‘Wherever wine is made, you’re likely to find a loyal canine snoozing in the cellar or roaming the vineyard …celebrate the working (and relaxing) dog in the wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms’
-Wine Dogs 2019
It’s a thing, almost every family winery has a dog or two hanging around the cellar door or vineyard.
I’ve been thinking about it and I reckon its because every vigneron (the technical name for a grape grower and winemaker) spends a lot of time on their own, particularly during the growing season.
In winter Derek and our winery dog, Indi ,spend two and a half months hand pruning the vineyard. It can be a race to get this done before the buds start to burst in early September.
All through Spring the two of them are flat out in the vineyard monitoring and managing the growth of the vines, their canopy, flowering and the fruit.
You will find Indi literally flat out- sleeping at our entrance. (except for lunch time when she’s back at Cellar Door waiting for pats and hoping for treats!) Indi has a huge instagram following, there are more pictures of her on our instgram page than wine! Next time you are here, get a selfie with Indi and post to our page so we can share.
At lunch time you will find Indi watching our diners on the deck enjoying a fabulous lunch with stunning views. She is hoping there is a morsel for her...dont fall for those pleading eyes!
Important Note: Please do NOT feed winery dogs, all and any of them, our dog is a Golden Retriever she’s an absolute greedy guts- she’ll eat everything. She is literally a walking stomach! I promise I feed my dog, and anything that you give her is extra, and is just making her fat, which is already affecting her knees and hips.
We all love dogs at Upper Reach and your fur baby is welcome to visit, however as this is a public space there are a few reminders:
Dogs are welcome on lead
Please don’t allow your dog to bark, so that everyone can relax
Dogs may not enter the Restaurant
Obviously please pick up their poo, but if you could take it away with you that would be much appreciated (apparently in Canada you have to empty dog poo down the loo and flush it away before putting the bag in the bin!)
Lunch or Breakfast with your dog:
If you’d like to have a meal accompanied by your dog, RiverBrook Restaurant will do their best to look after you. You and your fur baby can sit on the Lawn Terrace under the pergola, however food service there is always at the Restaurant’s discretion, if they are super busy they may not be able to look after you outside of the restaurant. I’d suggest getting here at 12 and getting your order in early, as peak time is 1-2pm, so give yourself the best chance.
Nearby Walks with your Dog:
Bells Rapids close by is a fabulous walk for you and your dog is welcome there too. There are a variety of walks of differing lengths, from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours long. There is a three hour walk, which I’ve never done. We also have a lovely walk here at Upper Reach going through the vineyard and down along the Swan River Bank.
Apparently behind every great winemaker sits a loyal, taste-testing, crumb removal, grape testing, lawn-watering pooch. These gorgeous dogs are the real palate-power behind the skilled business of making wine.
Let’s face it, we all find walking in to a winery for wine tasting a little daunting. I sometimes feel the same, and I work in a winery! Will I be judged? Will they think I don’t know about wines? What do I ask for/ how do the wine tastings go?
Here are some things you should know before you head off to your local wine region this weekend.
Tip number 1: The tasting notes
The winery will usually put the wine tasting list in “tasting order”- from top to bottom.
Driest white wines at the top, sweetest white wines at the bottom for the whites…. Lightest/softest reds at the top to more full-bodied red wines at the bottom, for reds list.
So, if you are in doubt over where to start on the list, start at the top and work towards the bottom.
If you know you only like sweet wines, or a certain type of wine, say a full bodied red, ask for them. Cellar door staff are happy to show you around the wine list. You do not have to try all of the wines. Especially if the winery has an extensive tasting list.
Tip number 2: Have a conversation.
There is nothing more awkward than silence while watching someone struggle with a wine list. It is ok to say, look, I like sweet wines, or dry whites, or I usually drink Sauv Blanc- what do you suggest? Actually, we love that! It also helps us get a feel for what you like, so we can make some suggestions for you to try.
Chat about the wine you like, the food you like with your wines, even if you just like a “drink now” style wine for under the pergola, tell us.
A tasting at cellar door should always be a conversation, never done in awkward silence. We aren’t going to quiz your wine knowledge. Good conversation and wine go together like…well, good conversation and wine!
