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Autumn in Australia is a great season. The nights grow colder and longer and while the days are still warm, in the south there's a new crispness in the air. Grapes still on the vines develop full, rich flavours in the late afternoon sunshine. Mushrooms poke up their heads beneath grass and pine needles. Our appetite for great food and wine starts to shift away from light and delicate towards richer foods and mid-weight wine styles. While summer is full of action, autumn is a time for relaxing - think weekend brunches that extend well into the still, sunny afternoons.

Autumn is also a great time to visit Australia's wine regions, right across the country. The bustle of harvest is at an end in all except the very coolest areas and excited winemakers and vineyard staff are eager to talk to their customers about the current vintage and how their newborn wines might develop over the coming months.

This month at VisitVineyards.com we turn our focus to Victoria's Yarra Valley, where vignerons and winemakers have a particularly challenging year ahead, as many literally rise from the ashes. We encourage readers to get out and support Yarra Valley winemakers by visiting this lovely  region and by seeking out their wines.

But we're no longer focussing just on Victoria - we also feature other regions around the country, too. So if an escape is on your mind, check out a few options below.

In this edition:

Quick Links:


Upgrade and become a Member - A$99 for a whole year of benefits (A$169 per couple)


Quick Poll:

Q1. Does pinot noir do it for you?
Is there any other variety!?
Yes, on the right occasion
I can take it or leave it
Give me a full-bodied red any day
I'm a white wine guy (or gal)
Bubbles, darling!

 

Q2. What's the worst piece of jargon/most improbable story you've read on the back label of a wine bottle?






A Yarra Valley winemaker's personal itinerary

Who better to ask about the best places to visit in the Yarra Valley but one of its pioneers of winemaking? Graeme Miller, winemaker and viticulturalist at Millers Dixons Creek Estate, started making wine in the 1970s, winning the Jimmy Watson trophy in 1978 (that's it pictured below, the crystal and silver decanter).

He's watched the Yarra Valley evolve and you can bet he knows the best places to escape to »

More wine:

 Coming in next month's newsetter: the best from the west - Margaret River shines...


Sing a song of semillon

Held annually in April is the famed Seafood and Semillon festival of the Hunter Valley, NSW - one of the highlights of Australia's food and wine calendar.

Semillon, a golden grape variety originally from south west France, is one of the unsung heroes of white wine production.  Blended with its traditional partner sauvignon blanc it is the key ingredient in sauternes, arguably the world's longest-living - and one of the most delicious - unfortified wine. The more everyday SSB, as it has become known, is now one of Australia's great summertime blends. Unblended, in Australia's Hunter Valley, it is responsible for one of the most idiosyncratic and historic wine types exclusive to the new world »

More tasting:

Wine reviews:

Our subscriber survey is now complete - thank you again to all who participated, and congratulations to the winners of the '98 Grange and the three half-dozen Horlin Smith wines. We are currently taking all your feedback on board. But there's a common theme - more wine reviews! We hear you. A new wine review series will be starting very soon.

Buy wines:

Meanwhile, you can read Jancis Robinson's recent reviews of two delicious Curly Flat wines from the Macedon Ranges - another region affected in part by the recent bushfires - available for purchase from Auscellardoor (5% discount for our Members, and free freight within Australia for orders over A$200).


Hot Members' offers and an Italian bonus for the first 20 new Members who join in April

VisitVineyards.com Members heading to the Hunter and exploring Sydney en route will be greeted upon arrival with a bottle of Billecart Salmon French Champagne when staying at our accommodation partner Balmoral Beach Apartments. This fully furnished two bedroom, luxury beachfront apartment is right on The Esplanade at Balmoral Beach with water views of the harbour and is the closest you can get to the beach for walking, swimming, boating, cafes, restaurants and transport to the city and Taronga Zoo. Discover the delights of The Esplanade here »

More exclusive offers and a free gift:

 

Not a Member? If you love wine and food, you should be! Sign up to VisitVineyards.com and take advantage of our fast-growing range of unique wine and food experiences available only to our Members at cellar doors, restaurants, provedores and accommodation providers across Australia. Find out what you're missing out on here »

If you attended any Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events in March, whether in Melbourne or in any Victorian regions, check out your attendees' kit (including MasterClass bags) for  your very special Membership offer - or if you didn't receive one of our brochures, please email us before 30th April for details »

 

BONUS OFFER FOR APRIL:

The first 20 new Members who join VisitVineyards.com in April will each receive a free 'Everybody to the Table with the Tuscan Mammas!'  CD of fantastic Italian recipes and video of the culinary program and surrounds, just perfect for autumn and practicing your wine and food matching (you can print off the recipes as you wish). So join today for only A$99 and be among the first in Australia to obtain this sought-after recipe collection, free.

