How To Spend A Day In The Ferguson Valley Wine Region

Happy Birthday To Me

I recently celebrated a 30-something birthday and my birth date can be both a blessing and a curse.

  • Blessing: My birthday is held over the Australia Day long weekend and I am always guaranteed a ‘recovery’ day.
  • Curse: It can be really difficult to try and get friends together, as it is a good time to go away. And this year was a three-day long weekend.

bryce and naomi at bushshack brewery sitting at a table drinking small beers Continue reading

Wine & Chocolate Master Class in the Swan Valley, Perth

Coward and Black wines and Margaret River chocolate tasting at Providore in Swan Valley PerthWine, chocolate, chocolate liqueur.. does life get any better? The master classes are at 11.30am every Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment at Providore (5123 West Swan Road) in the Swan Valley you can participate in a wine and chocolate master class for $30pp. You’ll try 4 chocolate liqueurs, 6 wines and 9 chocolates PLUS you will get a bottle of your favourite chocolate liqueur to take home. At $30pp this is an absolute bargain!!

Coward & Black Vineyards along with their sister company, the Margaret River Chocolate Company are the fantastically tasty companies behind this incredible 30 minutes of your life. Not only do you get to eat and drink your way to pure happiness but I have to admit I walked away with a lot of new knowledge on all things chocolate.

A friend and I decided to book in for the class on a Monday to avoid the masses and luck was on our side as we were the only 2 participating on this particular day. Unfortunately there was a mix up in their system with our booking and as a result they weren’t set up for us however they shouted us a complimentary coffee at The Margaret River Chocolate company while we waited for them to set up. Free coffee is always a good thing in my books!
Margaret River Chocolate Company truffles wine tasting Swan Valley

Matthew the half Aussie half American manager of Providore took us through the tasting. I was shocked to see how much was included in the tasting, I was expecting a handful of chocolate and a couple of wines, but no make that 10 items to sip and 9 chocolates to melt in your mouth. I actually had to get a little bag to put half my choccies in as I couldn’t get through them all.

We started with the 4 chocolate liqueurs; the original, hazelnut, macciato and the mint chocolate liqueurs. ABSOLUTELY DIVINE! Each one was so chocolatey and divine I knew the decision of choosing my favourite was going to be a tough choice. The difference with these chocolate liqueurs is that the chocolate is in your face and the alcohol hits you at the end. In the end I choose the macciato to take home as Matthew told us it’s fantastic to go in your homemade espresso martinis! Check out their favourite espresso martini recipe below.

Next up we learnt about the international cacao and tasted our way through them as Matthew explained to us the all important ‘pop’ with chocolate (I won’t spill all the secrets!).

After tasting the buttons, we moved onto the 6 wines from Coward & Black and the chocolate and truffles suggested to match these. What I found very interesting and never spotted on the Coward & Black labels before is that the clouds are in the shape of England and Western Australia – a homage to the owner’s heritage. From the Cabernet Sauvignon through to the Chenin Blanc and white chocolate through to salty caramel truffles and dark chocolate lemon truffles I was in heaven.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the chocolates and wines were all matched really well. Who would have thought white wine and chocolate would work so well! My favourites had to be the Chenin Blanc & lemon truffle and the Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc blend with the salty caramel truffle. YUM!

The only downside about this wine & chocolate master class in the Swan Valley is that there are no seats, you have to stand up and let me tell you that the immense pleasure in your mouth will have you week at the knees after each and every sip and nibble!

This has to be one of my favourite wine and food experiences in the Swan Valley, it is great value, tons of fun and  truly delicious. Sorry diet, you loose!

To book in for a Wine & Chocolate master class please click here.

WA Qantas Wine Awards 2013

The Qantas Wine Awards are Western Australia’s most prestigious wine show which has been running since 1978. I was completely blown away to be invited along by the lovely team at Evans & Tate to the Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Perth.

The night was full of glitter and glam as the winners of the each categoray were announced. In between the announcements and entertainment we were served up some absolutely delectable morsels of food, which were paired with the top wine of each category.

