Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yarra Yarra Hey!

I'm sitting with Bryce in the Qantas lounge at Melbourne, waiting for our flight to Brisbane, in QueensLAND. Remember my project to go to all the states/countries that end in -land in English? Well, that's part of why I'm here, all the way down in Australia.

This morning we headed up to the Yarra Valley for a scenic drive and some wine tasting. Both were achieved, to the point where I had to say "no more" at lunch time. On the way up, we stopped in at Domaine Chandon. We tasted two very nice sparkling wines, and a variety of reds and whites. Their Brut méthode champagnoise was quite tasty.

We continued to the Yarra Valley visitor's center in Healesville, where a very helpful lady pulled out a map and marked it up with suggestions as to where we should go. Our first winery was RiverStone, in Coldstream. We tried a variety of reds, but what really stood out for me was a 10 year old Tokay that they made at another winery further south. I'm developing a fascination for sweet dessert wines, and this one really knocked my socks off. It was sweet without being cloying, and had the most wonderful toasted coconut finish that kicked in definitely after swallowing. I really enjoyed that it did that, so I picked up a bottle to bring back to California. The winery building and land at RiverStone were really lovely:

Next stop was Yering Station, which bills itself as Australia's oldest winery -- even though there was a good space of time when the vines were ripped up and the land was used for various agricultural purposes, including stock grazing. The place seemed rather large and full of tourists, so I was a bit worried that it would be sort of a Gallo-type place. However, once we got into the tasting room, we were not disappointed. They had a very long tasting list, which included a really tasty nebbiolo that has given me a really great opinion of that variety. They also had an interesting "M.S.R" blended white made up of 67% Marsanne, 25% Viognier, and 8% Roussane. Bryce ordered a mixed case of this wine, plus some Sangiovese and Shiraz. I was hoping it all would be delivered before I left Brisbane so I could sample a bit more, but alas that was not the case. As for myself, I snapped up yet another sweet wine -- this one a fortified Shiraz. It was really delicious, not quite a tawny port, but not exactly a late-harvest type sweet wine either. I'm curious to learn more about these types of wines, as knowledge of and consumption of them does not seem to be very widespread in the US. I will have to do some research -- including tasting trips -- after I get home.

We were getting hungry, and so decided to stop at the Balgownie Estate. This was a large facility, with a hotel, spa, and conference center attached. We wanted lunch, so we decided to taste wine first to determine what we would drink with our meal. The gentleman helping us taste was quite gregarious, and we sipped our way through some Pinot Noirs, including the proprietor's reserve which was quite yummy. The dining room and menu at the Estate were lovely, but unfortunately we did not have a reservation and so were turned away. Not to be deterred, we headed to another winery that had been suggested, only to find a sign on the door saying that the restaurant was entirely booked for lunch that day. We backtracked a bit, and stopped at the café at Yarrawood. I ordered some pasta with grilled chicken and basil cream sauce, and drank it with something...at this point I can't remember. At that point I probably couldn't have remembered either. I had tasted/drank a lot of wine that morning, so after we finished eating I turned to Bryce and said "No more."

The afternoon and evening were consumed by wending our way back to Melbourne and then flying on to Brisbane.

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