This is the last installment of my trip to Australia, rounding off the amazing drinking experiences with a visit to some wineries and a brewery in Yarra Valley.

But before that, I stopped by Queen Victoria Market. This is no ordinary farmers’ market, by any means. This is basically a fresh-food shopping center and is a big tourist attraction. I made my way around and settled on having the freshest oysters (shucked right in front of us) with some finger limes – also called caviar limes (how fancy) due to the circular shape of the pulp that mimics the little jewels of the sea. I enjoyed this succulent treat with a fantastic bottle of Frankland River Riesling 2015 from Harewood Estate and delicious truffled cheddar.

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Tokar Estates Wine Tasting

It’s amazing to note that the Australian wine industry is quite young – just 200 years old – with Australia one of only a few countries that produces every major wine style. Australian wine is known for quality, innovation and depth. A bit of a history lesson here (I know you guys live for these nuggets of knowledge), Australia had no native grapes suitable for winemaking and had to import grapes from Europe. And of course, being a colony, much of the wine produced was shipped back to the UK. Now that wine has become more popular in Australian society, it has also become part of the culture, as is evident in numerous appreciation courses, wine bars, tastings, and winemaking demonstrations and festivals.

There are over 60 wine regions in Australia, and I explored the region closest to Melbourne: Yarra Valley. I decided against going on a wine tasting tour and instead checked out a few wineries on my own. Let me just tell you, driving in wine country is truly romantic. It may seem corny or cheesy, but the picturesque countryside, with sprawling hills and countless rows of grape vines, is enough to make the most jaded heart swoon just a little bit. It could be the energy of the wine as well, it being considered the drink of romance.

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Yarra Yering Tasting Room

As I only had a day in Yarra Valley, I tried to fit a number of estates and balance it out without being too intoxicated. Thank God, I wasn’t driving! Think scavenger hunt, I didn’t join a tour, just winged it and enjoyed every moment. The first winery I went to was Tokar Estate, a family-owned and operated estate. We were treated to a tour and wine tasting with the very passionate sommelier, who says he lives and breathes wine. It is always a pleasure to learn from someone who clearly loves what he is doing. His passion and enthusiasm is contagious!

The next estate I visited was Yarra Yering, one of the oldest vineyards in Yarra Valley. While going around the vineyards during the tour, there were signs around saying that grape picking is not allowed. Obviously this set off something in my head that made me sneak close to a vine and pluck a bunch of amazing grapes. I literally picked the fruits of their labor. I couldn’t help myself! Don’t sue me, please!

I wanted to purchase a few bottles for my collection but was worried about the over weight. So, while i was pondering on this, I  posted a picture on Instagram and got an instant message from a friend who happens to run one of Manila’s best wine suppliers Straights Wines. “We have Yarra Yerring in Manila!”, he says. Happy Days!

Yarra Yerring Grapes, Vintage Grape Press

Grapes from Yarra Yerring Estates; Vintage Grape Press

I rounded off my winery excursion with Meletos, one of the best estates for dining and just taking in what Yarra Valley is all about. Sampling some of their wines paired with charcuterie with a breathtaking view of the vineyards was definitely one of the highlights of the day. It was a feast for the senses.

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Entrance to Meletos

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Sampling some of Meletos wines paired with charcuterie

As I was winding down my day of wines, I made a side trip to Coldstream Brewery, which had a Tasting Paddle that I just had to try. The flight includes four beers and a cider. Now I think I’ve mentioned my newfound love for cider; and being so eager to sample their apple cider, I downed it before I could take a pic! Not a drop was left for the photo op.

Beer and cider flight at the Cold Stream Brewery

Beer and cider flight at the Cold Stream Brewery

There you have it, folks. I drank my way around parts of Australia and lived to tell the tale. I fell in love with the innovation and execution of the food and bar scene of Sydney and Melbourne. I traversed the Yarra Valley wine country and adored the scenery and the wines. Australians certainly know their alcohol, and their drinking culture is unique in so many ways. I hope you enjoyed reading my exploits as much as I loved experiencing them. So, did the Land Down Under put me under? It definitely did. It put me under a spell.

Restaurateur, expert drinker, creative proprietor of steam punk bar Hooch, SMITH Butcher and Grill Room, Ebeneezers, Poulet Manille, and Ampersand. She wrote The Standard newspaper’s Tipple Tales cocktail and spirits column and co-hosted the Manila episode of the Travel Channel show Booze Traveler with cocktail connoisseur Jack Maxwell. She is DrinkManila’s resident mixology expert.

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