On a cloudy Winters’ day, a group of Melbourne foodies headed out with Adam from Wine Compass to experience some of the more unknown and niche wineries in the Yarra Valley. Adam picked us up bright and early, and in his mini-bus and with a wine glass in one hand and a wine compass in the other, we headed off to see what kind of tour he can offer. As we picked up our tour group from various locations around Melbourne, he gave us some information about what he loves about his job, the winery regions of Victoria and the particular wineries being visited on our specialised tour.
Why is Wine Compass the go-to for winery tours in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula? There are many reasons. Wine is Adam’s passion, and he has the connections and know how to make sure that your experience is highly personalised and tailored to the group you are wining and dining with- from small groups to large bus tours. His good-natured tolerance of us by the end of the day after a few too many vinos was highly appreciated too.
The first and probably most memorable stop on our tour was one of Adam’s very favourite wineries in the Yarra Valley Region, the small and unassuming Pimpernel Vineyard. Meeting Mark, the winemaker, was a memorable experience and I don’t think any of us realised that within 15 minutes of our first stop, we would be in the wine cellar, tasting a variety of incredible wines from the barrel themselves. Marks’ entertaining anecdotes of wine making and in depth knowledge of the process was so interesting. We loved hearing about the difference between feminine and masculine wines (and there is such thing as a transgender wine!), funny translations of French wine names (Did you know Mataro translates to strangled dog?) and trying to pick out the interesting tasting notes (Ham hock… seaweed… gingerbead… passionfruit). When asked which was his favourite wine, Mark candidly replied, just like with children he can’t have favourites, just one’s that please him the most.
A real treat was being taken upstairs for our first foodie fix of the day, and a well needed snack to start to fill up our already wine filled stomachs, and trying some of his freshly made chicken liver parfait with horseradish and caramelised shallots, topped with a wine jelly and with some crusty toasted bread.
A little bit louder and gigglier, our second stop bought a well needed substantial feed. Soumah’s rustic Italian menu impressed our gang of foodie Instagrammers and was very gram-worthy, as well as the gorgeous sweeping views of rolling hills surrounding the venue. Stand-out dishes were the beautiful tasting boards, a divine angel hair pasta dish with truffles and sage, and a winter warming slow cooked lamb with olives and a pea gnocchi.
Our final stop was another surprise, as we pulled up in front of a large, two story, country style house complete with some very cute donkeys hanging out the front. It would be easy to assume this was just a beautiful home, not a wine cellar door, but we were welcomed into a living room style tasting area at Yileena Park Estate. Bob was another very passionate wine maker, and patiently tried to tolerate our giggly moods by then as we tasted a variety of wonderful wines. Not all of us were able by this stage to master the tasting technique of swirling the wine around the glass. We continued to learn about the wine making process and different types of wines, and laughed as Bob candidly described one of his merlots as a Ribena for adults, and described delicious dishes that would pair with his wines. Just as delicious as the wines on offer were the fantastic antipasto options for sale, such as smoked meats and cheeses made by burning the wine barrels which results in a unique smoky flavour (our tip, try the Duck Ham and the cheddar!)
It would be a lie to tell you that we were all able to stay awake for the ride home, and once again Adam’s patience kicked in as he put up with us snoring in the back. Thank you to Adam and Wine Compass, as well as three lovely local wineries, for giving us a fun-filled day of vino and great food that we will remember fondly. Being able to have a tour tailored to our personalities, needs and group dynamics, and being able to have unique, personalised experiences like drinking wine out of the barrel and dining with the winemakers is an experience everyone should have at least once! We look forward to summer; Mornington Peninsula style.
Words: Lauren Kenrick
Photography: Ricky Sam (@forksake)