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Hi,

It’s nearly Christmas already and summer holidays are beckoning in Australia. Lovers of good food and wine hit nirvana in December when any excuse is good enough to take the time to relax and enjoy. We’re so lucky here to have such a celebration matching the peak season for fresh regional produce and the recent vintage releases.

In this edition:


This month we’re focusing on the Geelong region of Victoria, with a great overview of winemaking and vineyards and cellar doors and itineraries to help you navigate this intriguing Victorian wine, food and travel region.

We'd also like to introduce a wine company Auscellardoor, who specialise in premium wines online: wines from real wineries - the sort we also like to feature on VisitVineyards.com, with wines made by dedicated artisan winemakers, often the owners/grapegrowers themselves. Those of you in a specialist wine club might know of Auscellardoor already.

Auscellardoor have a special December dozen offer for all our Members and subscribers - and if you are not a VisitVineyards.com Member already, join now and get almost your entire Membership fee back on your first case of wine. Buy two and you're way ahead! Subscribers can purchase this special dozen as well. Check out the VisitVineyards.com Christmas selection of wines here.

Quick Links:


Upgrade and become a Member for only A$49 to end February:


Quick Poll:

Q1. If you could visit any wine region, where would it be?
Bordeaux of course!
Rhone Valley
Barossa Valley in SA
The Hunter Valley for me!
Tasmania
Mornington Peninsula
New Zealand here I come
Too many - I'd like to travel around food and wine country forever
Other (please specify)

 

Q2. When visiting wine regions, do you:
Take wine tours
Prefer to plan your own itinerary
Sometimes both?


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Wine tasting with the Winemaker at Shadowfax WinesSpray Farm, Scotchmans Hill on the Bellarine PeninsulaSorrento-Queenscliff ferry in transit.

Gambling land? – Geelong regional overview

Often overlooked in the shadow of the better-known Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions, Geelong has some great wineries and its restaurant and food scene is coming of age. Extending from Werribee just west of Melbourne. Victoria, to the start of the Great Ocean Road, Geelong and the adjacent Bellarine Peninsula are easy to get to and well worth exploring, although you will find the vineyards a little more spread out.

Football-mad or not, it seems the good folk of Geelong have always been ready to take a punt. Back in the 1850s, those involved in the rough, tough business of prospecting on the Victorian goldfields spent part of their down time laying foundations for the great Aussie game, and those with Swiss ancestry used the rich black soils around Corio Bay to tend vines. In 1865 Geelong was the most important wine region in Victoria, until phylloxera hit - a blow from which it took a century to recover.

Renowned wine critic and judge Huon Hooke recently singled out pinot gris as being one of the more impressive varieties doing well in this enigmatic region.

Jeni Port is a Geelong wine fan (but we're not sure if she's a Cats supporter?) and previously she looked at 10 producers, from Austin's Barrabool Wines to Seppelt's Drumborg Vineyard, via some other big Geelong names like Pettavel, Scotchman's Hill and By Farr.

So what's new this vintage? Is pinot gris really eclipsing sauvignon blanc? Word is that viognier is also on the way up. Geelong wines are changing.

Compare this to Jeni's earlier take on the grape varieties best suited to Geelong's cool, maritime climate.

For those already thinking about the holidays, summer features some big events in Geelong: Christmas polo at Werribee Mansions, the Portarlington Mussel Festival on Sat 10th and Sun 11th January, the Skandia Geelong Week of sailing, food and wine in the lead-up to Australia Day, through to Bellarine Seafood and Wine from 22-23 February 2009, at Portarlington.

And remember, you can easily get to Geelong from the Mornington Peninsula on the Sorrento-Queenscliff ferry, which takes about an hour, so do a round trip from Melbourne and plan a few days exploring both regions over summer. Special tip - drop into Clyde Park for some lovely wines and excellent wood-fired pizza, eaten al fresco overlooking the stunning view reminiscent of orange-grove-studded Spanish hillsides (which you can't see from the road). It's an easy drive from Clyde Park to either airport, if you're visiting from interstate.

Check out more hidden gems in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula by using our advanced search: simply choose whatever you want to find, from wineries and restaurants to markets, makers and festivals.

Geelong for a little indulgence? You bet!

Glaetzer Wines make unique, elegant wines which are unmistakably Barossa Valley redsauscelardoor logoauscellardoor mixed dozen - part 1auscellardoor mixed dozen - part 2

Wine for the festive season

I recently attended one of Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer's Great Australian Red presentations, sponsored by Vintage Cellars and others, and what a red night it was. The wine flowed; we were all presented with the equivalent of about three bottles each to taste, and it nearly made me weep to have to pour out several half-finished glasses, especially the trophy-winning Penfolds Bin 389 2005 (which used to be called 'poor man's Grange', and now might be just as good - it's certainly better value at A$50) and the Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Shiraz of the same vintage.

