The next morning – Good Friday – after a slow start, we headed over the hill to the beautiful Cataract Gorge Reserve. Arriving there at about 11am, I was surprised to find the carpark close to full, but apparently this is not an actual surprise because it turns out that Cataract Gorge is Launceston’s number one tourist attraction. Entering the grounds of the reserve, visitors are greeted with a plaque that proudly announces that it is home to the world’s longest single span chairlift. With a total length of 457m and a centre span of 308m, it was also an official carrier of the year 2000 Olympic flame.
Following the path from the entrance down toward the basin, I was amazed as I took in all that this incredible space in Launceston’s backyard has to offer: verdant lawns and the lush vegetation of the basin and surrounding gorge, a swimming pool, peacocks, suspension bridge, hiking and walking trails. We wandered through the gardens and across the gorge where we could see the Tamar River as it begins its journey north to Bass Strait, and after much meandering, headed to the chairlift to ride it back to where we started on the other side of the gorge. There was some hilarity to be had by me after being ushered into the loading area for the chairlift, as we were shown to two sets of footprints painted on the concrete platform – toe to toe – onto which we were to stand while waiting for our seat to arrive. I don’t know why I thought it was so funny, but chuckle I did.
And then we had to hit the road so we could get to the Josef Chromy vineyard where a lunch reservation awaited us. My clued-in Tassie native host had had the foresight to contact all of the wineries on the east side of the Tamar Valley wine route in advance, to check which ones would be open on Good Friday. Although many places were closed, there were enough that were not to keep us more than occupied for the day.
Wine? Check. Food? Check.
Josef Chromy has been making wine in Tasmania since the early ‘90s, after building a long and successful career as an award-winning butcher and producer of smallgoods. Shifting his focus to wine, he established a number of wineries (Rochecombe – now Bay of Fires, Jansz, Heemskerk and Tamar Ridge Wines), and launched his eponymous brand in 2007 at the age of 76.
Arriving at the property in Relbia, 15km south of Launceston, a short path lead us through beautifully manicured gardens and past a fantastically inviting lawn dotted with picnic tables and large outdoor beanbags. I immediately had visions of enjoying a post-lunch sprawl there, to soak up the sunshine that had so beatifically graced us that day, and possibly also for the soaking up of the lunchtime liquid accompaniments that were ahead of us.
The entrance to the cellar door from the front of the 1880s homestead gives no hint of the expansive, modern, timber and glass restaurant that sits behind it. We made a pit stop in the cellar door to sample what was on taste that day to help decide what to drink with lunch. The winery produces three ranges: the entry-level Pepik label, Josef Chromy, and Zdar, the premium label made in limited quantities. I bagged a bottle of Josef Chromy Fumé Blanc and then we headed into the restaurant.
The huge dining room is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass, and sits on a rise overlooking the stunning property and showing it off to its best advantage. The menu features locally sourced produce, with dishes designed to complement the estate’s wines. We made do that day with comforting beef cheek, freshwater trout with a shaved fennel salad, followed by some cheese and the wackiest-looking chocolate mousse I’ve ever laid eyes on: salted caramel maybe, with caramelised fennel. After lunch we went for a wander through the gardens by the lake – complete with pair of swans – and onto the plush green lawn behind the restaurant leading onto a vineyard. Then it was time to leave that beautiful place and continue on our merry way northward. We were headed to Bridport, or just outside thereof, to Barnbougle beach and a cottage on the dunes.
Along the way we visited all the cellar doors that we knew to be open that day, which included Pipers Brook, Sinapius, and Delemere. I fell in love with the Chardonnay at Sinapius – a small family-run operation producing only four wines, and managed to contain myself to snapping up just the one bottle. I wasn’t quite so contained at Delemere where I walked away with a Fumé Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Now I was really going to have to start thinking about how exactly I was going to get this stuff back to Melbourne. Worry about that later, I decided.
What’s the collective noun for ‘golfers’?
Last stop for the day was our lodging for the night: a cute two bedroom cottage on the dunes at Barnbougle. Our little verandah met a field of native grasses that were all shades of green and gold, and waved about in the breeze creating the most beautiful rustling sound. I was quite captivated by it. Wallabies hopped about in it, taking cover no doubt from the golfing enthusiasts that were teeming about the place (it is after all a golfing resort) from dawn to dusk. We had what we thought to be a hilarious encounter relating to the golf the following morning in the resort’s reception. My traveling companion was asked “Not golfing today?” A pause. “Are you talking to me?” Alison asked. Realising that he was, she replied “We don’t golf.” “What do you do?” the surprised young man responded. “We wine” she said. “Have one for me!” he said. “I’ll have two” said my friend. Not to be outdone, “Have three” came his reply. And then we drove off past the “Beware. Golfers crossing” sign and were on our way.
After checking in we decided on a walk on the beach, so ambled through and clambered over the grassy dunes onto the golden, shell-strewn sand. Stunning. There really is something about the beach that completely does it for me. And this place with its wild and remote quality, and probably something to do with the sunshine and blue sky that afternoon, had me totally sold. On the way back to our cottage we stopped in at the bar and picked up a bottle of wine to go with the cheese that Alison had brought along, and repaired to our verandah to listen to the grass.
Dinner that night was a casual affair in the resort’s restaurant with the golfers and their wives (not that I’m suggesting that women don’t golf – it’s just the impression I had at the time), before an early retreat to sleep in a very comfortable bed with too-high pillows.
* Catch up on part one