A New Year, A New Vintage – Cheers to 2012!

Right now, CCQC and I are touring around Tasmania enjoying beautiful weather and some wonderful Tasmanian wines, while Martinborough, according to the Redbank weather station, seems to have had around 66 millimetres of rain in the last seven days. Not good for the vintage at this stage, but that’s grape-growing for you.

We spent two days in Sydney – hot and sunny, wandering around Rushcutter’s Bay checking out the yachts preparing for the Sydney-Hobart race which departs every Boxing Day. Then we flew to Hobart on Christmas Eve to our first destination, Museum of Old and New Art, or Mona, which is owned by millionaire gambler David Walsh. It’s also home to Moorilla Estate wines. Walsh has sunk over $180 million of his own money into this place and it’s amazing. The pavillions where guests stay are all named after Australian artists or architects. We were staying in Esmond, (Esmond Dorney), only built in January 2011. The furnishings and art are great – a rug on the floor greets you with, “apropos of nothing it’s nice to see you and besides we need the money”. Books in the shelves are all chosen by staff.

I can’t recommend this place highly enough, in fact, it’s worth a trip especially from New Zealand just to see the Museum itself, and Walsh’s art collection which he spent $100 million purchasing. You will be jolted, you will be delighted, you will be charmed. You will definitely not be bored.

For Christmas Day lunch we went to Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart – a very long lunch, splendidly executed. I had been a tad grumpy, having been forced to pay by Visa in advance, way back in about October, in full, for all the food and wines, but it was well worth it. All inclusive the price for two of us was $160 each and the wines were very good, not cheap quality, and they kept coming and coming. One stand-out was a Pooley Pinot Grigio. The food defeated me – I couldn’t eat it all. We began with an egg nog. Then a small fresh heirloom tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella. Then ocean trout and fig salad. Then turkey ballotine, compressed potato, and cranberry (by now I was flagging, and couldn’t eat all my turkey). Then a perfect wee Christmas pud with brandy butter. Then (oh no, oh no, get thee behind me Satan) coffee and mince pie. I die I die.

When we’d recovered from this gluttony we drove to our next stop – Priory Lodge at Bothwell, run by the perfect host, Greg Peacock. This was truly charming, and luxurious with a chalet overlooking a lake with swans. We dined in the grand old sandstone manor each night with the other guests – all interesting, lively and chatty. Greg cooked each night, and he had a good cellar, so CCQC and I kept up our usual pace of one white and one red (I’ll leave it to you to work out whether that’s glasses or bottles).

Next stop, the highlight of our tour (in price at least), Saffire Freycinet on the Freycinet Peninsula, where we spent New Year’s Eve, stuffing ourselves silly on the degustation menu. This is probably the equivalent of the anti-health spa, if there is such a thing. The mini-bar is all-inclusive in the price. Dinner, lunch and breakfast are all-inclusive. And if all that food wasn’t enough, we went out for a trip to an oyster farm where we learned all about the life cycle of oysters, then Graeson (who took CCQC and me) spread a crisp white tablecloth on a table in the middle of the water, poured two glasses of Tasmanian bubbly, and shucked some oysters for us. Bliss.

So now here we are in Hadspen, at the Red Feather Inn, which is just lovely. It’s so beautifully and tastefully decorated, managed by Ian and Tanya, with huge glorious gardens, a quince orchard, whitewashed walls, and decorated with French antiques. It also has a cooking school and holds weddings and functions. I can’t begin to describe how lovely this place is, but I’ve taken heaps of photographs (silly me, I’ve left the cord at home which transfers the photos to the computer so can’t put them on the blog!).

If I don’t burst like Mr Creosote from one more wafer thin mint, I will return to New Zealand and Redbank Estate after we visit Cradle Mountain Lodge, and the Islington in Hobart, on January 9, to do some well-needed exercise in the vineyard, which is being ably minded by Mike and Nikki in our absence.

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