Sunrise. We slung daypacks over our arms and went downstairs for a hearty breakfast before meeting Trevor, our guide for a wine tour of the Macedon Ranges. On the bus with us were a couple from Malaysia, an Aussie couple, and two women from Sydney, each traveling alone. A friendly group, we chatted most of the way to our first destination—Cloud 9 Farm.
Cloud 9 Farm is a small-scale family-run operation that specializes in wine and cheesemaking, as do many wineries in Australia and New Zealand. This struck me as interesting, because wine and cheesemaking do not necessarily go hand in hand at California wineries. The winery sits beneath the picturesque Cobaw State Forest with beautiful views of the valley below the Macedon Ranges. The owners, the Deeble family, have a passion for good food and wine and pride themselves on healthy and chemical-free products. Susy’s sought-after-cheese, White Velvet, a Camembert-style cheese, is only available at the cellar door, and everything from breeding the cows to milking them and pasteurizing the milk is done at the farm.
Before we headed to our next destination, Granite Hills Wines, we stopped at Hanging Rock Discovery Centre for a snack. Tourists picnicking in the area had spotted kangaroos, one with a joey, and we went in search of the marsupials but disappointingly never came upon them. We did see a colorful Crimson Rosella parrot, and he was a delight in bright red and blue, not to mention being friendly.
Granite Hills Wines is perched atop a boulder-strewn slope of the Great Dividing Range in Central Victoria, at an altitude of around 1,800 feet. The weather is cool, particularly at night, with reliable rainfall and well-drained soils, which translates to little disease for the vines. The winery is home to some of Australia’s best Rieslings and the birthplace of a peppery Shiraz, and we were all looking forward to our wine tasting. The small family winery has won hundreds of awards from local and international shows.
Our group lunched at “The Vic”—the Victoria Hotel Woodend. The fare was pub food. We started our meal with homemade bread and three kinds of mayonnaise. I recall one of them being beet mayonnaise. Because mayo isn’t one of my favorite condiments, I skipped it and ate the bread. I recalled similar experiences in France and Spain when mayonnaise triumphed over mustard for our ham sandwiches and was also preferred over cocktail sauce for our shrimp cocktails.
With lunch over, we motored to our last winery of the day—Paramoor Winery, a boutique winery. Their tasting room is in a rustic barn with comfortable seating. While most sipped wine, I strolled outdoors to snap photos of the grounds and visit the owners’ aging Clydesdale, as I am quite fond of horses, although I’ve never owned one.
During the return trip to Melbourne, everyone on board dozed as Trevor fought heavy traffic into town. At another bottleneck, we told Trevor to drop us at the next intersection and we would walk the two blocks to our hotel. He hesitated. We assured him that we needed to stretch our legs as we’d done enough sitting for one day. Reluctantly, he agreed, saying the turnaround in front of our hotel with all the cabs coming and going would further delay him, and he was already forty minutes late dropping off the rest of the group. We thanked him for the tour and walked the few blocks to our hotel, ready to freshen up. We spent the rest of the day walking the waterfront, watching kayak teams practicing.
That night, we had no dinner reservations. Oktoberfest was in full swing, and most people strolling the wharf seemed more interested in drinking than eating. After perusing the menus of several restaurants, we entered Melbourne Public and asked if they could recommend an eatery. The front section of the establishment was a bar, with their restaurant at the very back of it. We ordered the lamb shanks and the beef cheek, and a bottle of Catalina Sounds pinot noir. The food and service were excellent, and we still rave about the meal.