Monday, September 10, 2012

Wine Weekend!

Just a few weeks after we arrived in Australia last year, one of Erik's supervisors started talking about having a wine weekend for their research group. He said it was too late to organize one for last spring, and that summer and fall might be too hot, so he set his sights on a wine trip for the spring of 2012. His planning did not disappoint, as we have just returned back to Melbourne after a lovely weekend of wine tasting in North East Victoria. We departed in our 25 passenger bus on Saturday morning and arrived in Wangaratta (know as "Wang" to the locals!) around lunch time. The lunch order had been called into a local cafe near the train station so that we could eat and head to a few wineries in the afternoon. Of course nothing happens quickly when you are traveling in a large group of people, but by the time we were finished with lunch we had time to hit up three different wineries in the Rutherglen region: All Saints, Chambers Rosewood, and Stanton & Killeen.
All Saints
Imagine how beautiful this entrance would be in autumn!
Still winter in the Rutherglen region!
All Saints probably had the most unique scenery, and they also had a small store with cheese samples next door. The second stop, Chambers Rosewood, was a very different type of wine tasting experience. Unlike most of the wineries who spend a lot of time on decor and ambiance, this stop was much more casual. In fact, the tastings were self serve, and there was not much controlling for serving size! There was one older gentleman working there and he was incredibly generous by basically letting our group, who were the only people in the place, go wild. Needless to say, this led to some craziness on the bus after departure from that winery.
Second stop on Saturday
Erik serving himself one of the many wine selections at Chambers.

For my OLMC peeps!
Our last stop on Saturday was at Stanton & Killeen. This was a lovely winery with several great wines, but to be honest everything was tasting good at that point! We stayed there until closing time and there was even a bit of footy-playing taking place before departure back to Wangaratta, where we were spending the night. Dinner was booked at a small Italian restaurant, D'Amico's, so we were able to finish the evening with MORE wine and delicious food. After dinner we made an attempt to search for a bit of night life in Wang, but after a short stay at the Albion Hotel, we decided that sleep was a better option.
Stanton & Killeen

Spontaneous footy games were not uncommon this weekend. 
Thank goodness for our DD!
Huge, bright patches of grape seed along the road
Day two of our wine adventure began at Milawa Cheese Factory as most Aussies start their days, with coffee and brekkie. From Milawa we headed to the King Valley wine region and began the day at Pizzini winery. Stop number two was at Gracebrook Vineyards, which had beautiful views of the mountain ranges. We ate lunch on their outside patio, discussing the fact that we could not have been much luckier with the weather, especially given Victoria's unpredictable spring. Our last stop of the weekend was Brown Brothers Winery. By this time, much of the group was finished drinking, but several of us enjoyed tasting their wines before the bus departed for Melbourne.
Erik's research group
Inside Pizzini winery
Gracebrook's selection of white wines
The stunning views at Gracebrook
Our table for lunch

Gracebrook also had a few farm animals
Final stop
Overall it was an extremely enjoyable weekend! We did have a few challenges due to the size of our group, as it would take time to order food, line up for tastings, get on/off the bus without leaving anyone, etc., so the patience level of some was surely tested. I think with a smaller group you could probably visit between 5 and 10 wineries a day, as there are many within a relatively close area. However, the advantage of a larger bus group is that everyone except the driver can join in on the tasting fun without worrying about driving. The tastings are completely free and essentially unlimited, so the major costs of a trip like this are transport an a place to stay. Money well spent in our book! There are several additional wine regions to explore in Victoria and also within Australia, and there is also a huge festival every June in same region we visited, called the Rutherglen Winery Walkabout, so I'd say that chances are good that this will not be my first and last post about wine!

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