Let your Wine Compass guide you

Pimpernel Vineyards

If there are 2 things the Yarra Valley has in spades, it’s beautiful wine and great food. Not to mention gorgeous scenery and the fact that it’s only an hour out of Melbourne. The only issues are: how to choose where to go with so many options, and getting safely home after you’ve indulged in all the things.

And that’s where Wine Compass comes in. I was recently invited on a day trip with a comfy little busload of like-minded foodie winos (I’m saying that like its a good thing because it totally is) to get a guided tour of the Yarra Valley, with Adam who has been curating and hosting tours of the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula since cocky was an egg.  The key is local knowledge, and being able to design a tour specifically tailored to the needs of each group, in a relaxed and informal style, but with plenty of information if and when you need it.

For our particular trip, we started out at Pimpernel Vineyards, a boutique winery a little off the beaten track and well worth the visit. We felt like we had uncovered a hidden gem (well actually Wine Compass did the uncovering, we just drank the wine) – their vines are non-irrigated,  essentially resulting in grapes which have to fight for their water and nutrients, and whilst there may be a lower yield, they are concentrated and more intense in flavour, i.e. delicious.

Their specialities are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and they also make a very lovely Viognier, one of my new favourite wines, with lovely perfume and complexity which you can only get from a good grape and a winemaker who knows what to do with it.

The next stop was Oakridge for lunch, home to wunderkind chef Matt Stone, which was predictably fabulous, elegant and colourful, from the house-made bread and butter, (they even mill the flour onsite to make the bread) , local Yarra Valley caviar, handmade pasta, and vegetables from their own garden. And of course some beautiful wines to match.


Last stop was the always fabulous Four Pillars Gin, where the super-smiley Cam Mackenzie was on hand to have a chat, we had a special gin tasting, and got to have a sneak peak at the new release Shiraz Gin (my favourite, because wine).


And in the style of all great road trips, it ended with us zooming down the freeway back towards the city with one of our guests (Melbourne Cocktails I’m looking at you) commandeering the stereo and turning the bus into a high-spirited karaoke disco.  You should book now. Click here . Cheers!

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Glenrowan & Glamping

 


 There’s nothing like an impromptu road-trip to discover yet another Victorian wine region where you also end up making friends with beer. When your accommodation is a romantic middle-of-nowhere glampsite complete with natural beauty and wildlife, where you can still be in time for dinner at a city-quality restaurant in just 20 minutes, it kinda feels like you’ve hit the adventure jackpot. This was our experience when we headed for Glenrowan this weekend.

Right now until the 18th of May you can stay at the Winton Wetlands (just over 2 hours from Melbourne, in Victoria’s North East, at the Mokoan Flash Tents camp, in luxury canvas tents, each complete with king-sized bed covered in soft warm fluffy doona, solar lamp, deck chairs, gorgeous Biology toiletries  and extra rugs for added warmth, for just $150 (for 2 ppl).

The campsite features a generator-powered hot shower, toilets, picnic tables, bikes, and a fire (wood provided).

A spectacular location and photographer’s paradise, activities at the Wetlands include walking, bike riding, bird watching, canoing and star gazing. Incredible natural beauty, year round.

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A stone’s throw from the camp is the Glenrowan wine region, where you’ll find deep, plummy shiraz, and dark berry durif, as well as some fantastic fortified and even a few good whites.

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Wangaratta and Benalla are both close by (roughly 20-25 minutes) so if you’re looking for either breakfast or dinner options, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We love Cafe The PreVue, Cafe DeRailleur or the newly opened Bertsy & Co for brunch or coffee, and for the classic Italian cucina experience you can’t go past Rinaldo’s for dinner.

But first, the wine!  We met Lennie at Baileys of Glenrowan, a winery that’s been around since 1870, and whose wines consistently rate a mid to high 90’s from Mr Halliday. Lennie was only too happy to take us through the range, we fell a little bit in love with the organic Shiraz and the 2013 Durif ( which we brought home with us)

Baileys also do a mean wood-fired pizza, as well as antipastos and cheeses at the Old Block Cafe, nestled amidst a gorgeous old garden.FullSizeRender-1

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Just up the road is Taminick Cellars where James Booth is continuing over 100 years of family winemaking tradition, producing Rose, Nero D’Avola, Shiraz and Durif.

