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10 top wineries to go to in Tasmania

Originally published as ’10 Tasmanian wineries with a great drop and worth a stop’ in Australian Traveller.

Even in the height of summer, the wineries and the route itself were not too busy. In fact, I was the only one at almost all of the wineries, although a lot of them were setting up for weddings.

Many of these wineries charge a $5 tasting fee that is refundable if you make a purchase. You don’t need to worry about getting the bottles you buy home as most places will ship (for a fee) even if you include bottles from other establishments.

1. Puddleduck Vineyard
My number-one pick for friendliness, Puddleduck has a quirky gift shop, selling every duck item you can think of, a huge dam that serves as a duck pond and lots of ducks, of course. They have an annual fundraising duck race in March and the Reverse BYO picnic, where you bring the food and the wine is supplied.
2. Frogmore Creek
Frogmore Creek produces four labels: Frogmore Creek, Meadowbank, Stormy Bay and 42 Degrees South. I came here eight years ago for a wedding and the winery is just as lovely as I remember it. There is an interesting wooden floor upstairs that tells the story of wine including smelling pots for different varieties. It has sweeping water views in the vines and you can have a relaxing beverage on the outdoor deck.
3. Pooley Wines
Pooley is a slickly marketed establishment. The cellar door is located next to the family private residence, a beautiful sandstone farmhouse. The authentic old sandstone stable serves as the cellar door.
 

4. Derwent Estate
The old falling-down farmhouse at Derwent Estate has a beautiful view of the Derwent River from its back verandah. They serve cider, made the wine makers’ way, and to have fossils on the estate grounds.

5. Stefano Lubiana Wines
This establishment is very popular with the locals and when you step inside you can understand why. It features a fireplace, Italian food and sparkling wines. I even had to line up for a tasting. They have a famous dog featured in the Wine Dogs book series.

6. Nandroya Wines
Nandroya’s cellar door is simple and to the point, only making pinot noir and sauvignon blanc cool climate wines. They have a back-to-basics cellar door with a view of the mountains.

7. Home Hill Wines
This winery was recommended to me by a local and I was glad that I made the stop. Home Hill has a new large flash cellar door with fountains at the entrance. They have alpacas and the feeling of being right in the heart of the Huon Valley.

8. Panorama Vineyard
The view at Panorama lives up to the name at this vineyard. They have picnic and BBQ facilities and the view overlooking Huon River.

9. Hartzview Vineyard
Found off the beaten track and in a forest, Hartzview Vineyard is known for its ports, fortified wines and liqueurs. The tasting room has custom-made stained glass windows and old ceramic port bottles. There is a Heritage Pickers Huts self-guided discovery walk and the toy box that keeps toddlers amused.

10. Gasworks Cellar Door
If you don’t have time to get out of Hobart and visit some wineries, come here. You can try all different varieties of wines from all over Tasmania at Gasworks. Purchase up to 12 tastings of all different sizes, but be careful – I accidentally got 3 x 100ml glasses, a lot of wine to drink after a full weekend of wine tasting.

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8 top wineries to go to in the Margaret River

Margaret River is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful wine regions in Australia. Unfortunately, its location makes it not a convenient weekender for east-coast dwellers and a few more days are required to make the most of it.

A trip to the Margaret River can be incorporated with a visit to Perth, down the coast to Cape Leeuwin- the southernmost tip of Australia or other areas of Western Australia, such as Bunbury.

Unfortunately my time in the Margaret River was too short to give you a list of 10 top wineries, so here are my most memorable top 8 wineries in the Margaret River:

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  1. Voyager Estate

I fell in love with this estate through its wine dogs and then when I went there, with it’s beautiful white washed structures and gardens. The white wines are heavy, but a little expensive.

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  1. Redgate Wines

I liked every wine I tried at Redgate, which put it near the top of the list for me.

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  1. Cape Mentelle

Cape Mentelle was also a winery where I liked every wine I tried.

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  1. Vasse Felix

The large grounds and spacious cellar door make Vasse Felix an attractive option. They also serve excellent food in the restaurant upstairs.

5. Stella Bella

Stella Bella is commercially set up well with a fine Italian restaurant, which seems to be a favourite of the locals.

