Friday, March 05, 2010

Tamar Valley Tasmania

Seven days in Tasmania. So much to eat and drink yet so little time. Planning a wedding didn't leave much time for planning a holiday in Tassie and scoping out scrumptious dining destinations. Still, one can achieve a lot with help from a tourist information centre and an iPhone, right? Wrong. Launceston's tourist centre boasted a few brochures about the Tamar Valley Wine route and that's it. What's more, mobile reception, and therefore iPhone internet access, deserted us mid way through day one. Oh!

Still, S-bo and I bravely ventured forward with our wine route brochure in hand. Our first destination was Velo, a great little winery that I have previously mentioned. What I didn't know back in 2009 was that the vineyard was originally planted in 1966 by Graham Wiltshire, who is not just a pioneer of wine in the Tamar Valley, but in the whole of Tasmania. Velo's reserve shiraz was a standout with rich flavours yet none of the brashness found in shiraz from hotter regions.

With longing eyes we bypassed Ninth Island. I knew we could taste the Ninth Island Wines just across the river at Pipers Brook (and at your local Victorian bottleshop) and we were far too early to enjoy lunch with Daniel Alps at Strathlynn. Poor timing became a feature of our trip, missing the much-hyped Angasi at Binalong Bay, new star Granite at Bicheno and Gourmet Traveller favourite Piermont at Swansea, despite staying at the resort. I guess chefs need days off too.

Instead we continued on to Rotherhythe, not a cellar door I would recommend due to their limited range, but we did have a rather interesting conversation about the importance of marriage, the local's reaction to the proposed Pulp Mill and other such meaning-of-life-musings. S-bo and I had decided not to visit any Gunns Ltd Wineries whilst in Tassie, as a stand against the pulp mill, but I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to say at Rotherythe.

To get back onto the topic of wine we aimed for Stoney Rise, which was actually the site of Rotherhythe's vines until Joe Holyman bought it and pulled out the existing cabernet savignon, planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay instead. Two labels, Stoney Rise and Holyman, deliver wine made in two different ways. Stoney Rise presents easy drinking wines with the Pinot fermented in old oak and the chardonnay bottled early. On the other hand, the Holyman label aims to produce wines for cellaring, with more complex structures. I will be seeking out a bottle of the 08 Holyman Pinot Noir from Prince Wine Store here in South Melbourne. The only problem will be finding the discipline to cellar it for a few years (or more).

Many wineries from the Tamar have limited distribution on the mainland but developing a collection of your favourites isn't a problem, despite the baggage restrictions of cheaper airlines. Tasmanian Wineries will happily send mixed cases (or part thereof) for merely the cost of freight. Leaving a case at the last cellar door you visit will be met with a smile and "no problem". It cost us just $16 to freight our case back to Melbourne.

Fortunately we had prepared ourselves a picnic lunch before leaving Launceston, because enticing providores and delis were hard to come by, something I found surprising in a wine region. A quick trip to Goaty Hill, another of my stops from last year, revealed that the Clover Hill cellar door may have been open, a very rare event. Across the river into the Piper's River region, three wrong turns and lost mobile reception later we found the rumour to be untrue.

Still, we weren't too poorly done by when our consolation price was a visit to Jansz Jansz and a bottle to enjoy with our dinner.


FoodieFi said...

We did a similar trip through the Tamar Valley, where we got our timing all wrong. We left Launceston too early, and had to hang about waiting for cellar doors to open. When we weren't hungry there were bakeries on offer, then when we were hungry there was nothing but logging trucks.

Sounds like you had a great day, and there are some good recommendations in there to follow up.

Good call on the Gunns vineyards too.

Ali-K said...

Hey FoodieFi, It's a funny area isn't it? The wine is fantastic but promotion of tourism in the general area is pretty low, gourmet hotspots hard to find and even shady scenic picnic spots rare.

Still, the wine makes it all worth it. Pipers Brook across the river is a little more idyllic.

Ben Radbone said...

One of Tassie's intricacies, which is both a blessing and a curse, is that is is still so far behind the mainland in so many ways.

As a vineyard owner in the Pipers River area, I have spent the past decade learning to adapt my Victorian lifestyle to Tassie ways - a slower pace, better planning for trips/days out, and forget 24 hour shopping. You are pushing your luck for 24hr fuel!

A key to this is that Tassie deals with a TINY population resource, and similarly, a smaller tourism volume when compared to other states. It simply is not as easy to get here!

Many a time I have seen GREAT (local and mainland) concepts start up here, only to fall over due to an insufficient client base to sustain it. Truly a sad thing to watch. These business are often simply ahead of their time...Tassie will eventually support them, but isn't quite there yet. Despite this hardship, it is these ventures that push Tassie forward in the hospitality scene.

I do still feel it is a good thing that Tassie is a little behind...we are pushing forward, just more at the tortoise's pace than the hare's!

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