Whicher Ridge Wines, Chapman Hill
Whicher Ridge at Chapman Hill was purchased by Neil and Cathy Howard in 2003 after much searching for just the right farming acreage, with suitable soils and water resources, to establish their vineyard. Nestled in a hidden valley in the Whicher Range with Margaret River to the west and Busselton to the north, Whicher Ridge Wines is an authentic artisanal, family owned, winery and farm. The couple planted their 5 hectare vineyard in 2004, built their winery in 2010, opened their Cellar Door in 2013, and planted their wine sensory garden in September 2014.
They manage their vineyard and farm in a biologically sustainable manner, encouraging beneficial insects, and using minimal chemical inputs. In 2014, they began fashioning their own compost from spent grape skins and stalks, green garden waste and paper and cardboard waste generated in the winery and from the cellar door. This compost is used in the vineyard, in the large farmhouse garden areas, and within the wine sensory garden. The large farmhouse garden areas and the wine sensory garden are managed following organic gardening principles.
Besides the grape growing and winemaking, Cathy and Neil grow olive trees and have two small orchard plantings which they intend to expand. There are chickens, Aylesbury ducks, a couple of horses, a small flock of Dorper sheep and young dairy heifers are agisted on the farm for up to six months each year. Their farm is visited regularly by flocks of both the Carnaby’s whitetail and Forest Redtail black cockatoos, as well as numerous other resident and visiting bird species.
Whicher Ridge has a petanque playing piste area large enough to accommodate 10 teams and a very friendly ‘wine dog’ called Polly who greets their winery visitors as they alight from their cars.
Their wine sensory garden is a gentle and subtle way to experience the harmony between various food and wine matches - for their visitors who may love gardening, wine, or food, or maybe all three.
The wine sensory garden is 42 metres x 25 metres, bordered by olive hedges east and north, and a lilly-pilly hedge on the south. It is designed loosely on a ‘formal kitchen potager garden’. The curved flowing pathway is structured in a figure eight design (infinity - representing energy flow) with outer encircling garden beds called ‘descriptors’ and inner circular garden beds called ‘affinities’.
There are six sections, each devoted to a specific wine variety, with each wine variety having two beds. The ‘descriptor’ bed is planted out with specific fruit trees, flowers, vegetables and herbs which have the colours, flavours and aromas that aptly describe that particular wine. Adjacent is the ‘affinity’ bed, which has plantings of various fruits, seasonal vegetables and herbs which make up the foods which naturally pair with that wine. The garden is a treat for visitors as they experience it through all five senses - sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. Cathy’s selection of coloured and sculptural flowers and hued and textured foliage plants adds further interest and vigour.
This vibrant garden has a number of resident native birds - including blue wrens, willy wagtails and robin redbreasts. It also attracts Native bees, beneficial predatory insects and European honey bees, which are all complementary and exceedingly useful for the vine health and natural balance in the adjacent vineyard.
Our Point of Difference
Cathy and Neil believe their sensory garden is unique in Australia, apart from a small one at the University of Adelaide, Waite Institute. The inspiration for it came from reading about the wine sensory garden at Kendall Jackson Wines (Napa Valley USA) which Cathy has on her bucket list to visit one day.
Some of their seasonal vegetables, edible flowers and fruit are being supplied to a small number of Bunbury and Perth restaurants and can be purchased at their Cellar Door. They have plans to grow heirloom vegetable, and flower and herb seedlings, and to introduce seedlings for sale from their ’wine sensory herb collections”.
[Note: Tours and Bookings - Visitors can do a ‘self-guided-tour’ of their wine sensory garden or by phoning Cathy ahead of time to book her ‘guided tour’ to get the inspiration and explanation behind her plant selections.]