Uncork your way thru Australia!

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From palate-awakening chardonnay to sharp-tone shiraz, Aussie wines have it all.  Tourists looking to sample some of Australia’s wide variety of offerings during an afternoon or as part of a longer wine-focused journey may feel a bit overwhelmed with their choices.  Every state, except the Northern Territory, produces wine and lots of it. Australia has roughly 2000 wineries. You can bet that if you don’t find a wine pleasing to your palate, head down the road to another winery or move on to another region.  You know what they say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

Tastings may draw you to one of Australia’s many wine cellars, but the scenery may make leaving harder.

Victoria

Located along the southern coast of Australia, Victoria is known for being the cultural hub of the country as well as the home to the Great Ocean Road and the Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s top wine regions.  Cooler temperatures and high-quality volcanic soil contribute to the lighter fruity and floral wines coming from this area.

Twenty wine regions now call Victoria home including the Yarra Valley, Bendigo, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Rutherglen, Swan Hill, Red Hill, Goulburn Valley, and many more.  The most common wines produced in these regions vary between white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and red wines like Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon from over 800 wineries!

Yarra Valley led the way in Victoria with the introduction of vineyards in 1838, well before wineries spread across Victoria in the 1860s.

Victoria’s Yarra Valley

One of the best wineries in Victoria is the Helen and Joey Estate, situated in Gruyere, in the heart of the Yarra Valley.

This winery started producing wines in 2010 after purchasing an established vineyard.  Now 65% of their vineyard is made up of a variety of reds and the rest is a variety of whites.  The Helen and Joey Estate prides itself on its award-winning Chardonnay.

While the Helen and Joey Estate, known for its stunning views may be hard to leave, some of the other sights and tastes of the Yarra Valley like the following may call you.

  • Take a scenic walk on the trail around the Maroondah Reservoir Park
  • Pick some delicious, fresh cherries at the Cherry Hill Orchards
  • Visit the Healesville Sanctuary to see many native Australian critters, like the koala
  • Eat a delicious meal at the Dixons Creek Cafe Bar & Grill

Western Australia

On the western side of Australia, crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean,  remains of ancient Aboriginal sites, the natural beauty of the remote Kimberly, and the many luscious green vineyards of world-class wineries, provide great incentives to explore Western Australia.

Western Australia has twenty wine regions, including Margaret River, Swan Valley, Great Southern, and Geographe with 503 wineries spread throughout.

Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall, located in the Margaret Valley of Western Australia.

When visiting Margaret River, the most well-known wine region in Western Australia, spend time at the world-known Vasse Felix winery located in Wilyabrup. This beautiful property occupies 20 acres of land only 2.5 miles from the ocean, so you can drop by the winery in the afternoon and then go for a picnic on the beach and a swim in the evening!

Vasse Felix has four different locations, including Wilyabrup, Karridale, Gnarawary, and Wallcliffe, all located in the Margaret River wine region (try saying these after you have tasted a couple of wines). This winery produces some of the finest wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon,  Chardonnay, Shiraz, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend wines.

But don’t just spend time at the winery.  Nearby you can:

  • Eat some gourmet chocolate at the Margaret River chocolate company.
  • Try Rústico’s award-winning tapas.
  • Watch the sunset at Injidup Beach.
  • Explore Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall surrounded by beautiful scenery.

South Australia

Home to the famous Kangaroo Island, the top wineries in Australia also call South Australia home.   Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city, known for being the hub of festivals and delicious food, means you can always find something exciting happening in the city and nearby.  It’s the best place to make the most of your Australian wine trip.

South Australia boasts almost as many wineries as the rest of Australia. With 28 wine regions, including Adelaide, Barossa, Limestone Coast, and Clare Valley, these regions lay claim to roughly 989 wineries today.  If you visited wineries every day, it would still take you a year often visiting more than 2 wineries a day to visit each winery!  That’s a lot of wineries!

Barossa Valley, home to some of the oldest vines in the world, also produces what many consider to be Australia’s best shiraz.   With quaint towns, lovely scenery, and great restaurants, a couple of days may not be enough to enjoy all it offers.

South Australia’s Barossa Valley wineries line Seppeltsfield Road.

Known for its wine, foodies enjoy the area’s shops specializing in cheese, jam, salami and many shops will prepare picnic baskets to enjoy.

Jacob’s Creek is a great place to start any wine tour in the valley. One of the world’s largest-selling brands since 1973, the winery exports to countries around the world including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and over 45 other countries.

With its start producing table wines, good value wines rank as some of Jacob’s Creek most widely sold. But the winery produces a wide range of reserve and classic wines such as heritage reds, double-barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, cool-harvest Pinot Grigio, and many more.

