A delicious Tasmanian treat for readers.
Noodlies, Sydney food blog contributor, Evie Chataway, was fairly hesitant about booking an organised tour of Tasmanian vineyards, but it turned out to be anything but a disappointment.
I’m a bit funny about going on organised tours. It’s probably because when I was a kid, my parents and I were packed off by my Aunt on a coach tour of the Great Ocean Road, or, as it was for me, the Great Chunder Road. I know the Great Ocean Road is supposedly beautiful, but all I remember is feeling like I was dying from travel sickness. So, it doesn’t take a shrink to figure out why I feel somewhat cautious about getting onto an organised coach trip of any kind.
But, with a trip to Tassie in the offering and the opportunity to visit a few vineyards, I knew that an organised tour was the only option. My husband is a man of many talents but driving isn’t one of them. I don’t mean he’s a bad driver, I mean he simply doesn’t drive at all. And I do drive, but quite frankly who wants to be the designated driver on a wine tour? So an organised tour it was and we opted to book with Boutique Wine Tours. We weren’t disappointed.
I knew from the off it was going to be completely different to my disastrous Ocean Road Trip.
We turned up at 9.30am to meet the bus by the Tourist Information Office. We were greeted by our lovely tour guide and driver Dave, and instantly recognised the accent as British. Dave came over to Australia in the early nineties, but his accent is still pure Manchester. We were lucky that we had no other people on our tour, which made it particularly luxurious. Even if we had been with others though, the transport was a comfortable mini-van rather than an impersonal mega coach. I knew from the off it was going to be completely different to my disastrous Ocean Road Trip.
Kicking off the tour, just twenty minutes drive from Hobart CBD, we arrived at Puddleduck Vineyard. A welcoming and homely cellar door, this is a great place to kick off a wine tasting, especially if you’re a novice. With a friendly and laid back atmosphere you are put completely at your ease. We tried the full range of Puddleduck’s wines, as well as verjuice and its own Pippin Cider.
An absolute favourite had to be the Puddleduck ‘Bubbleduck’ 2010, the vineyards own sparkling wine. Made in the true Champagne method, it is dry but not too dry, with a smooth strawberries and cream bouquet. I imagine coupled with gravadlax it would work especially well.
Aside from trying the fantastic wines and being guided through them by an expert, another highlight of Puddleduck is meeting the family pets.
We tried the Basil Signature Sauvignon Blanc; it was on the sweeter side, very fruity. I’m not a massive fan of sweeter wines, but it could definitely lend itself to a good Thai curry, or perhaps as an alternative to a dessert wine, being light in tone. It reminded my husband and I of a Portuguese wine.
As well as a selection of white and red wines, we sampled several Lost Pippin Ciders. A favourite with my husband was the Lost Pippin Heritage Cider. Made with Cox’s Orange Pippin, it was gutsy with some extra notes of complexity to it. Aside from trying the fantastic wines and being guided through them by an expert, another highlight of Puddleduck is meeting the family pets. There’s a pet duck who comes to the back door quacking for his food, and a friendly corgi dog who likes to be patted. And will bark with pleading eyes if you stop.
If you’re coming out to Puddleduck independently, you will be interested to hear about its reverse BYO. Basically, you are welcome to bring your own food for a picnic, but obviously any booze you partake of needs to be purchased from Puddleduck. And seeing as its wines and ciders were all outstanding, you’ll want to do that anyway. Looking at the website I also noted that you can hire a barbeque there too with advance notice ($10 fee for cleaning and gas, which seems very reasonable).
Following Puddleduck we dropped by at Wicked Cheese a couple of minutes down the road. We tasted an array of cheeses then went to the historical village of Richmond for a look round. A picturesque village, it feels very much like you’re in England, and boasts the oldest bridge still in use in Australia.
There’s plenty of historical things to explore if you’re inclined, including the Richmond Gaol and Granny Rhodes Cottage. We however were happy to mooch about, browsing antique shops and generally soaking up the atmosphere. The Tasting House is worth dropping by, there are free tastings of jams and chutneys, and you can also pay and sample Tassie whisky, vodka and gin. We passed on tasting any spirits though as it just felt a bit too early in the day.
