Lake Clifton's fruity wines hit the sweet spot
Tucked away in a vineyard — which sits 25km west of Waroona — is a Russian music teacher and former military engineer turned winemaker.
Together they weave their magic to produce interesting products like mango wine, plum port and ginger rum at Lake Clifton Winery.
The old-school cellar hits the sweet spot with its famous fruity wines and endearing charm.
It is full of character and has some whole-hearted characters within its four walls.
John and Larysa Buncle own the winery and said they produced the sweet varieties to diversify from the competition and create something new and innovative.
“I would always dream about owning my own vineyard,” John said.
If you can dream it and work at it, it will eventually happen.
The sixth generation farmer and father of six started making wine more than 30 years ago.
He bought 6000 vine cuttings from Margaret River and planted them in Lake Clifton.
What started as a simple wine venture blossomed into a creative enterprise.
“The first invention was the mulberry wine,” John said.
I put mulberries with shiraz and people said ‘wow, this makes shiraz taste good’.
Over the years, John created strawberry, passionfruit, apricot and peach wine.
He also cultivated chocolate, white and plum port and made rum and ginger wine – but still something was missing in his eyes.
“We had a sky full of stars, but no stand-out and that is when we come up with the mango wine idea,” he said.
The famous fruity flavours have caused such a fuss that other winemakers have tried to track down the recipe, however John said the recipe would remain “a secret”.
He has won more than 50 awards for his produce over the years, including the Best Commercial Fruit Wine and the Most Successful Exhibitor at the Perth Royal Show in 2009.
“I was really happy with my achievements and I stopped putting them in after that,” he said.
The old-school bar is dressed in art and makes vintage look cool again. Italian paintings hug the walls and classic memorabilia hangs in every nook and cranny – a celebration of culture and unique milestones.
Walking into the hidden gem feels like walking into a European bar that is off the main drag and hidden from the tourists.
The atmosphere is enticing and the smiles behind the bar are warm and sincere – except for the cat.
Larysa is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to wine parings and tastings.
She hails from Feodosia in Russia and grew up around the Crimean wine region.
“When I first came to Australia, I would hide out the back because I had an accent and couldn’t speak English very well,” Larysa said.
“Over time I became more confident in talking to people.”
The vineyard has also overcome its fair share of challenges. It was smoked out in the 2016 Waroona-Yarloop fires where $70,000 worth of wine was washed down the drain.
The pair said when they eventually decide to put away the barrels, they plan on simply going fishing along the Mandurah coastline.
Lake Clifton is now on the map for its lake, its thrombalites and – more recently, its fruity mango wine.
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