Sharmans Wines

We were running a little early for our lunch date at Josef Chromy and took the opportunity to discover Sharmans Wines, a place we had passed many times but never visited.

1.Sharmans Wines

The vineyard was established in 1986 by Mike and Philippa Sharman and is the oldest existing vineyard in Relbia. It changed hands in 2012 when purchased by Ian and Melissa Murrell who have since redesigned and renovated the buildings. The original Sharmans residence is now a bright, welcoming Cellar Door. It is no surprise to learn that Melissa is a very talented interior designer.

2.Cellar Door3.Cellar Door

8.Cellar Door4.Cellar Door7.Cellar Door

The extensive use of timber, much of it reclaimed from the original boardwalk at the Launceston seaport, enhances the warming ambience. We sampled a few wines at the tasting bench, hosted by a very knowledgeable young woman with beautiful autumn locks. We resisted the opportunity to simultaneously work off the calories whilst quaffing.

9.Cellar Door stools

I can think of no better excuse to take time out and smell the roses.

10.roses

The colours of the flowers are echoed in the bespoke light fittings created from recycled plastic by Melbourne designer Marc Pascal.

The floor to ceiling windows make the most of the spectacular view over the vines to the North Esk River and beyond

14.view15.view

and can be opened completely to incorporate the al fresco dining area.

16.outdoor area

The attention to detail continues through the landscaped gardens and exterior design.

Tasty platters, loaded with Tasmanian produce, are available to savour while enjoying the vista, accompanied by a glass (or bottle) of your chosen tipple. We left Sharmans feeling very pleased with ourselves and our purchases.

Maroondah Dam

The day we had planned for a scenic drive from Healesville dawned wet and windy but, with limited time, we forged on regardless. Ten minutes down the road, we parked at Maroondah Dam and braved the elements to explore the beautiful gardens. Landscaped in the early English style after the completion of the dam wall in 1927, exotic and native trees cohabit. Some had shed the last remnants of their autumn apparel

1.Maroondah Reservoir Park

while evergreen stalwarts proudly displayed their verdure.

2.Maroondah Reservoir Park

The Rose Stairway, constructed in the 1940s, was so named because the stone steps were originally flanked by roses. For some reason, they were replaced around 1980 with Golden Pencil Pines.

3.Rose Stairway

We ascended the stairs to the small rotunda at the top and,

4.Rotunda, top of Rose Stairway

following a signpost to the dam wall, passed another of the five rotundas in the park, the Bell Rotunda.

5.Bell Rotunda

The path led across the dam wall to a lookout on the other side but we weren’t willing to challenge the ferocious wind.

6.dam wall

With camera in one hand and inverted umbrella in the other, I ventured far enough to catch a glimpse of Maroondah Reservoir. The 26,000 acre catchment area is entirely eucalypt forest and no human activity is allowed on the water.

7.Maroondah Reservoir

Risking life and limb, I was determined to get one shot of the temple-like outlet tower.

8.outlet tower

The impressive 41 metre high concrete dam wall is arched to withstand the pressure of the water upstream.

9.dam wall

We beat a not too hasty retreat down the Rose Steps, hoping to avoid spectacular slippage,

10.Rose Stairway

stopping to admire a very late or very early Azalea bloom.

11.Azalea

The towering dam wall is even more dramatic when viewed from below.

12.dam wall13.dam wall

The valve houses have stood the test of time and are even more beautiful wearing nature’s adornments.

14.historic valve house

Seemingly a serene lily pond, the compensation channel is the point where water released from the reservoir flows back into the Watts River.

15.pond

Spring would be the perfect time to explore the park, stroll along the walking trails and perhaps enjoy a picnic. We will just have to return one day.

farewell Ireland

The final hours of any holiday are difficult, what to do to make the most of the remaining time before the impending trip to the airport? We set off from the hotel in the direction of the Grand Canal, the same one we discovered on our first day in Ireland at Edenderry.

1.Grand Canal Walk

The canal begins in Dublin at the River Liffey and, 43 locks later, connects with the River Shannon 131 kilometres away.

2.Grand Canal Walk

We noticed a naked female figure seemingly climbing the wall of the Treasury Building.

3.Liberty Scaling the Heights

The sculpture is titled Aspiration – Liberty Scaling the Heights by artist Rowan Gillespie and was installed in 1995. Representing Ireland in the struggle for freedom that took place in 1916, it is fitting that this building was once occupied by Éamon de Valera who was a key figure in the Easter Rising. He was arrested and sentenced to death but instead, was released and went on to be President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. Although the figure appears to be made from bronze, it is actually foam-filled fibreglass.

4.Liberty Scaling the Heights

We wandered further to Grand Canal Docks, the world’s largest docks at the time they opened in 1796. With the advent of the railways they fell into decline and by the 1960s were almost completely derelict. The land was rendered toxic by a history of chemical factories and tar pits until regeneration began in 1998, with millions spent on decontamination. Since then, significant redevelopment has seen the docklands become the location for multinational companies.

5.Grand Canal Docks, inner basin

A functioning mill until 2001, the gorgeous 19th century stone block building of Boland’s Mill is a protected site. The concrete silos, however, have since been demolished as part of the Boland’s Quay reconstruction.

6.Bolands Mill

I could imagine living in an apartment overlooking the docks,

7.Grand Canal Docks

although new construction was encroaching on some of the characterful older buildings.

8.Grand Canal Docks

The chimneys of the Poolbeg Power Station, known as the Poolbeg Stacks, dominate the skyline to the east.

9.Poolbeg Stacks

It seems that construction will be an ongoing enterprise in the docklands,

10.credit crunch construction

something to keep the resident cormorants interested.

