A third-generation Croatian-Australian winemaker, James Talijancich
From the Advertiser, a newspaper from Australia. John P. Kraljic, Esq.
Swanning around the valley
By CHRIS HERDE
IN THE Swan Valley on the outskirts of Perth, they love their tourists - enough to place signs everywhere warning them to be careful. We find this out at the start of a day in the valley drinking and eating to excess.
A sign on the steering-wheel cover on our hired Tarago says it all: "Beware. Western Australian roads can kill and injure tourist drivers! Please remember Australia cares about your safety". Duly noted. Thankfully our driver promises not a drop will pass her lips.
The wonderful thing about the Swan Valley is you don't have to drive too far to see it all.
There is plenty to experience on the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail. This 32km loop encompasses more than 80 restaurants, wineries and breweries as well as over 50 fresh produce stores - not to mention cheese and chocolate factories and other gastronomic delights. In keeping with the Swan Valley's most famous export, our first visit is to the Talijancich Winery. A third-generation winemaker, James Talijancich tends the vines his grandfather planted after arriving from Croatia in the 1930s. Despite their award-winning success, the winery looks like the family operation it is, with whitewashed walls and an old dog greeting us when we arrive for some tasting. James has seen many changes in the Swan Valley but most of all is the surge in popularity of the region.
"The Swan Valley was left behind when Margaret River took off 25 years ago but we've come back with premium table wines," he says.
The Talijancich Winery is an innovator, having promoted the verdelho grape which has filled a vital niche market for the valley, producing a full-bodied white table or fortified wine. The valley's expertise in growing the grape is such that the Novotel Vines Resort hosts an annual international verdelho conference. After considerable time tasting, we venture to Merrich Estate Olive Farm for lunch.
Shirley and Saki Richardson bought the property seven years ago after arriving from South Africa, and planted 600 olive trees.
As well as making an award-winning extra virgin olive oil, they also have the excellent Mediterranean Kitchen. Chef Christian Montagne provides a menu, blessed with lashings of olive oil and based on Moroccan, Turkish, Egyptian, French and Italian cuisine.
Our next stop - the Margaret River Chocolate Factory in the heart of the Swan Valley - is more a case of looking but no tasting.
We then travel to the Feral Brewery, which bills itself as "undomesticated but sophisticated". It is not your normal country pub. Visitors can see the workings of a modern microbrewery, producing an adventurous range of speciality beers including exotic draughts such as pumpkin and strawberry porta beers.
I decide upon the Organic Pilsner - definitely a taste you could get used to. For details on the Swan Valley, phone the Swan Valley and Eastern Region Visitor Centre, (08) 9379 9400.
The author was a guest of Novotel and Virgin Blue.