Tell the cellar door staff what you usually like to drink and be guided by them….you might stumble across a variety or style you would not have otherwise tried that you love. That’s what wine tasting is all about.
Handy tip: we love a good chat about the footy and cricket too if you are not THAT into wine!
Tip number 3: Tasting fees
Some wineries charge a tasting fee. So be prepared. Some producers will charge a one-off tasting fee to taste all wines. Others may charge for only the premium wines on the tasting list, if you choose to try them. Sometimes the tasting fees are waived if wine is purchased. There should be no expectation that wine tasting is free.
Tip number 4: The Spittoon
The dreaded spittoon….so scary sitting on the counter for the novice…. can I really spit out the wine? Can I pour wine into it? What’s it for?
The spittoon is there for those that do not want to swallow the wines, just sip, get the flavour of the wines then spit it out (they might be driving). This is perfectly fine etiquette. But that is not its only function.
You might have tasted a wine that’s not your favourite and decide not to finish the sample, it is perfectly fine to tip the rest out into the spittoon.
Rinsing the glass with water between tastings is common (but not essential) you can either drink the water to cleanse your pallet or tip the water into the spittoon. I personally only rinse my glass after the white wines going onto the reds or before going on to dessert wines. I don’t rinse after each sample.
The big no no: What is not ok is putting your chewing gum into the spittoon. That’s gross. Don’t do it. Ever.
So there you have it… walk into your next cellar door with confidence! When was the last time you visited the Swan Valley Wineries? Now is the perfect time to get out and see some terrific local producers and make a day of it.
Have we whet your appetite? Would you like to REALLY learn about wine? We have terrific beginner "Wine 101 "wine classes in Perth ( Swan valley) that are fun, friendly and we will start you at the very beginning and show you how to taste and appreciate wine like a pro.
We wont leave you there…Wine 102 , the next step of your wine journey. Take an educational winery and vineyard tour where we show you have we grow the grapes and make the wine. Learn the winemaking process from grape to glass!
We will have you being that very annoying friend that "talks wine at you" in no time!
A Wine Appreciation Class | A terrific way for them to get a true understanding of wine and wine styles. Perfect for beginners and wine lovers alike.
A formal seated tasting experience, in the back of the working winery surrounded by tanks, barrels and winemaking equipment with a friendly casual vibe.
Learn about the difference between sweet/dry, what oak does to a wine and aged wines. You will get a very good understanding of the basics and be tasting like a pro in no time. There will be wine tasting throughout the class, so you can put your new knowledge into action. Vouchers available via 101 link below.
Wine 101 $45pp | Wine 101 & Lunch $95pp
A Winery Tour | An all-inclusive tour experience is the perfect way to explore a boutique winery to get a real understanding of what it is like to grow grapes and how we make our wine.
Walk through the vineyard, discovering the grape varieties that make the region so special then tour the working winery, wine tasting as they go while we explaining the whole winemaking process. Sample the wines directly from tank or barrels, just like the winemaker.
Winery Tour & Tasting $40pp | Winery Tour, Tasting & Lunch $95pp
Get them their very own vineyard for the night | Treat them to a break in our vineyard Spa cottage. Our historic cottage is the original workers cottage built in 1907.
The cottage has a stunning views from the deck overlooking our vineyard. Settle down for the afternoon with a glass of wine, a platter, or BBQ on the rear deck and watch the most amazing sunset over the vines. Walk the vineyard trail down to the Swan River, there is only one cottage so they will have the whole vineyard to themselves.
Weekday 2 Night Stay $398 | Weekend 2 Night Stay $598
Upper Reach Gift Cards | What better gift to give a wine enthusist but wine?!? Great gift idea for the last minute gift.
Instant gift cards available $50 $100 $250
These gift cards can be used for our winery tours, wine classes, cottage stays, and of course Wine! Perfect if you are a little unsure what wine styles they like (we can be a little snobby, us wine folk, when it comes to personal preference)
Value 6 packs | These great value 6 packs can be ordered online with your personal message included in the box and shipped to the recipients home or office anywhere in Australia. There are 4 value packs to choose from, so you can be sure to find the perfect bundle at a really great price!
Winter has passed for another year! If like us, you've had enough of hearty soups, slow-cooked casseroles, and stodgy puddings, it's time to celebrate Spring which calls for a juicy, tender Spring lamb dish washed down with a smooth and silky Cabernet Sauvignon. A carefully aged Cabernet is a perfect match for lamb.