After sipping some wines, wondering what activities and attractions there are to do? In the area you can also,

  • Visit other wineries in the area like Elderton wines or Rockford Winery.
  • Visit the Hentley Farm Restaurant for a delicious meal paired with their award-winning wines.
  • Spend a night at The Villas in Barossa for a special evening in a bush setting.
  • Order a picnic basket full of local goodies, like cheese, jam, salami and more, to enjoy on the grounds of one of the vineyards or other scenic site.

Sample the views of Hunter Valley wineries by hot air ballon.

New South Wales

Visiting Australia, and more than likely, your itinerary will include a stop in Sydney.   The city ranks as the #1 most visited in the country for its iconic landmarks:  the Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and Bondi Beach.

New South Wales may be big on landmarks but ranks as the fourth-smallest wine-producing state in Australia, with 24 wine regions calling the state home. These regions include Canberra, Hunter Valley, Central Ranges, and Cowra, where 634 wineries make their home.

While smaller among wine-producing states, Hunter Valley stands as the oldest region in the country and one of Australia’s major wine regions.  The region began with Semillon and Shiraz grapevines in the early 1800s.  Hunter Valley today has roughly 150 wineries producing delicious wines for both Aussies and wine lovers around the world.  Hop in the car or take the train from Sydney to visit these wineries.

Great wineries to visit in Hunter Valley include Brokenwood Wines. Started in 1970 by a group of weekend wine hobbyists, it’s now regarded as one of Australia’s most reputable wine labels.  Brokenwood Winery produces many varieties of wine such as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Semillion, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, and is noted for its famous Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, ILR Reserve Semillion, and Cricket Pitch Range.

Spend a day or two in the Hunter Valley so you have time to enjoy other activities in the area.  You can:

  • Book a hot air balloon and view Hunter Valley from above.
  • Taste some delicious French chocolate at Cocoa Nibs.
  • Try out a tiny home for a night at Tiny Away.
  • Visit other Hunter Valley wineries such as De Bortoli Wines or Wynwood estate.

Queensland

Roughly 200 national parks showcase the scenic beauty of Queensland. These parks cover over 25,000 sq miles of the state and the coastline stretches nearly 4500 miles on the northeast side of Australia.  With so much coastline and parkland, it’s no wonder Queensland has the second smallest number of wine regions in Australia, with only five, including Darling Downs, Queensland Coastal, South Burnett, Granite Belt, and Queensland Zone, and only

Enjoy the granite rock formations found in Girraween Park, located in the Granite Belt wine region of Queensland.

116 wineries.  However, wine is growing in importance due to the increasing global demand for wine.

When traveling to Queensland, visit the Granite Belt, the holy grail of wine regions.  Located in the center of Stanthorpe, in southern Queensland, your journey could easily include wineries and a stay on nearby Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef or one of the many beaches along its coast.

The Golden Grove Estate in Ballandean within the Granite Belt region provides a great introduction to Queensland’s wineries.  Mario and Nita Costanzo purchased land in Ballandean in 1946 to grow stone fruits and a variety of grapes, evolving into a vineyard and winery over several generations.  Their cool weather wines encompass both reds, including Tempranillo, Shiraz, and Merlot, along with whites,  such as Sauvignon, Vermentino, and Semillon that are fresh and elegant with a natural acidity not found in wines from other areas of Australia.

The Granite Belt offers more than just wine.  After you sample some, enjoy other activities.

  • Take a walk-through Girraween National Park.
  • Book a night or two in the vineyard cottages.
  • Eat a delicious meal using fresh, seasonal fare at the Barrelroom restaurant in Ballandean.
  • Visit other wineries in the area, such as Jester Hill Wines or Tobin Wines

Vineyards surround the Tamar River in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Tasmania

On the northern central coast of Tasmania, the Tamar Valley is the oldest of the 8 regions on this island located off Victoria’s southern coast.  Although Tasmania is tiny compared to other states, it is a fantastic location for traveling and, of course, winemaking. With the cleanest air in the world and the coldest wine regions in the country, Tasmanian wines receive awards for their delicious sparkling

wines, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.   Seven wine regions on the island contain 184 wineries that produce some of Australia’s best wines.

The Tamar Valley is the oldest wine region in Tasmania, due to its cool climate that makes the wines crisp and unlike no other.   Where there is wine,  you often find award-winning restaurants and the Tamar Valley is no different.   Based on locally grown ingredients, farm and sea to table are the norm here.

Dreamed of opening a business with friends?  That’s exactly what friends from two families did with the founding of Goaty Hill Winery near Kayena.  There are no goats at Goaty Hill but Rieslings and sparkling wines are top choices here along with their gourmet platters and cheese plates that also get rave reviews.  In line with their community focus, they frequently sponsor live music and art events to go with your wine.

