Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yarra Valley Wineries

It was Paul's birthday so that was an excuse as any for all of us to do another winery tour. This time we chose to go to the Yarra Valley. So Paul, Kin, Jo, Phuong and I packed into Paul's car and drove to the Yarra Valley, about 40 minutes away from us. The Yarra Valley consists of areas like Lilydale, Coldstream, Healsville and Yarra Glen.

We kept telling Paul to open his present as he could use it immediately. But he kept thinking it was something rude and we were setting him up. Finally, we talked him into opening his beautifully wrapped present (good job Kin) and found that he got a electric car seat massager. He still wouldn't use it though.

The first stop for the day Helen's Hill winery. We were really excited and commenting how large the vineyard was and saw the huge metallic barrels in the shed. After looking at the beautiful parrots in the trees, we went to the cellar door. We got up the ramp and looked around, waiting for someone to come and greet us. It was already 11:30am so wasn't exactly early. After shouting out a few times and ten minutes wait, no one came so we decided to leave. We could have helped ourselves to a couple of cases of wine and no one would have known. What establishment are they running. It's a public holiday so would be busy but yet there is no one around to meet customers. Their famour Vines restaurant which we had heard about and was eager to try was also closed. A total disappointment all round.

The next stop lifted our spirits however. Going from the huge vineyard of Helen's Hill, we went to the tiny one of Brumfield At The Oaks, where we warmly greeted by the wood fireplace and David and Anda. They were so welcoming and invited us in to their house almost. We tried out all of their wines while David explained the processes and different flavours to us. As I written previoiusly about the Red Hill winery trip, places that tend to explain things to me usually get my attention more and I will be more likely to buy something. Places that are too busy to be bothered with me usually don't get my business unless they really have some spectacular wines. But I usually don't even get round to trying them because they don't bother asking what you like and then suggesting things that you will probably enjoy. Some larger places just don't have the time of day for you, defeating the purpose of their wine tasting areas.

Anyway I'm waffling again. So David explained each wine and I totally loved the two Shiraz he had, so I bought a bottle of each. The central region Shiraz was the highlight of the day for me.

The next stop was at the junction of Moorondah Highway and some other major road I can't remember. It was the Yarra Valley Gateway Estate, which was less a winery than a grocery store. They had all these hydroponic fruits and vegetables, with a wine tasting area at the counter. Again, the service is good here and Brett, I think, explained the wines of the region and their peculiarities to us. I didn't really like any of the wines, but Jo like one so bought it.

We were next enticed by a sign for Yearing Farm, which promised an assortment of dairy products, jams and wines. They lived up to their promises and it was a great place, despite the slightly strong manure odour wafting in the car park. They had a very large range of wines, including some older vintage ones. We tried a few and again I didn't particularly like any. Jo and Kin liked some so again bought some.

The view outside of their windows at the rolling clouds and mountains was very nice.

After trying wines, we also did cheese tasting. There were a lot of different goat's cheese, most of which I found rather too strong for me. I did like the cow's cheese with herbs but not enough to buy it. In the glass display cabinet next to the cheese was this Duck Neck Sausage. We were arguing over whether you eat it cold or have to cook it. Jo was eventually correct when the assistant told us you eat it cold. Being the curious kind, I asked if we could buy one and eat it in the shop. The assistant said we could, and suggested some crackers to go with it. I liked the Duck Neck Sausage, which was stuffed with duck's neck, pork, nuts and other things. The others didn't like it that much, but I enjoyed it. It was like a mixture between pate and terrine.

From Yering Farm, we popped over to Yering Station, a stone's throw away. It was probably the most architecturally advanced winery of all we visited. There huge modern glass restaurant building contrasted with the brick cellar door but was drawn together by the exquisite manicured gardens and the visually stunning rows of huge trees with yellow leaves. Below is my only artistic shot of the day.

The cellar door contained one end where there was a lot of jams, chocolates and sauces. I was fascinated by the truffle oil, verjuice and Tetsuya's salt mix. I wanted to by the salt mix, but it was rather expensive so decided against it. It was only salt after all and I couldn't justify spending $30 for a tiny jar of salt the size of my thumb. The wine tasting bar itself was packed. Although the assistant offered us glasses immediately, the service thereafter was extremely slow, so slow in fact that we got bored and left. The assistants were too busy being "cool" and were huddled in the middle cleaning glasses more than serving drinks. They didn't really bother explaining the wines either. I guess that is where the difference between big and small wineries lie. At the small winery, the owners are passionate about their produce and believe in it. Here at Yering Station, the hippie looking 20 somethings looked like they were just doing a job.

The next stop was De Bortoli. As they were a larger winery, I was again expecting service to be bad. But it was actually very good. The more mature ladies were very helpful in explaining things to us. I liked their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon so got a bottle of that. The grounds here were least interesting of all the wineries. The cellar door sat atop a hill and although the view down was good, there wasn't much to explore besides the car park.

The next stop was Oakridge. Again we were welcomed and served wine for tasting. After I tasted their Chardonnay, I regretted buying the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon at De Bortoli. This white Chardonnay was so much nice so I got a bottle. Jo and Kin went all out and got two Rose, Shiraz and Chardonnay.

Starting to feel the effects of all the wine, we headed to one last winery. Also it was getting late and places were starting to close. The last stop was Domine Chandon. This place was excellent for a wonder around their huge gardens and art galleries. The gardens were huge and perfet for a wedding as everyone pointed out. The wine tasting area was inside the main building. The assistant was very helpful in explaining about their sparkling wines, the first sparkling that we tried all day. It was very good and at a good price. So Paul and Jo bought some.

It was time to go home after as we were all tired and hungry. After a lot of ummming and arrrrrring in the car over where to go to eat, we finally decided that we wanted to stuff ourselves, so went to Little Lamb in Box Hill for some buffet hot pot. It was another great day of wine tasting. I'm really getting into this wine tasting thing as I like to drink good wine more and more with meals now. The wines of the different regions really are very different and I can pick out different flavours in the wine now. Till the next winery tour, happy drinking to everyone.

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