From time to time, dashing the hopes and dreams of children is something that needs to be done in the name of responsible parenting. Children shouldn't be allowed to do whatever they want all the time, despite their very loud protestations.
I'm not a child though, and my parents are over 10,000 miles away.
Yesterday, I ate ice cream for breakfast.
OK, so it wasn't necessarily a rebellion against all the responsible parents in the world. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't start my day with a scoop of rich chocolate, and a scoop of creamy strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone. I was on a bus tour, so I consider it acceptable.
The first stop on the day's tour around the Yarra Valley was at a chocolaterie and ice creamery. Upon arrival we were greeted with three large (HUGE!) bowls filled with chocolate drops (1x white, 1x milk, 1x dark), each with a little spoon to help yourself to a handful. I helped myself to a few handfuls and began wandering the shop area that we had access too.
There's quite a range of different chocolate types available to buy (over 250 apparently), and not just these individual delights. As well as hot chocolate powders, chocolate tea, chocolate sauces, and rocky road slices, the chocolaterie sells bars of chocolate with their own flavourings. We were treated to a tasting session of the Valley Bush Tucker range of 8 flavours, of which my favourites were gum leaf and wild honey, wild lemon myrtle, and native fruit spice dark.
Considering the morning had got going a bit, our next destination was the Napoleone Brewery for a tasting at around 10:30.
The tasting consisted of four different products, the Apple Cider, Pear Cider, White Goose Hefeweizen (a wheat beer), and Calibration ESB (Extra Special Brew). None of which were particularly special if I'm honest, but not one to miss out on a bargain I purchased 4 bottles of different products for $15 to try at a later date. Last night I discovered the cloudy cider to be better than the normal, it would have been even better un-carbonated.
Once the short tasting was out of the way, and I'd found another candidate for Motor Damage, the tour made its way to Gateway Estate; a rather inspiring place (for me) that came to fruition because the owners were fed up with office work and decided to grow tomatoes, strawberries and capsicums hydroponically instead. They apparently had no experience in growing any sort of plant prior to setting up shop.
Once we'd had a brief look at the crops, and an explanation of what goes on at the place we were ushered back to the farm shop for some tasting. I was wondering how much you could gain from a taster session at a tomato, strawberry, and capsicum farm, but it turns out that over time the farm shop itself developed through people bringing their own local produce to sell, and that the folks at Gateway Estate use that to make some other rather delicious produce. I particularly enjoyed the Kasundi, the strawberry chutney and strangely, a local blue cheese.
The tasting didn't end with food though. It turns out that you can make alcoholic products from strawberries, and that Gateway Estate produce a strawberry port, a strawberry liqueur, and a strawberry creme. All of these were sweet, and quite tasty although I probably couldn't drink much. The liquor would go well on pancakes and ice cream, and the creme tasted like Baileys mixed with a Mini Milk.
Then there were the two wines, a Shiraz and a Pinot Noir.
I liked the Gateway Estate.
Sadly though, the time had come to leave (not before buying a pasta sauce) so we piled back on the bus, anticipating the joys that we would be treated to at our next stop, and enjoyed the pleasant, vine filled scenery on the way there.
Meet Tom. He works at the Dominique Portet Winery. After introducing us to the methods of wine tasting; swirling, sniffing, sipping, all that gubbins, we got to try four wines. Starting with a sparkling Brut Rosé, moving through a Sauvignon Blanc, a normal Rosé, and ending with a Shiraz. All were pleasant, although I found the Shiraz a bit too tannin-ey for my liking.
It was at the Dominique Portet Winery that we would have our lunch, a nicely presented French baguette (smoked chicken for me), a small slice of (pumpkin and leak in my case) tart, and a little chocolate nibble to finish. There was also a game of petanqué.
The victor was awarded a bottle of the sparkling Brut Rosé that we had tried earlier. Sadly this was not me.
The next stop on our journey was the Rochford Winery for another tasting session which included a Sauvignon Blanc, a Riesling/Pinot Grigio/Gewurztraminer blend called Cerberus, a Cabernet Franc, and finally a Muscat.
The place is mostly a shop, filed with a large quantity of uncharacteristically non-wine related products. There is a viewing platform up a tightly wound spiral staircase, offering views of the vines, it's nice, but the building's roofs get in any photograph you might take so I've deemed it not worth showing.
Our final location most certainly is worth showing you though, despite my fairly lacklustre landscape photography skills.
Killara Estate is set in an absolutely stunning area of the Yarra Valley, offering views of their vines that coat the rolling hillside, using mountains as a back drop for added drama. It was evident that they've been perfecting the art of presenting wine tastings; as soon as we arrived on the veranda overlooking the landscape, every person on the bus bee-lined for the same spot to take a photograph that included the carefully arranged line of wine glasses. It's easier if I show you.
The tasting itself was handled by Leo, a fellow who'd clearly been hosting tastings all morning (he admitted to five tastings already). Leo jovially took us through another four wines; a Chardonnay, a Moscato (holy crap that was sweet), a Pinot Noir, and a Sangiovese Cabernet whilst imparting wine based wisdom and cracking fairly poor jokes.
Once we'd finished our final wine of the day we indulged ourself on the wood fired pizzas that were provided as part of the tour, and enjoyed the glorious sunshine before jumping back on the bus for the trip back to the city.
The day was a grand affair, and despite not being the biggest fan of wine (or chocolate, cheese, and chutneys) I greatly enjoyed trying them all, most of the time being pleasantly surprised. Even more peculiar is that the beer and cider were the least impressive part of the tour for me.
Perhaps this is the start of a more civilised, grown up Tom?
Probably not though, I did start the day eating ice cream for breakfast.