feast for the senses



Wine­maker Cathy Howard has vivid mem­o­ries of gar­den­ing with her grand­fa­ther at Black­mans Bay in Tas­ma­nia, where she grew up, and the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of grow­ing flow­ers and veg­eta­bles to­gether. “Grandpa was my early in­flu­ence,” she says. “He taught me the won­der of plant­ing seedlings; how to care for them and the joy of pick­ing the flow­ers. It never ceases to amaze me that you can grow some­thing from a tiny seed.” Now, al­most four decades on, Cathy and her hus­band Neil share their com­bined gar­den­ing and wine­mak­ing knowl­edge with a unique wine sen­sory gar­den about 20 kilo­me­tres south of Bus­sel­ton in WA. Vis­i­tors can wan­der through the for­mal potager-style gar­den at their Whicher Ridge win­ery and learn about flavours as well as food and wine pair­ing. “Peo­ple re­ally en­joy touch­ing, smelling and crush­ing the herbs and edi­ble flow­er­ing plants, and you can see lit­tle light bulbs come on as they con­nect what they are see­ing and smelling with what they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in the wine,” says Cathy. Cathy and Neil, who is a vi­gneron, had worked in var­i­ous wine re­gions around Aus­tralia, and it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore they de­cided to branch out and es­tab­lish their own win­ery. In 2003, they spent six months look­ing for suit­able land with good wa­ter sup­ply and soil for the vine­yard and gar­den as well as a pad­dock for Cathy’s horses. They dis­cov­ered a 50-hectare dairy at Chap­man Hill in the Geographe wine re­gion with nat­u­ral drainage and grav­elly, sandy loam soil with a north as­pect that was ideal for a vine­yard. In 2004, they planted 2.5 hectares of sau­vi­gnon blanc and the five-hectare vine­yard now in­cludes viog­nier, caber­net, petit ver­dot, mal­bec and mou­ve­dre. Around the time they opened their cel­lar door in 2013, Cathy re­searched var­i­ous gar­den styles to com­ple­ment and cre­ate a point of dif­fer­ence. “We wanted to of­fer an ex­pe­ri­ence that re­lates to food and wine as our styles are made in a way to go eas­ily with food, be­ing very tex­tu­ral and mouth-fill­ing with lovely length and bal­ance,” says Cathy. She found in­spi­ra­tion in Ken­dall-jack­son Wine Es­tate Gar­dens in the USA’S Napa Val­ley, which has seven dis­tinct gar­den spaces set on one hectare, ded­i­cated to food and wine ed­u­ca­tion. Em­bold­ened by the idea, Cathy de­signed a com­pact gar­den of 45 me­tres by 25 me­tres, in a fig­ure eight shape be­side the cel­lar door at Whicher Ridge. “The vine­yard is sym­met­ri­cal with rows and na­ture is usu­ally not like that so I wanted some­thing curved,” she ex­plains. “My pas­sion, >

aside from mak­ing some pretty good wines, is gar­den­ing. I have never done any for­mal train­ing in gar­den­ing, but have adopted many com­mon sense farm­ing prac­tices and ideas that I have learnt when study­ing oenol­ogy.” In 2013, Cathy and Neil planted coratina and kala­mata olive bor­ders to the north and east, and lilly pilly hedges on the south­ern bound­ary to pro­tect the gar­den from the per­sis­tent southerly wind in sum­mer. The fol­low­ing year, af­ter Neil laid out gravel path­ways and gar­den edg­ing us­ing iron­stone from the farm, they planted the sen­sory gar­den with six main sec­tions, which each re­late to a par­tic­u­lar wine va­ri­ety. Each va­ri­ety has two beds, one be­ing the ‘de­scrip­tor’ bed that has fruit trees, flow­ers and herbs with flavours, colours and aro­mas that de­pict the wine. Ad­join­ing this, in the cen­tre, is an ‘affin­ity’ bed with grouped plant­ings of fruit, veg­eta­bles and herbs as food pair­ing in­spi­ra­tion to match the wine. The shi­raz affin­ity bed fea­tures cranberry, ju­niper berry and rose­mary, while the ries­ling affin­ity bed has per­sim­mon, as­para­gus, rhubarb and rasp­berry. “It gives cues to match a par­tic­u­lar wine to what you can eat with it and it doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal, it can be some­thing sim­ple, such as a herb to add to a salad dress­ing,” says Cathy. Amidst the edi­ble plants are care­fully cho­sen flow­ers and fo­liage plants in hues to re­flect the wine. For white wine there is white, yel­low and orange, while for red wine va­ri­eties you’ll find pink, blue, red and pur­ple. Vis­i­tors are en­cour­aged to pluck herb leaves and crush them as they ex­plore the gar­den. Cathy and Neil use bi­o­log­i­cal gar­den­ing prac­tices and com­post is made of grape skins and stalks. With an av­er­age rain­fall of 900 mil­lime­tres each year, the gar­den is quickly fill­ing out and sculp­tures dot­ted about the gar­den add an­other layer of in­ter­est. The sand­stone kook­aburra at the bird­bath, as well as the large metal heron, was made by Tas­ma­nian sculp­tor Folko Kooper while other metal pieces are made by lo­cal artist Greg Stra­chan. At the end of the day, Neil and Cathy en­joy the gar­den to them­selves. “We sit out here with a glass of sparkling shi­raz,” she says. “It’s a won­der­ful space to look out on, walk through and en­joy. It’s also con­nected quite firmly back to what we do with our vine­yard and farm.” Neil and Cathy’s sen­sory gar­den is part of the Margaret River Or­ganic Gar­den Trail, visit or­gan­ic­gar­den­trail.com. au. For more in­for­ma­tion about Whicher Ridge, tele­phone (08) 9753 1394 or visit whicher­ridge.com.au

CHAP­MAN HILL WA GAR­DEN A chive flower, Al­lium schoeno­pra­sum. FAC­ING PAGE The ries­ling affin­ity bed on the left in­cludes as­para­gus, le­mon thyme, sor­rel and Rasp­berry ‘Au­tumn Bliss’, while the ad­ja­cent de­scrip­tor bed fea­tures La­van­dula al­lardii and lime balm.

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