Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tasmania


What a perfect island! It is like a small perfect world with mountains, lakes, rivers, hills, ocean all around, and very friendly people. Unfortunately I arrived in Hobart 4 hours late, because I missed my plane in Melbourne – they should announce to non-Australians that the time changes by 30 minutes from Adelaide to Melbourne. However, I didn’t realize this and showed up to the gate as the plane was leaving – with my luggage (which I believe is illegal). Regardless, I was forced to wait and catch up on emails in the airport. When I called my mother, she reminded me that the universe must have had a reason for the delay. Still not sure what is was….. but I must trust in the greater reason for all things.


Anyway, when I did arrive in Hobart I received a very small car with a manual shift on the left. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to drive it, but then I managed quite well and grew proud of myself. After 3 weeks in Australia, with the first day of driving into ongoing traffic twice and using my windshield wipers as blinkers at least 20 times, I was now driving a left manual shift. Quite an accomplishment! The weather was a nice 74 degrees -- a big relief from the 103 in Adelaide.


I headed north toward the Tamar Valley via Coal River Valley, which is just a few miles from the airport and known for pinot noir. I passed many wineries but had decided to stop at the Pooley Winery in Cooinda Vale, so I kept driving. It was very charming country side with hills, sheep, vineyards, and glimpses of the ocean. I stopped at the visitor’s center in Richmond – a charming little town – but the man there didn’t have any information on the wineries. Disappointing. I kept driving and eventually found Pooley, but even though the signs said it was open, there was no one around. I kept knocking on the doors, but no response.


Since that was the last winery on my route, I decided to keep driving in the hope that I could catch a winery in the Tamar Valley before it closed. Only a 2 hour drive from Hobart, I managed to reach Josef Chromy Winery at a few minutes to 5, but it was closed. Feeling dejected, I made my way to the Best Western in Launceston and was greeted by the friendly owner who suggested I have dinner at Luck’s downtown if I wanted to taste local wines. I followed her advice and had a lovely dinner of Flinder’s Island lamb with tastes of two pinots – provided by the owner. He explained to me that Tasmania has much vintage variation – just like Burgundy – and therefore gave me a 2006 pinot noir from the Tamar Valley, which was quite tart, tannic, and thin…and then treated me to a glass of (ironically – the place I had tried to visit) 2005 Pooley pinot noir which was big, bold, fruity, earthy, and complex. I decided to buy a glass of the Pooley to go with my lamb and it was a perfect match.


The next morning I drove to Bay of Fires Winery (owned by Constellation) and was treated quite well and allowed to taste the 2002 Arras and 2003 Bay of Fires sparkling. The first was elegant and crisp whereas the latter was more yeasty in style. The most amazing wines were the rieslings, which I didn’t even known were grown in Tasmania. These were quite electrifying with sharp and very aromatic flavor of lime and kiwi. Quite different and pleasing with cleansing acids. Next was Dalrymple Vineyards where I had a wonderful earthy complex pinot noir and bought 2 shirts - -since the winery had just been purchased by Hill-Smith (owners of Yalumba and Jansz). I had a wonderful time and was also invited to investigate the sauvignon blanc vineyard with its different clones and view of the Bass Strait.


Next stop was Jansz Winery known for its wonderful sparkling wines, and was co-run by Roederer from Champagne for a few years, but is now owned by Hill-Smith. Here I was able to learn more about the soil, climate, and unique meso-climates in the vineyard. The NV wines here are a great value, and the vintages wines are aged a minimum of 4 years on the lees! Very lovely! Wish I would have had time to stop at Pipers Brook next door, but had to head back for my plane with hopes to visit a Coal Valley Winery on the way.


Managed to stop at MeadowBank Estate, which is a beautiful winery close to the airport with a restaurant and lovely bay view. I tasted through 10 wines and was quite impressed. My favorite was the Grace Elizabeth wooded chardonnay 2004 with layers of lemon, tart apple, steel, flint, and light oak. Also enjoyed the two pinot noirs. It was difficult to leave Tasmania – and I definitely look forward to visiting again in the future.

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