34 Degrees South Olive Oil, Rosa Brook
Latitude 33°55’51” South (rounded up to “34 Degrees South”), Longitude 115°12’39” East are the coordinates for Margaret River. Although the region is famous as wine country, its grape-friendly climate also provides perfect conditions for the growing of olive trees.
Well, maybe not-so perfect conditions all the time! It’s raining hard and there are muddy pools everywhere when we arrive at 34 Degrees South Olive Oil. We are ignored by the resident flock of geese busily hunting for snacks in the soft wet ground while the raindrops pelt down.
The olive farm was started over 12 years ago by Sydney and Sharon Dunford on this 135-acre property, out of which 80 acres are now devoted to olive trees. The Dunfords are involved in all aspects of production, from the growing, harvesting, processing, bottling and all even down to the labelling.
We begin our tour with a brief tasting session. Olive oil tasting is an interesting experience. It’s not at all like wine or chocolate tasting, where it’s too easy to keep on ‘tasting’. I don’t know anyone who willingly drinks oil, so there’s a bit of natural reluctance to overcome. We certainly don’t knock the samples back like shooters – we take delicate, tentative sips, and I notice I’m not the only one trying not to grimace when we begin. But it’s really not too bad as long as you don’t gulp the samples down. The main difference I detect between these extra virgin olive oils is their degree of pepperiness. The last oil is everyone’s favourite and the easiest to ‘drink’ – lime-infused olive oil, which we are told is best drizzled over dishes just before serving – cooking with it diminishes the lime flavour. In between tastings, we each grab a slice of fresh Granny smith apple to help cleanse our palates. You’ve never seen a group of people so thankful for apple.
Sharon explains the process used to create olive oil, starting from the harvesting of fruit. The processing plant is right here on the property. The olives are crushed within 8 hours of picking and run through a centrifugal decanter which separates the oil from the rest of the olive components. The waste produced from the processing is mixed with manure, used in worm farms and goes back into the olive grove, feeding future crops. The farm and the olive oil produced are completely organic.
Next, we visit 34 Degrees South’s shop, in a custom-made tent on the property that’s been fitted with jarrah timber floors and decking, where we sample more extra virgin olive oils and munch on olives (not me – I like olive oil but don’t like olives ). In addition to olive oil, 34 Degrees South also produces dukkah and scent-free olive oil soap, good for use by people with sensitive skin.
Throughout our visit, Spice the border collie runs around happily in the rain. Even as the downpour grows heavier, she’s out there, not a care in the world, tail wagging merrily.
34 Degrees South
Myra Downs Estate
Corner of Crozier and Jindong Treeton Roads
Rosa Brook, Western Australia
Telephone: (08) 9757 4045
Cellar door is open to the public; tastings by appointment
34 Degrees South Olive Oil won a silver medal at last year’s Perth Royal Show and will be competing again in 2012.
Edwards Wines, Gracetown
At Edwards winery, Christo Edwards tells us the story of this bright yellow Tiger Moth plane named Matilda which belonged to his dad Dr Brian Edwards.
In 1990, Dr Edwards made an epic six-week trip flying Matilda solo for 12,000 nautical miles – from Hatfield, England to Langley Park in Perth. He was raising money for Legacy, the charity which supported his family after his pilot father Clifford disappeared while flying a bomber in World War 2.
Dr Edwards’ remarkable and eventful journey is documented in a book called The Matilda Mission (1993). Although Matilda’s flying days are over, she is proudly on display in the hangar located near the cellar door, a great source of interest for visitors to Edwards.
In 1991 Dr Edwards and his wife Jenny bought this property as their country retreat, particularly appealing to Dr Edwards as he could get an airstrip along the back boundary. The first vines were planted in 1993. Sadly, Dr Edwards passed away around 7 years ago from leukaemia, but the family winery is going strong with Christo (viticulturalist) and his brother Mike (winemaker) at the helm. Edwards has won several Perth Royal Show wine awards and will be entering again in this year’s show.
