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The View From Cafe Bus

The View From the Cafe Bus – Yarra Valley Winery Tour

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No-one should ever have to experience Melbourne CBD at 7am on a Sunday morning. The city can rarely be described as a ghost town yet this particular time of day felt surreal. Looking around you could sense a change of the guard as revellers crowded 7-Eleven’s to sate their late night munchies leaving only people that HAD to be in town at this ungodly hour, people like me. Despite hitting a few bars last night I had somehow made it into town without public transport to catch the Cafe Bus, (a lengthy morning stroll does wonders for a hangover you know). Should anyone have asked what exactly I was doing walking down Swanston Street sober at this hour I’m convinced that confessing that I was going on a winery tour was going to cause some alarm. “No. I do not have a drinking problem, I’m just off to sample some wine.”

Thankfully I was not alone, hell, I was not even the only Pom on the bus which probably says something about British drinking culture. Joining me in trying to feel human so early on a Sunday morning was a pair of English girls (one hailing from Cambridge, the other from Liverpool), a girl from Munich, a mother and daughter couple from Sydney, an actual couple from Lismore and most bizarrely of all, a lad from Singapore who doesn’t actually drink wine yet if there is a place to start this bus is probably it.

After free caffeine injections from the spluttering coffee machine our guide, Charlie, broke the ice and introduced everyone. Anyone that has been on a day tour will know that your guide can make or break your experience. Not only do they need to know their stuff but know how to entertain and make you feel included. We were in luck as Charlie ticked all the right boxes, slipping in some playfully choice words and regular bouts of hearty laughter gave the impression he’s the sort of guy who could walk into a bar and leave an hour later having made friends for life. All 9 of us were strangers yet with such comparatively small numbers Charlie admitted this was far easier to manage than 30, at least he remembered all of our names.

Another element that can make or break a trip is the weather yet the elements behaved and soon enough we left the CBD, entered onto the highway and within an hour were into the green glens of the Yarra Valley. This felt a lot further from town yet the sight of kangaroos scrapping over females in vineyards aped similarly combustible scenes to that of only a few hours ago on King Street, or Swanston Street or Little Collins Street. What is even more disturbing is that the song playing on the radio just happened to be Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire.

The bus edged up Yarra Glen offering sublime views looking down into the valley with vineyards dotted across the vista while cows, horses and kangaroos lazed in nearby paddocks to complete a view that hasn’t notably changed through decades. Soon enough we were at our first stop which didn’t actually include any wine (hey, it is only 9am). The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie is set on 16 hectares of prime wine-making land and sweeping lawns yet still does not seem out of place. We entered through a gift shop where huge bowls of chocolate drops lured you in. I have gotten into trouble for my criticism of Australian chocolate yet this was divine. There are 150 different varieties of chocolate to choose from and behind a glass pane was where the magic happened as European chocolatiers were handcrafting treats. Due to the temperamental onboard coffee machine Charlies shouted a round and I opted for a hot chocolate which arrived as a pot of melted chocolate and a cup of steamed milk, combine the two with a miniature whisk and there’s liquid chocolate utopia right there.

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We came for the wine and at 10am (yes, 10am on a Sunday morning, and I’m telling you, I do not have a drinking problem) we reached our first winery, Coombe Farm Estate Wines. This is one of the oldest in the region and is owned by the descendants of Dame Nellie Melba, the Vestey family. In a bit of trivia that seems to ring true to today’s wine-loving celebrities, Dame Nellie Melba was an operatic soprano and deemed Australia’s first real diva. These days Coombe Farm creates small volumes of ‘classically varietal and regionally expressive’ wines and we were here to sample six of them. Most of our group were wine novices so we were given a brief rundown in wine tasting etiquette aka or ‘How to look like a wine snob in seven easy steps’.

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1. Hold the glass by the stem 2. Swirl the wine 3. Sink your nose in for a deep sniff 4. Take a quick swallow *snigger* 5. Remark on tones, flavours and colour, basically anything that pops into your head that sounds remarkably pretentious and profound will suffice 6. Take a mouthful and lightly swish it around your mouth then swallow 7. Note how it now lingers in your throat, behind your teeth and makes you look at the cute German girl standing next to you in a completely different light

If the thought of even more wine before midday is more than a little troubling then don’t fret as the next stop was Yarra Valley Dairy for where there is wine, there is cheese. So much cheese. We were given six samples of soft cheese to sit on our palette and soak up any lingering booze. Alas, due to flying out on Thursday I forgoed actually purchasing any though I was unabashedly tempted.

