The more ‘off the grid’ a winery is, the more it seems to entice me. And it’s these wineries which I hesitate blogging about or putting on social media because I really do want to keep them all to myself – no one likes to battle a crowd at their favourite winery right?! In this case, as YOU are a loyal TC reader I am going to share this little Geographe wine region secret with you…
I’ve met Cathy Howard before in Perth and exchanged a few emails as she wrote the lovely guest post for us on how important wine dogs are to a winemaker (which you must read right after this post!). Visiting Cathy’s winery, Whicher Ridge Wines has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for sometime as I’d heard very good things about her single varietal wines and of course the ‘Wine Sensory Garden’ that husband & wife team, Neil & Cathy, have created.
As I was taking my parents on their first ever visit to Margaret River, I thought a few winery stops in the Geographe region on our way down would be the perfect start to the trip. And I have to admit it was definitely one of the wineries which has been mentioned over and over again as a highlight. Even Mr. Spittoon, our lovely skipper for the trip enjoyed the stop into Whicher Ridge.
The winery/vineyard is tucked away in what feels like the back blocks of the Geographe, but it is most definitely worth getting off the highway and onto the back roads to immerse yourself in the serenity of Chapman Hill. Huge open paddocks, kangaroos popping up and down, sheep, cows – and basically all the farm-y-ness you could want.
When you drive into Whicher Ridge, a lot of the murmurs in our car were ‘but where are the grapes?’. Until you park up and wander past the huge sheds full of winery equipment you don’t see the lines of vines. But when you do, well it is a spectacular site!
It was also lovely to be greeted by the very energetic wine dog Polly, the dedicated rabbit hunter.
We began our visit by checking out the vineyard and Cathy talked us through all the in’s and out’s of what’s what. What I loved, and my parents loved was that you could tell Cathy is super knowledgeable on all things wine, yet she spoke about it so simply and easy to understand. She’s absolutely down-to-earth and I’m pretty sure we all learnt something new.
The Cellar Door
The cellar door which overlooks the vineyard is stunning. It was created by the hands of Cathy & Neil and it looks simply classy! I loved the use of colorbond, wood and the one-of-a-kind pieces of ‘straight from Paris’ antique furniture. The plant sprigs in little wine tasting glasses up against the window gave us a nice little introduction to what was to come in the Wine Sensory Garden.
Naturally we had to try our way through the entire tasting list. It would be rude not to right?
Between the Sparkling Red, Riesling, Sauv Blanc, Vioginer, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cab – we were one happy group. Honestly these pours were all top quality, so much so that we were basically all licking our glasses. I was particularly impressed with the Sauv Blanc and of course the Chardonnay which is no surprise. Dad managed to talk Mum into buying a bottle each of the reds to take back to New Zealand. And I spent the rest of the trip trying to convince him to open them while they were here.
The Wine Sensory Garden
After enjoying our tasting in the lovely air-conned tasting room we ventured outside to the garden. What an awesome, innovative and creative idea!
For those learning about wine, visiting the Wine Sensory Garden really will help you think about what’s in that wine glass in front of you and what types of foods and flavours you could match with it. Of course, Cathy pointed out that obviously the plants she has planted for each variety is of her opinion and you may think differently – but as we know, that’s the fun in wine! Life would be a bit boring if we all had the same taste buds!
Not being a green-thumb myself, but trying to grow various plants countless amounts of times in my lifetime, only for them to wither away, I was so impressed at all the hard work that’s gone into the garden. There is a dedicated map so you can work out what’s what and I have to admit it was interesting having a good whiff of a few of the plants. Both my mum and I were conjuring up various potential menus to go with each of the wines we’d tried.
The garden is laid out with the ‘descriptor’ garden beds around the outside with herb, fruit and vegetable plants which help describe the aromas and flavours of each of the specific varietal wines Whicher Ridge makes. In the centre of the garden opposite each of the descriptor gardens is the ‘affinity’ garden beds which have a range of plants which flavours compliment or have an affinity for that wine. You can read more about the wine sensory garden here and check out the pictures below.
Visiting Cathy at Whicher Ridge Wines really emphasised why I love the wine world so much. Seeing her passion in what she does and that she wants to help educate people on her world is amazing. I know for my parents and myself, this visit will always be the one that sticks out in our memories when we think about our trip south. And I will most definitely be carefully considering my food choices when we open the bottles we bought and looking back to those plants in that specific varietal’s garden bed!
Find out more about Whicher Ridge Wines:
Address: 200 Chapman Hill E Rd, Chapman Hill WA 6280
Phone: (08) 9753 1394
Opening times: 10am-5pm Thursday-Monday, closed Tues & Weds
Wine Styles/Grape Varieties: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Shiraz & Cabernet
Wine tasting cost: Free!