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  1. Howling Wolves

I loved the clever marketing of Howling Wolves and the fact that the wines were affordable.

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  1. Xanadu

Xanadu had a great indoor display of vines with information on wine growing

8. Leeuwin Estate Winery

The modern and strangely shaped building at Leeuwin was interesting.

Happy travels!

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10 top wineries to go to in the Mornington Peninsula

I went to the Mornington Peninsula for the Winter Wine Festival with a group of friends and it was great fun. On the first day, we went to the main festival area where all of the wineries in the region were available in one place to taste. It was great to try so many different wines in one location, but a little overwhelming. So for the next two days, we toured around by ourselves visiting vineyards one at a time.

The Mornington Peninsula itself is a beautiful part of the world with beautiful beaches, long piers, great lookouts and even a huge hedge maze. I would love to return in the summer months when I am sure the area sparkles even more.

My top 10 wineries in the Mornington Peninsula are:

  1. Box Stallion

Box Stallion was my favourite winery in the Mornington Peninsula as I pretty much liked every wine I tasted here- both red and white. It is now, unfortunately closed.

  1. Foxey’s Hangout

This winery was a highlight as the owner makes and bottles your own personalised bottle of sparkling wine.

  1. Red Hill

Red Hill has the best views over the water. They also have award winning pinot noir’s and chardonnays.

  1. Ten Minutes by Tractor

A cute story about three vineyards that are all ten minutes from each other by tractor gave this winery its name. It is kitschy, but fun, with old style tractors to pose on.

  1. Port Phillip Estate

Port Phillip Estate is well established and well known. All the wines are handpicked and aged in French Oak.

  1. Paringa Estate

This winery has a beautiful dining room overlooking vineyards, with good food. They produce good classic Mornington Peninsula pinot noir.

  1. Vidoni Estate Vineyard

Vidoni Estate Vineyard is surrounded by olive groves producing tasty olives, olive oil and olive-related products.

  1. Willow Creek

This winery makes cool climate single vineyard wines. It is now attached to the Rare Hare restaurant.

  1. Stonier Wines

Stonier Wines is rated five stars by James Halliday. It produces pinot noir, chardonnay and sparkling wines.

  1. Moorooduc Estate

With an unusual and imposing building making this estate memorable, they use Burgundian techniques and focus on matching food with wine.

Happy trails!

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10 top wineries to go to in the Barossa

I have been lucky enough to go to the Barossa in South Australia three times and I think it is my favourite wine region in Australia. Being one of the older regions it is well established with pretty heritage buildings and the food is also fantastic.

There’s the fancy fermentAsia in Tanunda, Maggie’s Beer’s farm shop for a casual lunch and Red Door Espresso for a great breakfast. The 1918 bistro and grill and the Tanunda bakery also have good food and seem to be favourites with the locals.

Tanunda is the best area to stay to be near all the action. I’ve stayed at Barossa Valley Apartments each time and can recommend their conveniently located self-contained two bedroom apartments with a swimming pool on the grounds.

My top 10 wineries in the Barossa are:

  1. Rockford Wines.

Rockford is my favourite winery in the Barossa. It has a small, cute cellar door, excellent service from the staff and interesting grounds with winemaking equipment.

  1. Charles Melton

Charles Melton serves a great lunch with affordable wines and excellent service. The rose is good and the reds are great. They also have a super cute border collie.

  1. Henschke

A little bit of a drive away from the main winery area, past a couple of Lutheran churches, you’ll find the beautiful hedged grounds of Henschke and an old cellar door.

  1. Pindarie

With a lovely veranda where you can enjoy a fine lunch with affordable wines, Pindarie makes a good pit stop for lunch.

  1. Wolf Blass

Wolf Blass has affordable wines.

  1. Chateau Tanunda

The iconic Chateau Tanunda is a great castle-like building which even has a croquet ground.

  1. Chateau Yaldara/Barossa

Chateau Yaldara- now called Chateau Barossa- is another lovely old mansion with a fountain. It houses many wines from different wineries to try.

  1. Langmeil

Langmeil has consistently good red wines. With its cellar door conveniently located in town at Tanunda, it’s a great place to make up your case of 12 before sending it back home.

