The gorgeous Tamar Valley is a short 20 minute drive from Launceston. The area is rich in producers and wineries and you can visit world class wineries making Pinot Noir and sparkling and eat at restaurants may have you reconsidering the city lifestyle.
It's around 11am which seems like as good a time as any to visit Tamar Ridge, the largest producer of wine in Tamar Valley. Cellar door staff member Richard says, "Pinot Noir is king here in Tasmania," and visitors can do a vertical tasting of four of the winery's Pinot Noirs which all vary considerably. The 2015 Mount Amos is my favourite-it is smooth with some complexity to it.
Or if you prefer something with a bit of fizz, they'll gladly pour you some of their sparkling wine. Tasmania's sparkling wines always offer good value for the product and some can reach similar prices to French champagne. The 2009 Vintage sparkling is fantastic (2009 said to be a great year for sparkling in the region) while the Pirie 2009 Blanc de blanc has a strong flavour and a hint of salinity that would go well with oysters. This is said to have good cellaring potential.
A few minutes' drive away is Timbre (pronounced Tumbray) kitchen, part of Velo winery. The restaurant is in the midst of a rather large gathering so it's very noisy today although I don't think that's the usual atmosphere.
Service is very friendly, lovely and apologetic for the noise from the neighbouring tables. There is an a la carte option but they recommend their tasting menus of which there are three on order in increasing levels of food.
As we are still digesting three breakfasts (research darlings, research!) we opt for the smallest one. That also solves the dilemma of what to order as chef Matt Adams's menu is full of appealing options.
Devilled eggs, pickles, fermented chilli
Each course comes out separately and we start with the devilled eggs topped with pickles and fermented chilli that is altogether familiar yet a novel take on a devilled egg.
Wood oven grilled cheese
The grilled cheese is really like a Welsh rarebit with so much more to this than just a grilled cheese on toast. It's a welcome warm and toasty bread with a bit of spice to it and it's perfect as I see the trees outside swaying back and forth. Being inside with a toasted cheese sandwich beats being outside.
Brussels sprouts are served with a nettle sauce and sesame seeds that distract from the natural bitterness of the sprouts.
Wood oven chicken, celeriac, mustard, brown butter
The wood oven chicken is perfectly succulent and tender. It is topped with grated celeriac that has a texture not unlike noodles as well as a mild seeded mustard and brown butter sauce.
Hay baked Swede, sour cream (left) Fried vinegar potato, miso butter
Just when I thought that our lunch was over, they bring out two more savoury courses and I'm really quite delighted as I love coming across new ways to cook vegetables. The hay baked swede is tender and served with sour cream on top. By now I'm very full. The fried vinegar potato comes pre-sliced with a foamy miso butter giving the potato a lovely richness. The butter is so light it almost disappears as you scoop it up.
Miso semifreddo, honeycomb, peanut butter, brown butter
Dessert is a delightful miso semifreddo ice cream, smooth, slightly salty with caramel overtones. On top of this is a crunchy rubble of honeycomb, peanut butter and brown butter.
The next morning the rain patters down and the skies are grey as we head towards Josef Chromy, one of the most picturesque vineyards and one of the best wineries in Tasmania. It's located about 15 minutes drive from the centre of Launceston towards the airport on the Tamar Valley winetrail.
Josef was a Czech immigrant who made his fortune in the meat industry but his love was always wine. Chief winemaker Jeremy Dineen tells us of a familiar saying in the wine world. "How do you make a small fortune in wine? Start with a large fortune". Millions of dollars worth of equipment lays dormant for most of the year springing into action for just 6 weeks a year. 87 year old Joe still visits the winery to this day.
Jeremy is taking us on a very new experience called "The Art of Sparkling" where we will learn how to disgorge a bottle of sparkling wine and mix our own bottle of wine to our very own taste.
Although it is raining you can see that the grounds are stunning with a duck filled lake and the steep vineyard slopes. The class is fascinating showing us things that we didn't know before. We taste wines from the vats at various stages of their production and we watch him disgorge the yeast that has settled at the bottom of their sparkling wine.
A cork before it is used to bottle
As we finish making our own bottle of sparkling wine we cross back to the restaurant, a glass fronted building designed to maximise views of the vineyard.
Head Chef Nick Raitt is in the kitchen today. The menu is made up of a selection of four entrees, mains, sides and desserts. It's a chilly day so we feel like something warming.
They bring out some Manu bread with excellent salted butter and we sip on Pinot Noir as we wait and contemplate the view. And as if on cue, the sun bursts through the clouds flooding the vineyard with a golden hue.
Seared Calamari $21
The seared calamari is tender and caramelised and served with a Romesco sauce, pancetta crumbs and toasted sweet polenta bread crumbs and an olive crumb.
I also loved the burratina aka baby burrata with peas, artichokes, shallot jam, almonds and lemon. Everything worked beautifully together but I especially loved the toasted, crunchy whole almonds and the creamy, oozy cheese.
Beef Cheek $35
My beef cheeks needs a little seasoning added to it but it is very luscious and cotton candy soft. They are paired with a flavoursome grilled mushroom, confit potato pieces, salsa verde and vinegared greens that helps cut through the rich beef.
Roast Lamb Rump $38
It is Sunday lunchtime so we try the roast lamb rump and it's a real beauty. It is so lusciously soft and it also doesn't have that strong lamb aroma to it. It's just velvety soft and highlighted with celeriac cream, spiced red lentil and cabbage, local roasted onions and aged balsamic.
Vinegar potatoes $9
The vinegar potatoes are a fun mix of crunchy toasted shrimp salt dusted potato chips standing on a bed of sour cream. And like a bag of chips I pretty much eat them all.
Soft polenta $9
The soft polenta is a comforting dish of the fine, smooth polenta with a sweet brown butter, parmesan and sage topping.
Winter fruits $16
It starts raining again outside so we decide to stay a bit longer and order dessert and drinks to settle in for a long Sunday lunch. The first dish is the winter fruit with half a glazed pear, poached quince, prunes, oats and a fabulous brown butter ice cream that brings the whole dish together.
Leatherwood Parfait $16
The leatherwood honey parfait is saved from being too sweet with a marmalady orange rind salad, grapefruit, glayva scotch and pollen and topped with large shards of honeycomb.
I think I'll set up camp here...
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite wine varietal? And do you like sparkling wines too? Have you ever considered a seachange, treechange or a citychange and if so, where would you like to live?
NQN dined as a guest of Josef Chromy but other experiences were independently paid for.
Tamar Ridge Cellar Door
1A Waldhorn Dr, Rosevears TAS 7277
Phone: (03) 6330 1800
755 W Tamar Hwy, Legana TAS 7277
Phone: 03 63303677
370 Relbia Rd, Relbia TAS 7258
Phone: (03) 6335 8700