exactly what I will be doing – eating and drinking and reporting back. Hope that you enjoy the journey! As the Festival is rapidly approaching Bickley and Carmel will be the first cab off the rank……
Bickley and Carmel Valley
Kalamunda is the major town in the region and has a many attractions in its own right – the historic Federation era Kalamunda Hotel serves up good pub and bistro fare, as does the mock Tudor styled Best Drop Tavern. A couple of newish coffee shop/cafés are also hitting all the markers and proving pretty popular in Jack and Jill, and Mason and Bird. And we have had some good times at the Cavern Tapas bar. But there are lots more restaurants and cafés and cuisines to check out too.
Photo Credit: https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/the-track/along-the-track/the-darling-range/
For those with a more physical bent – then Kalamunda is the Northern terminus of the Bibbulmun Track which wends its way 1000 kilometres to Albany; if not quite in the mood for that – although you can of course do one of the 58 sections which are perfect for half or one day walks – you could try the Zig Zag walk in Gooseberry Hill, up the old railway line.
In fact there are many walking and riding trails in the Hills, and they meander through spectacular scenery – from State Forest, ephemeral and permanent brooks, hills and gullies, to orchards and vines.
And it is worth checking out the Zig Zag Gallery and Historic Village in the Kalamunda town site for a taste of the history of the area. Kalamunda is also the setting for weekly and monthly farmers markets where you can grab plenty of local produce.
Anyway on to the wineries – the first you come to on the edge of the Bickley Valley is Carldenn Homestead with very good Chardonnay as well as fine Cabernet Merlot and sparkling – and you can have a barbeque or picnic in the grounds.
A little farther on and Fairbrossen has a lot going for it – a pleasant café/restaurant with pretty views across the vines – with vineyards in the Hills as well as Margaret River they produce very good sparkling, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Durif – which is more well known in Rutherglen but making quite a home for itself in WA.
Their Side Project line – minimal intervention and small batch wines are definitely worth checking out – where else will you get a Seperavi in WA?
Moving on up the hill into the valleys proper and Myattsfield stands out as one of the best wineries in the State – Josh times two and Rachel are the three winemakers – and knock out wine for many of the small wineries of the region, as well.
They produce a simply excellent range – Chardonnay, Semillon, Verdelho among the whites, while Durif (the first planting in the State), Mourvedre, Tempranillo and a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot are all excellent reds, and you should also make sure you try two brilliant fortified wines – Kenneth Green and Nancy Myatt.
Right next door Cosham also have a lovely sparkling as well as one of the best Chardonnays in the Hills; travelling on and through Carmel village we come to Plume – sitting on the side of a steep hill with brilliant views down the valley this little café/winery is very popular and deservedly so – the food is good as is the wine – again an agreeable sparkling and enjoyable Pinot Noir – one of the interesting sides to the Perth Hills is that it gets the low temperatures necessary for this difficult grape to grow.
Indeed Ashley Estate grows only Pinot – it is well worth dropping in – the grounds around the cellar are attractive and the underground cellar cool and inviting – the 2013 Pinot on my recent visit was outstanding, one of the best they have produced.
Next on the trail is Brookside Winery, which also houses the best restaurant in the Bickley Carmel region – the Vineyard Kitchen – the food simply wonderful, and on a pleasant day sitting outside in the gardens, under the trees, is one of the best experiences of the Bickley and Carmel Valleys. And the wines are no slouches either – I particularly enjoyed the Cabernet Rosé and the straight Cabernet Sauvignon.
Just across a small brook is another great spot to try – the recently re-opened Lawnbrook Estate Winery and Packing Shed restaurant with wine, coffee, cakes, breakfasts and light meals in beautiful surrounds.
A hop step and jump away is another winery with restaurant attached – Hainault – soups, platters, tarts, pies, burgers, all appear on the menu – and of their wines the standouts for me are the Sparkling Pinot Noir, Forest Fruits Gewurztraminer, Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Aldersyde is yet another winery turning out top class wine – in rustic surrounds winemaker Larissa Bray’s Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are particularly striking.
Moving away and towards Pickering Brook is Mason Mills – simply stunning grounds with terraced rose gardens, water features, extremely well set-up restaurant and beer garden – this is a tourist hotspot.
Past the charming hamlet of Pickering Brook is another of the major attractions of the region – Core Cidery – set again in splendid grounds it is a wedding venue of renown – the restaurant delivering very good food and the cider is absolutely top class.
Along the same road Due Jolly has a lovely little decked area where lights meals are served – in summer bruschetta, in winter warming soups, as well as coffee and cakes. Their wine also very good – the sparkling chardonnay, Secco, a standout, as is the Vermentino.
Neighbours La Fattoria has opened in recent months – in an old orchard they are growing a range of Italian varietals and the wines are made by Myattsfield – the Barbera, Fiano, Sangiovese and Vermentino impressed on our visit and I cannot wait for the release of their Nebbiolo, Nero d’Avola and Sagrantino. They also have an inviting trattoria where you can dine from a set menu – Nonna’s Family Table – or make up a platter from the many ingredients on offer.
Finally, the Bickley Harvest Festival has been running for around 20 years and is on again over the weekend 6 and 7 May – all of the wineries, restaurants and local producers and artists will be involved in showcasing the products of this fabulous wine and food destination, so close to Perth. Do get along – it is always a wonderful weekend.