  1. Greenock Creek Vineyard and Cellars

With a very small, old underground cellar door, Greenock serves red wines only. They are a little on the expensive side, but worth it.

  1. Burge Family Winemakers

The Burge family are old established winemakers with new infamous wine dogs.

Happy hunting!

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10 top wineries to go to in the Hunter Valley

Living in Sydney, I have been to the Hunter Valley many times. For weddings, hen’s parties, with friends, as a couple, as a family and for experience activities such at hot air ballooning, husky running and music festivals.

Accommodation is best sorted in a group as there are many houses to rent on different estates. However if there are only a few of you, Cypress Lakes Resort and Harrigan’s Irish Pub offer more expensive hotel accommodation.

Most of the wineries are centred around the Pokolbin region, so plan your trip if you don’t want to be wasting time driving from one end of the valley to another. For a quieter trip with less of a wait at the cellar door, try the Lovedale region.

Not every winery serves food, so if you’re not self catering at a homestay, make sure you plan to visit a winery that serves meals around lunchtime, head for Hunter Valley Gardens for a cheap eat or visit the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop for some night-time nibblies.

There are over 150 wineries in the Hunter Valley and I’ve been to about a third of them. There is no accounting for taste and even though these are my top 10 wineries, they may not be yours.

I’ve also had a couple of days where we went to 7 wineries in a day, so by then end you don’t really know what you’re tasting. I recommend no more than 5 wineries per day, and of course, have a designated driver or hire one to take you on a tour.

  1. Tintilla Estate

By far my favourite winery in the Hunter Valley for red wines is Tintilla Estate. They have many varieties, including my favourite Sangiovese’s and Tempranillo’s. Most times, a trip to the Hunter Valley isn’t complete for me without a visit here to stock up.

  1. Scarborough Wine Co

Scarborough is my favourite vineyard in the Hunter Valley for white wines. They have many different varieties from soft to bold creamy Chardonnay’s and the way they set up the tasting with a placemat for each wine is genius. I once took a non-white drinker here and by the end of the tasting they were converted.

  1. First Creek Wines

First Creek is one of my new favourites. The setting is beautiful as they often have kangaroos hopping by in nearby fields and a horse drawn cart out the front. The cellar door overlooks the winemaking facilities and the relaxed atmosphere makes the wines taste all the more sweet.

  1. Tatler Wines

The owner of Tatler made this a winery to remember for me. Not being a big fan of dessert wines, he taught me a trick: add ice, swirl and the taste is completely different.

  1. Marsh Estate

Unfortunately, I believe Marsh Estate is no longer open. When it was, it was only open 6 months of the year as the owner was a surfer who spent the other 6 months chasing waves. The wines were expensive, but worth it.

  1. Hope Estate

Hope Estate is now well known as it hosts many outdoor live music concerts. The wine is reasonably priced and the cellar door is roomy.

  1. Keith Tulloch

For a nice relaxed wine on the balcony, Keith Tulloch is my pick.

  1. Peterson Champagne House

Champagne, oysters and a chocolate shop next door- what’s not to like? Perfect for a hen’s party and many different types of yummy traditional method champenoise to try.

  1. De Bortoli Wines

Well known for its award winning Hunter Valley Semillon and classic Hunter Shiraz. It also has an infamous wine dog.

  1. Gartelmann Hunter Estate

Another new favourite, Gartelmann has a lovely woodland setting and cute Magpie mascot.

Happy tasting!

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Snorkel Safari, 2017

The next day I decided to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure at the hotel spa. The beautician was from Jamaica and entertained me with stories of her life on the islands.

After pampering, we had a little more beach time and took in all the water sports on offer out front of the hotel. There were jet boots, parasailing, beach volleyball, two person sailing boats, paddleboards, water skiing and banana boating.

We decided on a snorkel safari that included riding on Jet Ski’s to two different snorkelling locations.

Having never been on a Jet Ski before, I was quite happy for my husband to drive. After donning life jackets, packing our snorkelling gear and a few short instructions on how to drive, we were ready to head off.

We went slowly at first, but found this was too rocky. So we sped up and were soon sailing past our South African tour guide.

