Picture the scene: It’s 1995. I’m living in a flat on Kinnoull Street above a chippy and an off-license. (Now Le Seria A). The offie is a quirky wee place, full of the booze, brands and beer that I’d never seen anywhere before. It was my birthday, I was about to turn 23 and I decided that I might be ready to try something a wee bit more adventurous than Mateus Rose. I bought a bottle of Strawberry Cairn O’Mohr and left said shop feeling rather fancy.
Cut to the next morning. I woke up, fully dressed on the living floor in front of my calor gas heater. The empty bottle lay winking at me and from the corner of the sofa and my face was imprinted with the lines of the cheap cord carpet. This is the day I truly learned what %proof on a bottle wine meant. It wasn’t pretty.
After my rookie mistake however, I grew quite accustomed to a wee taste of the Cairn O’Mohr. Blackcurrant, raspberry and elderflower gave way to elderberry and, I thought, the oddly named oak leaf (turns out not so oddly named – actually made from oak leaves. I was young.)
A few years later I was the woman in charge of Perth Farmers Market, I job I loved and called my own for five years. This is when I met Ron and Judith Gillies; the couple behind the strange winery based out at Errol. Everything suddenly made sense – well, a kind of Alice in Wonderland type sense. They, and everyone around the Cairn O’Mohr winery business were just that glorious side of slightly, geniusly, warmly bonkers.
Cairn O’Mohr was still relatively new when I necked the bottle of strawberry, having been set up in 1987. It sits among the fields and the hedge-lined country roads of the Carse of Gowrie down by Errol and now consists of the winery, the AliBob tea-room and several of Ron’s Big Wooden heids. You can enjoy a tour and find out how two people who met playing poker on a river boat in the steaming mosquito infested mangroves of the Panamanian jungle came to be living in Perthshire making wine from berries and leaves.
The pair are passionate about using the rich natural bounty that Perthshire has gifted us and if you’re passing by the country lanes around Errol in the summer months you’ll see Ron out with a backpack picking elderberries from the hedgerows. In fact if you meet him in the town at the same time of year, he’ll usually unzip said backpack and give you a wee puckle to munc has you chat.
The range of wines and ciders (cold, with ice on a summer’s day – magic!) has grown massively since they started and as a lover of great words and a wee bit of nonsense, hearing the new names and reading the labels has been almost as much as I’ve loved drinking their brew. These are “juicy-fruity, berry loaded, blossom scented, leafy layered, award winning country wines, using the berries for which the area is famous, wild flowers, fruits and leaves.”
If you’ve not made it out to Cairn O’Mohr for a wee visit then you really are missing one of Perthshire’s hidden treasures. Jump in car (they also do a non-alcoholic for drivers and backgammon players) and take a jaunt to the strange Scottish winery for a wee look and a bit of a lunch. You’ll be met with a warm and friendly welcome, a glass of something strangely good and if you’re lucky, a wink from a giant wooden heid.
The Cairn O’Mohr gallery is a mix of photos from across the years and brings together many of the reasons we all know and love them. Promotional images of human scarecrows in fields, men in baths in fields and Ron coming up the Tay with a boat full of apples have all played their part. Enjoy. More on the website>>