Walyalup wine lovers: Say hello to H&C Urban Winery

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
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It was a sad day when we learned that Mother (formerly the Raw Kitchen) would be closing her doors for good last year – after an impressive 14 years on Fremantle’s High Street.

Luckily, our despair was short-lived with the news that WA’s first-ever urban winery would be taking her place… And the time has (almost) come for this new venture to open its doors.

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

We dropped into H&C Urban Winery’s vast, greenery-filled space for a chat to owner Phil Thompson ahead of the venue’s imminent opening.

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

“The overarching concept is bringing wine to the people, really,” he explained.

“It’s about demystifying the process, and putting it in an easily accessible space – making it a little bit fun, a little bit easier. We lack the vineyard views and all those things, so we make up for it in other ways by making it a little bit more fun!”

But what exactly is an urban winery?

In a nutshell, the team will source parcels of grapes from around the state – as far as the Great Southern – to be crushed, stored and fermented on-site in the heart of Freo. They’ll be doing everything except the growing, while also collaborating with some of the best winemakers in the state. (An impressive barrel room is set to hold wine events and host private functions.)

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

“I’m not a winemaker, though!” Phil is quick and keen to make clear.

“My background is hospitality – Ross [McPherson] and I, we own the Local Hotel in South Freo. We did have a venue in Margaret River as well, which we sold recently. But this is something that we’ve been talking about for many years, looking for the right space.”

“Then this space came up and we got involved, and had a conversation with Scott Spalding, Chris Masten, Will Schofield, who started Heroes and Comrades as a sort of production label and an online wine sales thing during COVID. And we discussed it and said, ‘Well, why don’t we join up and give that a home and we’ll change that to just H&C in the name?'”

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

Along with the in-house wine production, multiple distilleries between the various owners means a focus on spirits, too.

“There’s a lot of things that we’ve personally all been involved in as well. Chris is involved in a spirit company that makes gin and vodka, Ross and I also have a gin and vodka distillery, as well as the wines we produce. So there’s a lot of things we put time, energy, and love into that we want people to feel. Including the venue – we didn’t use architects or designers, we did it all in-house.”

“And we’ve got a great team involved, including chef Gord Kahle, who’s come from the Heritage, Cook & Mason and other great things. I’m just really excited about it!”

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

When pushed about Gord’s new menu, Phil remains tight-lipped – although he will tell us they’re planning on lunch and dinner service, seven days a week.

“It’s very close, I can’t say too much!”

“We want a relaxed, fun atmosphere but good quality food, wine, spirits. Even down to the menu style, we’ve used the phrase ‘Modern Fremantle’ as the theme of our cuisine, drawing on the influences of Fremantle to give us direction in food.”

“Obviously it’s a port town and a fishing town – so there’s the seafood influences, Mediterranean influences, coastal stuff,” he continues.

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

“It’s an amalgam of those things. But underneath it all is that sort of relaxed feel of Fremantle. Which includes the many bars and pubs, and the influences they bring, and that easygoing way that things happen around here.”

“I’m a very Fremantle person, and so are most of my business partners! Urban wineries exist throughout the world, in other cities, but this… We want this to be very Fremantle.”

“Gord is an amazing chef and his attention to detail is amazing – he will chart a strong course through the venue with food he produces. I always believe that Head Chef is the person who sets the tone of a lot of things throughout the place, and the standards in the kitchen are the standards that permeate the front of the house as well. He has very high standards.”

H&C Urban Winery Fremantle
H&C Urban Winery Fremantle

“You’ve got other options around here, so you can enjoy this as part of Fremantle. There’s a lot of great things going on in Fremantle right now, so it’s really nice to work in with that. So we’re super excited about the location and the feel of the place. It just works.”

“I’ve loved being part of being here every day, you know, getting to this point and it’s been such a good process to get to this point and now there’s the next exciting thing, which is opening! Which is, you know, equal parts exciting and terrifying, all those things, as it should be. But that’s a good bit of what we do!”

H&C Urban Winery is scheduled to open very soon, and will be located at 181 High Street, Fremantle.

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