ESCAPE WITH VINE TIME
WINE TOURISM IS GROWING AND THE GIPPSLAND REGION SHOULD BE TOP OF YOUR LIST
Wine tourism is a burgeoning industry in Australia and with a falling Aussie dollar that trend seems destined to continue, especially for regions that are blessed with ideal terroir, temperate climate and close proximity to a large airport.
A main beneficiary of the trend are the Victorian wine regions which are well serviced by air and road and enjoy a growing reputation for the quality of their offerings.
While regions like the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Bendigo have successfully raised their profile with consumers and tourists, there are a few up and coming regions that are yet to see their moment in the spotlight but are worthy contenders for the tourist dollar.
I would never have given it more than cursory consideration, but when a friend of mine, Tam Wrigley of the Wineoclock Show, suggested that I take a closer look at a winery from the Gippsland region, my interest was piqued. Not so much by the locale, but by the huge wrap she gave their product.
The Toms Cap Vineyard is a small, family-owned producer in East Gippsland, about 200km from the Melbourne CBD, which produces a range of wines made from fruit grown in their own vineyards.
Their focus is as much about the atmosphere and dining experience as it is their wines. They have a large restaurant and function venue as well as a smaller dining option for more intimate affairs.
Both eating houses are nestled in a picturesque site amongst the vines, adjacent to manicured lawns and surrounded by well-tended gardens. Understated, but with a refined elegance, the Toms Cap chefs use a range of produce sourced as often as possible from local farms and even their own gardens.
It all sounds idyllic, but it wouldn’t be a viticultural experience without premium grade wines to put the icing on the adventure.
The cellar door at Toms Cap offers everything from sauvignon blanc to riesling, sparkling chardonnay and even a “pink” fizz, but as so often happens my palate naturally gravitated towards the reds. As you’d expect, the reds were more about elegance than weight given the cooler climate around the neighbouring Strzelecki Ranges.
What was a tad surprising to me was the absence of pinot noir on the Toms Cap list, though I’m sure the winemaking team have a good reason for that decision.
The Gippsland region is perhaps best known for its stunning aromatic whites and a unique pinot noir but the Toms Cap reds didn’t disappoint.
The Toms Cap cabernet sauvignon 2011 is surprisingly well aged to be current vintage. In its youth, I’m sure it would have been a bright purple, but it’s now more of a brackish red colour in the glass and there’s a forest floor leafiness and some earthy violets on the nose.
It’s not until the middle that the currants and sweet blackberries work their way out of the French oak shackles and embrace a demure, though refined conclusion. There are still enough tannins to suggest that it will handle a few more years left lying on its side, but it’s drinking perfectly well right now.
I reckon it’s a perfect bottle to take to mum’s for Sunday night dinner next time she offers to do her rosemary and sage crusted lamb rack. The Toms Cap 2015 3 Dog Shiraz is a delightful example of a light, cool climate shiraz. The 3 Dog is a deep brooding purple in the glass and is all about spice, savoury plums and understated elegance. I love the contrast of ripe, spicy red fruits with a savoury stalkiness on the edges.
So, if you’re up for the road trip, the Gippsland wine region and the Toms Cap Vineyard are ‘must do’ inclusions for the itinerary on your next sojourn or oenological adventure.