It was an amazing experience for both Mr. Spittoon and myself to attend as guests and mingle with WA’s elite winemakers and sip on the best drops in the state. Plus I have to admit it was pretty cool to be sitting at the table of the winery that won 7 out of the 19 awards. The 7 awards won by Evans & Tate (E&T) included the prestigious trophy for Most Successful Exhibitor as well as the Highest Aggregate for a Winery. Well-done Matt Byrne and the E&T winemaking team.

It’s safe to say I will be stashing away a few bottles of the E&T 2010 Redbrook Chardonnay (which won Best White Wine and Best Chardonnay) and the 2011 Redbrook Shiraz (which won the Best Wine of the Show, Best Red Wine and Best Shiraz) when it is released in April 2014. Check out Evans & Tate blog post on the awards night here.

Another fantastic result was seeing Mandoon Estate from the Swan Valley pick up three trophies for; Most Successful Exhibitor Processing under 250 Tonnes, Best & Most Distinctive Character for their 2012 Cabernet Merlot and Best Red Blend also for their 2012 Cab Merlot. Well-done Mandoon!!

Click here for a full list of the 2013 trophy winners.

IMG_4180_2The food was definitely worthy of the award winning wines with the main dish being slow-roasted Liveringa Beef rib, white soft polenta, Manjimup truffle oil, braised leeks, sautéed cavolo nero, vine ripened tomato, glazed baby carrot and red wine jus and dessert was a rhubarb and Valrhona chocolate delice, hazelnut biscotti, symphony of tomato and raspberry. Click the image on the right to see a larger version of the menu.

It was an amazing night and it was so great to get to known the E&T team who are just so much fun and down to earth. Definitely no wine snobbery there, they simply love to make great wine and share it with everyone.

Well done to all the award winners and wines entered. I feel truly lucky to be living in a state with so many fantastic wines and wino people! For more photos from the night, check out my WA Qantas Wine Awards Facebook album here.

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Core Cider House – Perth Hills

I needed a break from wine. I bet you never thought you would read those words from me. You may have read my post about my parents visit a few weeks ago when we went on a massive tasting journey throughout the Swan Valley and Perth Hills. After 16 wineries we decided to mix it up a bit which led us to Core Cider House in the Perth Hills.

I had heard a lot about this wee spot however I tend to find a lot of cider far too sweet for my liking so I always get distracted by visiting the wineries instead. Since my Mum is a fan of cider and well the boys are up for anything you can gulp down I decided brunch at Core was to be done!

This out of the way spot in the Perth Hills is only a 30-minute drive from Perth city, you will instantly feel like you are on holiday. Those rolling hills covered in sweeping orchards and cherry blossoms are just the perfect spot for a wee cider or two. It truly is idyllic and every time I go up into the Perth Hills I am ever so slowly building my dream home in my mind somewhere up there.

It was long weekend when we visited Core and thankfully we showed up just as they opened and an hour or so before the lunch rush which they were completely booked out for (I would suggest making a reservation!). We sat on the lovely veranda overlooking the orchards, 10:30am seems accepted for cider tasting doesn’t it? It was a touch chilly, as Perth was protesting against Spring with all the rain however thank-fully our lovely server set up a heater and offered us blankets to keep cosy.

There is plenty of outdoor downstairs seating, so I could image Core absolutely goes off during the summer months. Perfect spot for a Sunday session.

Naturally we all had to go for the tasting plate which included a very generous sample of 5 ciders; Sparkling Lemon – ’PITH’D’ (4.5% a/v) Sparkling Pear – Peace CORE (3.5% a/v) Sparkling Apple – CORE Meltdown (5% a/v) Traditional Apple & Pear – CORE Reactor (6.5% a/v) Traditional Apple – Hard CORE (7.4% a/v).

The consensus from our group was that overall they were all very good and not horribly sweet bottle shop ciders at all. The sparkling’s were definitely preferred over the tradition ciders and the unanimous winning brew was the Pith’d Sparkling Lemon – absolutely divine, I could definitely put back a few of those on a summers day.

