I was quite looking forward to getting out of the city for the weekend. Until now, my excursions in Victoria have always been East of the city so I was also keen to see the countryside to the West.
I went into the city on Friday afternoon to meet up with Matt and his friends Buzz and Brent who were our generous hosts for the weekend. We piled into the car and went to pick up Sarah, who’d already started on the wine with drinks after work. A few hours later we were off the freeway and driving through farmland. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’d seen a cow. We pulled up outside Kernot Store, which the guys had informed me was a great place for pizza, and had a cracking country pub atmosphere.
Everyone seemed to know one another and there were a few gents keeping the clientele entertained with their music. As for the pizza, we all know about four cheese, but how about five mushroom! Fantastic. After a few drinks, we headed off to Buzz’s dad Lew’s farm where we would be staying for the weekend.
The following morning, the rest of the group arrived and we piled into a mini-bus to begin our tour of the local vineyards. I’ve often seen it mentioned that parts of south Australia, California and South Africa all have climate zones similar to that of the Mediterranean, and having been to most of those areas I found it particularly interesting to see how similar the landscapes were. The rollings hills of Gippsland could have easily been the low hills of the Sierra Nevada ranges. It’s a good job the drinking started nice and early, otherwise this could have been an incredibly boring update for you.
One beer in and we arrive at our first stop of the tour: Bass River Winery. Our host may or may not have been called Rosa, but she was proper Italian. The wine tasting was most definitely on. Now I don’t pretend to know anything about wine, or wine tasting, or the pretentious terms that I’m supposed to use when describing what a particular wine tastes or smells like. However, I did sample a sparkling pinot gris, which tasted like sour apples and a pinot noir that had a strong smokey after taste to it and a chardonnay that tasted like walking through a desert during an acid rain storm, or dry and acidic.
After our samples had expired, we pilled back on to the bus, cleansed our palates with another beer and continued our journey to the Bass River Estates. There were some stand our features of this particular winery; the first being giant earth worms. Apparently, Gippsland is home to one meter long earth worms and there was a small gallery and a little info on the species. The second, was a golf challenge. If you could drive a ball into the dam across the valley, you won a bottle of wine. I’ve seen some of the guys at the driving range before, so was expecting to see some free wine given out. Almost everyone had a crack and we only had one winner among us with Matt taking home a free bottle.
With the sporting activities over for now, we headed inside to enjoy some more wine. Our host Roger was a bit of a lad, enjoying at very least one glass for every wine he poured for the group. Roger had one wine for us that probably got me the closest to buying a bottle. He described it has having an explosion of chocolate, coconut, mint and lime. If it were to make a sound, it would have been a bit like “phhooommmpphh.” Pretty tasty, but I’d have just had it sitting on the side waiting for a special occasion that would never come and never drink it.
We stopped with Roger for a plowman’s lunch platter of sorts and then it was back to the bus for our next stop; The Gurdies. This winery had a pretty special view of French Island and Western Port. Before heading inside, we all took a minute outside to enjoy it before the heat became too much and we had to head inside to drink some more.
By now, I was only sure of what colour the wines I was drinking were. There was plenty on offer at the Gurdies and it seemed like we had to get through as many of the wines as possible. As soon as I put down an empty glass, another wine was being poured ready to try. For me, I think that’s probably the best way a winery should operate; never leaving you with an empty glass. After six or seven or maybe even more, I’d stopped counting, it was time to move on to our final stop for the afternoon.
I feel like we had saved the best for last, our last winery for the day was the Gippsland Wine Company. By this point, I was barely registering the colour of the wine, but I did notice that they had some pretty excellent label designs. I’d be willing to say everyone was very relaxed once the tasting began here, Buzz and Brad were taking it so easy that they’d had to double up on wine glasses to avoid missing out on a taste.
We stayed at the Gippsland Wine Company for the rest of the evening. Our host, Mark, getting the grill heated up to keep us fed while we continued with our drinking. It was a pretty perfect spot to enjoy the close of the day. Similarly to the Gurdies, there was a great view over the vineyards and the cloud cover provided some excellent colours when the sun began to set.
I can tell you that I woke up on Sunday feeling like I’d had a lot of wine. I still wouldn’t class myself as a wine drinker, but I definitely enjoyed getting out to the wineries and having a sample of what Victoria has to offer. I would say that I probably have a better idea of what I like in a wine, I’m definitely starting to acquire a taste for a drop of red. As for wine tours themselves, I’m pretty sure you’d have to think me mad not to enjoy a classy excuse for a spot of what is essentially binge drinking.
It was a fun weekend, and my thanks goes out to Buzz for organizing it and inviting me along, Brent for driving me there and back again, Lew for having us stay and driving us around the wineries and of course, everyone else for their most excellent company.