A Yarra Valley Wine Tour

 Melbourne was great. I’m not sure what it was but I loved the city on sight. It felt comfortable with itself and like it would be a good city to live in. It was a lot more multicultural than Sydney and it just seemed like it had more interesting things to offer. Or maybe it seemed like it would have more to reveal to you if you decided to stay awhile. In my couple of days there, I explored the CBD and Federation Square, the St.Kilda neighbourhood and the Aclan Street cake shops (I had poppyseed cheesecake – yum), and the Queen West-hipster-like neighbourhood of Fitzroy. I also rode the classic green trams and watched a cricket match.

As great as all that was, the Saturday and Monday that I spent in Melbourne were just the oreo cookies, and my friends, Sunday was the sweet cream filling. On the Sunday, I took the best daytrip ever. Seriously. Being near Australian wine country, I had decided to take a one-day tour in the Yarra Valley and I went with Epicurean Food and Wine Tours. Even though I’ve enjoyed drinking wine for some time,  I didn’t really know that much about it. My sister, Jacqueline, has gotten into wine education and tastings in the past couple of years and her enthusiasm has been infectious. So I figured Australia was as good a place as any to start catching up with her.

Our tour guide Steve

We were a small group of ten and in good hands with our guide Steve who was obviously very experienced and shared lots of information about the history of the area and the various vineyards. We started off at De Bortoli Winery where we also got to sample the wares from their Cheese Room. Then it was on to Yering Station Winery which was set on a beautiful landscaped property with a sculpture garden on the grounds. The Tasting Bar was set in their old winery building (circa 1859) and the Yarrabank Creme de Cuvee was a definite highlight. It was strawberry blonde in colour and I could taste both the strawberry and pear notes.

It was about this time that the alcohol started to kick in and our little group started to get a bit chattier and friendlier with each other. It’s not rocket science as to why this was the best daytrip ever. Basically we drank great wine all day and the mood got livelier and livelier as the day wore on. There was me, Peter and his girlfriend who live in Singapore, a couple from Slovenia, two women who work together at Visa in the Bay Area, and a couple from New Zealand who were visiting their son, Cameron, who was studying in Melbourne.

We stopped for lunch at Domaine Chandon which was set up for Moet et Chandon in 1986. It made me think of my Dad who went through a period where he used to buy Moet et Chandon by the case. Before lunch, we had a tour of the exhibition area, the winery and the ridding hall where we learned how sparkling wine is made using the traditional method. The bubbles are produced by a secondary fermentation with yeast directly in the bottle. Who knew?

Lunch was duck or salmon and was accompanied by a tasting of four different sparkling wines including a red sparkling wine which was a first for me. They make it from shiraz grapes and it’s big in Australia. It was good.

After lunch, we headed to Coldstream Hills Winery. By this point the bubbles had kicked in and I was in deep discussion with the Slovenian couple, making plans to visit them next summer. Coldstream Hills is a small boutique winery and we had the cellar door all to ourselves. This was great because we were really able to get lots of information about each wine as we tasted our way through their selection which included some special reserve wines. I’ve always preferred red to white but this is where I had my sauvignon blanc revelation. It was one of the best things I drank all day. Apparently it shows characters of passionfruit, gooseberry and mango so clearly it is suited for West Indians and our tropical palates.

We ended our tour at the Yarra Valley Dairy where we had a cheese tasting of ashed Black Savourine, Chevre and Dill, Gemello and Persian Fetta. And I had a really great soy latte to help balance out the slight drunkenness.

It was a fine way to spend my last weekend in Australia.

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