My wine of the night and tip for next year's trophy winner was Ben Glaetzer's Anaperenna 2006, formerly known as Godophin, a name obviously better left to racehorses. A shiraz-dominated single region (Barossa) blend, Anaperenna is an iron fist in a velvet glove and if you can get hold of some, do it - it will continue to improve for many years, if you can keep your hands off it.

The point of this digression is that the Taste boys are still out on the road - last seen in Perth - and as I write this their tasting notes are not yet up on the website. So let's delve into Auscellardoor's extensive portfolio instead. I can scarcely see one wine on their current listing that I would not want in my cellar - Simon and Andrew of Auscellardoor certainly seem to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

From the Geelong region they feature the very cool Shadowfax 2005 One Eye Shiraz (A$50), made by Matt Harrop, and their Pinot Gris 2007 (A$20) from fruit sourced in the Adelaide Hills. Curlewis is a small vineyard on the Bellarine Peninsula, and their recommendations are the 2006 Pinot Noir at A$34, the 2006 Bel Sel Chardonnay (A$25) and 2007 Bel Sel Pinot Noir (A$25). I've tried Curlewis pinots in the past and thoroughly enjoyed them, although my view is they would not age for many years - so buy and drink now! Also in the Geelong lineup are Austin's Six Foot Six 2007 (A$18) and Barrabool 2006 Pinot Noirs (A$25), plus a 2005 from the boutique producer Bellvale. (Did you know? With over 40 ha, Austin's is one of the largest family-owned holdings of Pinot Noir in Australia.)

Now, the good news! From this month on, all VisitVineyards.com Members receive a 5% discount on any wines purchased from Auscellardoor. This offer also extends to Riedel glassware, and any other items on their website. All you have to do is join VisitVineyards.com and receive your special Members' code to enter when you buy.

If you buy an Auscellardoor summer dozen, you save A$45 off RRP and get almost your annual Membership fee back in one go; then for the entire year you can browse their very classy wine list and save each time you buy.

So join VisitVineyards.com now and get your Auscellardoor purchase code. (Existing Members can click on this link and get it straight away).

Mornington Beach, Mornington Peninsula, VictoriaMoorooduc Estate vineyard and Jill's restaurant - fine wine, fabulous food and luxury accommodationMontalto Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Summer weekends - or a week - in Paradise

New itineraries on our website will help you make the most of a weekend in one of Australia's most fabulous holiday regions - the Mornington Peninsula, especially if you’re a VisitVineyards.com Member. There are two great weekend explorer itineraries packed with our recommendations for great wine tasting, food and accommodation. And, because many of those listed are our partners, those of you who are Members receive bonus offers and special privileges when you visit.

  • Want to get away from the madding crowd? Spend a weekend in Moorooduc and avoid the rush of Portsea. Members can take advantage of partner offers of complimentary wine, room upgrades and access to exclusive tastings. Start planning your weekend now.

  • Got more time? Then cover the whole Peninsula with this action-packed itinerary, which includes some great walks and gardens along with the best wine and dining on offer. Our Members can take advantage of partner offers of winemaker-led tastings and vineyard tours, exclusive menu pricing and discounts on food and wine purchases. Combine this and Moorooduc and you’ve got a week in paradise.

We now have over 110 special Members' offers and benefits on the fabulous Mornington Peninsula alone - read more on our special Mornington Peninsula 'microsite', dedicated to all things wine and food on the Peninsula.

Find out more about becoming a Member of VisitVineyards.com - only A$49 or (new) $88 for a couple (introductory price to end February 2009) for an entire year of enjoyment. We are currently expanding our offers around Australia so now is the time to join.

Taylors Wines Winemaker - Helen McCarthy

Rising Clare Valley star

It's been an amazing year for Taylors Wine's senior winemaker Helen McCarthy. Not only has she just completed the Len Evans tutorial, she's also taken two of Australia's biggest prizes for young winemakers – Australian Gourmet Traveller's Kemeny Medal and The Wine Society's Members Choice award at the Young Winemaker of the Year awards.

Speaking of winners, VisitVineyards.com has just been awarded a 'young business most likely to succeed in the global marketplace' award by Tasmania's Department of Economic Development and Tourism at a Pitch Club event hosted by the magazine for entrepreneurs, Australian Anthill. Read more about us here.

Andrew Clarke, chef at ROCK Restaurant at Poole's Rock Wines

Top of the winery food chain

There is magic in the matching of good food with wine, and when combined with the perfect setting for such marriages, such as a vineyard in the Hunter Valley, you create a dining experience like no other. Rock Restaurant at Poole’s Rock Wines in the Hunter Valley was named the country’s Best Restaurant in a Winery at the 2008 Restaurant and Catering Association awards, putting it at the top of destination dining in Australia.