Or if you prefer to buy please simply  email us to place your order: A$29.95 including postage anywhere in Australia for subscribers, and A$24.45 including postage within Australia for existing Members (please quote your Membership number). You can also fax your order and credit card details to us (03) 6248 5076 (please print legibly and include your phone number). Onsite sales will be coming very soon.

 


Matched: A perfect start to a weekend brunch and chocolate for Easter...

Our new food and wine matching column by VisitVineyards.com editor Louise Johnson looks at the new Italian-style Moscatos, a perfect match for a long and lazy autumn brunch of ricotta pancakes, figs and honey »

More food:

It's also Easter and for the foodies amongst you, that means one thing - chocolate. Is chocolate the new wine? If you're lucky,  your Easter egg might taste like this »


Festivals: The Yarra Valley Grape Grazing festival is back

After a long, tough summer, the Yarra Valley is open and ready for business. The renowned Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival has been rescheduled to Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th April - the weekend after Easter »

This year the program has three themes: at the eleven Graze wineries - which form the core of the festival -  you can enjoy food, wine and entertainment. Eighteen Taste wineries offer a new dimension, with intimate tastings of superb wines and the opportunity to learn more from passionate proprietors. Or perhaps Indulge in a wonderful Grape Grazing lunch at one of four select wineries: Mandala, De Bortoli, Outlook Hill and Punt Road. There's also a very special jazz evening at TarraWarra Estate on the 18th April - book early.

More wine and food events and festivals around Australia:

Planning ahead? Events from May to July - including Savour Tasmania's Red Wine Weekend in Hobart on 30-31 May - can be found on our events page. Yes, you've asked for it - our full calendar will be coming soon.

 


Competitions - wine, art and a proposition?

From terroir to easel to adding sparkle to your proposition, we've got prizes in April that will educate, fascinate, entertain and bubble. Read more and enter below.

VisitVineyards MEMBERS could be mixing wine and art with either

  • WINE by Andre Domine - the magnificent second edition of this global wine classic -  for the connoisseur or to elegantly impress on the coffee table.

  • The Artist's Lunch - a superb mix of art, food, wine, characters and life from Alice McCormick and photographer Sarah Rhodes.

Become a VisitVineyards.com Member in April and you will be automatically entered in the draw to win one of these beautiful books »

Existing Members please enter here »

 

 SUBSCRIBERS

  • Add the perfect sparkle to That Moment with The Proposition - an exciting new sparkling wine from The Hesketh Wine Company in the Adelaide Hills. Celebrate an occasion or liven up your next party with half a dozen of  these new sparklings.

  • Find out just what it takes to make your vineyard dream come true - and where the catchy name came from - with the just-published  Foxeys Hangout by Cathie Gowdie, who moved with her family from Melbourne to the delightful community of Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, and hasn't looked back.

  • Come to Melbourne on the first Wednesday or Thursday of each month and discover new wines and grape varieties at the Fed Square Victorian Regional Wine Showcase, which on 6 and 7th May features Rutherglen, Glenrowan, Beechworth, Alpine Valley and the King Valley of NE Victoria.There are two double passes worth A$50 each to be won (valid for use up to and including the July showcase, 2009). Don't forget, if you're a regular attendee, all VisitVineyards.com Members receive a A$5 discount on the $25 single entry each month throughout 2009 »

Further details about these fun prizes and your free April entry here. Members can also enter this competition too - just fill in this form »

 

OUR MONTHLY COMPETITIONS

 If you're new to VisitVineyards.com, you may not know that we offer fabulous wine, dining, book and travel prizes each month in our free monthly competitions.  Both Members and subscribers can enter here to be in the subscribers' draw, or if you are a Member you can also  enter the exclusive Members' competition here (with even better prizes). [You are a VisitVineyards.com Member if you have either purchased or received Membership as a gift, and you have a Membership card, pictured below.]

