When I think Australian wine, my mind tends to wander to the Hunter Valley or the Margaret River Region. Call me uninformed, but I had no idea that there is an award-winning wine-producing region just 13 kilometers from Perth!
After leaving hot, dry Exmouth, I was ready for a culinary adventure and booked a Swan Valley wine cruise with Gray Line. With the promise of a day of wine, a scenic cruise, and delicious food… how could I say no?
Gray Line partners with Captain Cook Cruises on this tour, so upon check in at the Captain Cook counter at the Barrack Street Jetty, I boarded the boat. Crew members Kira and Colleen welcomed us warmly and Captain Andrew set off on the waters of the Swan River. First things first… The Captain Cook crew served morning tea, with our choice of muffins or cookies. Carb-loading is important for a day of wine tasting… this is a marathon, not a sprint!
As we cruised past some of Perth’s most beautiful homes and landmarks, the lovely Kira explained the day’s itinerary and gave us a quick rundown on the 5 S’s of wine tasting. Do you know them all?
1. Stem- For a white wine, hold the stem to avoid unnecessary heating of the wine.
2. Sight- How does the wine look? Hold red wines at an angle to notice color along the rim.
3. Swirl- Give the wine a swirl to oxidize the wine and release flavor. (Plus, I think this step makes you look like you know what you’re doing.)
4. Sniff- Stick your nose inside the bowl of the glass and breathe in.
5. Sip- Now comes the best part… take a sip!
We tasted a selection of Swan Valley wines of the month along with a cheese board and biscuits from the Blue Cheese Cow Company. The wines we tasted were delicious and completely satisfying, but just as I thought it couldn’t get better, the boat docked at Sandalford Estate.
In 1870, the land was gifted to Sandalford founder John Septimus Roe by Queen Victoria in gratitude for his service as Western Australia‘s first Surveyor General. With this royal history and vines that are over 150 years old, this was sure to be an exciting stop. We watched a behind the scenes video, meeting the team behind the wine at Sandalford and learning about its rich history.
Next up, we were treated to a private tour of the winery. We looked out at the merlot lawns and breathed in the fresh air and lush scenery. Then, we visited inside the winery, checking out the fermentation tanks that hold up to 90,000 liters of wine. That sounds like a party waiting to happen. We visited another room, full of $2.5 million worth of toasted barrels from France, used to age the wine.
All that learning about wine made me thirsty, and lucky for me, we had a 2-course lunch and wine tasting waiting for us at Sandalford Estate’s restaurant. Lunch was served on white tablecloths, adding to the fancy, wine connoisseur feel in the restaurant that is the recipient of nine Golden Plate Awards. Before we could eat, though, we were tasked with choosing our wine to pair with lunch. How would one choose, you might wonder? Sandalford Estates led us through 6 tastings, urging us to make notes and observations about each. It was a tough task… but someone’s got to do it! We made our wine choices, and lunch was served.
After lunch, we had time to explore the gift shop and explore the grounds before boarding the boat again. A 25% discount sweetens the deal. We were met with a dessert spread, coffee and tea to please the palate. Ok, maybe it was designed to soak up a little wine, too. The on-board bar opened for those of us who weren’t done tasting yet, and the mood turned jovial as the glasses filled. Colleen and Kira kept us hydrated and happy and Captain Andrew once again piloted us safely through the waters.
And as if the day hadn’t been a treat in itself, Kira took to the microphone to entertain us with her beautiful voice! She regaled us with jazz and got us dancing with some oldies and before we knew it, we’d docked back at the pier in Perth.
As a visitor to the Perth region, I can’t think of a more perfect way to sample its wine and culture. Have you visited the Swan Valley region?
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Disclaimer: I received this tour free of charge. All opinions are my own, though, and I wouldn’t recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!