Now it was time for more booze (I’ll insist, I don’t have a drinking problem) as we headed to Napoleone and Co Cider. Despite, or maybe due to, being surrounded by so many wineries, the Napoleone Family have been orchardists in the Yarra Valley since 1948 using similar techniques to winemaking yet arriving at a product far sooner. Blossoming apple yards stretched into the landscape as far as the eye could see but in 1983 they finally succombed  to peer pressure and planted their first vineyards. We happily sampled three of their whites and three of their reds yet none of them seemed to make such an impression as their dry and refreshing ciders. So impressed that I bought a bottle of Cloudy Apple.

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By 12.30 it was time to give the drinking a rest and grab some lunch in the town of Healesville or Hicksville as I soon renamed it. Charlie even suggested ordering a beer at the bar and only then I began to worry that he may have alluded to a drinking problem. Without even realising what day it was (I’m blaming the cider for that) it felt and looked like a Sunday afternoon. Families were out for lunch, pensioners were discussing the youth of today and I couldn’t help but slowly amble through town and survey the multitude of op shops that lined the high street.

Payne’s Ridge was next and sure enough there were a few drop outs to sample a few drops. The daughter was clearly drunk, the English pair could not even force down a full sample and I was left to wonder if my experience of taking a bottle of red to house parties was the sole reason I was still able to follow the seven steps. That or the stark refusal to turn down free booze (I DON’T HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM, OK?). The winery featured a homestead of the area’s first settler and aside from the cellar and shop actually looked like someone’s backyard. An impossibly fluffy cat strolled around accepting affection while the dog outright sought it. With time to spare we were given license to roam but by this point I was due a sit down and a nap.

Our final stop was Killara Estate Winery where a boozy birthday lunch was in full swing. The views across the vineyards were stunning yet any sense of snobbery was soon forgotten by our guide, Lou. As we’d done a countless amount of times already today (no, seriously, how many places have we been too? I’ve had too much and can’t recall where I am. Is it Monday yet? Woah. That German girl is looking GOOD) we adroitedly followed the steps and gulped away. Lou took a moment, stared at each of us then commented that we all looked like ponces which was fair enough. If there was a lesson to be learnt from him it was to forget much of what we’ve been told today – Forget about tones and flavours; if you know what wine you like then stick to it. Forget about matching wine with food, if you’re with a group who are eating different things then it isn’t worth the bother Forget about worrrying about the wine, ensuring you’re with good company should be your main priority. The wine is going to taste sour if you’re sitting next to someone you loathe.

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After a delectable antipasti lunch of oil soaked cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, fresh ham and bread it was time to head back onto the bus for the trip home. Having arrived back in town I did a bit of food shopping and inevitably ended up in Liqourland. Glancing around I spotted a box of goon and scowled; how many nights have I wasted drinking that swill?

1 day Mornington Peninsula Winery Tour

1 day Mornington Peninsula Winery Tour

Hi. I wanted to tell you about an awesome 1 day winery tour I did last week to the Mornington Peninsula. It was with Cafe Bus, and we had such a wicked time.

We visited some really beautiful wineries, and checked out a few other really great things on our 1 day Mornington Peninsula Winery Tour. Our first stop was at Arthurs Seat for beautiful views and a quick snap. It was a gorgeous blue sky, and very hot day, and so the view of the bay was simply stunning.

Then off to the wineries. First stop a little different, the Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm. The strawberries were delicious, and the liquers and wines, oh to die for. It was even the right time of the year, so we could pick our own punnet.

Off to the wineries after this. A chocolate or two at the Mornington Peninsula chocolates, and then a gourmet picnic on the beach. Gourmet salmon, cheeses, breads and so much more. Mmmmm good.

The afternoon, of course, was spent, at a couple more wineries. Red Hill Estate, god the wines are really good. And the view over the ocean, as the brochure says, once of the best ocean views from any winery anywhere!

By the time the last winery rolled around, Stonier, we decided the Mornington Peninsula 1 day tour, was one of the best little day tours Melbourne could offer. A few more wines, and then an hour or so back to the city. We had an amazing day, made a few new friends, a really lovely couple, who are even going to come and visit us in our home state QLD before they go home. The 1 day Mornington Peninsula Wine Tour, just fantatstic. Thanks Cafe Bus for a great day out.

Pete and Julie, QLD

Lake Mountain 1 day Snow Tour.

 

1 day Snow Tour, Lake Mountain, Melbourne

If you are looking for an awesome 1 day SNOW TOUR around Melbourne, then Cafe Bus is the one to do. Last week I jumped on board to check out this “little ripper” and we had an absolutely amazing time. Cafe Bus 1 day tour, to Lake Mountain, is simply put a great day out.

We started our day just before 8am,picked up from the door of our accommodation in Melbourne, aboard Cafe Bus. Unlimited coffee from the onboard coffee machine, or hot chocolate….we were in heaven.  And then we were off to the SNOW. Lake Mountain is stunning, especially on a beautiful crisp blue sky winter morning.

Once we arrived at Lake Mountain, we had the opportunity to simply have some fun in the snow. The whole bus built a snow man, and the group photos we took were lots of fun. We had the opportunity to hire all of our own snow gear (for those that didn’t bring their own), and even a toboggan, which was soooo much fun. And once we had played about for a few hours, we were cold enough to wander inside the cafe to warm up by the fire! This of course involved more hot chocolate and coffees, while we thawed out.

For someone who didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Melbourne, a 1 day Snow Tour was absolutely the best way to see the snow. But the best was yet to come.

On the way home to Melbourne, we stopped off at Steavenson Falls, near Marysville. Being winter there was plenty of water, and it was simply gorgeous and we got some more fantastic photos.

A visit to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie wouldn’t be complete without an ice cream tasting, especially when the weather is cold. You can actually feel the ice cream freezing your insides, which undoubtably makes you feel very much alive! And the chocolates, oh so many chocolates! Absolutely delicious, and so many different types, fudges & soft centres. So much flavour…a different chocolate for every chocolate lover. MMMMMMMM so good!

Absolutely an action packed day of SNOW, FUN and Chocolate, as well as all you can drink coffee, hot chocolate and don’t forget Steavenson Falls. After meeting some wonderful new found friends we returned to Melbourne and rested our weary legs.

ALL IN ALL a fantastic day out. Thanks Cafe Bus.

Our awesome day out to the Mornington Peninsula

 

Our AWESOME day tour to the Mornington Peninsula Wineries

We recently jumped on board a fantastic day tour to the Mornington Peninsula. We had heard of Cafe Bus from friends who had an amazing day out also, and decided to book it when we travelled to Melbourne.

We were picked up at our accommodation in the city at 7.30am, and were soon on our way to the Mornington Peninsula Wineries. Almost an hour out of the city our first stop, Arthur’s Seat, which had absolutely stunning views over the bay and Melbourne itself. Being after summer had ended and winter just beginning to kick in, everything was pretty green and stunning for great photos.

Next up, Main Ridge Dairy, where we sampled a number of goat’s cheeses,  and let me tell you, I’m not the biggest lover of cheeses, but these were really yummy.

Off to the Strawberry Farm, where we tempted our taste buds even more. So far our winery tour to Mornington Peninsula was making my taste buds dance. We sampled a few strawberries, mmmm, and tasted some of the most delicious liqueurs and strawberry wines. And they say it’s sinful. I reckon they are definitely right.

Our first winery of the day, T’Gallant, where we indulged in some delicious cool climate wines. If all of the Mornington Peninsula wineries are this good, then I want to go back and spend a few days.

After a few liqueurs and wines, it was onto Mornington Peninsula chocolates. We sampled a few chocolates, which were to die for, and then watched the chocolatiers at work. It was amazing, the work they do is so intricate and detailed. I could have stood and watched them work for hours.

Being a warmer day, we then headed to the beach, for a gourmet picnic. Lunch was so good, a delectable delight of gourmet foods, cheeses etc. We even had a game of beach cricket. I was tempted to go in for a swim, but it was a little chilly and I wasn’t really feeling that brave!

After our relaxing and tasty lunch we headed off to a couple of other wineries. Our Mornington Peninsula Wine Day tour was now in full swing. First up after lunch Red Hill Estate. WOW, the ocean views are simply gorgeous. You almost feel like you are sipping wine in a spa. AWESOME. This little stop was definitely the highlight of our Mornington Peninsula Winery Tour. For the views and for the wine!

Off to Stonier Winery for the last stop of the day. This winery was voted one of the best for it’s sparkling wines in 2011, and there is a reason why. I even bought a bottle, and am saving it for something a little special. We tasted a few wines, munched on a little afternoon tea, cheese and bikkies and relaxed. All in all the wineries we visited we great, and enjoyed by all.

Then back to Melbourne by 5pm. I can definitely recommend the Mornington Peninsula Winery Day Tour. One of the best little day tours around. Thanks Cafe Bus for a really fantastic day out.