Saturday, March 07, 2009

Yarra Valley

I took a trip down to the Yarra Valley in Victoria last weekend (27 Feb - 1 Mar). An early morning flight from Sydney, car hire from Tulla. airport (snazzy baby blue Getz) and an hour drive south-eastish (I've never been great with compass directions. From the airport we took a left, a right and didn't stop until we reached Yarra Glen).

We were expecting fairly hot weather, but found it a little cool until mid-afternoon and then it heated up. By that time, we were already touring the wineries so we didn't really care.

Our guide (my sister, whose birthday we were in town to celebrate) took us for a drive down Steels Creek Road, one of the areas recently affected by bushfire. It was a sobering trip. Several homes and outbuildings were destroyed. Several weren't. Hectares of farmland and bush were gone. We drove as far as the turn-off to Kinglake and no further. Yes, the roads were closed (entry to Kinglake, one of the towns severely beaten by the fires, was and is still restricted), but we didn't want to go further. The road was lined with the blackened husks of eucalypts. It's a morbid sight and one we found waiting behind more than one corner.

The town of Yarra Glen sits in a haze of smoke. Sirens and the roar of truck engines now as common as birdcalls. The black reach of the fires is visible everyone - the hills, the paddocks, the vineyards...

We decided to do our bit to support local business (the tourism trade has dropped somewhat since Black Saturday) and bought several bottles of wine and food for a barbecue (which we took indoors due to a total fire ban). The wine went down very easily!

On the Saturday, we slept in a little arousing ourselves in time to go for a walk along the Yarra Glen railway line. The railway hasn't been used in a few years and the rail bridges are... were considered of heritage value. Photographs certainly show very quaint, very beautiful bridges across green, green paddocks and a gentle river. The paddocks, the railway line and the 100-year old bridges are now a charred, twisted mess.

We walked up an appetite and stopped in town at the Yarra Flats Bakery. The best pies and cakes in the world! Lunch was so yummy! Naturally, all that exercise and food led to nap time, otherwise, how would we be able to visit any more wineries?

So, we rested until about three and then got up to hit the wineries once more. We did Sticks, Yering Station and The Dairy (in reverse order) on the Friday. And i've neglected to mention that The Dairy is wine and cheese-tasting with a cafe area where we shared platters of cheese (the cheese-tasting leaves you wanting more) and some lovely coffee (okay, we ordered our own coffees rather than share but you get the picture).

Back to Saturday... De Bertoli, Sutherland Estate, another winery whose name has slipped my mind (no, I wasn't drunk!) and Hargreaves Brewery. Sutherland Estate has a beautiful tasting area. Very peaceful, harmonious, lovely architecture and great views over the yarra valley. The brewery lost just about everything in the fires. Their tasting bar is in the Yarra Glen township so it is just about all they are left with. That and the good will of the community. Other brewers in the area have loaned them facilities to restart brewing and get back on their feet. I don't drink beer so I left that tasting to Craig (Darling Husband).

With dinner time nearing we raced home to change and then on the road again to The Innocent Bystander at Healesville. Lovely family restaurant that is trendy and still friendly. Food was wonderful and we had lots of fun.

Sunday morning we packed our car and visited the Yarra Glen markets before driving back to the airport. Craig had freshly cooked calamarri for breakfast and I enjoyed freshly baked scones and coffee. Lovely breakfast!

Well, it would have been but I'd managed to catch a yukky tummy bug. I ate. I enjoyed. But I felt really crappy afterward.

It was a miserable drive with lots of stops to the airport, but I made it. Stocked up on Immodium at the airport pharmacy and came home. Ended up taking Monday off work - slept half the day - and felt good again by Tuesday.

It didn't really matter that I picked up that bug though. I had a lovely weekend!


Joanne Walpole said...

Sounds like you a had great time (I did just reading about it). You're a very evocative writer. I'd be interested to see some pictures of those charred bridges etc if you have any to share. Jo

Ray said...

I liked the wines produced by Tuck's Ridge. Been up to the Sutherland Estate as well. We sat out back and enjoyed the views and the wine.
Guess all that has changed now - and the last bottle of Tuck's Ridge chardonay is just an ancient memory. But one that I took home to the UK was just right for a Christmas dinner.