ES­CAPE WITH VINE TIME

WINE TOURISM IS GROW­ING AND THE GIPP­S­LAND RE­GION SHOULD BE TOP OF YOUR LIST

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | FOOD & WINE - Travis Schultz is the prin­ci­pal of Travis Schultz Law but he has been moon­light­ing as a restau­rant reviewer and wine writer for the past 15 years. WORDS: TRAVIS SCHULTZ

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.

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