The Swan Valley produce a terrific fruit driven style of cabernet - it's a softer, less astringent style to its Margaret River counterpart. This makes a Swan Valley Cabernet more accessable as a younger wine with the trademark minty/ eucalypt nose. With age Swan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows softer, dusty tanin which is mellow and ready to drink this Spring.
So, what exactly is Spring Lamb and why do we love it so much? Here's what our Aussie butchers have to say about why it's so good.....
"The reason we have come to associate Spring with lamb season is that this is when lambs are most plentiful and consequently cheapest in Australia.
Most of the lamb in Australia is produced in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia where rainfall and grass growth is highest in Spring. Farmers take advantage of this by having more stock on the ground during this time. As such a typical Spring lamb is birthed in Autumn and sold between September and November when it is between 50- 60 kg in weight.
Contrary to popular belief Spring lamb is not exclusively milk fed, milk fed lambs are called sucker lambs. Because lambs are able to graze on lush grasses they take up nutrients from these such as Omega 3 and 6 making Spring lamb a healthy family choice. As the lambs have not reached full maturity the meat is much leaner and tender while also having a deliciously mild flavour".
So it's official! Spring lamb is best and we've put together one of our favourite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Ottolenghi" for you to try at home. All you need is a sharp knife, a bottle of the Upper Reach 2010 Cabernet (pour a glass to steady your hand) and a group of friends to share it with.....
Photo courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Ottolenghi"
This list was created for those with a day or two to spend in the Swan Valley or those with overseas visitors that want to get the most out of a day. In the Swan Valley you can check off those big ticket items, Koala's and Kangaroo's, as well as a world-class wine region, breweries and fresh local produce.
So here we go, our Top Things to do in the Swan Valley, written by a local who knows!
www.thehouseofhoney.com.au Phone: 08 9296 3635
www.supagolf.com/courses-2/swan-valley Phone 08 9296 5566
www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com 0424 209 730
www.cavershamwildlife.com.au 08 9248 1984
Phone 08 9250 1588
Sample the wines directly from tank or barrels, like the winemaker.
Enjoy a relaxed 2-course lunch with sweeping views of the vineyard; one of chef’s fabulous shared platters (your choice of 3) and a seasonal dessert, tea and coffee.
Finish up with a tasting of Tawny and Muscat dessert wines at Cellar Door and some shopping. The cellar door is full of locally made produce, honey, truffles and preserves which make perfect gifts.
WINERY TOUR AWARDS:
Gourmet Traveller: Wine | Best Additional Experience Swan Valley 2018
Lux Magazine: Food & Wine Awards | Best Wine Tasting Experience 2018 Perth
There is so much to see and do in the Swan Valley- one day is not enough...we recommend at least an overnight stay at Upper Reach Spa Cottage to really make the most of your visit. We look forward to welcoming you to the Swan Valley!
Have you ever been confused about which wine should go with which food? It can be pretty daunting when you don't know the rules. But here's the rub....there are no rules!! The only rules we know of are to have fun with it, don't take it too seriously and enjoy experimenting.
Here are some tips we've come up with to get you started, however, pairing wine with food is a very personal thing and if you have a favourite combination, then stick with it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
So, settle in with a glass of wine and let's get the ball rolling with The Upper Reach Beginner's Guide to Food & Wine Pairing :
Rule #1 - As we pointed out in our intro, there are no rules. Be brave, try anything and enjoy the process!
Rule # 2 - When in doubt, Sparkling wine goes with everything. Try it with popcorn, fish & chips at the beach, Thai curries, roast chicken and anything salty. It's traditionally superb with seafood but is also bosom buddies with fruits, nuts and most meats. Pairing your favourite Sparkling (which would have to be a Sparkling Chardonnay) with a freshly-baked loaf of bread will enhance the delicious yeasty, bread-like aroma which comes from the secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Rule # 3 - Acidic foods are great with light-bodied young whites. Salad dressings, tomatoes, citrusy sauces – these things can overwhelm or dull a lot of wines. Light, tangy whites handle it best. Sauv blanc is a good bet, but the Upper Reach 2018 Verdelho is even better. A dry verdelho is such a terrific food wine, it goes with anything from fresh seafood to a pork belly.