Pavilion and golf course at Peppers Moonah Links Resort, Mornington Peninsula, VictoriaRainbow over Gigondas, Dentelles wine region, FranceGeorge's Kitchen Cooking School

Hot regional (and international) offers for our Members

We are currently expanding our Membership offers and privileges around Australia, and are being contacted by enterprising operators wanting to be included in New Zealand. We've also just received our first Members' offer from France - four Vineyard Safaris! So if you've been holding back waiting for more products near you, wait no longer, as our special introductory price can only last until February. We're also introducing special couples Membership pricing this month.

Meanwhile, in the fabulous Mornington Peninsula, there are two great offers at Peppers Moonah Links in December. Take advantage of an exclusive accommodation, breakfast and golf package for two at Peppers Moonah Links, plus VisitVineyards.com Members receive excellent room rates when booking direct and a complimentary gift upon arrival.

VisitVineyards.com Members have access to a number of exclusive food and wine events and at Gordon Studio Glassblowers of Red Hill those who make a purchase over $500 will receive an elegant handmade wine goblet valued at $75.

On your summer tours, order your VisitVineyards.com picnic hamper from Red Hill Cellars filled with European and artisan cheeses, the finest smallgoods and house-made meze.

Are you thinking of something further afield? International wine writer Nick Sweet, based in Southern France, offers all VisitVineyards.com Members 10% off any of his four 2009 French wine tours: the Langudoc, the Dentelles de Montmirail in April/May and St Rémy de Provence in early June. He also conducts made-to-measure tours. Read more about these French Vineyard Safaris and quote your special VisitVineyards.com booking code when you enquire.

Innkeepers Salamanca Apartments luxury penthouseAppetiser at the Meadowbank Winery Restaurant, TasmaniaMoorilla Wines 'Ether Building' in HobartMandala Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot NoirMandala Wines, Yarravale, Victoria

Gifts and prizes

Looking for a Christmas gift idea? Now you can share your love for food, wine and travel - or reward your staff, year round - by purchasing a VisitVineyards.com Membership as a gift. These come in attractive green gift cards which you can personalise, and for A$49 are an absolute bargain. Please email Kerry, our cheerful Membership Manager for your gift enquiries. Ask her about our special rates for corporate or group purchases.

The Age Summer Promotion: If you are an Age subscriber and you become a Member of VisitVineyards.com between now and the 25th of February, you can enter the draw to win a fabulous gourmet holiday in southern Tasmania, courtesy of Tourism Tasmania, Innkeepers and VisitVineyards.com.

The prize includes return flights for two from Melbourne to Hobart, 5 days' car hire and 4 nights' accommodation in an Innkeepers Salamanca Apartments luxury penthouse. Dine one evening at Alexanders Restaurant at Lenna, lunch one day at Meadowbank Estate and cruise to another at The Source at Moorilla. Tempted? New or existing VisitVineyards.com Members who are current Age Subscribers can find out how to enter here.

VisitVineyards.com Members can also enter to win your choice of two dinners for two:

Read more about these fabulous dinners here - all our Members can enter now.

If that isn't enough, the first 40 people to become Members of VisitVineyards.com in December will receive a copy of Taste Food and Wine 2009 by our wine reviewers Tyson Stelzer and Matthew Jukes. If you hurry you can get yours by Christmas.

We know you like to win wine! And we love to reward our loyal subscribers. You might sip six of Yarra Valley's finest from the very cool Mandala Wines, taste the winners of the 10th International Cool Climate Wine Show or attend the Public Day of the Red Hill Show, or - for foodies - find out how to distinguish the best salmon from the rest, and what to do with it in this innovative book on all things salmon from Huon Aquaculture.

Read more about these great prizes and enter now before the Christmas rush really begins (also open to all our Members).

Find out if you were one of our lucky November winners here.

VisitVineyards.com membership card

Get in touch

It's a long newsletter this month, but there's so much news to share with you, and this edition covers the summer break. Don't forget to fill in our quick poll, above. Feedback is always welcome.

You can email us anytime at subscribers@visitvineyards.com with your suggestions - let us know what you want more (or less) of. Whoever makes the best suggestion this month will receive a free Membership, so send us your ideas.

May we wish you all a very happy, safe and enjoyable Christmas and festive season, and a very happy New Year. We look forward to seeing you in 2009.

Good health.

Robyn Lewis and the VisitVineyards.com team

PS Our next newsletter will be a smaller one, in mid-January, containing our annual survey. So whilst you're relaxing over a summer wine, you might like to tell us what you would like to see on VisitVineyards.com in 2009. More wine reviews? Expanded coverage of wine and food events? An events calendar? Events booking? Destination reviews? We look forward to your comments. It's your chance to tell us what you want, so we can constantly improve our services and better meet your needs.

Everyone who participates will be entered into the draw to win one of four half-dozens of fantastic wine from Horlin-Smith Wines from the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale (total value over A$500.00), so look out for our next edition on 13th January.

It will also contain news of a one-off opportunity for two of our lucky wine-loving Members...

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