Freo’s East End has scored an urban winery helmed by a stellar crew.

After a five-month fit-out and five years of planning, Fremantle’s latest wine bar is open for business. The team behind The Local on South Terrace has come to the city centre in the former Mother site on High Street, doubling its size across a 1000-square-metre warehouse conversion. With the scope, skill and paraphernalia to create their own in-house wine, Phil Thompson chatted with WAGFG to delve into the details of H&C Urban Winery.

It’s a new Freo bar with a twist. Tell us about H&C Urban Winery’s concept. 

My business partner [Ross McPherson] at The Local and I have been thinking about it for five years. The opportunity came up in this space when my wife saw it on the market. This idea for an urban winery was a little bit of a departure from The Local. It’s not a new concept; they’ve been happening around the world for years. So we have been on the lookout for years. Finding the right space was one of the biggest challenges. We also wanted to make sure we could produce wine here onsite, which was a big part of the project.

What’s in the name? 

We sold [The River and Margaret River Resort] mid-last year, which helped fund what we wanted to do in Freo. In the meantime, we were talking with Off the Vine distributor Scott Spaling, and Will Schofield and Chris Masten, who started a wine production, event pop-up and online retail business called Heroes and Comrades in 2020. We joined them and decided to give that entity a home, essentially with the winery. So that was where that part of the name came from.

So, talk us through wine production. Where are the grapes sourced from?

We haven’t been able to produce on-site to date because the vintage was so early, and we didn’t have our license ready for the process. In March, harvesting was basically done, so we had to produce offsite, which we’ve done because it’s been so hot. But the plan is to start our own production, bring grapes from pretty much any region in the southwest of WA, and have the equipment to press, ferment, and bottle as well. 

That’s pretty nifty. Freo fermented wines. What varietals are you planning to produce? 

From all the central regions, for example, the Swan Valley Grenache and Chenin Blanc. Margaret River obviously has Chardonnay and Cabernet as strong pillars, as well as things like Malbec. You can mix it up. It just depends on what’s happening. There’s no formula. I’d like to explore some different varietals as well. We are licenced to sell take-home wine through a cellar door. We already have our own label for H&C up and running. 

Would you ever consider doing the wine on tap? 

We’re just discussing that right now. We would love to do that because we’ve noticed in the first month how much waste there is because we are pretty wine-heavy, even though we sell beer and spirits. But people are drinking a lot of wine here, and there are a lot of bottles. What we’re moving through is big. But I actually love that idea of wine on tap. We have a tap system and are ready to go. That’s always been part of the plan and really pushes the sustainability side of the winery. 

Wine might be a primary focus, but so is the food. What’s coming out of the kitchen?

Head Chef Gord Kahle was at The Heritage Wine Bar before this. Prior to that, he owned Cook and Mason in East Fremantle. He’s in charge, and he’s very accomplished. He’s very produce-focused, and the menu changes regularly depending on what he can get. The menu is ‘modern Fremantle’ because of the Mediterranean imprint on the city’s heritage and lifestyle. It’s a port and a fishing town, so all those things give us a lot of scope. We also champion other local businesses, like Ethos Deli, which provides charcuterie meats to oysters from Albany Rock Oysters. 

Most are sharing plates with bigger items, too. You can mix and match and make meals together, or just dive into the three-cheese toastie if you’re feeling in the mood. It’s good quality food, but casual.

And the wine. Who’s behind the list, or is it a mix between you all?

Chris Masten, along with Ebony Harding, our wine manager, who is from Perth but has owned a natural wine shop in London for a couple of years. The list was mainly conceived between her, Chris, and Ludovic Kirkstetter, H&C Venue Manager. We’ve got quite a substantial by-the-glass range, and then you’ve got a full bottle list that’s large but still quite concise and will expand over time. It’s a mix with a lot of WA wines. But some French, Italian, Greek, and American additions. We will open that up to more WA regions that aren’t as represented as they should be. We want to showcase the small estates. It’s great for customers, too. If they don’t have the chance to get out to the regions, they don’t have to – they can experience and taste it here.

So, will wine flights be on the cards?

Yeah, that’s definitely on the cards. We have quite a unique opportunity. Events are popping up in the winter, with our first wine mixer in April, an informal tasting event that’ll happen monthly.

Read more: Where to eat in Fremantle

Images © Jayga Photography

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