Rule # 4 - Yes, you can pair red wine with white meat and vice versa. Pinot Noir is great with roast turkey, salmon and other fatty fish. White wine with red meat is a bit more of a challenge, but aged white wines (and we have a few in our Museum Cellar) - or Sparkling wines - can hold their own with a steak or a leg of lamb. The rule of thumb here is "red meat, red wine; white meat, white wine" but as we pointed out right at the beginning, this rule can be defied any time you like!
Rule # 5 - With spicy foods, some residual sugar is your friend. The cuisines of Thailand, India, & Mexico, for example, use lots and lots of chilli peppers in their food and breaking open your best Cabernet Sauvignon is NOT going to do your burning taste buds any favours! Aromatic and slightly sweet whites and pinks will balance highly-spiced foods best. We love drinking our Black Bream White and Black Bream Pink with our favourite Thai food. Give it a try - we can certainly vouch for it!
Rule # 6 - Tannins need fat! If you're a steak lover, this is the bit you've been waiting for. But before we start cranking up the barbie, a very valid question is "what IS a tannin"? It’s the astringent component in red wine that gives it structure. This needs fat for balance, fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold, beautiful red like the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice fatty piece of Prime Rib. Salivating already? Order the wine and then call your local butcher!
Rule # 7 - Your very own quirky, personal preferences rule the rules. And, as we mentioned in Rule # 2, when in doubt go for bubbles. You don't need a PhD, all you need is a few bottles in your cellar to get you started, somebody to cook for you and a few friends to pat you on the back when you tell them you've completed the Upper Reach Beginner's Guide to Food & Wine Pairing. Enjoy!
Why buy local, really?
I often hear ‘buy local’ or ‘support local business’ as well as support small business.
I was saddened that Dick Smith has had to close his food business. Apparently the beginning of the end for him was Aldi. He said that ‘I believed Australians would pay more for Australian products, but turns out I was wrong.’
Upper Reach produces handmade estate grown wines from fruit grown on our Swan Valley vineyard and made in our on-site winery. We are passionate about linking the local community with its rich Swan Valley heritage.
When you visit Upper Reach enjoy and experience local produce as a part of the history of this area.
By supporting local Swan Valley producers you are helping to keep a part of the Swan Valley as working vineyards and wineries.
Vineyards are vital to the future of the Swan, adding hugely to the ambiance, atmosphere and feel of the area.
Agriculture is becoming increasingly mechanised. Upper Reach is a labour intensive, hand crafted family owned and operated producer who employs, supports and lives locally.
Upper Reach as a family business is in stark contrast to mass-produced, corporatized wine production of the big, often multi-national wine companies.
Their grapes and bottled wines are transported thousands of kilometres first to the winery and then to market (high food miles and high carbon footprint).
Corporations do not routinely source local products, they tend to source the cheapest inputs using national buying power. Their objective is to make the maximum amount of profit to be returned to shareholders.
Whereas small and family businesses pay full Australian an WA taxes on all their profits, as well as spending locally on all of the inputs required which again supports invests in the local community.
Upper Reach sells local produced food products and support local services. A reliable supplier base is imperative, so what we need is available when we need it.
Similarly we nurture local trades and service people, this critical network of suppliers and relationships are imperative to ensure we can rely on them in an emergency.
People directly employed by small business tend to live in the local community, as do the staff employed by other local businesses that supply products and services.
Possibly the largest benefit to the local community Upper Reach offers, is a peri-urban food bowl 30 minutes from the city.
This gives the people of Perth the opportunity to experience where and how their food & wine is grown and produced. These experiences are vital in developing a mutual sense of connection between city and country, as well as producer and consumer.
There are significant cultural benefits of Upper Reach and its agri-tourism setting, for tourists and local people, in promoting local agriculture, WA’s agricultural past, and the Swan settler heritage (Stirling made camp here on his exploration of the Swan).
I’ll be thinking about this next time I’m in the supermarket, I won’t take their $2 milk, but will choose a West Australian brand. Same with supporting all the small fruit and vegetable shops and stalls and our local butcher, rather than the big supermarkets that I know screw down the farmers on price.