MELBOURNE | When you’re in your late teens/early 20s the focus of a wine tour tends to be how many places you can get to in a day, and how much free booze you can fit in during the day. It’s fun at the time, but after a few years the idea of getting onto a bus full of loud, obnoxious drunk people with the possibility of a whiff of vomit loses its appeal. As we hit our mid 20s we start to want to know more about the wines, the stories and the people behind them. We want to discover new wines and smaller, lesser known winemakers. This is where Wine Compass comes into the picture.
Wine Compass is a tour company that custom tailors wine tours to the needs of its clients. If you want a boozy day with a group of friends, a tour designed for a “budding connoisseur”, or something else, this can be organised by Adam Nicholls and his team at Wine Compass. Currently, Wine Compass runs tours in the Yarra Valley and Mornington.
The City Lane was invited to try one of Wine Compass’s custom tours through the Yarra Valley last month and as lovers of good wine we were more than happy to oblige. On the day of the tour we were picked up bright and early by Adam and given a brief rundown of the itinerary for the day. The tour focused on boutique wineries and the people behind them. The first winery on the tour was Pimpernel Vineyards. As soon as we arrived at Pimpernel we were greeted by owners Mark and Fiona Horrigan. While Fiona rushed to get the cellar door ready to open for the day, Mark took us through a tour of the equipment, the bottling process and the cellar. In the cellar we found out a little more about Mark and how Pimpernel began.
Mark is a Cardiologist by trade, however like a lot of people out there his main job is not necessarily his true passion. Talking to Mark it was clear tell that he is incredibly passionate about Pimpernel and French style wines (stemming from his French heritage). As such many of the wines made at Pimpernel are inspired by the Rhone Valley and Burgundy. This is further reinforced by the abundance of french oak barrels in the cellar. Whilst in the cellar we tried the same batch of Chardonnay that was placed in different brands of French oak and Hungarian oak barrels, it was enlightening to see how vastly different the same batch of wine tasted in different vessels.
After we finished in the cellar we returned to the tasting room and went through the tasting menu. All the wines we tried were great however our favourite was the Viognier – the flavour profile was delightful and we also learned how to pronounce this often mispronounced wine (it’s vee- on-yay), the “yay” portion was accompanied by spirit fingers which was endearing. When we left we all agreed that Pimpernel was now one of our favourite wineries in the Yarra Valley.
Next we continued on to Soumah Wines. Soumah is a picturesque estate that focuses on wines styles originating from Northern Italy such as Nebiollo, Savarro and Brachetto. This Italian influence also extends to their restaurant Trattoria d’Soumah which serves rustic Italian dishes in a relaxed/homely environment. At this point we were a little hungry and the menu looked great so we stopped for lunch. We ordered the burnt butter linguine with freshly grated black truffle which was utterly divine, along with the rabbit ragu and a cheese and charcuterie tasting board which were all delicious. Our favourite wine at Soumah was the rose, which paried wonderfully with the ragu.
To finish off the tour we visited Yileena Park. This winery’s cellar door is like stepping into someone’s country cabin living room. It feels really homely with a beautiful fire and comfy chairs. It is a great location to try a range of wines and smoked products made on site. We had the opportunity to talk to the owner Bob about the hardships the winery has endured with poor rainfall and limited fruit production a few years back. To overcome some of these issues, the winery introduced smoked olives, meats and Stilton which has really helped support the winery and give them something unique. The smoked goods are delicious and are reason enough to visit Yileena Park before you even get onto the great wines. Our favourite wine here was the just sweet enough topaque.
With a car full of goodies it was time to make our way back home after a fantastic day. Visiting 3 wineries on the day gave us the opportunity to really spend a good amount of time at each and get to know what they were all about. It wasn’t rushed and the whole experience was really fun and educational. Wine Compass and Adam organised a fantastic and very unique tour and are definitely someone you should consider when next considering a wine tour.