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Off to Australia to Taste Some Wine

australia_map.jpgI'm headed to Australia for almost two weeks to explore the side of the continent I haven't been to. That is, if I can actually get on the plane. Currently I'm stuck in San Francisco thanks to delays and may not make my flight from LA tonight. Ugh.

But assuming I do manage to leave the country, I'm headed to the wine regions of Victoria and South Australia, thanks to the help of the folks at Wine Australia and Tourism Australia who are paying for the trip.

More specifically, I'm headed to the Yarra Valley, the King Valley, Beechworth, and Heathcote near Melbourne. Then I'm headed north to Adelaide, where I'll wander around the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, and the Barossa.

I'm quite looking forward to a number of things about the trip, including a focus on some of the emerging biodynamic producers in Australia, checking out a few really small outfits, visiting with some of the icons of the industry, getting a look at some really really old vines, and talking with a lot of folks about the future of Australian wine in America, given the general sense that the country has fallen from favor recently with U.S. consumers.

As usual, I'll be posting as I go. Assuming I can get there.

If you've got any recommendations of restaurants or fun things to do in Melbourne and Adelaide, let me know. My itinerary is pretty set at the moment, but if you've got any favorite producers in the regions I'm headed to, I'd love to hear them.

Comments (19)

03.19.10 at 9:05 PM

It's a heck of a long flight down there (assume Sydney?). Hope you're in Business Class. Drink lots of wine on the way down to dull the travel pain. Have a great time sampling Aussie wine on its home turf. Dennis

03.19.10 at 10:15 PM

That sounds so fun. I just had a sparkling Syrah today for the first time and I hear it is pretty popular down in Australia. That might be worth checking out.

Greg wrote:
03.20.10 at 2:43 AM

They have some mean shiraz at heathcote I'm sure your'e aware. Just don't make too many complaints about wines too ripe or full of flavour, or how you like lighter,peppery cool climate stles, it doesn't go down too well in some parts of oz (though the press is full of it). Be sure to try jasper hill in heathcote.
I love full bodied shiraz, I hope all the blather in the press doesn't get all the shiraz picked too early.

Arthur wrote:
03.20.10 at 7:51 AM
Arthur wrote:
03.20.10 at 7:54 AM

ummm... never mind. Looked at the CNN map closer.

Fatemeh wrote:
03.20.10 at 1:07 PM

A - In Melbourne, you have to go to Movida. One of the finest meals we ate in all of Australia. Also had great Chinese in one of the little back alley streets, though I'm afraid I couldn't give you a name.

We had awful food luck in Adelaide, generally speaking, so no recos there.

If you can make it to the Willunga Farmer's Market, you'll be graced with some amazing goat cheeses. Also, not sure if you'll have time, but the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary is truly an amazing experience.

As to wineries, don't miss the tiny little Kay Brothers Amery in McLaren Vale. Their Grand Liqueur Muscat is breathtaking.

03.20.10 at 2:27 PM

Great news that you are on your way down!! When you go to Heathcote, make sure you try Dominic Portet. Chalk Hill in McLaren Vale and I am sure that Ashton Hills Vineyard is on your list for Adelaide Hills. Otherwise, I am sure that Wine Oz guys will have covered everything. Enjoy!

Allen Clark wrote:
03.20.10 at 3:43 PM

Alder - Don't miss Chateau Leamon, at the south end of Heathcote. And the whites, believe it or not, in Adelaide Hills. You may find the pinots of Yarra disappointing, but the shiraz is special (try De Bortoli, and ask them how they pronounce their name). Can't find a mediocre restaurant in Melbourne or Sydney, though in the latter, Tetsuya's is a must. Adelaide is hit or miss, some of the more interesting places out of town, like Maximilian's.

Madeline wrote:
03.20.10 at 11:19 PM

Wow. nice to have another place to go with for a vacation.. thanks for sharing it.

Bigglespilot wrote:
03.21.10 at 2:06 AM

I read your recent article in the US Airways in flight magazine regarding what wineries will need to do to be successful in the future. Great stuff and all too true when you describe the lack of attention some wineries pay to their customers(like not returning phone calls).
Anyway - as you are on your way to Australia (as an Aussie) I have some suggestions. You have not included the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland (both just an hour or so South/South East out of Melbourne). These two adjacent areas are producing the most consistently fine Pinot Noir adn Chardonnay in Australia. The Yarra Valley pales by comparison in the quality stakes (its too hot in my opinion for these varietals).
One winery which is doing it "right" is Bellvale in Gippsland. They specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bellvale is owned and operated by an expatriate American - John Ellis - and is well worth a visit. The website is www.bellvalewine.com.au.
Phone: (03) 5668 8230

Likewise, in the Mornington Peninsula (about 1 hour drive from Bellvale) go and see "Kooyong" winery.
Again - they specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The winemaker is Sandro Mosele - he is a wonderful guy and a real straight shooter.
Phone: (03) 5989 4444

Have a great trip down under and please try to include Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsular in your itinerary - if you don't you will have missed much of the best in Victoria.

