What a bonkers place! We’re still recovering! The Cairn O’Mohr Winery is a fantastically entertaining day trip and the team are amazing. They’ll introduce you to the products and company with honesty, pride and a great deal of humour. The guided tour takes you around vats (cautioning you, “don’t lick the lids!”), store rooms and bottling machines - before making sure you get a generous taser of a whole spectrum of produce before rolling yourself into the the onsite shop to purchase further supplies at bargain prices. There’s a gem of a cafe there too, should you need a pleasant spot to stagger off afterwards to draw breath and wonder what on earth just happened.
Cairn O’Mohr wine is vegan and 100% produced from local fruits and ingredients. The fruit supply comes from both locals exchanging apples for credit vouchers to spend in their shop and trading with the surrounding fruit farms (Strathmore Valley is the soft-fruit growing region of Scotland).
Cairn O’Mohr is a very ecological wine choice for us locals to make - but with no compromise on taste. Cairn O’Mohr make absolutely delicious berry wines (such as strawberry, raspberry and gooseberry). Other wonders are created from ingredients wild-foraged from the surrounding landscape, including elderberries, elderflower, oak leaves and brambles: making fresh tasting wines which portray the seasons of the year and truly respect the ingredients and land which produces it. To taste Cairn O’Mohr wine is to taste the story of our region’s landscape, old and new.
There’s a speciality cider - the wonderfully irreverently named King Jimmy’s Cider, made up of a single variety of apples which are picked annually on Moncreiffe Island in Perth (part of the King James VI Golf Club) (“the old apple trees here make cider a with curious flavour of honey and tea”). In the King Jimmy’s Cider’s first year, 2 tonnes of apples were harvested off the island with help from the Perth Sea Cadets in boats. Unless our guide was joking, they now use a purpose built aerial slide to get the apples from the island.
On our recent visit, the year’s wine season was just wrapping up to give full attention to over cider production: vans full of apples kept rolling up to have their cargo weighed in, under the watchful eyes of numerous strange wood-carved faces made by the winery co-founder Ron Gillies.
This is by no means an anonymous business. The founders, Ron and Judith Gillies, shine through in a way that more and more big businesses spend money trying to emulate. Big in personality, the Cairn O’Mohr Winery is clearly built on sincerity, hard work and the restless pursuit of quality and innovation - as well as quite clearly drinking no small amount of their very own jolly juice.
The company’s progression is perhaps best summed up by the owners’ cottage. It’s where their first wines were produced - either sold out the front door (perfect editions) or, to those 'in the know', the back door (squint labels/ other production errors). It’s now just the owner’s home - a charming farmhouse set amidst metal tanks, watchful statues and a whole lot of activity happening around it.
Cairn O’Mohr is enjoying recent growth markets of vegan produce, vegetarian produce, artisanal produce, ecological produce and gastro/produce tourism. After 30 years of wine production, its wines are now in delis and restaurants across Scotland. Certain are even widely available in supermarkets and getting featured on national TV cooking shows.
Success is well deserved, but I can’t see it tuning their heads and there’s just not much to improve on. Perhaps they’ll invest in a few more aerial slides across the Strathmore Valley to keep bringing home them apples. Oh, and a couple of zip wires for visitors to slide home by would be extremely handy too.