Wine tasting and Kangaroos in the Wild

Had a real Australian breakfast on Saturday morning - toast and Vegemite.  Tyler and I both tried it - it's hard to describe, salty and savoury.  Tyler liked it a lot (of course) and just a bite was enough for me! 

We headed out bright and early to the Grampian mountains area.  Jane's parents live in "the bush" - a small town called Great Western, just outside of Ararat.  The landscape is amazing and we could see pretty far into the distance.  It was a beautiful morning, liquid yellow sunlight pouring over the dry yellow grass, with scrubby trees that look like broccoli stalks.   

Trees are everywhere - even the highway is tree-lined in a lot of places, and we could see cows, horses and sheep dotting the countryside.  We drove through Beaufort, which has the distinction of having Jane's favourite house in the world.  We stopped to take a look and it is pretty lovely!   

We went on through Ballarat, and arrived at Jane's parents (Bev and Peter) place, in about 2 hours.  Peter works at the Seppelt winery and he took us on a behind the scenes tour of the machinery as well as the drives (underground, where they store the wine). We wore hard hats and safety vests, and climbed up to check out the machinery first hand.  The machines are awesome - there was 22 million liters of wine stored in gigantic red wine canisters, and we saw where the trucks empty the grapes, crush them, squeeze every last drop of juice out, and discard the skins.   

There is also a wedding chapel in the winery and it's a pretty popular spot to get married! The winery itself was built in the 1800s and feels genuinely rustic still. We saw some of the original ways machinery they used to bottle the wine, and also a rack where someone would turn thousands of champagne bottles by hand, one quarter turn per day, to make the sediment settle near the top of the bottle and then drain it quickly while re-corking the bottle.   

The drives were like a maze of tunnels under the winery and there were tons of bottles stored there while fermenting - these ones had been there since 1989.   

Other bottles only stay down there for a couple of years before they are ready to sell. It's cool down there, with soft black mold all over the walls and towers of bottles stacked in rows in every alcove. Peter was an excellent tour guide and told us some great stories. 

We made our way upstairs for everyone's favourite part - wine tasting!  We started with a sparkling red shiraz, then tried a Chardonnay, and some champagne (sparkling wine, i mean).  We tried a few more red's and one was so good that I suggested to Tyler that we buy it.  Then I checked the wine list and noticed it was $69. Oh well.  Barry assured me that it wouldn't travel home well anyways. We finished off with a taste of port, which I didn't think I'd like (smelled really, really boozy) but it was really good - like a sweet dessert in a glass.   

After that, we drove to the town of Hall's Gap, which is right in the gap of the mountains, and walked through Brambuk National Park.  I expected we'd have to hike quite a ways off the beaten track, but after about 5 minutes, we came across lots (LOTS!) of kangaroos, just feeding, snoozing, and slowly hopping around.  I was a bit nervous walking up to them (their feet and legs are so powerful and they aren't really timid animals) but they must be used to people walking through - they watched us, but we could walk right up to them for a good look. 

There were lots of groups of them, and we even saw some with little joeys hanging out of their pouches!  We saw a mama kangaroo washing it's little one's face, and another one feeding grass to the joey from it's claws.

We also came across about nine emus walking around.  They were more shy, and scattered when a few kids rode by on their bikes, but regrouped and walked around at a steady pace just ahead of us for quite awhile. 


We checked for kookaburras, since we could hear their chattering cacophony in the trees above, but no luck in spotting them. The Grampion mountains were so impressive, looming and gorgeous as a backdrop to these amazing animals! 

After that, we went back to Bev and Peter's farm, and relaxed, chatted, and watched Aussie rules football until it was time to meet up with Jane's sister and some friends for "tea" (we call it dinner) at the Blue Duck in Ararat, and even though it's called a pub, it was bright and the food was delicious. You go up and buy it and they deliver it to your table, rather than waiting to be served.  I had a spinach and feta filo pastry, with chips of course, and Tyler had duck shanks and mashed potatoes.   

It was a bit of a drive back to Gisborne, but well worth it.  Such an amazing day full of interesting sights, sounds (and tastes!)

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