Bart wrote:
03.21.10 at 3:39 PM

If you are going to McLaren Vale you absolutely must go to D'Arrys Verandah (which is located at the D'Arenberg cellar door). This is the benchmark for regional cuisine in South Australia.

Michael wrote:
03.21.10 at 5:24 PM

I would definitely recommend wineries on the Mornington Peninsula, among them some favorites: Paringa Estate, Tuck's Ridge, Montalto.
Restaurants in Melbourne (too many to choose from) but some favorites: Ezard's, Gingerboy (Ezard's less pricey sibling), Longrain, Cutler & Co, and just about any of the places in the Crown complex

have a great trip!

Tristram Shandy wrote:
03.22.10 at 2:00 AM

I know that everyone goes on and on about shiraz in Australia, but while you're in South Australia, don't miss the opportunity to try some of the fabulous grenache that is on offer. In McLaren Vale don't miss Samuel's Gorge, and have a go at Yangarra, which exports a lot to the US. In the Barossa, there are a few touchstone wineries for grenache: Kalleske makes a very intense grenache, Charles Melton makes the best Rhone blend and a straight grenache, Richelieu, as well. Yalumba does a marvellous vineyard series of grenache wines.

Some recommendations:
Dinner at McLaren Vale: go to the Victory Hotel on South Road - nice atmosphere, great cellar.
Dinner in the Barossa: either Appellation or Vintners Bar & Grill - both are top shelf

You'll love the atmosphere here in South Australia - much more laid back than California. And lots and lots of excellent wineries to choose from. As a former Yank, I consider myself very lucky indeed to have ended up here. You're coming out at a terrific time, too. Most of the summer heat is finished and we have some spectacular autumn days ahead.

Dan Sims wrote:
03.22.10 at 4:00 AM

Great to hear you're heading our way as there is much more to the story of Australian wine than the that currently being told in the USA. My business partner & I (Ben Edwards, co-contributor to James Halliday's Wine Companion & President of Sommeliers Australia) hosted 5 awarded US Sommeliers (from Wine & Spirits Magazine) and put together a tasting of many of the producers leading the way in terms of Australian wine... especially in restaurants.

When you make it to Melbourne, there is obviously plenty to see, do & taste but if you have time, we'd love to catch up with you to show you a few 'off the beaten track' venues. I am sure Wine Australia can organize it!

There is so much happening in Australian wine at present with much of the story never making it to American soil. I am sure we are all looking forward to you seeing and tasting it first hand. Cheers!

Robbie C wrote:
03.22.10 at 7:59 AM

Have a great trip! I hope you get to meet the head of d'Arenberg Wines (his name is Chester Osborne, right?)
Anyway, I've read interesting stuff about him. I read an amazing interview with him a few years ago in Winestate Magazine. It seems like he may be one of the more inspired winemakers working these days. He also seems like a cool guy. I also like Winestate magazine. I used to read it when I lived in Taiwan...can you get it in the USA?

Jake wrote:
03.22.10 at 12:04 PM

I went to Australia in November. I seemed to focus on Clare Valley Riesling more than anything else, but liked some Chards from the Margaret River area and a few Shiraz wines, most notably the producer Spinnifex.

03.22.10 at 4:41 PM

I don't know if you follow James Halladay but he is such a great resource .His books and his generosity when I was studying for the MW .I also hope you get to Torbreck because they are awesome people.Peter Anastopulos

03.22.10 at 11:50 PM


I hope this is not too late for your planning, but if you have time for cultural activities, I would urge you to visit the State museums in both Melbourne and Adelaide for their collections of Aboriginal art. In Melbourne, the collection is in a spinoff site called Federation Square, a must-see on its own.

There are plenty of great restaurants in both places. In Adelaide, I very much like Red Ochre which serves food with native ingredients, including seasonings that grow wild in the outback. Its setting on the river is spectacular.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
03.24.10 at 3:59 AM

Thanks to everyone for their recommendations. I've responded to most of you privately, but wanted to just say thanks for all the tips !!

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