Unless you are a Stark, Winter isn’t easy to get through.
The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, which for some may mean a great day to curl up inside watching a movie and putting your socks in the microwave every 20 minutes to keep them warm.
But others, particularly Yarra Valley Wineo’s like me, look forward to this weekend for months.
It’s the Catalina Wine Mixer!!
15 wineries who are included in the Smaller Winery category of the Yarra Valley open their doors to guests from all over Melbourne and beyond to give the world a taste of what the Valley is all about.
$15 will get you a souvenir glass, which is taken with you to any of the 15 participating wineries, where you can spend time chatting to the winemakers, winery owners, cellar door attendants, ring in friends who are there to help with the mass crowds for the day, anyone!
All while enjoying a complimentary tasting of some of the best wines the Yarra Valley has to offer.
After a bit of planning, we organised a bus to take a group of us around to 4 of the participating wineries. I’ll be covering these wineries in more detail over the coming weeks, but here are my lightning round answers for the best bits of each winery:
We started the day at Five Oaks Winery, as it is a yearly tradition for them to serve delicious pancakes with all the trimmings. Canadian maple syrup, berries, cream, ice cream, lemon and sugar, bacon, sausages, Nutella, you name it! If it would taste good on a pancake, it was there.
The stand out wine at Five Oaks would have to be their SGS Cabernet Sauvignon. When we asked what SGS stood for, I was expecting an answer about the varieties blended to create this wine, or perhaps the initials of the winemaker, however, put bluntly and extremely accurately, SGS stands for Seriously Good Shit.
Five Oaks are proud of this wine, and they should be!
After a good breakfast with a side of breakfast wine, we rounded up Team Gryffindor and set off for winery #2.
(Being the self appointed tour leader, I also get to decide on the team name! There was no way we were going to be Team Edward, as much as my sister tried to stage a mutiny on the day!!)
Next up was Seville Hill. I actually haven’t been to Seville Hill outside of a festival or tour like this so am not too sure what the usual set up is. But for the Shortest Lunch, Seville Hill deck out their shed with long tables and heaters, and this year we were entertained by a stellar jazz quartet.
The second you step through the shed doors, it felt like the whole room was cuddling you. From the warmth of the heaters, to the smooth jazz dancing in your ears, and the rich aroma of slow cooked lamb shanks with a tomato, Cab Sav salsa, I just felt completely engulfed.
In the best way.
My favourite wine pick for Seville Hill?
The Sparkling Merlot.
I actually have never had a Sparkling Merlot before, it was soft, smooth and interesting, and definitely worth the try.
One of the best things about Seville Hill is that it backs onto another of the participating wineries of the day – Payne’s Rise.
Or one of the best things about Payne’s Rise is that it backs onto Seville Hill.
What ever the politically correct way look at it, being able to walk past the vines from one winery to another is perfect for a festival like this! We don’t want to waste valuable
drinking tasting time being stuck in a bus!
By the time we decided to venture to Payne’s Rise, the morning fog had lifted to let through some welcome sunshine.
There was a bit of a divide in our group as to who won the lunch game – Team Lamb Shank from Seville Hill, or Team Pork Belly Roll from Payne’s Rise. I think it’s pretty safe to say there were no losers in this game.
Payne’s Rise have a beautiful open lawn, which was strewn with wine barrel tables and wooden crate chairs, and although the sun was out, we were very grateful for the roaring fire to keep warm by.
But if you weren’t Stark enough to brave the Winter chill, there was plenty of space to sit and enjoy the day inside, listening to a great two piece band playing soft folk music.
Payne’s Rise had a couple of stand out wines for me, which I will cover in a future post in more detail soon.
But one stand out I will mention is the 2014 Mr Jed Pinot Noir, named after Owners/Winemakers Tim and Narelle’s youngest son who was born the day the grapes used to make this wine were picked!
Sidenote – I now have a new life goal to have a wine named after me.
Our day came to a close at the beautiful Yering Farm Winery, which if you have read this blog before, you will know is one of my absolute favourite Yarra Valley wineries. The beautiful big open lawn, and the amazing and friendly cellar door staff just make you feel right at home. Check out my post on Yering Farm here.
For the Shortest Lunch, the team at Yering Farm offer mouth-watering homemade apple pies to compliment their delicious wines.
My standout Yering Farm wine of the day? It would have to be the 2013 Reserve Chardonnay.
The Shortest Lunch is the perfect way to sample many different wines from smaller wineries in the Yarra Valley. Smaller in size maybe, but definitely not in quality or passion.
I absolutely love having the chance to speak to the people involved in making these wines, hearing the passion and excitement in their voices as they talk about something they have poured their heart and soul into.
I highly, highly recommend visiting the Yarra Valley for the Shortest Lunch festival if you ever get the chance.
Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for info on next year’s festival.
For more information on the festival or the above wineries, check out the below links:
All of the photos in this post are courtesy of the crazy talented Michael Briggs Photography.
I wish he could follow me around and document my life every day, although honestly most days aren’t quite as exciting as this!!