It’s always such a delight for me to visit the various wineries on my travels around Victoria, from those along the Mornington peninsula like Red Hill Estate, Wolseley winery near Torquay, Gapsted wines on our way home from Falls Creek and Seppelt at the end of our Silo tour. I admit I am not a great wine connoisseur, as I only drink bubbles or white wine yet adore the lay back atmosphere over a light food platter or even get my dancing shoes when there’s music. Wine tourism is the norm at most Australian wineries, offering tastings, cellar tours, delicious lunches and special cultural events. In Italy unfortunately this is not the case, and only the big,important wineries offer such attractions and others by appointment only. So I was ready to take up every opportunity on my travels around. These are just a few examples.
On the way to Falls Creek we ventured into Ned Kelly territory at Glenrowan to stop for lunch at a little family run winery known as Baileys. While specialising in fortified wines, they still had a great selection of light refreshing white and red wines to compliment great dips, cheeses and pizza, in a pretty courtyard garden setting with a view across the vineyards.
On the way back from Falls Creek we travelled through the old Tobacco growing area with the curing kilns still dotting the countryside, but in disuse as wine production has now taken over. Since I live not from a tobacco growing area on the Tuscan/Umbrian border I was interested in learning of its historical development here in the Wangaratta King Valley area.
Production began in the 1850’s by Chinese, Americans and Europeans lured to the area by the Gold Rush. In 1917 the introduction of the ‘modern’ kiln for curing the tobacco leaf in an enclosed structure contributed significantly to the boom of tobacco production. Soon after the Italians arrived in the area and by the 1960’s were the major growers – 793 of 1025 growers. Various dramatic climatic conditions – heavy frosts and floods seriously decreased production over the years and it eventually it became too expensive in comparison to other producers like Brazil, China, India and East Africa.
Wineries began to take shape in the area in the 1980’s and ‘90’s as the area was recognized for its ideal cool climate, high rainfall, abundant fresh clean water and ‘buffalo breeze’ that provides natures air conditioning in the hot Summer months.
1996 Gapsted winery was founded by 7 families, two of whom are Italian, producing aromatic white wines, elegant, complex reds and lovely sparkling wines….how could I go past their Tobacco Road prosecco!?
The winery is very enticing both inside and out, offering special events with live music, theatre and even guest chef appearance of Italian Stefano Manfredi. You just can’t get away from Italians!
We were there at the Big Shed sale and I can only say I have never seen a Shed so HUGE and bulging at the seams with wine bargains. The parking area expects sophisticated clients as they have two Tesla charging connectors!?
Instead on our return from the silo visit we explored the historic winery of Seppelt. We have all grown up with, and am sure celebrated special occasions with many a bottle of Seppelt Great Western. On our tour of this historic winery we were almost shocked to discover it is no longer producing, having changed management and mergers, although our guide was hopeful about its return to production on site in the near future.
“The Great Western winery was founded by Joseph Best in 1865. He commissioned local gold miners to tunnel the underground cellars that became known as ‘The Drives’ (over 3 kms, making them the longest in the Southern hemisphere). The winery was later purchased by Ballarat businessman Hans Irvine, who began the tradition of Seppelt Sparkling wines in 1890 when he employed Frenchman Charles Pierlot from Champagne to commence Methode Champenoise sparkling wines in Australia, that became legendary.”
Above ground boasts manicured gardens and historic Cottages, including the original cottage of founder John Best, all currently available to rent. Our guide was passionate about the winery, having worked there for over 40 years, and the tour full of fascinating information as well as many anecdotal stories.
Back closer to Melbourne, Wolseley winery near Torquay is always a favourite for me, as Will, the owner, organises live music on Sunday afternoons through the Spring/Summer months. A mix of rockabilly, jazz, blues and foot tapping stuff. Very lay back and no sophistication in front of the tin shed housing the band, yet good pizza and wine flows all afternoon. Check the website to get a feel of the ambience.
And while visiting friends on the Mornington peninsula, there is an embarrassing number of wineries in the Red Hill area that need little presentation. We were driving on one of those scorching hot days where even I dreamed of air conditioning in a beautiful setting. How could we go past the view of the bay at the Red Hill Estate winery, exquisite food and delicious wines.
Wine tourism is a great way to see the Australian countryside as well as pass some very relaxing hours over a glass or two. I miss the good life that Australia has to offer but know I will be back to explore new wineries and new places next time. In the meantime I will drown my sorrows with a lustrous spritz and/or bubbly prosecco as I pour over my thousand photos!