Tasting the Yarra Valley.

Our day starts with the headlines telling us about the rampant and devastating flooding

that has hit Melbourne yesterday in the late afternoon and overnight. We are heading out to the Yarra Valley for a day of wine tasting today and our driver, David is delayed by the flooding. He tells us that when it rains like that, Mother Nature pours a big bucket of rain on certain sections of the city and they can’t handle it. The ancient and antiquated sewer system can’t handle the amount of rain that falls in such a short period of time. The damage is extensive and mostly in a neighbouring suburb next door to where we are staying – which we find interesting because our suburb, while wet, had absolutely no flooding.

We have booked our wine tour this time with a much smaller company -Victoria Winery Tours and they told me at the time of the booking that one bus was already booked and that it might just be the two of us on a 2nd bus. This is in fact what happens and we start out about 9:45 for our personalized tour. The Yarra Valley is less than 1 hour from Melbourne, and suburbia ends at the edge of the valley. The transition from city to wine country is immediate, and we wonder how long the Yarra will remain agricultural.

We start at Domaine Chandon, the Australian operation of the LVMH luxury house that produces Moet, Louis Vuitton and other high ticket items. A full glass of sparkling wine (champagne not being an acceptable designation any more), and we are off to the races. We visit 5 more wineries today: Tokar, Immerse (a beautiful setting, with spa), Fergusson’s, De Bortoli (which has won a number of international awards for its 1999 chardonnay) and Balgownie Estate. With the exception of Chandon, all are family owned. We taste over 25 wines, running the gamut from truly forgettable to truly wonderful. We buy a couple of bottles for BYO purposes (a 2001 Shiraz from Tokar, a 2000 Chardonnay from De Bortoli), but can’t indulge in more – no way to transport, and no place to ship to.

By the time we get home  from our Yarra adventure we are ‘tired and emotional’ (we obviously enjoyed the wine!) and overdue for our naps, but highly impressed with both David and with the tour company and the Yarra Valley. After longish snoozes, we head out for a light supper (lunch, at Fergusson’s, had been both delicious and substantial) at one of the many lovely cafes in our suburb.

Peter Connelly, who was just in Melbourne with Peter Duck and Brian Shackleton last December, advised us that they enjoyed the pub at the Laird Hotel in a suburb about 5 kilometres due north of ours – so off we go, arriving just before 10. Once there, we spend a bit of time outside in the courtyard, and watch with fascination as a possum ambles down the tree in the middle of the courtyard just as the place is getting quite busy, takes up a position on an exposed beam, and performs acrobatics in return for peanuts. By 10:30 the place is so packed you can barely move, the possum -no longer the centre of attention – has retired to his tree for the remainder of the evening, and we spend an enjoyable hour or so. Thanks for the recommendation, guys!

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