At the first snorkelling site, I was lucky enough to see a small black stingray trawling the bottom of the ocean.

The second snorkel site, near the cruise ships anchored in Georgetown harbour, was much deeper and better.

We saw large schools of blue fish swimming in between the crevices of the rocky reef, bright green parrotfish and even bigger schools of silver fish that swam right up to the surface and past your face.

Then we had another Jet Ski race back to the beach, just in time to get ready for dinner back at the hotel.

There were tables were set up by the pool for dinner. The pay-as-you-go family sized canvas lounging chairs were finally free as daytime was over, so we settled in for some pre-dinner drinks.

A DJ set up near the pool, which was deep blue in the moonlight. The night ended with much dancing here, fireworks on the beach and a nightcap at the hotel bar.

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Rum Point, 2017

After our close encounter with the stingrays, we hopped back on the boat and sailed to Rum Point.

The sun came out and shone on the water, making it sparkle. Then, like a mirage, Rum Point emerged over the horizon. A low beach with pine trees jutting out into the endless ocean with a long wharf to access it.

Even though we were still on Grand Cayman, it felt like Rum Point was a new stand alone island to explore.

We hopped off the boat and walked down the wharf to the signpost telling us how far away we were from other places like Sri Lanka or home. There were silly questions not to ask listed such as: Where is the best place to swim? Try the water; and Do you guys sell rum? Welcome to Rum Point.

There were also signs showing the various hurricanes which have narrowly missed Rum Point, the Wreck Bar and of course, a gift shop selling soft toy string rays and other related stingray paraphernalia.

Our stretch of semi-private beach had deck chairs set up on the sand and dining tables  under paper lanterns for lunch. There were large hammocks and most importantly The Dak Shack, which funnily enough, served strawberry daiquiris and the signature drink of Rum Point- mudslides.

They were both delicious, especially when consumed whilst knee deep in clear blue water. Some, more energetic, people could be found snorkelling and playing volleyball, but I preferred bobbing around in the shallows.

After a most relaxing afternoon, we jumped back on the boat and headed back to the hotel where we dined on pig on a spit while taking in another gorgeous Seven Mile Beach sunset.

It had been a long, eventful, but also relaxing day. Now we could say we sailed the Caribbean and didn’t get looted by pirates or stung by stingrays.

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Crystal Caves and Stingray City, 2017

The next day, we spent the morning by the pool before hopping on a bus to drive to the Crystal Caves on the other side of the island. On the way we passed the port where the Disney cruise ship was in harbour and Bodden town where the locals live.

Crystal Caves is a new tourist attraction having only been open for about a year. Our tour guide used to explore the caves as a child before they were excavated and lit up. He told us stories of crawling through small crevices and knew what all the plants in the surrounding countryside could be used for.

Our first cave was the open ceiling cave, with funnily enough, a hole in the ceiling. A huge fig tree crowded the entrance and there were bats grouped together sleeping. The next cave was the roots cave where the roots of trees could be seen breaking through the stalactites and stalagmites.

The final cave, the lake cave, was the highlight of the tour as it actually had a blue lake inside the cave. There have been tales of pirates burying treasure here. The caves sparkled like crystal gems and the cool temperatures were a welcome change from the heat of the beach.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel for a fancy dinner at The Beachhouse. The scallops benedict were delicious and the desserts almost looked better than they tasted. We went to bed early, as we knew the next day was going to be a big one as we were off for a day of sailing to Stingray City.

The morning dawned sunny and we boarded the boat with expectations for a great day out. The catamaran was wide with equipment for sailing and several places that you could sit to get your feet wet. The water was so clear and many different shades of blue and aqua. Once the sails went up, it was so beautifully quiet and peaceful.

Stingray City is a sandbar where stingrays gather out of a habit that started a few years ago when fisherman started to feed them. Now, Stingray City is a haven for cruise ship day-trippers as they all crowd around seeking a spot for that perfect photo opportunity.

Nevertheless, our boat crew seemed to be responsible for the animal’s welfare, gently handling the animals and giving us all an opportunity to hug and kiss a stingray one by one.