With its clean air and fresh locally made products, there’s plenty to see do and eat after your visit to Goaty Hill.

  • Pick some strawberries from Strawberries at Littlewood.
  • Taste the local produce at the Richmond village farmer market such, as Harvest Market.
  • Taste some of the Richmond Bakery’s world-class hot pies.
  • Stay a night or two in the historical 1800s Richmond Oak Lodge.

With the extensive winemaking across Australia, time may be the greatest obstacle when exploring.  State by state, region by region, we can create a plan that can keep you returning to Australia for years to come.  Give me a call and let’s talk.

Pat Ogle-CollinsUncork your way thru Australia!
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The often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!

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When you travel all the way to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you should also go all the way to the tip of the North Island. New Zealand’s Northland, also referred to as the Far North by New Zealanders,  is a place of cultural significance, boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country with a subtropical climate and lots of sunshine.

Let’s look at some of the places in Northland that should be on your list of must-see Kiwi destinations. Get ready for wild beaches, quaint towns, enchanting Maori legends, endless lush forests filled with Kauri trees and waterfalls, and probably more sheep than people. You might even see an endangered Kiwi in these parts!

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga

Start at the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join, and the Maori believe that deceased spirits of their people jump from an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree (a tree covered in red blossoms referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree or bush) into the sea to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home. This spiritual place is as far north as you can travel and is an inspiring place to be.

Visit the lighthouse where the ocean views are spectacular and if you catch the sunrise or sunset, you might crown Cape Reinga your favorite place on earth.

Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach

Technically the beach is less than 90 miles long, but who is counting when the sandy shores are so gorgeous? You can see waves and sand for as far as the eye can see and perhaps a lone farmer walking his dog or brave surfer with seagulls for company. If you want to explore this remote beach on the western coast, the town of Kaitaia makes a charming base. Fresh mussels and fish from the Kaitaia Fish Shop should not be missed because you’ll be hungry after all that sea air and walking around the beach and its dunes.

Kerikeri

Known for its farmer’s market, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and a vibrant little place to visit. Rainbow Falls, where you can take a dip in the water hole, is blissfully photogenic. You will find many gorgeous walking tracks through forested areas lined by quaint streams and rivers here and all around Northland.

Step back into the fairly young colonial history of the country by visiting The Kerikeri Mission Station, also called Kemp House. Under the protection of a scary Maori chief, this house built in 1821 for missionaries, to whom he was kind, stands as the oldest surviving European building in the country.

Hokianga

Hokianga Harbour is where the first war canoe landed when Kupe, a Polynesian leader, arrived in New Zealand by using the stars and ocean to guide the waka hourua (large double-hulles oceangoing canoes) from Hawaiki (the original home of Polynesians) to Hokianga. Many people believe taniwha (sea monsters) protect the entrance to the harbor.

Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri

Hokianga is a beautiful spot with little settlements like Omapere and Opononi to explore. Enjoy a lunch of fish and chips at a cafe in Rawene, then catch a ferry to the seaside town of Kohukohu where you can see historical buildings from the kauri gum (fossilized resin of the kauri tree used in crafts and jewelry) mining days.

Walk through the scenic Waipoua Forest and see Tane Mahuta, called the God of the Forest, the biggest kauri tree in NZ, with an estimated age of 2,000 years old. Stop to see rare rock formations at Wairere Boulders, a geologic phenomenon created by acidic erosion. The trails are easy to walk and you can kayak the Waipoua River that cuts thru the park.

Dargaville

Heading south, you will discover the town of Dargaville, where you can take a rail and river tour which is run by locals who give you the real low down on farm life in rural NZ. It’s an adventure through farmland and tunnels, over old railway tracks and bridges.  Hot cheese scones and tea are part of the package.

Ngātokimatawhaorua, Maori war canoe, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Bay of Islands

In 1840 over 500 Maori leaders and British Crown representatives gathered to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ sacred site, you can see a Maori meeting house, war canoes, carvings, and a traditional haka performance (traditional Maori war dance). You can also view a replica of the treaty (the real one is archived in Wellington).  As the most important historical site in New Zealand, understanding the importance of the treaty and the events leading to the treaty reveal so much about the culture of the country.

By spending time in Northland, you gain a perspective on the entire country, while enjoying its warm temperatures, sunshine-filled days, and uniquely quaint small towns. Kiwis enjoy life at a much slower pace.  Visiting the Northlands provides time to adjust to this slower pace while learning about the culture and history surrounded by beautiful scenery!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!
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