Volcanic Hills Winery

We are always eager to visit anywhere with the word ‘winery’ or ‘vineyard’ attached to the name and so, after a few hours absorbing the sulphurous splendour of Whakarewarewa, we sought the more mellow tones of Volcanic Hills Winery. While the wine making facility is located at ground level, the tasting room, high on the side of Mount Ngongotaha, can only be reached by a 900 metre ride on the Skyline Gondola.

The Skyline complex offers cafes and restaurants as well as luge, ziplines and mountain bike tracks for the thrill-seekers. We prefer our thrills on the more sedate side. Volcanic Hills was established in 2009 with the tasting room opening three years later.

There are no grapes grown in Rotorua, instead the best grapes are sourced from various wine regions in New Zealand and the finished product is only available at cellar door and hand chosen outlets, restaurants and hotels. We enjoyed a five wine tasting, guided through by a very knowledgeable Larissa, wife of winemaker Brent Park. The gondola continued its circuits on one side of the window

while magnificent views across the town and lake filled the rest.

Lake Rotorua was formed around 200,000 years ago following the eruption of a volcano and is the second largest lake in the North Island. The resulting caldera is about 16km wide, although with an average depth of only 10 metres.

Mokoia Island is a rhyolite lava dome in the centre of the lake, created when magma was pushed through a crack in the caldera. It is now a bird sanctuary and home to several rare species.

We wandered around the complex but, tempting though the restaurant was

we stashed our bottles of 2019 Hawkes Bay Rose and 2019 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and made our way back to Matamata as the sun descended on another wonderful day.

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

Watershed Winery

With lunch time approaching, we arrived at Watershed Winery, not far from the township of Margaret River. The expanse of regimented vines

1.Watershed vines

followed us down the driveway to the impressive cellar door edifice.

2.entrance

The light, airy café and restaurant are separated only by seating arrangement and menu.

3.restaurant

Head Chef, Dan Gedge, was trained in Cornwall by none other than Rick Stein. Sourcing the freshest seasonal produce, he creates a very tempting menu. I can’t remember what we ate and I have no photos but I do know it was delicious. On a warmer day it would have been perfect to sit outside. The extensive alfresco dining area

5.alfresco6.alfresco4.alfresco

delivers stunning views over the dam and rolling vineyards.

7.vineyard & dam

The architecture is exceptional, and with the beautiful setting, I can see why it is a popular venue for weddings.

8.rear entrance9.rear courtyard

We didn’t linger after lunch, there were more wineries to conquer.

Swallows Welcome

There are many fabulous wineries in the Margaret River region but Swallows Welcome, the smallest winery in the region, is really something special. Tim & Pat Negus first planted grapes in 1994 and the family run business has been producing wine since 1997. The rural setting is peaceful and the artistic influences are evident on arrival.

Patricia Negus is a well known watercolour artist, her illustrations of wildflowers and birds have graced the pages of many books. Tim & Pat built the mudbrick and timber Chapel of the Flowers, a serene gallery, to exhibit 102 of Pat’s works that are featured in Wildflowers of Southwest Australia (the plastic chairs were remnants of a recent social occasion).

9.Chapel of the Flowers

The beautiful leadlight windows create a subtle ambience.

The delights continue outside,

the garden is a testament to Pat’s love of nature.

31. honeyeater

We made our way, past the magnificent magnolia tree, to her studio, filled with stunning artwork, books and cards for sale.

We wandered through a gorgeous courtyard cottage garden,

inhabited by a few frogs

and the occasional snail.

45.snail

After all the distractions, we finally reached the tasting room,

46.tasting room

adorned with more colourful leadlight.

Pat guided us through the range of superb reds,

finishing with a nip of Pensioners Port. Tim’s self-portrait graces the label

51.tasting room

and his other works decorate the walls. Pat instructed the boys on the fine art of labelling

52.Pat, Michael and Dave

and they soon had a dozen ready to ship home.

53.labelling

I could have lingered in that garden all day but lunch was beckoning. It’s a good life for some……..

54.winery dog