Richmond explored, we headed back to Wicked Cheese for a wine tasting and lunch. When we first met Dave we’d been given a choice for lunch, either a cheese board, or a more varied lunch platter with less cheese but with the addition of smoked salmon, ham, terrine, and a fish pate. We’d plumped for the latter.
I am not a fan of whisky but somehow the sweet kick combined with the mature cheddar seemed to work for me.
We were also provided with a glass of wine for lunch and were able to taste the offerings before selecting. First off was the Drew Riesling 2013, which was semi-dry, light, but not quite to my palate. We then sampled the Clarence House Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – dry with a distinct taste of raspberries, this was the option I plumped for. We also tried the Drew Pinot Noir 2013 which was smooth and succulent with definite dark chocolate and nutella undertones.
Lunch was a welcome break and very relaxing just to kick back with a glass of wine and a grazing platter for an hour. The Mediterranean apricot and pork terrine was gutsy, and the cheese selection included Wicked’s brie, and cheddar, as well as a yoghurt cheese.
One of my favourite cheeses I enjoyed at the tasting and which we bought to take home with us was the smoked brie. It has an underlying smokiness, reminiscent of a good bacon sandwich, with creamy buttery tones. I liked the whisky cheddar also which my husband was less impressed with. I am not a fan of whisky but somehow the sweet kick combined with the mature cheddar seemed to work for me.
Following lunch was our last winery, The Coal Valley Vineyard. In comparison to Puddleduck this felt slicker with a truly stunning setting. However, the tasting was excellent but felt more rushed than the relaxed style of Puddleduck. Here we tried a Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay which was outstanding, with brioche, yeast and bakery aromas. Another favourite was the 2010 Coal Valley Cab Merlot. A fruity wine with a rhubarb and blackberry crumble flavour, with perhaps just the tiniest hint of cream.
The smoked brie has an underlying smokiness, reminiscent of a good bacon sandwich, with creamy buttery tones
We had brought a spare bag with us on our trip to take back some wine, but we learned from our guide Dave about the glorious ‘Tassie Dozen’ (or half dozen for us). In order for the cellar doors at the vineyards to have people buy more than a couple of bottles, they have arrangements with couriers who do great deals on delivering wine back to the mainland. Even though we hadn’t bought all our wine from Coal Valley Vineyard it didn’t matter, it was happy to parcel it all up and send it back to us by courier, all for the grand sum of $11 for a half dozen. Too easy as you Aussies say.
At the end of our tour, we were dropped back outside our hotel (which was good as it meant we didn’t have to carry our cheeses and couple of bottles of cider clanking through the streets). Dave was a great insightful guide, happy to take lots of photos of us and give us the inside track of good restaurants and bars.
So at $115 for a half day tour is it value for money? In our case we felt it was definitely our best option. If you don’t already have a car in Tassie to visit various vineyards you’d have to hire one. Granted you’d have complete freedom to drive to as many places as you choose and you’d have your own autonomy. But for the purposes of our trip, with one non-driver, and one driver who wanted to enjoy the vineyard offerings (and obviously it goes without saying that drink-driving isn’t an option), it worked out perfectly.
We tried a Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay which was outstanding, with brioche, yeast and bakery aromas
We were on our own on this trip which was an added bonus, but if others had booked the tour, it still wouldn’t feel impersonal. It’s very much what it says on the tin, ‘boutique wine tours’. Our tour guide and driver was informative and friendly, and you certainly felt you were getting more of a VIP treatment as part of this tour. There were small things I noticed like we didn’t queue to pay for our cheese, we parked right near the entrance of the cellar doors etc.
All in all, for us it was the ideal way to experience some vineyards as well as Wicked Cheese and Richmond Village It’s made me realise that not every organised tour will be the same as my Great Ocean Road experience.
Prices correct as of 24 June 2014. Experience paid for by writer and reviewed independently. For more information on Boutique Wine Tours visit www.boutiquewinetourstas.com.au