The time had come for us to make our way to the airport and one more taste of Ireland before boarding the shuttle to Heathrow.

17.Dublin Airport

Palazzo Davanzati

While staying at Villa Boccella our lovely friend, Deb (not the same lovely Deb that lives in Launceston), escorted us on a day trip to Florence to share the wonders of a city she knows well. Without her, we never would have discovered Palazzo Davanzati. Built by the wealthy merchant Davizzi family in the 14th century, the palace was purchased by the Davanzati family in 1578, their coat of arms is proudly displayed on the façade.

1.Palazzo Davanzati

They retained possession until 1838 after which the residence was divided into flats. In 1904, antique dealer Elia Volpi rescued, restored and furnished the property before opening it to the public as a museum in 1910. Ownership changed hands again in the 1920s and eventually the Italian state took over in 1951. The museum has undergone major restoration in recent years, the result is nothing short of spectacular. We entered into an internal courtyard, instantly boggled by the grandeur.

2.looking up from courtyard

The rooms on the upper floors are arranged around the central courtyard, gazing upward the architecture resembles a labyrinthine puzzle.

6.looking up from courtyard

We climbed the worn stone steps to the first floor

7.steps

and entered the Great Hall, a room that would have been used for conducting business. The trapdoors in the floor in front of the windows open up to the loggia below so visitors can be identified before granting entry.

8.Great Hall9.Great Hall

The intricate ceiling detail is stunning, though I wondered about the comfort of the furniture.

Water can be hauled to all floors from the private well in the courtyard via pitchers on a pulley system.

On the same floor, the walls of the Parrot Room are decorated with a geometric patchwork design, motifs of the birds are painted in the lattice separating the blocks.

14.Parrot Room

The huge fireplace is adorned with the red and white Davizzi coat of arms with emblems on either side representing the Ridolfo and Alberti families who married into the Davizzi family.

15.Parrot Room fireplace

The frescoed wall of the adjacent bedroom incorporates coats of arms of families allied with the Davizzi. The beautiful bed cover is a copy of the Guicciardini Quilt, the only known surviving example of medieval quilts. The original, made in Sicily in the second half of the 14th century, resides in The Bargello less than a kilometre down the road.

16.Peacock Room

Even though it would have been a luxury at the time, the ensuite bathroom is small and not conducive to a good long soak.

19.ensuite

There is a room displaying sewing and spinning implements as well as exquisite examples of lacework.

Another room exhibits furniture from the 14th to 19th century: delicate porcelain, timber cabinets, chairs and storage boxes fill the space.

24.cassone

30.chest

26.armour cabinet, Audience Room

A small water closet hides behind a very substantial timber door.

31.water closet

Obviously, there is indoor plumbing, these appear to be breather vents

32.breather pipes

and the drainage pipe snakes its way down the internal courtyard wall.

On the second floor, the frescoes in the most sumptuous bedroom are inspired by the tale of the Chatelaine de Vergi (I love this version, I was enthralled), a tragic medieval story of friendship, love, loyalty, betrayal and the consequences of all the aforementioned. An unusual choice for a marital bedchamber or perhaps a constant reminder of the benefits of fidelity?

35.bedroom of the landlady

38.bedroom of the landlady

The addition of the ensuite bathroom was again unexpected.

39.bathroom

There is another bedroom on the third floor, as well as the kitchen, I don’t know why I haven’t got any photos of them. Interestingly, the kitchen is on the top floor to avoid cooking smells in the lower living areas and contain damage in case of a fire. Just when I thought we’d seen everything, a circular painting caught my eye. The timber platter is a birthing salver, circa 1450, originally used in Florence to bring food to pregnant women and then became symbolic gifts for a successful birth. The cherubs are engaging in a game of civettino where the players have to maintain a certain distance, the right foot of one touching the left of the other. The aim is to avoid being slapped by your opponent, although ‘slapping’ is probably not the most appropriate term to explain this depiction.

40.birth salver

Josef Chromy

A couple of weeks ago we took Cooper to Launceston for a service, swapped her for a new BMW 120i courtesy car, picked up our lovely friend Deb and wended our way to  Josef Chromy for lunch. A picturesque 15 minute drive from the city, the winery at Relbia was launched in 2007. The cellar door is set within immaculate gardens where carefully trimmed privets, fountains and flowers mingle with majestic mature trees.

1.Josef Chromy Wines

4.outdoor seating5.weeping elm

A popular venue for weddings, the lakeside pavilion is a perfect spot to exchange vows.

6.lake

The view across the lake to the vineyards beyond can be enjoyed whether eating outdoors

7.outdoor eating

or inside the restaurant.

8.restaurant

We took advantage of the week day Winter Lunch Special, two courses and a glass of wine for $45. The complimentary sourdough bread was delicious, as was the 2018 Pinot Gris.

9.sourdough

The main course for the special this day was the Baked Beef Cheek with cauliflower, rhubarb, shaved cabbage, parmesan, parsley & lemon. Coincidentally, it would have been my choice anyway.

10.baked beef cheek

Michael opted for the Wood-Grilled Lamb Rump with baby lentils, baked Elphin Grove celeriac, spring onion & yoghurt. Not being a fan of celeriac, he requested the gnarled root be omitted. Graciously, chef replaced it with baked parsnip.

11.wood-grilled lamb rump

We all chose dessert instead of entrée as our second course, White Chocolate Bavarois was Chef’s special concoction.

12.white chocolate bavarois

The menu offered Hot Chocolate Mousse with leatherwood honey parfait, honeycomb, nashi pear and nib crumb.

13.hot chocolate mousse

Finishing off with coffee, we watched the activity in the vineyard. With 61 hectares to prune and a vineyard stretching for 2km I was grateful to be merely observing.

14.vineyard