A Chapel, full of wine?! When we first heard we were heading out to the Burch Family’s newest offering at Howard Park and Madfish Wines, we admit we weren’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, Cellar Door Manager Emily Bromell explained when we arrived.
“The term “chapel” in this instance isn’t quite like the quaint little wedding chapel in most people’s minds! It comes from the original French definition of a place that is separate from the main church where people can worship in a private setting, away from the larger congregation. Of course this translates well to what we’re providing here at the Wine Chapel – a place for people to experience wine in an exclusive setting.” Emily said.
The Wine Chapel is the brainchild of Amy Burch, Owner and General Manager of Burch Family Wines and is the result of many months of hard work behind the scenes as well as in the construction zone. Overlooking the stunning Leston vineyard and rolling hills beyond, the Wine Chapel has been built with simple and bold design principles with a view to savouring the best of the wines, and the views, that the Burch Family have to offer.
A different experience to the usual wine tastings.
Cruising through the grounds of this picturesque winery, it’s clear to see why it has become a favourite destination for so many local, interstate and international visitors. Great expanses of green vines spread out across the Willyabrup property with a few small buildings and some farm equipment artfully placed amongst the grapes. As we rounded the corner to the cellar door, winery dog Hamish waited patiently at the heavy timber front door, clearly used to wandering visitors exploring the grounds.
Emily met us under the soaring ceilings of the main cellar door building, where friendly staff were taking a couple of small groups through a tasting of the Howard Park, Marchand & Burch and MadFish labels. The cellar door is incredibly impressive from inside and out, with the vaulted roof and huge windows playing perfect host to local artworks, wine displays and merchandise while vineyard vistas and green walls are right outside the doors.
“We placed the Wine Chapel slightly away from the main carpark and cellar door with the intention of creating an exclusive space for people wanting a different experience to the usual wine tastings,” explained Emily as she showed us the exterior of the building, a simple and unobtrusive structure with a front door that wouldn’t be out of place in a medieval castle.
The first thing we noticed were the gorgeous light installations, created using 40 year old vines from the Abercrombie vineyard.
We entered the Wine Chapel through the outdoor space, intended for functions and events to make use of the stunning views. One side of the building is almost entirely glass which gives a feeling of connection between the indoor and outdoor space. Emily explained further,
“With some added lighting features yet to be installed, and some subtle lighting being installed across the vineyard we’ll be able to make the most of the summer evenings.”
“Aside from the tasting tours we are offering at the Wine Chapel, we are also making the space available for private functions where suitable.”
The main space within the Wine Chapel features a large banquet style table for private tasting tour guests, a media screen to provide entertainment or information on the tasting process (perfect for groups needing an interpreter – tasting notes can be translated into most languages) and a feature cellar showcasing museum wines from the Burch’s labels.
The first thing we noted as we stood in the Chapel with sunlight streaming in the windows was the gorgeous light installations created using 40 year old vines from the Abercrombie vineyard (pictured). Together with the vines laid out across the tasting table, the lights are the perfect link between the landscape outside and the results of years of work safely stored in the feature cellar.
“In this cellar we have some of the very first Howard Park Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is where our really special wines can be included in a private customised tasting experience and is one of the things that sets the Chapel apart from the regular Cellar Door tastings,” Emily explained as we had a quick look at the commercial kitchen and bathrooms hidden behind a semi-concealed door. “The kitchen is available for a private chef-cooked lunch, cheese platters and suitable group functions.”
A beautiful den-like lounge for private tasting sessions.
We were very impressed that a whole commercial kitchen was integrated so well into the design of the building that we had no idea it existed for the first 30 minutes of our visit; another hallmark of Amy Burch’s desire to keep wine the focus of the Chapel rather than creating a function space for hire.
Heading into the other side of the building, we entered our favourite part of the new facility : a beautiful den-like lounge for private tasting sessions, small groups and exclusive gatherings. This room features an amazing array of photographs outlining the history of the Burch Family and their contribution to the wine industry as well as comfy seating and a fully stocked wine tasting arrangement including a hidden fridge.
This room makes the most of the sweeping views across the vineyards with a large picture window offering a contrasting splash of green against the leather and wood of the Chapel.
Exiting through the huge, heavy timber door we were once again in the lush grounds of Howard Park, surrounded by trees and bird songs. With a quick pat for Hamish and a promise to return to enjoy one of the exclusive tasting tours.
Wine Chapel information
The Howard Park Wine Chapel is now available for tours on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10.30am by appointment only. Tasting Tours run for 1.5 hours and cost $50 per person and include a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of the winery and vineyards. Tours are customisable with options such as cheese platters, a chef-cooked lunch, museum wine tastings and tasting barrel samples (additional charges apply).