Our second day in Denmark it poured. The sun in Perth is so relentless that cloudy days are quickly becoming my favorite. Rain is absolutely glorious. I’m not kidding. We had a rare thunderstorm today and I could barely contain my excitement. I could write paragraphs about this, but I say it now to highlight the fact that a downpour does nothing to dampen my spirits. On the contrary – it makes me feel elated.
Even so, rainy weather is not ideal for hiking through parks and sitting on beaches, so we decided to take the opportunity to explore Denmark’s “Scotsdale Tourist Drive.” It’s basically a loop through the countryside, dotted with farms and wineries. From what I can tell, the Margaret River (a few hours south of Perth) is the most well-known wine region in Western Australia, but Denmark also has some great wineries. I’ve been told this state is known for producing Semillon Blanc and Cabernet Merlot, and that other parts of Australia are better known for other types of wine, but I’m not sure how reliable my source was.
Our first stop on the tourist drive was Estate 807. Estate 807 is a fairly new winery and the cellar door had only been open for a few weeks when we discovered it. They were quite friendly and seemed enthusiastic about the process that went into the production of their wines. We particularly liked their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, which we purchased a bottle of, and their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Alas that we are not yet wealthy enough to purchase entire cases of wine, but we had fun picking up a bottle here and a bottle there.
Next we visited Duckett’s Mill Winery. Unlike Estate 807, which was small and personable, Duckett’s Mill is clearly a bit of a tourist trap. To be perfectly honest we weren’t all that taken with their wine, we found it bland and unremarkable. However, they are also known for their cheese, and that we loved. After sampling their vast array of cheeses we selected some feta with basil, oregano and [I think] parsley, and a smoked cheddar jack. Both were delicious and neither lasted long. We also picked up a bottle of their extra virgin olive oil, but as we haven’t yet cracked it open I can’t comment further on that. Still, it’s cool to live in a place where you can buy locally made olive oil. Perhaps our little olive trees will aspire to such greatness.
Eventually the tourist drive turns south – unless, like us, you miss the turn or decide to carry on west on the “extended” part of the tourist drive. It was this lucky mistake that led us to Silverstream Wines. A bit farther off the beaten path, Silverstream’s cellar door isn’t open as regularly as some of the other wineries, but an unassuming sign announced their availability and welcomed us in. About the time we arrived it started raining buckets again and it was such a lovely place to wait out the rain, sipping wine and chatting with the proprietor. The setting was breathtaking, and she poured us generous sips of each of their wines and shared about their grapes and vine growing techniques. In the end we selected a bottle of their 2007 Reserve Merlot, which was fairly fabulous, and their 2009 Cane Cut Chardonnay. Jon and I haven’t had much dessert wine, and that which we have had we’ve found cloyingly sweet, but Silverstream’s was beautiful so we couldn’t pass it up.
Our last stop before returning to our lodgings was Tinglewood Wines and Puzzle Shop. At that point we’d sipped as much wine as we could manage and remain safe for the roads, so we passed up the alcohol and explored their puzzles instead. I was sort of hoping for a shop that made their own puzzles so I was a little disappointed, but they do carry a good selection of Aussie-made puzzles and the proprietor was a cheerful and hospitable Irishwoman. They have a nice little table set up with an assortment of puzzles where you can sit down and relax, which made this a perfect rainy day stop for families. We picked up Australian Puzzles & Games’ Patience Puzzle. Jon has solved it. I haven’t yet, but to be fair I haven’t spent as much time on it as he has.
Another day of exploration in Denmark led us to the Denmark Berry Farm. It’s been a long time since we’ve enjoyed a “pick-your-own” outing for berries, so I was excited at this prospect. As it turned out we hit the farm on the late side of the season so some types of berries were no longer available, but after meandering through rows and rows of berry bushes we found some nice marionberries, boysenberries, and raspberries.
Laura and I with our cache
I hadn’t realized that marionberries and boysenberries are actually hybrid types of berries originating from raspberries and blackberries so I learned something new. Sadly the cost of pick-your-own berries was a lot higher than for the berry farms I’ve visited in Canada, but berries in Western Australia seem to be really pricey unless you get them frozen, so all things considered it wasn’t unreasonable.
The Berry Monster
Following this we decided to check out the Denmark Maze. The maze was created and is maintained by a local family. You have to find your way in to the center and then find your way back out.
At the center of the maze
Given that it’s a donation only family run attraction it really was quite good. We decided that it could have been more challenging, but it was amusing nonetheless. For a family with young children it would definitely be a great way to spend an afternoon. Jon dubbed the benches in the dead ends of the maze “benches of disappointment.”
The bench of disappointment
Later that afternoon we visited Moombaki Wines. Another winery located off the beaten path, Moombaki is a small, family run establishment that is well worth the visit. The wine here speaks for itself, but the proprietor clearly knows his stuff. He’s incredibly passionate about wine and wine making, and unlike many wineries in WA that are owned by wealthy businessmen this family makes their living off their vineyard. You can really taste the love that goes into their product. They also have beautiful handmade artwork for sale at their cellar door. We picked up a bottle of their 2008 Shiraz.
Our final stop that day was Bartholomew’s Meadery. Quite simply, this place is awesome. They have a large assortment of honey available for tasting, and I think between the three of us we tried them all. Over the years I’ve had several food epiphanies. One of the most notable in Canada was leeks. In the Adirondacks in NY it was farm fresh maple syrup. My latest is honey. I was already beginning to appreciate its sweet goodness in a new way (occasionally substituting it for sugar), but the delectable offerings at Bartholomew’s Meadery have solidified fresh local honey as a serious pleasure in my book. We purchased a small vat of their wildflower honey which was both inexpensive and amazingly delicious.
Unfortunately we didn’t see the sign that said we were supposed to sample the mead before the honey until after we had sampled the honey. Oops. But we took some time out to find the queen bee in the hive, cleaned our palates with a bit of water and we were good to go. This was another learning experience for me. I hadn’t realized that mead – Ye famous olde beverage – was made from fermented honey. Moreover I expected it to taste like beer. It was much more like wine than beer, but sweet in a completely different way. They had several varieties of mead but my favorite was definitely the Metheglin – so named for the medicinal properties attributed to it in days of old. Metheglin is a spiced mead that can be drunk hot or cold. Hot, the spices really stand out and take this beverage to a whole new level. We picked up a bottle of that too. Another nice feature of mead is that an open bottle is good for several weeks, unlike wine, which really needs to be finished off within a day or so of opening. I expect it will make a nice nightcap come cooler, winter nights.
And, being a beautiful summer day, we couldn’t leave without sampling the honey ice cream. Laura got the chocolate and I got the vanilla. It was terrific. You could really taste the honey in the vanilla and the chocolate ice cream had a lovely dark quality to it – more like chocolate and less like ice cream, if that makes sense. As we have an ice cream maker I am now feeling inspired to try making honey ice cream at home. Soon…
The only other place we visited in the actual Shire of Denmark was Ocean Beach. It had been recommended as a nice, local beach, and it is, but it’s more of a hot spot for surfing than for general swimming and snorkeling purposes. It was windy and crowded the day we stopped there, so after checking it out we moved on to another beach, which will receive an honorable mention in my next and final post on our holiday in Denmark. 🙂