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Thinking of a trip to wine country? We recently spent a day doing some 'mystery shopping' at some vineyards and were reminded how ordinary a cellar door experience can occasionally be, especially for the unprepared.

On a busy Saturday the tasting tables can be stacked two or three deep and on there's sometimes an uncomfortable shuffle milling about waiting for a free space. Busy pouring staff usually start at the top of the wine list and work their way down, pausing only to ask if you’re ready for the next wine. Tasters slug it down and take their confused palates, and wallets, off to the next cellar door.

After two attempts we pulled out some itineraries and did some quick research. At the next cellar door we tried another tack – it had great pinot noir and that’s what we asked for – to taste their pinot range, starting at their entry level wine and working up to to their best. Suddenly we had our pourer’s attention and two further bottles emerged from below the counter – a back vintage and the next vintage, which had just been bottled.

It pays to do a little homework before you visit a cellar door. Find out what they do well and ask for it. Use the itineraries and vineyard listings on the site - or look up their history in WinePros Archive - to get your tasting conversations started. Flash your Membership card for special deals and to let them know you’re serious about wine, or want to find out more. Soon you'll be sampling their best, and they'll look after you well.

What are your cellar door experiences? You can now post your comments on wineries, vineyards and all our products - here's two to get you inspired:  one full of praise, another very frank »

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In this edition:

Quick Links:

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Quick Poll:

Q1. Has the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) changed your wine buying habits?

Q2. How is it affecting the price you pay??
I am buying lower priced wines
I am buying same priced wines
I am buying more expensive wines

Q3. How is it affecting the quantity of wine you buy?
I am buying less wine
I am buying about the same
I am buying more

Q4. Any comments?

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The colours and flavours of McLaren Vale

How can one wine region host such a diverse range of contrasts? Sun-kissed beaches and fertile strips of orchard, grove and vineyard sit alongside rolling hillsides. Traditional Aussie shiraz and hearty grenache are specialities of McLaren Vale, as are savoury Mediterranean wines made from sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera. Join us during July as we head 'down the vale' »


On the tasting trail

Read all you like, but you'll never really know a region until you've tasted it, and the best way to taste is at the cellar door. Why? The people involved in making the wine are on hand to tell you what makes their patch of earth so special and to explain how they create the best flavours and aromas in their wines. Plus they'll encourage you to try new things, and there's nothing more exciting than discovering a new variety or grape blend, especially those not yet in the bottle shops.

Your palate gets in the groove, too; when we buy at cellar door we find we're much less likely to buy wines we later regret.

New itineraries on this month:


Books and reviews:

If you can't make it to the cellar doors then start exploring at your wine store. Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh have just released The Big Red Wine Book 2009/10, featuring this year's best reds in Australia.

Here's an extract of the top 10 red wines under $20 that you won't want to miss »

Looking for something more portable? Master of Wine Rob Geddes has joined forces with Robin Bradley for Australian Wine Vintages 2009, which gives star ratings to the best of Australia's wines and rates series of vintages. The 'Gold Book' - as it has become affectionately known over its 26 years - remains refreshingly slim, elegant and lightweight, and is packed with nuggets »

Curl up by a log fire - apres ski, in a B&B or at home - with Snowflakes and Schnapps by Jane Lawson. It's full of recipes suited to long, cold nights, slow cooking and even a dash of sophisticated winter entertaining. Snuggle up for a good read and warm yourself with an apple toddy or elderflower, gin and lemon sipper »

July has four great competitions: Join James Halliday at the dinner launch of his 2010 Australian Wine Companion, attend Tasmania Unbottled, win wine, plan weekends away or taste your way around an iconic wine region.

 There's so many competitions on this month we're going to number them! Make sure you enter all that apply (Members can enter all 4):



With free entry why wouldn't you go in the draw to win one of these great prizes? Sip South Australian sangiovese, research your next good weekend away or discover just which food goes with the best wines from 2009 »

Two first prize winners will each receive a half dozen bottles of Sangiovese Cabernet 2006  from Tilbrook Estate. Get some hands on (or is that lips on?) experience with this superb sangiovese blend from the French-influenced vineyard in the Adelaide Hills where their vineyard philosophy is "hand made by our hands".

If you're planning on taking up the No Leave No Life campaign, then second prize will kickstart your destination list. We've got three copies of Good Weekends Away edited by Kerrie O'Brien to give away and with 100 short breaks reviewed and rated, you'll soon be have a short list for your short breaks - or perhaps a slightly longer list for that long weekend.

