Once while wandering around the Mornington Peninsula amongst the vineyards I asked a wine maker, “Why is it that grape vines are always grown on the rockiest, driest, barren soil around?” He looked at me, and said simply, “Because it’s a weed!” Well how de do? Who would have thought?
In this beautiful balmy autumn weather, it seemed a very good idea to do a winery trip through the Coal River Valley. Just 20 minutes from Hobart, this has to be one of the best located wine trails in Australia. And you’re spoilt for choice.
To do justice to those we visited, we decided to head straight to the end of our trail and work our way back. The original destination was to be Stefano Lubiana’s winery at Granton, but we scheduled that for last, and arrived at Puddleduck Vineyard for a morning coffee.
We were royally ushered in by Polly, the resident Corgi, who kept looking back to see we were following. She entered the café, lay straight down on the floor, stretched out, tummy up, waiting for pats. We had to oblige. Then took in the surrounds.
What a treat! The new restaurant, tasting bar and gift shop opened out onto a grassy lawn and child’s play area, a deck and pond where the resident ducks quacked and fussed as we settled down to fresh plunger coffee, a piece of fudge and vine views.
Donna and I decided to hit the bar, and begin the tasting. Darren the winemaker arrived and his knowledge and love of his industry was obvious. Somehow the wine just tastes better right at the source. Am I crazy to say that? Matt Dunbabin from Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed insists that “terroir” is not just the microclimate. It’s everything: the land, landscape, process, bottling, tasting room and even the weather on the day. I think he’s got something.
And the day was magnificent. For $5, the standard tasting fee around the valley, it was good value, and deducted from purchase. We started with the Bubbleduck 2014 Reserve. Superb. Dry, clayey, with fruit balance – a favourite with Donna, who bought one immediately. The 2016 Riesling didn’t grab us so much, but the Fumé Blanc was another corker. These are seriously good wines, and only sold from the cellar door or online.
We left the reds for another day, and headed to Pooley for the next taste, and lunch. We swerved by Frogmore Creek, but that visit is planned for a full lunch and wine tasting experience. I so love Ruben’s food and the service there that a quick visit just won’t do it justice, and Pooley’s was on Simon’s hit list. Being our DD, he did a fantastic job, and we all promised to reverse the favour next time.
This is original Tasmania at its most authentic and clever. The original building has charm oozing from its walls, the bar room takes you back in time, and the wine tasting? Slick, knowledgeable, and for $5? Great value. Our hands down favourite was the Pooley Riesling, 2016, with lychee and passionfruit but a lovely dry aftertaste at the same time. And the Gewürtztraminer, a great example of this German style dry, spicy, floral wine. Fantastic with curry and any spicy foods, this baby holds its own. And Donna headed for the bubbles, in love with the 2011 Matilda Sparkling. At $60 not cheap, but worth it. Donna’s worth it.
Ordering pizza to eat in the very rustic courtyard was a snap, with a big wood-fired dome waiting, it seemed just minutes before we dived into a mushroom and feta; an antipasto; and a salmon pizza. They were brilliant. Perfect dough, thin, fresh and crisp, and 3 between 5 of us, at $14 for each pizza was incredible value.
Our final stop, Stefano Lubiano’s beckoned, so we wound through the valley, across to the Brighton bridge, and heading to New Norfolk, took a short turn left and there, like a classic modern Tuscan villa, stood the home of Lubiana wines. Modern, with more than a touch of Santa Fe about it, but beautifully blended with the landscape the building is as gorgeous inside as out.
By this time, my palate was starting to tire, or tyre as in rubber on the bitumen, so we bravely tasted on, but apart from the bubbles, we found it hard to even get excited. Not the fault of the wines, I think our plans had been a bit ambitious. Of course.
And we were too late to have a snack, but they did have one dessert left, a semifreddo with apricot and the cheese board was available. So we had both, of course. And they were good. The Osteria was busy and we pencilled that in as well for another solo visit.
The drive home, through that gorgeous Tasmanian countryside, in early autumn, was as beautiful as it’s possible to be. Quiet country roads, and we’re back in the city in 20. It’s hard to get that kind of convenience even in Italy.
So while the weather prevails, and autumn colours blaze and warm the hills, try some of our wineries, and discover that ‘terroir’, as Matt Dunbabin puts it, is the whole package. Indeed.