I was apprehensive at first; being an Aussie I had heard all the reports about Steve Irwin getting killed by a stingray, but these sting rays were smoother than I thought and not at all aggressive.

It was a crazy cool experience and I am glad that we had the opportunity to do something so lovely and unusual.

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Caribbean rum, 2017

On our second day on Grand Cayman Island, we went into Georgetown and found a pretty town square with a white washed library, a peace memorial and a large open plaza. I was particularly taken with a statue commemorating the steps women have taken to gain equality.

We headed down to the port and found the place where all the cruise ships come in. There were lots of touristy shops to be found here, including a Margarittaville. We searched for the local market, only to discover that we had arrived too late and there were only two stalls left selling scotch bonnet chillies and fresh coconut.

On the walk to the Cayman Spirits Distillery, we struck gold when I spotted Smokies BBQ, which sold tasty brisket bread rolls and mac and cheese bites. We also found the Tortuga factory- famous for its rum cake and also apparently its statues of pirates.

The Cayman Spirits Distillery offered 7 different types of rum including one that is aged in barrels seven fathoms under the Caribbean Sea. They also served a vodka and flavoured liqueurs. The set up of the cellar door was suitable nautically themed with an old style dive suit and model ships.

As we waited for the next distillery tour to start, we chatted to the exceedingly friendly staff who let us sample some of the wares. The tour itself was quite interesting to learn how the rum is made from fermenters to the liquor tank and the bottling machine.

After the tour we were treated to free pouring fun and photo opportunities with a suitable soundtrack by the very generous proprietor. It was definitely value for money and a great experience. We left with two bottles of genuine Caribbean rum- coconut and dark.

Next we returned to the hotel pool bar for some rum cocktails, before we went to dinner on the beach. Tables were set up so we could eat with our feet in the sand while we watched the beautiful Seven Mile Beach sunset.

More rum drinking ensued as we listened to the authentic sound of kettledrums. For desert we roasted marshmallows and smores on a beach bonfire paired with more rum cocktails. When in the Caribbean, what else can you do, but drink rum? It would be rude not to.

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Grand Cayman, 2017

After a long flight through Los Angeles and Miami, we finally arrived on Grand Cayman Island in the British West Indies at night. Exhausted, we checked into The Westin and crashed.

The next day, we awoke to the beautiful aqua blue waters of Seven Mile Beach. After breakfast and a short stroll along the beach out the back of the hotel, we caught the complimentary bus to the Cayman Turtle Centre.

Our driver, Benny, was at a bit of a loose end on a not so busy Sunday morning, so he gave us a personal tour of the centre. There was the main pool and egg-laying beach that had 300 massive adult size turtles; the smaller tanks with younger turtles and a lonely Cayman crocodile.

Benny pointed out the silver thatch palm- the national tree of the Cayman Islands- and a few iguana’s, which are everywhere on the island. He showed us the replica local houses that survive hurricanes and the hatchery, which had no eggs, but a turtle shell showing its spine and a turtle skull.

The highlight was paddling knee deep in the pools of turtles that were less than a year old and being able to hold them, flapping around as they objected to being out of the water. We crossed the road outside the centre that dropped off into the sea- deep blue as far as the eye could see.

On the way back to the hotel, Benny took us to Hell- a dark rocky limestone formation, hence the name. We posed for the requisite devil and angel photos and then hopped back in the van and passed some traditional houses in West Bay, all with porch swing seats out the front.

Back at the hotel, I had my first cocktail- a Cayman Lemonade- with my lunch of proper American hot wings. We bypassed the comfy cane chairs and hammocks to claim some umbrella deck chairs on the beach and settle in for some more cocktails with table side service.

After a few Cayman Island Ice Teas, I jumped in the water and swam out to the furthest buoy I could see. The water was so clear, deep and refreshing. Next on the agenda was a few Capiroska’s at the bar in the pool, before we decided it might be time to think about dinner.

The most recommended place for BBQ by the hotel staff was Peppers BBQ. Dubious at first, we saw locals arriving for take away as we waited for our meals so I thought it must be good.

The jerk chicken was tasty, but the BBQ pork ribs were definitely the star. We walked it off back to the hotel along a street lined with lamps. A great start to what promised to be a great holiday.

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