Third prize is the always popular Taste Food & Wine 2009 by Tyson Stelzer and Matthew Jukes with four copies on the prize shelf. Discover the winners of the Great Australian red challenge then settle in for some down to earth and wide-ranging wine information, for example: which wines will inspire your Latin streak, who represents the eighties glamrock era and what to drink when you start waving custard around.

     It's easy - Members and subscribers enter here »


2. MEMBERS could be sipping on a rising star from McLaren Vale, getting some gold or tasting their way around the Coonawarra »

First prize: Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale produce expected and some unexpected wine varieties and this month Members could be sampling one of two half dozen mixed wines from this rising star of the area. The whites are fragrant and aromatic and the reds an elegant expression of the renowned region so make sure you enter now. When August arrives you could be tasting Kangarilla's core range including chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon as well as their new varieties primitivo, sangiovese and viognier.

Second prize is one of three copies of  Australian WIne Vintages 2009 by Robin Bradley and Rob Geddes MW. This handy sized guide now in its 26th editiion is affectionately called "The Gold Book" by its many fans - not just for its good looks but the valuable contents.  If you want wine ratings based on quality, pleasure and value for money (and who wouldn't?) this is guide for you.

Third prize: Like to taste over 100 wines from Australia's other red centre - the Coonawarra - but can't make it to South Australia? Then win one of two double passes to the Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow in your closest mainland capital city and you can meet the winemakers from vineyards large and small and taste your way around one of Australia's iconic wine regions. This promises to be a fabulous event.

     Members - enter here »


3. Here's a fabulous MEMBERS-ONLY INVITATION - courtesy of the Luke Stringer and Joe Vargetto of the outstanding Oyster Restaurant in Little Bourke St, Melbourne, we have a double ticket to the launch of the 2010 Australian Wine Companion by James Halliday worth A$310 to give away to a keen Member.

James Halliday will be there and will be signing copies of his indispensible Wine Companion, published for the third year by Hardie Grant. We went last year and it's a good night for wine lovers.

Be quick - the dinner is on Monday 3rd August, so we will draw this prize this coming Friday 10th July at 9 am, to allow time for the winner to arrange their own travel (transport and accommodation not included). The draw is only three days away so don't delay.

TO ENTER please click here to email us  quoting your Membership number and simply telling us why you would like to attend . And if you are not a Member already, join now - with only 3 days before the draw, your chance of winning could be high! The fortunate Member  will be notified before noon on Friday 10th July - so if you miss out there will still be time to purchase your seats from Oyster Little Bourke for this great occasion.


4. Don't stop there! We also have another great last minute offer - Wine Industry Tasmania is offering all Members and subscribers the chance to win one of three double tickets (worth A$100 per double) to Tasmania Unbottled, the annual showcase of Tasmanian wines in either Melbourne (4th August), Sydney (11th August) or Brisbane (13th August). Members and subscribers click here to enter before 23rd July »


Are you a June winner?

With so many prizes on offer each month, we can't directly notify all winners except for the Really Big Prizes (eg the Halliday dinner) and events on soon - you need to check our prize winners' page and get in touch. Some prizes go unclaimed and if your name is drawn and you don't snap up your wines, hamper, tickets or book we're obliged to redraw. So check for your name now and don't miss out »


New to

We're Australia's wine travel guide. You can subscribe for free and enjoy unlimited access to suggested itineraries, tasting notes, the forums, Winepros Archive of tasting notes dating back to 1991, and other great content across the website.

Or you can become a Member for A$99 ($169 for couples) and enjoy a whole year of enticing Members' offers and money-can't-buy experiences in wine regions around Australia »


Christmas in July for Members

Our winemaking partners are feeling particularly generous this month - it must be a bit of AusMas spirit. 

Plunkett Fowles Wines in the Strathbogie Ranges of Central Victoria have presents for all Members when they buy a dozen case of wine. When you purchase one dozen of the 490m range of wines you'll receive a free 490m t-shirt; with a dozen Stone Dwellers wines you'll get a free dozen cleanskin chardonnay; and with a dozen of the Rule or Exception wines you'll receive a complimentary magnum of 2005 Reserve Shiraz, valued at $95. Merry July everybody! 

Other great new offers:


Not a Member yet?

If you love wine and food, you should be! Join and take advantage of our fast-growing range of unique wine and food experiences and great value offers available exclusively to our Members at cellar doors, restaurants, provedores and accommodation providers across Australia. It's your passport to wine country and you shouldn't be visiting wine regions without one of our cards in your wallet.  Find out what you're missing and join us here today »


Share your wine country favourites and receive a great new gift

Have you found a hidden gem that's just too good to keep to yourself? How about supporting their business so it's still there next time!? Let fellow subscribers know about your favourite events, places to stay, taste and dine on our new-look product pages. You can add your comments, read our recommendations and those of other wine travellers on the thousands of listings on the website. Just search for the name on using the keyword search, select the listing and add your comments.

Can't find your fave? Email us and let us know »

Contributors of the 20 best comments posted in July will each win a funky new tchillbag - the portable ice bucket and gift bag all in one - valued at A$14.50 plus postage. We look forward to reading your comments and reviews, so get posting and get your free tchillbag now - fill it with snow if you are heading for the slopes.

The winner of our best cleanskin quickpoll comment  in June is Mr T. Spawton , who replied: "They are the worst thing that has happened to the perceived quality of premium wine in Australia since the flagon. (Is) the whole system to pay for the packaging and give the wine away for free? It is more damaging to our image than Down Under - at least that has a label and if you look at what '2 buck chuck' has achieved it has not damaged California wines at all - it has created a new category. ... Hopefully the wine that has gone into cleanskins is not exported - it was not good enough to go into Bag in Box here or elsewhere for that matter." A groovy tchillbag to you, Mr Spawton - and as they are transparent you can easily see the label!

Don't forget to fill in this month's quickpoll on wine and the GFC. We value your feedback and love your comments!

Celebrate winter at Frost Fest and other wine and food events from our new national events calendar

With the longest night behind us in Australia, we're well into winter and rather than hiding indoors the fine winemakers, chefs and musicians of Orange District in central NSW are opening their doors and welcoming the world to celebrate the coldest months at their annual Frost Fest .  The festival kicks off on July 31st and runs for a week, so head to Orange and reserve yourself a cosy spot to enjoy the action.

Here's a small selection of wine and food events around the country in July (and a few in early August):

I've just counted 170 events in July calendar! There's sure to be one near you. Thank goodness you can now search and browse wine and food events across the whole country (and some in New Zealand too) in one place on our national events calendar. Narrow your search by month, by day, by State, by region - or if you prefer you can browse a monthly  list view on our events page »


Don't know your moscato from your merlot? Gris from grigio? (you've not alone on the latter). You've asked for them, and our calendar also includes wine education and appreciation courses, for beginners as well as those on their way to wine geekdom. The Wine Society are holding 3 introductory wine appreciation classes in July, one in Melbourne on Saturday 18th and another in Sydney on the same date, or if you can't manage all day Saturday, a four week evening course in Sydney started on Monday 6th July »

If you're putting on a wine or food event, running a wine course or have something you'd like our subscribers to know about, please tell us well in advance so we can include it in our calendar. More events and experiences will be featuring on our calendar soon, too.

So enjoy our winter - especially if you are lucky enough to be receiving some of this drought-breaking rain (OK, Sydney's had enough) - and plan a trip to wine country soon. It's a great season to relax and unwind, and to meet a few wine and food makers at your (and their) leisure. Find out about the faces behind the labels and get out there!

Make our Members an offer they can't refuse!

Do you have a winery, restaurant, B & B, gourmet outlet, tour company or related business in one of our wine regions? Do you know someone who does? And do you (or they) want more visitors?

If so, you might like to consider a Partnership. There is no fee for businesses to become a VisitVineyards Partner and we will promote your business, products and services to our Members, our 21,000+ subscribers and to 30,000+ monthly website visitors. This is targeted, online advertising reaching thousands of wine and travel interested people, and best of all - especially in this economic climate - it's free.

CLICK HERE to download the Partner Information Kit or contact our friendly Partner Manager, Sara Schwarz to find out more. Mobile: 0424 379 996 or Email You can forward this newsletter to them using the forward function below (not so we can track you but so the pictures stay in it!).

And to all our Members and subscribers, happy winter - and if you are getting them - holidays ahead.

Good health,

Robyn Lewis and the team


PS Don't forget during the month you can follow our updates on Twitter or meet fellow subscribers and be notified of the latest offers in our  facebook group »

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