Australia Winery and Vineyard Tour
Australia is definitely a unique and surprising place. I admit that before this trip, I had a bit of that stereotypical impression of “the land down-under” being mostly expanses of desert and relentless heat and expected to find mostly warm region red wines. Not so! We tasted as much Pinot Noir and sparkling wine as we did Cabernet.
We began our Australia wine odyssey based in Melbourne, about an hour from the Yarra Valley. Here we visited De Bortoli Wines, Innocent Bystander, and Dominique Portet wineries. The Yarra Valley is known for its cool climate wines, and we got to taste a wide selection of quality wines from each place. Ben Portet, the tenth generation winemaker at Dominique Portet, gave us a good sense of the fascinating history of winemaking in the Yarra Valley.
The next day we traveled to the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, where we met and were hosted by Lindsay McCall of Paringa Estates winery. He really charmed us with his energy and passion, and wined and dined us in style. During the gourmet lunch hosted at the winery restaurant, we tasted 12 wines, all expertly paired with the wonderful food. What an incredible visit that was!
Next stop – Tasmania, for three days of island life. As soon as we walked off the plane at the tiny airport, we knew we were out of the city, out of the heat, and in Pinot Noir country. We visited Jansz Winery, Freycinet Vineyard, Spring Vale Wines, and Morrilla Estate. At each winery we were treated to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Reisling, Gewurztraminer and Merlot – and a wonderful variety of sparkling wines. Janz was the first in Tasmania to make sparkling wine using the traditional méthod champenoise, and it is the only Tasmanian label solely devoted to sparkling wines. They now have localized their technique and call it Méthode Tasmanoise.
Morrilla Estate Winery is also the home of MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – the largest privately owned museum in the world, with 2,000 pieces of artwork that have been collected by the owner of Morrilla Estates, David Walsh. Visiting this museum is an amazing experience – entertaining, thought-provoking, shocking, and unforgettable.
After our Tasmanian adventure, we returned to the mainland and spent a day traveling along the renowned ribbon of Australian highway, the Great Ocean Road and then turned inland to Coonawarra.
The Coonawarra wine region is known for the Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced from its “terra rossa,” a type of red clay soil produced by the weathering of limestone. We toured Patricks of Coonawarra, Balnaves, Majella Wines, Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate, and Holicks wineries and tasted lots of Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, some wonderful red blends, and delicious sparkling wines of shiraz, cabernet, and merlot.
We spent the final days of our trip in Adelaide, a wonderful coastal city. From there we travelled to the Barossa Valley wine region where we visited Henschke, Yalumba and John Duval wineries. Yalumba is one of the oldest wineries in Australia and is being operated by the sixth generation of family vintners. They are known for their innovation and willingness to try new approaches to winemaking, and were the first winery to introduce Viognier to Australia. John Duval is one of the top Shiraz winemakers in Australia, and, in a note closer to home, he is also one of the winemakers for Long Shadows in Walla Walla, WA.
From Adelaide we traveled a short distance to Adelaide Hills where we visited Lane Vineyards and Petaluma. Petaluma is known for its wonderful Reisling – which did not disappoint! In McLaren Vale, also a short distance from Adelaide, we toured WirraWirra, Paxton Winery, and d’Arenberg Winery, where we were treated to an impressive tasting of 12 different single-vineyard Syrahs. While the differences were subtle, the variety of terroirs came through.
A very special treat, and an incredible example of the hospitality we enjoyed, was an invitation to the home of Dick and Liz Wilson, who live about an hour outside of Adelaide. The Wilson connection began when we were planning the Australia and were contacted by Pete Wilson (Dick’s brother) who lives in Washington state. Pete knows about our wine tours, having come along on some regional ones. Pete set us up with his brother who hosted an incredible picnic dinner for our whole group and also invited their friend, Brian Croser, to meet us. Brian started Petaluma Winery in Adelaide Hills, Cloudy Bay Winery in New Zealand, and Argyle Winery in Willamette Valley. Needless to say, we were delighted to have the chance to meet him, and he graciously told us that he was excited to meet us. The highlight of the evening was the 20-year-old Riesling that Brian brought for us to try – and it was really good. Who knew an aged Riesling could be so delicious!
What an amazing trip this was – this journey “down under.” So packed with wonderful wine experiences, generous, warm and gracious people, unusual terrain, new histories and innovations to hear about and foods to try. Oh, and did I mention the kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras? The stories of this trip are as big and vast as the continent – it just won’t all fit.
Below are of few of the highlights – behind the scenes with winemakers, vineyard walks, extravagant tastings, and everyday another gourmet meal.