The menu consists of meals as well as shared plates which is what we went for. I love this style of eating as you get to try a bit of everything! We decided to keep it light and easy and went for the below between 4 people:

  • Warm Brie: Thyme & garlic infused brie served warm with CORE Cab/Sauv sultanas, Candied walnuts & Turkish bread for $20
  • Ciderman’s Taster: Ciderman John’s favourite: Cave Aged cheddar, caper & and green peppercorn salsa, half semi dried tomato’s, WA air dried Brescola, shaved champagne ham, mild salami slices, pickled cucumber ,warmed parmesan flat bread, croutons for $32.50

We were 110% happy with the food. It tasted absolutely palate-blowing and the presentation was just beautiful. That creamy warm brie and the candied walnuts were a taste memory that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. And the tomato’s filled with the caper and green peppercorn salsa with the flat bread… YUM! For a light brunch for 4 people it was exactly the right amount.

Core Cider House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato You know a place is good when everyone cannot stop talking about it when you get back into the car. I am really looking forward to going back to Core sometime soon and tasting through more of the tasty morsels on offers as well as giving the Quince Sparkling Wine a go!

For more information please check out the Core Cider House website and the Core Cider House Facebook page.

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My top 10 wine festival essentials

Sunset Wine 2014 festival Perth in Scarborough

Being a seasoned wine festival goer I have picked up on some handy tips and tricks along the way to make sure a day out at a wine festival is fantastic (and that I can still stand at the end of it!). Here’s my guide to surviving and wine festival:

  1. Water! It goes without saying really. But if you’re drinking alcohol then you MUST drink water otherwise you won’t know your mouth from your lovely white shirt which is now covered in red wine (not a good look!). All good festivals will have water stations however I do normally take a bottle with me to refill when needed.
  2. Eat! Again another relatively common-sense essential. Eat a nice big filling meal before the event and make sure you graze throughout the day as it’ll help soak up all that delicious wine nectar!
  3. Dress for comfort! Comfy shoes are a must as you will spend a lot of time on your feet. If it is an outside festival in summer make sure you have the essential sun protectors; hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Don’t bank on there being shade everywhere.
  4. Wine glass neck holder! You’ll never forget your glass again and you’ll be able to free your hands to instagram, tweet, facebook, take photos or whatever floats your boat.
  5. Utilise the “Notes” function and camera on your phone! If you like a wine, write it down! I hate those stories about trying the most amazing wine ever, and then they can’t remember what exactly that wine was!
  6. A designated driver or plan to take public transport! This is essential, drink driving is in no way cool. Actually it makes you a complete ******. Entice someone to be a sober driver, take public transport or a taxi – it’s that easy.
  7. Have a plan of attack! I always have a list of my ‘must-visits’ which I go to first and then proceed to visit the others. I also double check timings of demonstrations and seminars beforehand so I know where to be at what time.
  8. Spit! It’s not rude, trust me – nor will the exhibitors be offended if you spit or throw out some of your wine. The tastings may seem small, but they do add up much quicker than you realise. I am not saying spit everything, find a happy balance and try match all wine consumed with the amount of water you consume – or even better drink more water!
  9. Be inquisitive! If you want to learn about wine in general or about a particular exhibitors range, just ask. Wine should not be looked at as a snobby topic, it’s fun and by goodness it is truly enjoyable. I have asked many questions in my time and that’s possibly one of the reasons my wine knowledge is just growing and growing!
  10. And my all-time can’t live without’ essential – a pull along bag or someone with strong arms. This is where I have the lovely Mr. Spittoon – without him I wouldn’t nearly be able to spoil myself (and him!) with so many goodies to take home.

Hopefully the above list will be a good start in preparing you for an amazing day of drinking and eating (uhhh.. it’s the good life!). If you are keen to follow my wine festival experience make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates. Cheers everyone! If you live in Western Australia, there are plenty of fab wine festivals to attend, here’s a taste: