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Three Terrific Tassie Tastings

We were off to Tasmania. The Apple Isle. The former Van Dieman’s Land. The smallest state of Australia, the southernmost and the one rapidly moving towards the top spot for food and wine.

It was a very magnificent time of our life. We were looking forward to an itinerary built around a very special occasion. Our son was getting married.

We’re sure you don’t want to read too much about that, but the week or so spent down around Hobart town gave us the chance to enjoy a trio of splendid lunches, in which you may be more interested.

There are many fine places to eat right in Hobart but here are three just a small trip outside and coincidentally all of them associated with their own vineyards.

Home comforts down on the Huon

Our first event was at Home Hill Winery just thirty minutes or so south west of Hobart in the town of Ranelagh, in the Huon Valley. The venue is beautifully sited and simply designed with glass and light everywhere, looking onto perfect vine rows and low hills.

All the staff were great, personal and friendly, holding the standards high while a most important member was away on a most important mission.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
The ‘standard’ Pinot Noir is a truly lovely wine, but the Kelly’s is one of the best in Australia

Just the previous day The 2015 Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir had been awarded the 2017 Wine of the Show at the Australia & New Zealand Boutique Wine awards. As well, the Halliday Wine Companion (Australia’s wine bible) had just given that wine 98 points calling it one of the best pinots in the country. Proprietor Rosemary Bennett was up north picking up the gongs. She was probably not terribly surprised because the 2014 Kelly’s had previously won the much coveted Jimmy Watson, the top prize in the country for a young red wine. Imagine! An upstart pinot, beating all those superstar Aussie cabernets and shiraz!

In spite of Halliday suggesting we keep our hands off it for another 20 years, we had to buy a bottle for the table. Of course. It’s in such short supply it is available only at the cellar door for $75, limit two per customer. We have kept our second bottle. Twenty years? Hmmmm. Be still, our itchy fingers.

We started with a couple of glasses of their sparkling, Kelly’s Cuvee Classic pinot noir/chardonnay blend. Three years on lees. Crisp and bright, with a lovely lemony whoosh. A cracker way to celebrate or start a meal.

With the first course, they poured their sauvignon blanc, fine citrussy with underlying spiciness. The chardonnay, medium bodied, peach and almond kissed, followed

We had crispy skinned pork belly with black crumble cider sauce and mustard oil. And cured local salmon, (the river and the ocean are not that far away) with pickled beet, soft herbs and fennel.

On to the reds for the mains course.

The trophy winning wine was carefully and strictly dispensed.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
Home Hills’ spicy peppered lamb loin in a delicious jus

Some enjoyed it with peppered lamb loin with white beans and confit red onion. Others with the confit duck with puy lentils and roast baby vegetables.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
Home Hill serves up confit of duck on puy lentils

We drank rather more of the ‘standard’ Estate pinot noir, a wine from the same vines but minus the very best barrels selected to make up the lauded Kelly’s.

A runner up? Yes, but well worth a very close medal.

All in all, a splendid lunch to welcome us to Tassie.

Pushing back with the sunlight still glittering on the winter vines we all felt very good indeed.

Artistry on all levels up the Derwent

Two days later we took the trip up the river to MONA, David Walsh’s groundbreaking and breathtaking Museum of Old and New Art.

Its brief history is a fascinating but separate story for the eyes, ears and mind.

We’ll concentrate on our taste buds for this modest piece.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
The MR1 presents a formidable face on the trip to MONA…

We had booked the Posh Pit at the pointy end of MR1, the boat that takes you to from the Hobart dock for a short trip up the Derwent to the Museum.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
…but in the Posh section it is luxury all the way

Seated comfortably we enjoyed Tassie sparkling and yummy canapes. They served us more Tassie sparkling and sweet little things on the return trip later that day.

Tassie This Magnificent LifeA few hours was barely enough as MONA stimulated our minds in its caverns of startling and exhilarating exhibits. This trip included The Museum of Everything, a many-roomed exhibition of sometimes naïve and sometimes brain-twistingly intricate works on loan from the UK. It showcases humble creators from around the world who wouldn’t call themselves artists. It is uplifting and moving, definitely worth a special trip to Tassie before April 2018.

Emerging into the sunlight up above the river we settled our backsides and our tingling taste buds in The Source restaurant.

We started with a Moo Brew Pale Ale from right next door, proving that in beer, fresh is best. The beer menu itself is seriously tempting covering two close-set pages of the world’s brews.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
A simple and elegant food menu, but you should see the wine list!

The wine list is one of the most comprehensive in the country almost as exciting as the exhibits we have just seen downstairs. 80 pages take you to all countries, all varieties and all the numbers on your credit card. The prices steeple all the way up to a ‘61 Petrus.

But when in Rome … we chose to drink Moorilla wines, from the vineyards that surround the site. The Extra Brut Sparkling Rose to start, followed by The Muse Riesling, fuller flavoured than most Aussie rieslings, ripe and peachy; the Praxis St Mathias Pinot Noir, complex and interesting, but seductively easy to drink, a perfect wine with the lunch.

The food was superb with many dishes tried and shared among our table. Standouts were the saffron and pumpkin arancini, the Tamar Valley truffle and Gruyere brioche soldiers, the blowtorched miso and sake cured Ocean Trout, the smoked Flinders Island lamb shoulder, the Tasmanian Seafood Hot Pot, the crispy Pork Belly with cider jus.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
On a sunny day you can look over the Derwent from these nature tables. Special plate holders steady your meals

The tables in the dining room present an exhibition in themselves. Each has a range of fascinating objects under the glass tops. Ours featured volcanic rocks. Other were patterns of bronze cutlery, close-set bowls, animal skins, swirls of coloured piping, ceramics, messages spelled in driftwood, all as carefully curated and arranged as the displays in the Museum.

Spoiled for choice in the Coal River valley
Tassie This Magnificent Life
That’s Pittwater, just beyond the vines

A couple of days later we travelled north for twenty minutes between the towns of Cambridge and Richmond to Frogmore Estate winery. Many visitors to Hobart grab a special lunch here if their flights are suitably timed as it’s not too much of a diversion between the airport to the centre of town.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
Bottles of delight from surrounding vineyards

We drank the Estate wine of course, starting with the Methode Traditionelle sparkler and were charmed by the food of Exec Chef Ruben Koopman whose CV includes working under Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White and Albert Roux at their Michelin-starred restaurants.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
At Frogmore start with oysters from Pittwater

With a table for five we had plenty of room and encouragement to share. We started grandly with a plateful of oysters from nearby Pittwater, whose waters we could see from the verandah, smoked ham hock terrine, crispy macaroni with raclette and fondant followed by a Sunday roast of wallaby with micro Yorkshire puddings, onion marmalade and kimchi!

Tassie This Magnificent Life
A great terrine is a joy forever

You should never stand between TML and a cheese board and Tassie cheeses are among the country’s finest. We fought over a selection of four with crostini walnut bread, fig puree and apricot marmalade.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
Mini Sunday roast of wallaby with baby Yorkshire puds

With diminishing tummy space but unsure how soon we would come this way again we managed a finishing splurge with a mango panna cotta with mint and yuzu gel. Oh, and the Black Forest chocolate semifreddo with coffee mousse cigars.

Tassie This Magnificent Life
Leave room for these desserts: mango panna cotta and ….
Tassie This Magnificent Life
… Black Forest chocolate semi freddo

Every post a winner.

OK yes, we had wines too.

The Frogmore Creek Methode Traditional 2010 Cuvee was a truly excellent sparkler to elevate anticipation as we ordered. With the first courses we tossed up between the 42°S Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, deciding there were enough of us to try both. The PG was intense and generous but dry, the chardy of the lighter style, citrussy and crisp.

Reds? The fresh bright and red-grapey Frogmore Creek Pinot Noir 2016 and the more serious and earthy Storm Bay Cabernet/Merlot from 2011.

Coffee on the verandah overlooking the vines and the Pittwater. Much loitering and some purchasing in the cooking-themed gift shop.

Taxi home.

Quite a trio of tastes and we felt we were nowhere near finished.

We’ll be back.

See you soon, Tassie.





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Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.

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