If you love truffles, you need to visiy Manjimup, WA

If you’ve heard of this little town in the South West of Western Australia, chances are the first word that comes to mind is TRUFFLES. While it is known globally for these jewels of the earth, there is more to Pemberton than truffles. 

The region is a food bowl and the community has had a recent influx of residents passionate about the place they call home, including MasterChef runner-up Samira Damirova. “I think it was Pemberton that chose me with its velvet green fields in winter, musty smell of the forest floor, fertile soil, and friendly folk that welcomed us as one of their own.”

Two of those friendly folk are Dion and Sharon Rangé. The pair moved here twenty years ago, founding Stonebarn Truffles. It was six years after planting trees that they found their first truffle. 

Located in the heart of truffle country – Manjimup, Western Australia
Located in the heart of truffle country – Manjimup, Western Australia. Picture: Stonebarn Truffles

“The truth is, finding your first truffle is more exciting than the naming of your first kid!” Dion says with a laugh. “But that’s only the beginning of the process. It’s a very long, slow path.

When you do well, you do well quickly and everybody thinks you’re an overnight success. With truffles what you are trying to do is grow a network of fungus underground.” Dijon shares that his truffle business is based on soil health and the microbiomes present, “if you have dead soil, you’re not going to grow any fungus underground.”

So, what’s a truffle grower’s ultimate way to enjoy truffle? “The value of the truffle is largely the aroma. Don’t cook a truffle or you’ll kill that aroma. That’s why it’s better to just grate it over a dish so it adds flavour. I can’t go past shaving it on perfectly scrambled eggs.”

Before heading into the township of Pemberton, there’s time for a quick stop at Pemberton’s iconic wine producer, Picardy Wines. Winemaker Dan Pannell is passionate about Pinot, and his winemaking starts out in the winery. 

“We are really more of a vineyard, we don’t do that much in the winery. 95 per cent of what we do is out there” he shares as we taste our way through the portfolio in the cool depths of the Picardy barrel room. 

“Someone once said to me good Pinot is like clouds rolling across the tongue” Considering a number of the wines we taste have already sold out on pre-release, consumers clearly agree with his approach. Pinot is a match made in heaven with the earthiness of the region’s truffles.

Pemberton’s main street has transformed over the past few years, and it’s now vibrant with several eateries and bars. Wild at Heart is the go-to for a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and a bite for breakfast or lunch. 

Truffles. Glorious truffles
Truffles. Glorious truffles. Picture: Stonebarn Truffles

Have a browse in the cute storefront; you can also pick up fresh local produce and foodie gifts. Treehouse Tapas and Wine Bar is a quirky favourite of locals and always fun with owner-operators Mitchell and Pauline behind the counter. 

Mitchell pours the all-local and regularly changing wine list, and Pauline oversees the simple yet delicious tapas with dishes hinting at her partner’s Burmese heritage. If you’re keen for a more substantial meal, head down to Jaspers whiskey bar. The whiskey menu will excite experienced palates and provide an introduction to those that are yet to be enlightened on the joys of a dram.

When it comes to accommodation, Ampersand Estates is Pemberton’s newest opening and it extends far beyond a bed for the night. Nestled amongst the Pemberton’s oldest vineyard, the site sits at a bend in the Donnelly River and is home to vineyards, boutique accommodation, a cellar door, a distillery, and some naughty but oh-so-cute ducks that are partial to cuddles when you’ve got a hand of food.

On the deck of the cellar door in the warm glow of the late afternoon owners, Corrie Sheepers and Melissa Bell share what drew them here. “Obviously it’s a stunning place, but it’s the people that make it. 

We bought the property in 2020 and before we opened some of the other wineries came to us asking, ‘how’s your Pinot Noir looking?’ Well, we didn’t have one ready for our opening. They replied, ‘that’s not going to work. If you’re a winery and in Pemberton, you have to have your Pinot Noir.’ The next thing we know we have fruit arriving from everyone to help make our first Pinot Noir. This wine is the Pemberton community.”

All seated tastings are paired with a generous platter of local produce – including a speciality-made Biltong in a nod to Corrie’s homeland. “It’s a full experience” shares Mel, “each element of the platter is paired with one of our wines”. 

The on-site distillery produces artisan vodkas and gins from local potatoes, and the accommodation is due to expand shortly from the two-bedroom settlers’ cottage. No detail has been overlooked, with custom designer furnishings throughout and the understated elegance of brushed gold bathroom fixtures and heritage style light switches. Even the original 1880’s original Jarrah floorboards have been reclaimed and refitted.

Best served on scrambled eggs
Best served on scrambled eggs. Picture: Stonebarn Truffles

After a good night’s rest, it’s time for another day of adventure. First up is an attempt to catch our dinner at the Old Vasse Trout and Marron Farm with the helpful guidance of owners Justin and Kylie Fish. Yes, that’s their last name. 

After a couple of hours by the tranquil private lake without a bite, it’s time to admit defeat and purchase a few rainbow trout. The couple put in 2500 trout this year, so it’s just a lack of beginner’s luck today. From underwater delicacies to the food of the gods, our next stop is set in the heart of the Karri forest.

Mikey Cernotta is Pemberton Honey Co’s beekeeper, basing his honey business on the family farm, Whispering Woods. As Mikey takes me through the honey production process, it becomes clear that beekeeping is not simply about harvesting honey. It’s about protecting our natural environment. “Once the forests are gone, they’re gone. I put the natural world at the top of my priority and bee-keeping is a way of linking food production to the importance of the natural environment ” he shares as we enter the extracting room and the smell of wax encompasses us.

“Humans can learn a lot from bees, the queen will adjust how many eggs she lays based on food availability. So the bees work to fit in with the resources that are naturally available.” Mikey moves his hives throughout the South West to provide a healthy diet for the bees. This also produces a range of monofloral honey – each has its own distinct taste and aroma.

Just a few minutes along the winding road under the canopy of towering Karri trees there’s a roadside sign that silences children and to brings grown adults to their knees. Chocolatier Kate and her winemaker husband Chris moved down from Perth five years ago.

The steady stream of drive-by customers ensures stocks are flying off the shelves at their Southern Forests Chocolate Company. Currently, the range includes a selection of small-batch chocolate bars and truffles with flavour combos dreamt up and inspired by local produce. Flavours are fun, intriguing and very moreish. “We wanted to be number one approachable.” Kate shares as we sip a velvety hot chocolate.

It would be easy to spend all afternoon nibbling on sweet delights, however, the bathtub at Ampersand awaits. There is certainly no shortage of ways to indulge in Pemberton, and it’s safe to say there’ll be more to unearth on my next trip.

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com

About the author

Ozzie

Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.

Categories

Recent Posts