Wine down under: Hobart and Coal River Valley
Talk about smashing perceptions and setting the bar high – I came away from my Hobart experience with eyes wide open and wishing I had arranged to spend more time digesting the beauty of the city and surrounds.
Within half an hour of landing at the airport we were in the middle of it all. Take a couple of days to indulge, but if you have time, definitely take a few more. Here are a few gems worth uncovering all in the name of inner pleasure...
We hit the ground running and headed straight for the famed Salamanca Markets. We spent hours looking around and tasting food, including tempura mushrooms, a Gypsy lamb wrap and a ‘must have’ jam donut. But you need to be in the race to the famous scallop pie van – it’s seriously life changing. Hot tip: run, don’t walk as they do sell out quickly. The vibe of the place is captivating - nestled amongst the crowds you will find a diverse mix of local talent and musicians.
The range of locally distilled gins and vodkas available for tasting took us by surprise – the number of boutique distillers is impressive and the quality is superb. I took a liking to the McHenry’s sloe gin – distilled with sloe berries. The creamy and nutty sheep’s whey vodka also made it into my bag and something I was thrilled to have come across. Once you’ve absorbed the markets and digested your fill of local produce, head up the street to a cool as bar called Preachers. Sit in the beer garden, snuggle up inside to a mulled wine or peruse their extensive list of boutique beers and well-rounded wine list.
A walk is in order to check out the spectacular harbour. The famed Constitution Dock, the finish line for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, is worth wandering around. Some great sights and a few laidback fish and chip carts to dine at, if you feel the need to keep grazing. Whiskey fans will find Lark Distillery a short stroll away. Established in 1992, their accolades speak for themselves. Wander back to the Brooke Street Pier, perched right on the water, for a glass of wine. There’s a bar at the end, The Glass House, with a stunning view overlooking the river. The Aurora Australis was docked beside at the time. Its hulking orange frame busting from the water. I gazed in awe sipping on a glass of local riesling.
Dinner was calling and it was time to make a move to Fico. This place is the business. Seriously good vibes and the food, simply outstanding. If you’re open minded, go for the ‘Feed Me’ option ($65 for six courses). The chef selects the dishes, smaller plates than those offered on the main menu. The presentation and flavour explosion experienced throughout the meal was first class. Matched with a couple of bottles of wine shared with friends, we all walked away absolutely satisfied.
The Coal River Valley
Day two and a day for wine tasting beckons. Jump in the car and head north for twenty minutes from the CBD to the cute little town of Richmond wedged in the heart of Coal River wine region. Stunning historical buildings dot the road side, many of which were built by convicts the locals are pleased to inform us. Drive through town and you’ll come across Australia’s oldest bridge built in 1842 – the convicts built that too. A few blocks off the main road you’ll find the old gaol where they all lived. We settled for breakfast at Czeg’s. A neat find, the food and quality of cakes and slices on show was delightful. Bellies full and sore cheeks from much laughter already, wine time was calling.
The first vines were planted in the Coal River Valley in 1973. Despite being a relatively young region, what the locals have achieved in that short time is nothing short of incredible. Chardonnay and pinot noir are the notable varieties hitting all the high hats, but there are a few others keeping them honest.
On the road, head back the way you came, and pop in to Pooley Wines. This is a must-do. The cellar door was built by convicts in the 1800s. Super high ceilings, there’s a great relaxed feel with a casual eating area out the back with a wood fired pizza oven in full swing on weekends. Worth coming back to for a lazy lunch – be sure to book in advance. And don’t miss out on the wines. Head here for a lesson in first class chardonnay and pinot noir. Expressions of terroir whisper delicate words of pleasure. For a small additional fee, taste through some back vintage and top end wines. Just do it and take your senses to paradise.
Jump into the car once more and head south to Puddleduck Vineyard. A cheekily named ‘duck in duck out’ tasting option ($5) is available for those keen to move quickly. Alternatively, taste the full flight ($15) or even go next level to taste the entire range with a cheeseboard ($25). Friendly service is matched by clever wines. The creamy fume blanc took to my fancy here.
Last stop - Frogmore Creek. A captivating outlook from the cellar door awaits. A place you could get comfy and nestle in for a while. And perhaps you should. With a diverse range, the riesling is hard to pass by but the chardonnay and pinot noir earn praise too.
Before sunset we headed back to town and went for a drive up to Mt Wellington. Stunning views from up there but be sure to dress warmly. The lookout gives an excellent perspective of Hobart and surrounds.
A casual feed is on the cards for dinner and a contender for the best Italian you’ve ever had awaits you at Da Angelo Ristorante, Battery Point. Popular and buzzing, the photos of celebrities gracing the walls on entry speaks volumes for the quality. Better still, it’s BYO. Grab a bottle from your adventures that day and sit back and loosen the belt a notch or two. Warning - be sure to book in advance.
MONA - Museum of Old and New Art
If you can spare more than two days and you have plenty of time up your sleeve, head over to MONA. Catch the ferry from Pier One or it’s a 15 minute drive from town. Well worth the trip, this is an art experience like no other and one which put Hobart on the map. Spend a couple of hours or the whole day. There’s wow-factor around every corner. At MONA you’ll also find Moorilla Estate’s cellar door – don’t miss out!
Stefano Lubiana is a great winery another 10-15 mins from MONA. Their small osteria sources produce from their own garden. The service and food is exceptional. We chose the ‘Feed Me’ option once again ($60) and we weren’t disappointed. While your meal is being prepared, head to the bench and taste the range of wines available and choose one to have with lunch. Our pick? Pinot noir.
Don’t leave Hobart without having purchased a wine or two from Stargazer. The range includes riesling, chardonnay, white blend of pinot gris/riesling/gewürztraminer, pinot noir, and a pinot noir/pinot meunier blend called Rada. Brilliant wines, cleverly made. There’s no cellar door but the wines are available throughout Hobart (and nationally).
We hired a car and drove down. Some hire companies don’t allow their cars to go on the island so make sure you check. It’s an easy drive south. Once on the island, we drove 10-15 minutes and parked at ‘The Neck’. Other attractions on the island include the Island Café, a 15-20 min drive from the ferry, and Adventure Bay for history buffs. Captain Bligh and Captain Cook made a few stops here back in the day. The famed Cheese Factory and Bruny Island Oysters are well worth a look too. Sitting on the deck indulging in some oysters was pure magic. The best oysters I’ve had hands down. Back to the mainland and not far from the ferry terminal is a chocolate shop called The Nut Patch. Handmade and superb, it’s the perfect sweet-fix to finish your day.
To read more of Steve’s work, check out Q Wine Reviews!