 


Are you sitting down? That's what we asked last month's mega winner

It's not every month that we get to ring someone to tell them they have just won A$25,000 of wine. Yes, the winner of the massive wine industry Red Cross Bushfire Relief Appeal Raffle drawn on Friday 13th March was a new VisitVineyards.com Member. VisitVineyards.com is a lucky place to be - we also sold another major prize raffle ticket, AND gave away a bottle of Grange '98. And guess what? The raffle winner said (you know what's coming): "But I never win anything"!

Are you another March winner? Your name might be next to the two half dozens of fabulous Mornington Peninsula wines or the five packs of unique wine bodycare products from Curly VineIn March we had 20 prizes to give away - someone has to win our wonderful prizes and oen of them could well be you! If you enter our competitions, please make sure you check the winners' page each month »

If you've been lucky please email us at winner@visitvineyards.com to confirm your contact details.

We do try to contact all winners, but you may be going on holiday or even a retreat, or simply not checking your emails or away from your phone? If we can't reach you after 3 or 4 attempts, we regret that unclaimed prizes will be redrawn at the end of the month. Don't let one of them be  yours - check for your name today before it's too late »


Thanks for your feedback - we hear you!

Thanks to everyone who completed our recent surveys; the first was in early February for our suppliers - wineries, accommodation providers, restaurants, tour operators and many more in the wine, food and travel industries across Australia replied with gusto. We were greatly heartened by the responses - despite everything, Australians remains optimistic - and it's pleasing to learn that many are doing better in 2009 than last year. Long may it continue, especially with the Federal Tourism Minister's 'No Leave, No Life' campaign about to hit the streets along with the Easter Bunny. Some of the comments are hilarious, too »

We also are very grateful for the enormous amount of feedback from you, our subscribers and Members - and we are pleased that most of you are very happy with the way this newsletter has evolved. We try very hard to bring you a good mix of wine, food and events - and as you've requested we will certainly be featuring more great offers and wine reviews in the next few months. We have some very exciting news coming up soon on the wine front, so stay tuned.

It hasn't all been plain sailing in our introductory phase since last September, and for those of you who have raised some issues, we'll be addressing them and replying to you individually. Some of you have asked for  site improvements - we can't do everything at once or get everything right first go, as I am sure you will appreciate - but our web designers are looking at more white space, bigger font, less 'busy-ness' , display by region, easier searching and other improvements you've suggested right now. You'll see these and other features along with maps introduced in the next few months.

Most of you are very happy with our in-depth independent coverage of the regions, especially itineraries and related Member offers, and are eagerly awaiting expansion of our program to cover regions near you. It's happening right now! Another 40 exclusive Member offers have been added since you received your last newsletter, bringing the total to nearly 200 things you can do, experience, save - or all three. Membership value continues to grow and many of you have been delighted with what you have received so far.

WA is the latest state to come on board - starting  with the multiple-award-winning Voyager Estate - and we are busy right now in NSW, Tasmania and SA, too. And we certainly won't be forgetting Queensland! (I used to live there and know first-hand what great things there are to discover). Yes, we were initially heavily focussed on the Mornington Peninsula - we had to start somewhere, and why not one of the most beautiful and accessible wine regions in Australia? - but we do realise that you may live near or visit other regions too. Please check our Members offer page frequently as our offers expand around Australia and in some cases overseas (there are 5 in France and Italy already - word is spreading!).

Many subscribers are very happy with what you get from our site for free - and that's fine, we are generous people and enjoy sharing with you, and showcasing Australia's fabulous produce  - or you may have children or other reasons not to travel to the wine regions so much right now. So we'll also include Member offers you can enjoy 'in town' - like the 20% off each month at the Fed Square Victorian regional wine showcase, and more to come. And we won't forget those of you who are single, either.

It's really good to know that most of you are very happy - and be assured we'll work hard to continue to improve. Some of you are so happy that you've asked to write for us or contribute your recommendations; for those who want to try their hand at an article, an itinerary or review, or just to tell us what's great in your favourite region, please email Kerry on reviews@visitvineyards.com - she'd love to hear what interests you. One of our current itinerary writers joined our site in exactly this way last year - he tells us it's sure tough doing the research!

Don't forget to fill in our quick poll, above right - the 'best of the worst' label will receive a free Italian mammas CD, too.

We look forward to hearing from you, and wish you all a very safe and happy Easter and holiday time ahead.

  

Salut!

Robyn Lewis and the VisitVineyards.com team