Sittella Winery – Behind the Scenes of the 2017 Harvest

Barrels at Sitella WineryWhat a year 2017 has been so far for Western Australia. If you’re not aware we have had a very cool summer with plenty of rain. So much rain in fact that some of the vineyards in the Swan Valley have literally been drowning. Unfortunately Sittella is one of those vineyards which has lost some of their 2017 fruit to the Swan River flooding. It’s going to be a ‘prolonged vintage’ as Yuri Berns, Assistant Winemaker, explained at a recent blogger famil I attended at the Swan Valley winery.

I firstly want to say a big thank-you to all the team at Sittella – Kelly, Emma, Maaike & Yuri who were all wonderful hosts and as always it’s great to run into cellar door manager, Sharon, and her fantastic sense of humour!

Our day started out at the Sittella rotunda where many beautiful weddings have taken place over the years. It was here we started off with a glass of Sparkling Chenin Blanc out of a lovely big magnum bottle which I see they sell at the cellar door for a decent $65. Mr. Spittoon growled at me for not bringing one home, so looks like we’ll be going back soon to buy one of these! The sparkling Chenin magnums are made in a cremant style which basically means it’s less gassy – as Yuri put, ‘it’ll make you less bloaty and burpy’. A bubbles perfect for the ladies!

While sipping on this delicious nectar we also learnt a bit more about who Sittella are and the 2017 harvest. So what did I learn?

Introducing Sittella..

I have visited Sittella a number of times – for tastings, for lunches and for special events (I loooved their Sparkling masterclass particularly). So this wasn’t our first meeting, however it was still great to hear their story and find out just a bit more about these guys. Here’s a quick re-cap:

  • The winery is run by Simon & Maaike Berns alongside their son, Yuri who is the Assistant Winemaker alongside Chief Winemaker Colby Quirk
  • Simon & Maaike purchased the Swan Valley land in 1993
  • They have a vineyard down in Margaret River (Willyabrup) with Chardonnay, Cab Sauv and Malbec planted
  • And they also purchase grapes from the Great Southern (particularly from Pemberton for the different styles in their bubbles range)
  • The Swan Valley vineyards consist of Verdelho, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo
  • The winery and cellar door were built in 1997 and the restaurant opened in 1998
  • ‘The Nest’ wine bar alongside the restaurant opened in 2016
  • They run various events every year which you can see on their website
  • Plus Sittella have their own Wine Club where you receive 6 months quarterly (some of these are very small batch wines only offered to members)

So that’s just a little bit more about Sittella which you may not already know.
Sittella Winery & Restaurant - Swan Valley

The Winery

What I always enjoy about tours, famils, etc is seeing behind the scenes (which as Yuri mentioned, I need to do another TC Swan Valley Wine Tour!). On this day we were lucky enough to wander through the winery and have a bit of a sensory experience. We stuck our noses in empty and full wine barrels. It was really interesting to smell the difference between oak coming from the Bordeaux region and from the Burgundy region of France.
Yuri Burns with wine barrels at Sittella Barrel Room at Sittella

While nose diving into barrels we also tasted a partially fermented Sparkling Chenin Blanc – it was like a mouth-watering apple juice to me and reminded me of the new wine festivals in the Czech Republic from when Mr. Spittoon and I were backpacking in 2012.
Sittella - Sparkling Chenin Blanc still fermenting

While sipping on this we heard about all Sittella’s small batch projects for their bubbles – all of which involve hand riddling and disgorging (plus all the magnums need to be done by hand too!). I’d love to know and taste what’s in those bottles!
Sparkling Wine Riddling RackThe remainder of their bubbles are disgorged using the below gyropalettes – which slowly moves the bottles at certain intervals to move the yeast sediments into the neck of the bottle ready for disgorgement. This cuts down a bit of time for the winemakers rather than doing it by hand.
Gyropallets at Sittella Winery

Next we moved onto trying the yet to be released 2016 Shiraz – I am looking forward to this one coming out as it’s already tasting pretty darn good if you ask me. Super smooth and sultry.

The Nest Wine Bar

It was great to check out Sittella’s newly opened wine bar at the end of our winery tour. This laidback spot at Sittella has a gorgeous design and it over looks the property. It’s a no-reservation needed spot that serves up food and wine from 9-4 daily.
The Nest Wine Bar at Sittella The Nest Wine Bar - Sittella Winery in the Swan Valley

Our palates were spoilt for choice with 3 flights of wine all expertly matched to dishes from the Sittella kitchen. To get us in the mood, naturally some cheese had to be consumed.
Cheese from the Little Cheese Shop

Here’s the drool-worthy details and pics of each flight (which I seriously think should be offered on the menu – food and wine lights, yes please!):

Sparkling Wine Flight

We enjoyed sipping on the NV Sparkling Rose, NV Sparkling Blanc de Blancs (tasting note at bottom of this post) and the gorgeous 2012 Grand Vintage ‘Marie Christien Lugten’ (tasting note at the end of this post – and FYI it’s named in honour of Maaike) with the below tasting plate consisting of:

  • Semolina Fried WA Arrow Squid with Crispy Fried Garlic
  • Quail Scotch Egg with Beans in Tomato
  • Virgin Mary Oyster Shooter
  • Smoked Salmon and Avocado

The Oyster Shooter and Quail Egg were my picks – so super tasty!
Sittella Tasting Plate with Sparkling Wine Flight

White Wine Flight

Next up for the whites we tried the yet to be released 2016 Silk (blend of Verdelho, Chardonnay & Chenin Blanc), the 2016 ‘The Calling’ Verdelho and the also yet to be released 2016 Reserve ‘Willyabrup’ Margaret River Chardonnay – I was literally gushing over this one. They reckon it should be available from the cellar door around May 2017. The delectable delights to match included:

  • Steak Tartar
  • White Rabbit Mushroom Pie with Roasted Fennel Onion Soubise

I’ll be back for that Rabbit Pie and Chardonnay – match made in heaven guys!
Steak Tartare at Sittela - The Nest Rabbit & Mushroom Pie - The Nest at Sittella WinerySittella Reserve 2016 Margaret River Chardonnay

Red Wine Flight

I go to Sittella for their bubbles, but I always find a red that I fall head over heels for. These guys are definitely a red producer to watch. Our line-up included 2016 Tinta Rouge SGT (Shiraz, Grenache, Tempranillo blend), the 2014 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (set to be released next month, and as Yuri pointed out – 2014 was a great vintage for MR Cabs) and the Avant-Garde 2016 Tempranillo which I couldn’t resist buying a bottle for $38 – oh my, it’s heaven! These beauties were matched with:

  • Confit Lamb Shoulder
  • Potato & Feta Pie with Garden Peas & Mint Jus
  • Braised Oxtail Pie with Roasted Baby Carrots

Asking for a favourite on this plate is near on ridiculous! Check out how tasty it looked on my Instagram post here.

To end the morning (yes it was still the morning after all of this!) we tried the 2014 Coffee Rock Shiraz and the 2014 Margaret River Berns Reserve (Cab Sauv with a nip of Malbec & Petit Verdot in). Pheeww what a morning!
Bubbles and White Wines from Sittella Sittela Red Wines

The wines, the food and the experience blew my mind. I can’t wait to visit Sittella again with my beloved Mr. Spittoon! With the recent flooding and loss of fruit in the Swan Valley, it’s more important than ever for all you guys in Perth to get out here (it’s only 30 mins from the city) and support the local businesses like Sittella. And honestly, how hard is it to spend a day eating good food and wine I ask?

Tasting notes on Sittella Wines I have tried recently:

Sittella Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine:

This Blanc de Blancs is a stunner. I picked it up from the Chateau Guildford Cellarbrations for about $28. Blanc de Blancs is made only from white grapes and in traditional fashion this one is made from Chardonnay. The grapes come from the cooler climate region of Pemberton down in southern WA. Crystal pale yellow colour in the glass with plentiful dainty bubbles gliding up from the bottom of the glass. On the nose I pick up a mixture of hay, pear and sweet floral perfume. In the mouth it’s super smooth with the most gorgeous nearly foamy bubbly mouthfeel. It’s elegant with a fresh creaminess to it. Highly thirst quenching and enjoyable – just add oysters. All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective, so make sure you drink what you enjoy! 

Sittella 2012 Marie Christien Lugten Sparkling Wine:

I recently checked out The Nest at @sittella with the lovely @waexplorer. The Nest is a newish extension to Sittella with a wine bar/cafe vibe (open for breakfast and lunch). The lovely Sharon introduced us to this very special bottle of bubbles which recently was awarded The Best Bubbles in the West from Ray Jordan! $38 per bottle.

I have to admit it was pretty tasty! In the glass it’s a yellow shade with a subtle peach tinge. Gorgeously aromatic – floral mixed with stone fruits and vanilla – can this be made into a perfume guys? Smooth on the palate with flavours of lemon curd, vanilla spiced nectarines and a long shortbread infused finish. I could see this bubbles teaming up quite nicely with our Christmas Day BBQ breakfast on the patio!

All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective, so make sure you drink what you enjoy!

Sittella 2016 White Silk:

If you haven’t seen my latest post on the blog, I went on a blogger famil at @sittellawinery in the Swan Valley on the weekend and they were kind enough to gift us a bottle of the soon to be released 2016 White Silk. It’s a blend of Verdelho (38%), Chardonnay (33%) and Chenin Blanc (29%) from their lower Swan property.

When winemakers create a blended wine they choose grapes that will all add a specific component to the final wine, whether that’s colour, aromatics, texture etc. In this case the Verdelho is for the fruit character, the Chardonnay for texture and length (with this part fermented in seasoned oak barrels) and finally the Chenin for silkiness and freshness ?

It’s a lemon shade on the eye with a very slight greenness to it. On the schnoz I pick up fresh guava, citrus and perfectly ripe red apples. In the mouth it’s mouth-wateringly juicy and oh so easy drinking with stonefruit and citrus dominating the flavours. I guess you could say this wine is ‘smooth as silk’ + apparently it’ll age for a very long time due to its low phenolic content.

All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective, so make sure you drink what you enjoy!

10 thoughts on “Sittella Winery – Behind the Scenes of the 2017 Harvest

  1. So glad you left with a bottle of their Tempranillo! I was going to ask how that was when you said they grew it but then you answered my question :). And what food pairings! This sounds like a wonderful experience, made me jealous!


  2. Hi Robin, thanks for popping by! Sparkling wines made in the cremant style means they are less-bubbly basically – they have more gentle bubbles. You’re also correct that they are made by méthode champenoise, made outside of Champagne and can be made with other grape varietals. I hope that answers your question and yes this would be the perfect style for Oscar night! Enjoy :)

  3. My mouth was watering at those pairings! I love a good flight and pairing.
    Question, when you mention the Cremant style, that’s Champagne style with a grape that is not from Champagne right? So little bubbles, fermented in bottle not tank? I like little bubbles that’s for sure…and I’m searching for something of that style for tomorrow night (Oscar night you know…although I’m like you I like bubbles and don’t need much of an excuse to drink them!)

  4. Haha the count down is on Michelle! Perhaps you should have a bottle of Sittella bubbles ready to celebrate once you can enjoy vino again ;)

Grab a glass of wine and let me know what you think...