Dan and I toured the Swan Valley wine region today. This is basically a suburb of Perth - a lot of the very oldest vineyards are now suburban houses, and there are subdivision mixed in with the grapes here and there. My quick verdict: well, I guess they planted this area in the 1800s because it was close to town, not because anyone can make good wine there. Wines ranged from surprisingly good (1) to fair (a few) to fucking awful (most of them).
Mann. This was my first stop, having read that they do a sparkling cabernet sauvignon. Well, much to my surprise, they sure do, but it's a blanc de noirs made from free-run juice. The winemaker and grower - we had to walk up to his house to fetch him - opened up the small cellar area to let us have a taste. Mmmm, good. We bought three bottles. It's bone dry, done without any sort of dosage, which leads to a very weird, freisa-like or strawberry-like wine, pleasantly toasty, with a beautiful mousse. [I know. I will now rot in Hell for actually using the word mousse. I cannot help it, for I am a big wine fag. I am sorry.] He also does some kind of sparkling wine using a white-berry mutation, but I passed as I didn't want to spend $30 on a bottle of that. [The regular stuff is A$18 a bottle, which is a good price, I think, given the quality.]
Lamont. Dan suggested we stop in to check out their chenin blanc - he was reading the tour guide while I was driving. [It's the Marmot Taxi™!] Hm. Well, they had those baby-girl raver T-shirts with lime green collars (weird) and a bunch of slickly packaged, fairly expensive wines. They sucked. In fact, they sucked hard. The riesling was bland and overpriced, the chenin blanc was too sweet, the sparkling wine way too sweet. Dan tried the verdelho, which I didn't, and liked it enough to buy a bottle, so I guess it's good. Oh, and their tasting staff are total fags. They kept asking us what we might be doing later in the weekend, trying to get me to say 'I'm going to the gay pride festival!', which I refused to do. They were very pleasant and knowledgeable, though, so I give the place a thumbs up. Except for the wine.
Taljiancich (or something; I can't remember). This is one of the older places in town. I had a glass of their Voices white wine in Perth a few weeks back, which I didn't particularly care for, but I thought what the hell, I'll stop. It was on the way to Houghton. Bad move. Tried their grenache, shiraz, and a couple of whites, as well as a liqueur muscat and a port-like thing. The muscat was OK - kind of like bland Benedictine - but the port was disgusting. The other wines were watery, bland, and way overpriced (they wanted the same for their Shiraz as Plantegenet. The horror!). Run away!
Houghton. Big corporate winery alert. Long, winding driveway. Stupid tasting room staff. But - worst of all! - they didn't have any of their superpremium wines available for tasting; all you could try was the stuff they poot out for $12 a bottle. Fuck that. I mean, what's the point? I came, I should be able to see if their $20 Riesling and $80 Cabernet are worth it or not. Fuck them, I'm not buying any of it. BTW: finally tried their White Burgundy, though, but they wouldn't tell me what grapes they use (other than 'chenin and chard', but I guessed that already). Fuckers.
So... we drove back into Perth to check into our luxe room at the Chifley. It's pretty fab for A$89 a night - kind of beat up, but OK. Most importantly, there's a big fridge, a fancy café downstairs that does room service, a coffee plunger, and a really big bed with stiff sheets. Yay!
Dan went out to buy new sunglasses, so I went to Vintage Cellars to, um, have a look. I wound up buying some stuff:
1998 Richmond Grove Watervale riesling
1999 Kingston petit verdot
1998 Leeuwin sparkling wine
1999 Tarapaca cabernet (reserva)
2000 Picardy pinot noir
2002 Brown Bros. moscato
This knocks a few must-tastes off my list (the moscato and the Picardy). The Tarapaca is the first non-Aussie (or NZ) wine I've bought this year; it's an old Bear and Marmot favorite - we have about a case left at home, I think. The petit verdot was just too weird to pass up - I mean, who does a varietal petit verdot - and the riesling is because I'm going to go order some pad thai and gnocchi with shrimp from room service NOW. Bye!