Le Grazie

When we first travelled to Italy, we didn’t get the chance to see Cinque Terre so this time we were determined not to miss out. When I started planning, I soon realised that staying in the coastal villages was nigh on impossible with a car to park. Instead, I found a B&B in Le Grazie that suited our needs, or so I thought. After driving around for an hour trying to find the place, it turned out to be virtually inaccessible to anyone with more than hand luggage, down fifty or so very steep stone steps. With no Plan B, we were very lucky to find Hotel Le Grazie had a room available for two nights, a very nice room at that.

1.Hotel Le Grazie

In need of solace after our ordeal, a short stroll around the corner rewarded us with the tranquil vista of Le Grazie harbour.

2.Le Grazie harbour3.Le Grazie harbour

Nestled in a sheltered inlet between La Spezia and Porto Venere, this gorgeous village seems to have escaped the teeming tourist numbers of the neighbouring towns. The inhabitants have a reputation for being proficient divers and have thrived for centuries on boat building and fishing. Adjacent to the boat construction yard, the pine wood offers a shady meeting place for locals. A war memorial honouring  partisans, civilians and military personnel and an old cannon remind us of a less peaceful time.

4.pine wood

The roundabout, marked by a solitary cycad, seemed somewhat superfluous on a straight road.

6a.roundabout Le Grazie

After a restorative Prosecco we wandered further, past colourful buildings

7.Le Grazie8.Le Grazie

and beautiful boats moored in the marina.

9.yachts, Le Grazie harbour10.yachts, Le Grazie harbour

The village takes its name from the Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace). The church dates back to the 11th century when a group of Benedictine monks came from the island of Tino. The present church and monastery were built in the 15th century, though the monks were driven out in 1798 and the church became a parish church. The ancient convent is now a private residence and I am lost for words.

11.Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie

It seemed a good time to rest for aperitivo

15.aperitivo, Le Grazie

while soaking up the atmosphere and sunshine.

20.Le Grazie harbour

We continued along the promenade until we could go no further.

21.walkway

The Varignano Fortress, built in 1724, dominates the headland. Originally used as a storage facility and quarantine station, it then became a hospital before being taken over by the defence forces. Since World War II, it has been the headquarters of the Navy Divers and Raiders Group, named after Major Teseo Tesei who invented the human torpedo. No prizes for guessing how he died.

22.Varignano Fortress

With the descending sun glistening on the water, we ambled back to seek sustenance.

23.Le Grazie harbour

Ristorante Il Gambero was the perfect setting

to observe life in the village and harbour

27.Le Grazie30.Le Grazie harbour

31.Le Grazie harbour

while enjoying delicious fresh seafood.

There is only one way to end a perfect day.

35.crème brûlée

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.

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

Yarra vines

After the challenge of negotiating Melbourne peak hour gridlock, our tension slipped away as the traffic quelled and the road bisected a quilted landscape of farmland and vineyards. The Yarra Valley is renowned for its abundance of wineries and award winning wines. It seems June is the time of year to shorten opening hours to ‘winter time’ or to close doors and concentrate on maintenance but  De Bortoli didn’t let us down.

1.DeBortoli

The family company spans four generations, established by Vittorio and Giuseppina who migrated from Italy in 1928 to settle in Bilbul, New South Wales.  The Yarra Valley Estate was purchased in 1987, the original plantings of 1971 make it one of the oldest vineyards in the Yarra Valley. The bespoke rustic gates at the entrance to the property open to a tree-lined driveway, the morning sun still low in the sky.

2.bespoke gate3.DeBortoli driveway

The Locale Restaurant upstairs serves authentic Italian dishes made with ingredients grown on the estate.

4.restaurant & cellar door

Too early for lunch, we made our way to the cellar door instead.

5.cellar door

The space was warm and welcoming with interesting presentations of products.

There are a few tasting options, including a specialty gourmet selection combined with a cheese platter

8.cellar door

and private Trophy Room Tastings for those wanting to learn more about De Bortoli Italian wines.

9.Trophy Room10.Trophy Room

We opted for a tasting at the counter, the friendly staff happy to share their knowledge. A bottle of La Boheme, Act 1 Riesling accompanied us on our journey to enjoy later. The view is spectacular, 162 hectares of vines merge with rolling hills and distant ranges.

11.view from cellar door

We retraced our tracks to Yarra Glen for a life sustaining sausage roll at the bakery before continuing on to our next point of call. Zonzo Estate is set on 230 acres with stunning views across the valley.

12.view from Zonzo13.view from Zonzo

The 45 acres of vines were pruned and ready for spring,

14.vines

a comfortable perch for the local aves

15.raven

and the young olive trees were bearing fruit.

16.olives

We were disappointed to find the cellar door locked and deserted

17.Zonzo cellar door

but we had a quick nosey around. The old farm buildings have been cleverly resurrected and are a popular venue for weddings. I’d be happy just to sit with a glass of wine and absorb the wonderful vista.

18.Zonzo Estate

back to Bayviews

Last Friday, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We probably would have both forgotten except that Michael was invited to play at Bayviews Restaurant from 6pm until 8.30pm in the new lounge bar. Of course, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of dinner at our fave place. Bayviews closed for three weeks last year, re-opening on 8th October with a very different look and the added attraction of live music on Fridays. The revamped lounge area offers plenty of comfortable seating options to enjoy a drink and something delicious from the new bar menu.

1.lounge area

Previously the function room, the casual dining area is perfect to enjoy a meal or snack, with doors opening onto the deck for those warm summer evenings.

6.dining7.sea views

The relaxed ambience of the dining room has been retained but with a more formal feel, as the before and after photos show.

8.dining before reno9.dining after reno10.dining before reno11.dining after reno

The understated artwork in the main dining area is a beautiful depiction of the northern Tasmanian coastline from Low Head to Stanley (thank you, Michael, for pointing that out).

12.artwork

Pre-playing sustenance consisted of a James Squire One Fifty Lashes and bowl of wedges, while I opted for a Ninth Island sparkling. A Josef Chromy Pinot Gris accompanied through the rest of the evening.

The new lounge area with sliding doors to the balcony allowed for enjoyment of the superb entertainment inside

13.michael

while watching the recreation beachside, courtesy of the Burnie Surf Lifesaving Club.

16.iron ocean

The Iron Ocean challenge is a combination of Ironman and Ocean Swim events, giving kids the opportunity to strengthen their confidence in the water. The event involves swimming, running, surf ski paddling and board paddling. I was in awe and exhausted, observing from my comfortable perch.

Once the action was over and some well deserved food ensued, the gulls made their presence known. My attempts to successfully photograph a gull in flight proved challenging,

I opted for a stationary specimen.

26.gull

This was one of the rare occasions where a picturesque sunset failed to evolve.

27.no sunset

When Michael had finished his session, we enjoyed the rest of the wine with a wonderful meal. The new look menu doesn’t disappoint and the unexpected lemon jelly was a perfect palate cleanser.

The meals were, as usual, delectable. Michael chose pan fried blue eye trevalla on housemade fettucine with lemon beurre blanc sauce & roasted cherry tomatoes, from the specials board.

30.blue eye trevalla

I couldn’t resist my favourite slow cooked lamb shoulder with butternut pumpkin gnocchi, salsa verde, sugar snap peas, hung yoghurt & fresh mint.

31.slow cooked lamb

Thank you Bayviews for a wonderful evening, thank you Michael for the best 16 years.