Monday, February 26, 2007

Red Hill Vineyards

On Sunday, I went to visit some vineyards with my friends Justin and Adrian. We choose the closest ones to our place, which turned out to be Red Hill. There was also quite a few clustered together in close proximity, which meant we got to visit a few all in the one day. We also visited the Ashcombe maze, which you can read about here and learn about the scientific way to get out of a maze.

The first vineyard we visited was Red Hill Estate. It was a simple fairly small vineyard but looked wonderful bathed in the morning sunshine. From the manicured car park, we walked into a fairly dark tasting area. This vineyard had the largest selection of wines to try of the four we went to. The assistant offered 17 wines for us to try, but we didn't want to try that many and opted for a few of them. I really like the chardonnay so bought a bottle of that.

The next vineyard was Tuck's Ridge. It had a huge vineyard that spread out far into the distance. The tasting area was a small bar where the assistant was very nice and explained things to us. She also recommended certain wines that were what they were good at. I liked the Pinot Noir 04, but not enough to part with $35 for a bottle. Hence it was on to the next winery.

The next winery happened to be just a walk next door from Tuck's Ridge and into Montalto. Montalto was the most interesting winery in that you could actually walk amongst the grape vines. It also had all these rather strange sculptures scattered all over the winery and wetlands.

Here I am standing under one of the sculptures. I'm looking sad because since I was the driver, I had to taste and spit most of the wine, rather than getting to swallow them. There were many many more sculptures and I took photos of some of them which you can see at my Flickr account.

The last vineyard was Paringa Estate. It was supposedly the must see place since they had some gold award wine. Paringa had a great view from the restaurant but was probably the worse in terms of enjoyability. Firstly, whereas you could as least walk around the vineyards at the other places, this was not possible at Paringa. Secondly, the tasting area was this tiny bar inside the restaurant. There was quite a lot of people that it took a while to get a glass poured. There was also a very very discreet little sign saying $2 for wine tasting. If we had seen it beforehand, we probably would have left, gold award wine or not. In the end, they didn't charge us but we felt kind of funny walking out not sure whether we should hand over 2 bucks. It just felt like it was too posh and rather than getting genuine warm service, we were being looked down at and expected to buy.

Of all four vineyards, I liked Red Hill Estate the best. The service was warm and friendly. They had a huge range to try and the place just felt comfortable. Montalto was also good for a walk around the wetlands and looking at the strange sculptures. In terms of actual wines, well, there were quite a few that were good but after a while, I forgot which was which and they all started to taste the same after the 15th glass. I'm not a very good wine taster I guess. To be more subjective next time, I guess I should take notes. But oh well, being my first wine tasting trip, I think I can be forgiven. I think wine from any of these places are a very high quality already and you can pick up quite a few good varities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The gold medal Pinot Noir from Paringa was probably the stand out, but at $90 a bottle, have you credit card ready.

For lunch, we tried to get tables at each of the vineyards, and despite all restaurants looking totally empty, we were told that they were all booked out for lunch. I guess people all turn up at the same time. So instead, we went to the Pig and Whistle pub.

The prices were quite high at this pub and the food portions turned out to be quite small. It also took an unbelievably long time for the food to be prepared. Luckily it was a beautiful day outside and we sat around talking. If this were any other place in the city, this level of service would be quite bad.

I ordered the Beef Peppered Pie. The pie itself was good, with actual pieces of beef. However, it was tiny for $14.50 and even with the chips, my starving stomach was not fully satisfied with the meal.

Adrian ordered the Salmon Salad, which took an eternity to arrive. You would think it was quite simple to cut up the salmon and toss the salad together. He said it was good though.

Justin got the Chicken Parmigiana and this one was good. It contained real chicken rather than processed chicken and the ham was of a decent type.

Word of caution, the pub ale was totally awful. This could be due to us drinking wine beforehand. Is it true that you should never drink beer after wine? Did this ruin the taste of the beer? Or was the pub ale actually terrible.

Beside the beer being hard to swallow, it was a great day trip and I recommend it to everyone. It's very close to the city, the scenery is fantastic, and you get to try lots of free wine without pressure to buy any from most places. Should you try a few wines you lick and pick up a few bottles, thats a bonus. Till the next wine tasting tour, bottoms up.

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