The Swan Valley in Western Australia has a colourful European history dating back to 1829. Southern European settlers utilised their winemaking skills to transform traditional agricultural lands into a flourishing wine district that is now Australia’s second oldest, after the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.
The Swan Valley offers visitors a wonderful wine experience. With 890ha of vines and about 40 wineries, this sun-drenched region at the foot of the Darling Scarp is a mere 30-minute drive from the state capital of Perth. The warm Mediterranean climate with cooling afternoon sea breezes and low rainfall are ideal growing conditions for Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho, with an increasing number of Italian varietals too.
Swan Valley: wineries to visit
A group of British Army officers purchased this property in 1836 and created Houghton Wines, signalling the arrival of one of Australia’s oldest and most iconic estates. When Jack Mann later created Houghton White Burgundy in 1937, this catapulted the winery onto the international stage.
By this time, the Yukich family had planted vineyards on the neighbouring property, which was part of the original Houghton estate. In 2019, the Yukich’s acquired the remainder of the heritage-listed Houghton estate, naming it after their grandfather, Nikola.
The oldest vines date back to the 1930s, with some of the fruit still being used in its Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Tempranillo.
The original buildings still exist, and the bright and airy cellar door is perfect for a relaxed wine tasting. Nikola Estate has vineyards in every premium wine region in Western Australia, with winemaker Damian Hutton crafting wines that are expressive of their provenance.
Visitors can sit on manicured lawns under the shady jacaranda trees and enjoy a gourmet platter, along with wines purchased from the cellar door.
- Address: 148 Dale Rd, Middle Swan
- Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-4pm
This winery is firmly entrenched in the roots of the Swan Valley, with its origins coinciding with the settlement of the Perth colony. Its founder, John Septimus Roe, was Western Australia’s first Surveyor General, who utilised his land grant of 1,620ha on the Swan River to establish Sandalford Wines.
It began with small plantings of Shiraz, Verdelho, Cabernet Sauvignon and Frontignac. Today, its Swan Valley and Margaret River vineyards also produce premium Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache and Merlot.
Sandalford has built a reputation as a premium wine producer, creating a vast range to cater to all palates and budgets. This includes its new ‘1840’ range, showcasing fruit from some of the original old vines of that era.
The sleek cellar door has a long bar area for structured wine tastings and there is also a private tasting room available.
- Address: 3210 West Swan Rd, Caversham
- Open: Daily, 10am-5pm
This impressive establishment opened its doors in 2010 and is situated on the historic Roe Family property (see Sandalford Wines, above), with ancient Verdelho vines that date back to the 1840s.
Winemaker Ryan Sudano has been here since the winery’s inception, crafting Chardonnay, Vermentino, a bushvine Grenache and Verdelho produced from vines planted in 1895.
At the modern cellar door, visitors can also try premium wines from its Margaret River and Frankland River vineyards, including highly-acclaimed Cabernets and old-vine Shiraz, as well as experimental small batch wines from the Discovery Series range.
Book a Wine and Food Flight, which includes five wines and canapes. Or delve a little deeper and enjoy a private tasting in the underground cellar, expertly paired with a generous selection of cheeses. Onsite accommodation at The Colony is also recommended.
- Address: 10 Harris Rd, Caversham
- Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm-3pm; Friday to Saturday, 6pm-9pm
John Kosovich Wines
Step back in time at this 100-year-old family property, whose oldest vines were planted by Croatian immigrant Ivan Kosovich 80 years ago.
The winery now has vineyards in Pemberton and other parts of the Swan Valley, planted to Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Ivan’s son, John Kosovich, left school at age 15 to learn the art of winemaking – a role he upheld for 67 vintages. He has since stepped back from day-to-day operations, but his son Arch is now at the helm.
This is an unassuming, boutique winery, recognised as one of Australia’s finest Chenin Blanc producers. Visitors will be charmed by the rustic underground cellar.
