Spring trail in the valley
James Talijancich at the cellar door

Spring is shaping up as a big celebration for winemaker James Talijancich, who is marking his family's 80th year in the Swan Valley with a "new" cellar door in the original home on the property where he and his three sisters grew up.

It's a milestone that recognises decades of hard, often harsh, work by three generations who have built their livelihoods on an enterprise started by Mr Talijancich's grandfather, Jim, in 1932.

In place of steel veranda columns, aluminium-frame windows and carpeted rooms, the home has been opened up and refitted, with bedrooms turned into storage and office space, polished concrete floors and karri decking on three sides. There's a bar with a solid marri top and locally made jarrah tables and chairs. The idea is that wine tasting should be informal and relaxed.

"We wanted something that allowed people to sit down and sample three wines, so they could see, smell and taste them without being rushed," Mr Talijancich says. "It's more an educative process rather than a cellar-door tasting.

Only a handful of wineries in WA are doing it, but we first came across the concept about 15 years ago at Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley. I remember back then feeling so comfortable being able to enjoy the wines that were presented with cheese and biscuits and always had something like that in mind.

"It gives people the opportunity to try similar styles from different vintages or different wines, like a chenin blanc, verdelho and semillon, to see how they compare. It's a whole different wine experience."

The "old" cellar door, 30m along the track, is being used for group tastings.

Talijancich is releasing a 2006 verdelho and a 2007 Pedro Ximenez liqueur from 100-year-old vines for the anniversary.

The winery is one of the oldest on the 32km Swan Valley food and wine trail, a scenic loop through WA's oldest wine-growing region known for its verdelho, shiraz and fortifieds.

It takes in more than 150 attractions, including breweries, restaurants, cafes, distilleries, shops, accommodation outlets and roadside stalls selling fresh produce. Alf Edgecombe's asparagus, available from Edgecombe Brothers Winery in Henley Brook, is famous in the area and at its peak now.

Make the most of the season with the special events that highlight spring in the valley without the crush - the iconic festival traditionally held in October was cancelled last year because of problems with alcohol and crowds.

New venues in the region include Fillaudeau's cafe-restaurant, which opened at Pinelli Estate Winery in Caversham five months ago. It's run by French-born chef Manu Fillaudeau and his Perth-born wife, Jasmin, a former ballerina who looks after front of house.

"The focus is on local produce and we aim to be as sustainable as possible," Fillaudeau says. "The menu is a contemporary fusion of French, Italian and modern Australian cuisines."

Think "floating pie" - a play on the classic pie floater that was a winter favourite - with beef bourguignon wrapped in filo pastry and served on a pea and mint puree. Top pick on the spring menu is Shark Bay blue swimmer crab meat in a chilli, garlic, tomato and asparagus white wine broth, tossed with handmade cappellini.

In Millendon, Donelle and Colin Tyler, of Tyler's Vineyard, opened a cellar door on Father's Day. The couple bought the overgrown 2ha property with 100-year-old vines 15 years ago.

'It's more an educative process rather than a cellar- door tasting.'

The West Australian

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