In 2011 he opened the Black Dog Brewery on site,  hand-crafting small-batch, preservative-free beers from premium malted barley, hops and yeast strains with pure Warby Ranges water. For a non-beer drinker I was pretty taken with the ‘Saison’! We picked up both the Shiraz and Durif, as well as a 6 pack of beers to enjoy at home.

Auldstone Cellars is also close by so we dropped in to have a chat with Nancy. As well as reds, Auldstone are producing some award-winning chardonnay and riesling. We even bagged 1989 (yep, you read that right) aged riesling that we opened when we got home and it took a few hours to wipe the smile off my face. Oh yeah.

Next time we’ll go back and visit Morrisons Winery which we just couldn’t fit in on the day.

If you’re camping, make sure you leave plenty of time for exploring the wetlands, just remember to pack a portable phone charger since there’s no electricity (although perfect phone/data reception to share your sunset pics on Insta!) and just revel in the sensation of being woken up by the birds instead of an alarm clock.

http://www.visitglenrowan.com.au

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Behind the Hedge – Coombe Farm in the Yarra Valley

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For as long as I can remember, I have been a regular visitor to the Yarra Valley, and recall my father telling me as a young girl that the huge gates on the bend just past Coldstream were the entrance to the estate of Dame Nellie Melba, whom I knew to be a great opera singer.

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If you have, like me, ever wondered what lies ‘behind the hedge’ , the news is good.

Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly restored, it is also now open for the public to enjoy, and not just as an historical homage. Coombe Farm is styling itself as an artistic hub, which will play host to thousands of visitors every year, as people stream through the gates to explore the gardens on guided tours, as well as to weddings, corporate events and opera performances as part of the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust. They will also, like me return for the wine, as Coombe Farm Wine Cellar door is also located here.

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Dame Nellie Melba was in her day one of the most famous women in the world, the first woman to ever grace the cover of Time Magazine, and counted amongst her friends Charlie Chaplin, (who apparently swam in her pool at Coombe Farm) movie idol Douglas Fairbanks, and members of the Royal family. She lived a lavish, flamboyant life of concerts,  travelling the globe with her monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage and custom-made Cartier jewellery, and was celebrated all over the world for her magnificent voice. She was also lauded for her unending support for charity, as well as nurturing the talent of budding artists, including Arthur Streeton who would, with her patronage go on to be one of our most celebrated painters.  Apparently Dame Nellie also had a wicked sense of humour, and had a bit of the Aussie larrikin in her. Quite frankly she sounds like someone I would have loved to share a glass bottle of wine with.  Take a tour of the grounds and gardens and your guide will regale you with all manner of lovely anecdotes and snippets about this national treasure. They’re all in love with the history of her and are full of enthusiasm for sharing her legacy with as many people as possible.

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The beautiful Providore stocks gardening wares, handcrafted pieces from independent artists, and specially-commissioned Melba memorabilia including monogrammed teatowels, crockery etc, as well as  the stunning biography written by Melba’s beloved granddaughter, Pamela, Lady  Vestey which is on my Christmas list this year.

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The gardens were originally designed by Guilfoyle (he of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne fame) and at every turn you are rewarded with stunning views over different parts of the Yarra Valley.

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The oldest (functional) swimming pool in Australia where Charlie Chaplin swam


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The gorgeous morsels served as part of brunch, using local and homegrown ingredients, included the award-winning Coombe Farm Wines’ Dame Nellie Melba Blanc de Blanc, fresh baked scones with Peach Melba jam, truffles, lemon meringue tartlet, Coombe Farm pate with Melba toast, and pork and apple sausage rolls.

 IMG_4019 IMG_4022 IMG_4023 IMG_4024 IMG_4026The restaurant is open, and serving seasonal and largely estate grown produce, for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea 7 days a week. They will also be open for dinner on weekends during peak holiday periods as well as for special events.



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View the current menu here

Bookings for Garden Tours are essential. The cost is $25 and includes morning or afternoon tea and I am looking for volunteers to come with me so I can do it all over again (and again)

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Sincere thanks to Coombe Farm and Two Hands Agency for having me along to discover what’s #behindthehedge

Visit Coombe Farm’s beautiful website here for more information: http://coombeyarravalley.com.au/site/