- Address: 180 Memorial Ave, Baskerville
- Open: Wednesday to Monday, 10.30am-4.30pm
This winery, on the banks of the Swan River, has undergone a dramatic transformation since its purchase by the Pearse family in 1996.
What was once 10,000 neglected grapevines is now a tightly managed vineyard that produces vibrant, fruit-driven Chardonnay, Grenache, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho and Tempranillo.
Visitors can book a winery and tasting tour, or immerse themselves further in Swan Valley wine styles in a wine appreciation class. Upper Reach also has a small restaurant, offering tasting plates, platters and à la carte dining.
- Address: 77 Memorial Ave, Baskerville
- Open: Daily, 11am-5pm
Swan Valley: where to eat and drink
Wild Swan Restaurant & Homestead Brewery
Part of the historic Mandoon Estate, Wild Swan is a contemporary fine-dining restaurant. The modern Australian à la carte or degustation menus combine traditional techniques with local produce, matched with a finely curated wine collection.
The Homestead Brewery offers a more casual dining experience, complete with live music. Or bring along a picnic blanket and sit on the plush lawns in this quintessentially Australian setting.
- Address: 10 Harris Rd, Caversham
- Open: Lunch on Friday to Sunday, 12pm-3pm. Dinner on Friday and Saturday, from 6pm
This winery was established in 1988 by the Lembo family. Its Mediterranean restaurant provides a taste of Italy, specialising in dry-aged steaks that pair well with its Eric Anthony Cabernet. Or select a marron, rock lobster or mud crab from the live fish tanks and enjoy with a Chardonnay or Vermentino.
The restaurant also offers outdoor dining on its verandah – often featuring live music on weekends – which overlooks the vineyards and Swan River.
- Address: 126 Hamersley Rd, Caversham
- Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm
Vines were planted on this small undulating property almost 30 years ago which has since garnered a reputation for its sparkling Chenin Blanc. The outdoor deck of its French-inspired restaurant is a great place for a long, casual lunch or book in for a private tasting in its wine bar, The Nest.
- Address: 100 Barrett St, Herne Hill
- Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm; bookings recommended.
Taste wines at the cellar door before a relaxed alfresco lunch in the restaurant or under the vine-covered pergola. The family’s Italian heritage is prevalent on the menu, where there is a varied selection of pasta, platters and Mediterranean dishes as well as a large wine list.
- Address: 114 Benara Rd, Caversham
- Open: Lunch on Wednesday to Friday, 11.30am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday to 3.30pm. Dinner on Saturday, 5.30pm-9pm
Sandalford Bar and Restaurant
A favourite with locals, the food is a fusion of modern Australian and contemporary Italian cuisines. Choose from octopus, rock lobster, grass-fed beef, pasta rotolo or woodfired pizzas made with dough that has fermented for 48 hours.
Desserts include Valrhona chocolate mango mousse and a cheeseboard that can be matched with Sandalford’s dessert wines. Music events are held throughout the year.
- Address: 3210 West Swan Rd, Caversham
- Open: Monday to Sunday, 11.30am-5pm. Dinner on Friday and Saturday, 5pm-9pm
This quaint café is a great place to stop for breakfast before setting out on the wine trail. You can even enjoy a glass of Champagne with whatever you choose from the menu, such as sweet or savoury crêpes, buttery croissants and pastries, eggs cooked a variety of ways, and smashed avocado on French bread. Or the ultimate indulgence: a macaron ice cream sandwich.
- Address: 100 Benara Rd, Caversham
- Open: Monday to Friday, 7am-5pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8am-5pm
Swan Valley: things to do
Learn the stories of Swan Valley’s indigenous ancestors on a bush tucker tasting at Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery.
Enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Swan River.
Understand the subtle nuances of different wine varieties in a winemaker apprenticeship workshop, where visitors blend their own wine.
Create your own nougat in a hands-on course, with more than 20 flavours to choose from.
Spend the day at a spa to enjoy a pampering session.