A lunch platter has been prepared for us by Blue Ginger Fine Foods & Cafe. Apologies – I don’t have the specific names of the products on the platter, but I can definitely say it’s magnificent! Cold cured meats including smoked chicken, cheeses, marinated sardines and olives… where would you start?
687 Ellen Brook Road
Telephone: (08) 9755 5999
Gabriel Chocolate, Yallingup
Our final stop before we drive back to Perth is Gabriel Chocolate in Yallingup. Regular readers will know I have been here before – but I’ll happily come back here any time.
Lawyers don’t just go on Masterchef Australia – some of them become chocolate makers. “Why chocolate?” a few of us ask. Gabriel grins and responds without hesitation: “Chocolate makes people happy”. After 8 years of research into chocolate-making and dreaming of a different life, ex-lawyer Gabriel, his wife Ruth and four children moved to Dunsborough a year ago to establish Gabriel Chocolate, specialising in producing single origin bean to bar chocolate.
The beans come from Ghana, Indonesia, Ecuador and Venezuela but the chocolate’s made right here in on these premises in Yallingup, Western Australia.
The cocoa beans are hand-sorted, then roasted in a custom-converted chicken rotisserie. A machine called a winnower breaks the shells off the beans to reveal the cocoa “nibs”, which are ground to create cocoa liquor (not alcoholic), to which other ingredients are added to make chocolate. The shells and cocoa remnants are collected and go to local craft brewery and cidery Cheeky Monkey where they are used in the making of chocolate stout.
The chocolate bars are produced on the premises, wrapped by hand and sold in the shop.
We then taste Gabriel’s single origin chocolate. Like grapes and coffee, cocoa beans grown in different regions around the world under different environmental and climate conditions including temperature, humidity, rainfall and so on develop their own characteristic flavours, which are reflected in the chocolate.
Gabriel tells us he’s working with a number of local wineries to develop wine and chocolate pairings.
Due to popular demand, Gabriel’s added white chocolate to his range. Unlike many commercial white chocolate products which contain no cocoa butter and are not really chocolate at all, Gabriel’s version is made with cocoa butter and vanilla. It’s ‘white’ because no cocoa liquor is used, yet you’ll see it’s not as white as standard commercial products. If you like white chocolate, it’s definitely worth a taste.
After our tasting session, it’s time for a little chocolate shopping (and for some of us, even more chocolate eating). There are milk, dark and white chocolate bars available as singles or in packs. Chocolate bars with dried fruit and other flavours added are called “mendiants”. Gabriel and his team are constantly experimenting with flavour combinations – latest combos include lime and wasabi, green tea and black sesame… I reckon they should do a cocktails range – what do you guys think about margarita, with lemon and salt? Or mojito, with mint leaves and lime?
Hot chocolate (available in milk or dark) is the drink of choice here.
The first time I visited, I regretted not trying one of Gabriel Chocolate’s housemade ice creams, hand-dipped in chocolate. I’m not going to miss out this time.
The strawberry ice cream is wonderfully creamy and tastes of fresh fruit. The crisp chocolate coating cracks when I bite into it. This is pure pleasure.
Lot 14, 3220 Corner of Caves Road and Quininup Road, Yallingup WA 6282
Telephone: (08) 9756 6689
Open 7 days: 10am to 5pm
Apologies to Gabriel for mentioning the competition, but during this trip I learned of a new bean to bar chocolate maker in the Margaret River region, Bahen & Co Chocolate. It’s on my To Eat list for my next trip to Margs. The region keeps getting better and better!
Perth Royal Show 2012
29 September to 6 October at Claremont Showgrounds
This year’s ‘guest town’ is Margaret River.
For more info, visit the website or Facebook page.
I’ll be going to the show this year after giving it a miss the past few years – will eat and tweet my way through – can’t wait!
TFP travelled to the Margaret River region as a guest of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia. The places covered in this post were visited over two days. Thank you to the Royal Agricultural Society for inviting me to be part of this tour.