I dropped the co driver off at the convent and headed down the freeway to the Yarra Valley.
This was new wine territory for me although I had visited the area, pre vineyard development, many times as a child during a day out with my parents.
The region is quite spread out with wineries in small groups in quite distinct areas.
My first stop was Yering Station. I knew they made good Pinots and was interested to see what they were offering.
The tasting room was already busy (it was just after 10am!) so found myself a spot and looked at the listing. As always with these places you hardly ever see the 'best' offered for public tasting.
So I worked my way through the entry level Pinots and then gradually engaged the server who with a wink and a nod brought out their 2010 Reserve and some other special Pinot Noirs.
Yes, now we are talking!
No simple fruity one dimensional wines in that lot.
What about a taste of the 2008 Shiraz/Viognier? Yes, that was good too.
Out came the credit card.
Next stop was De Bortoli. Sorry, no 2010 Yarra Valley Pinots left. Try the 2011. Hmmmm, very light, thanks but no thanks.
Then onto Balgownie Estate. Same story here, all sold out. Try some 2011! Ok, awfully thin and light. What about some medal winning 2011 Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc?
Nice and reasonably priced. Will have a few of those.
What about the 2008 Bendigo Shiraz from our other regional vineyard? Only a few bottles left. Yep, add that to the box too.
Then I drove into Healesville for lunch. A very touristy town jam packed with people despite the terrible weather.
Next stop was Coldstream Hills. This winery is owned by famous wine writer and judge, James Halliday with the first vintage in 1985. Vines are hand pruned, grapes mostly hand harvested and wines made with a minimum of mechanical interference. This winery is a little off the beaten track and has a bit of a reputation for high prices so I was not surprised to find myself alone.
Their 2010 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir was a step above anything I had tasted so far.
It had been awarded the Geoffrey Crundall Perpetual Trophy for best Pinot Noir (Class 29) at the 2012 Sydney Royal Wine Show. This follows the gold medal-winning success at the Royal Adelaide Show in 2011.
And the 2010 Reserve was a giant leap above that.
They obviously knew a sucker when they saw one and brought out their 2006 Reserve Shiraz and 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for tasting.
Time to get out of there despite the 15% discount!
Next stop was the Domaine Chandon winery. This French company has set up wineries around the world to make sparkling white wine by the traditional method (méthode traditionnelle). Having established successful Chandon Estates in Argentina, Brazil and California, they saw the opportunity to produce a premium quality sparkling wine in Australia and this began in 1986.
They also now produce still table wines.
Unfortunately they cater mainly for groups so getting individual attention was difficult. I gave up and did the self guided tour of the winery which included a catwalk above the operations. They were crushing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the smell was pretty heady.
Time to head back into town. Yes, Mr. Visa, I am still in possession of my card and I have another day to go.
That night it was another early dinner, Greek this time, washed down with a Barossa Tempranillo and then back to the room to watch the Reds play the Force in Super 15 Rugby.
Next morning I headed south down the freeway to the Mornington Peninsula.
It was well before winery opening time when I arrived so I made a detour through the small town of Flinders to Cape Schanck which is situated at the southernmost tip of the Peninsula and separates the wild ocean waters of Bass Strait from the slightly calmer waters of Western Port. The most recognisable symbol of Cape Schanck is the lighthouse. It was built in 1859 and was the second lighthouse built in Victoria.
There are many walks in this area so I set off on a loop heading down towards the rocky beach and then back up around the lighthouse.
A prominent rock outcrop which stands out at the very tip of the cape is Pulpit Rock
Time got away a little so I made my first winery stop at T'Gallant famous for its varied Pinot Gris (Grigio) wine styles. I tried a couple and ended up buying their 2011 Grace as well as some 2009 Cyrano Pinot Noir and 2008 Tribute Pinot Noir. The latter two were outstanding wines.
Down the road was the well established Paringa Estate. I tasted their Riesling (unusual for this area), some of their Pinot Gris and lead in Pinot Noirs ending up with a purchase of their 2009 Estate Pinot Noir.
OK, Mr. Visa, that's it. You can breathe easy again.
Time to head back into the city. I managed to get myself thoroughly lost in the back roads and lane ways of the area. Not a problem as it is a very beautiful part of the world. Suddenly I saw a sign to a place I recognized, Arthurs Seat.
It was named by Acting Lieutenant John Murray when he entered Port Phillip Bay in the ship Lady Nelson in February 1802, for an apparent resemblance to the hill of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh which was his home city.
The hill rises to 305m above sea level and is a major tourist drawcard due to its natural bushland and sweeping views of the bay.
Back in town I met up with the co driver and we ate at a very unusual venue at the convent.
Called Lentil As Anything, you line up for a buffet style vegetarian meal and sit at communal tables to eat.
Cost? Anything you would like to pay or maybe not pay at all.
It's open all day for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Back at the Tyrian, it was time to pack up and think about the journey home.