Thursday, August 4, 2016

Australia's Best Winery Experiences

Why we were included in Bupa Travel Insurance’s recent article, 'Australia's Best Winery Experiences​.?"  Here are a few reasons why!!
Every step of the winemaking process requires attention to detail, starting in the vineyard and continuing all the way through to that delicious moment when the wine is poured into the glass. At Ballandean Estate Wines, we don’t leave anything to chance. Located in the Granite Belt, a land with unforgettable scenery and a truly unique terroir, Ballandean is a must see winery as you travel around Australia's wine regions.

With so many premier wine regions around Australia, very few travellers think of Queensland when they think wine. Instead the cooler climes of the Barossa and Clare Valley spring to mind, but at Ballandean Estate Wines we’re securing the Granite Belt on the vineyard map.


One quality that sets Ballandean Estate Wines apart from other Australian wineries is our sustainability plan. In an effort to promote sustainability and increase awareness of the impact we have on the planet, we incorporate earth-friendly practices into our entire process.

Our methods start with the grapes in the vineyard. The grapes are harvested and for the most part used to make wine, but nothing goes to waste with the grape skins, along with other excess materials from the process (like sawdust), being recycled and used as mulch in the vineyard. We plant green crops between rows in the vineyard every few years, and analyse the soil to ensure it’s healthy for the vines, for the earth, and for the local community. We also work hard to minimise contaminants, which helps to protect our wines, the soil and the local water supply.

Thoughtful Winemaking

Dylan Rhymer, chief winemaker at Ballandean Estate Wines, has mastered the art of coaxing the fruit into releasing its full flavour during the winemaking process. Each year, he strives to create something new and delicious while respecting the integrity of the grapes.

Sustainability in our winemaking process is also important; we aim to create our wines in a socially responsible manner. To decrease our footprint, we bottle our wines into lightweight glass bottles and minimise and consolidate the use of our refrigeration units when possible. We capture and reuse rainwater, in addition to our drip irrigation systems in the vineyards.

Visit Us!

Ballandean Estate Wines produces wine well because we pay attention to detail, and that includes your experience with us. Join us in the Barrelroom for exquisite food meant to complement our delicious wines.

In addition to offering wine tasting in our Cellar Door and in our store, Ballandean Estate Wines offers numerous events to enhance our guests' wine tasting experience. Join us for Opera in the Vineyard, a Game Keepers Dinner, or other Granite Belt events to truly experience the beauty and diversity of the wine region and understand why we were included in Bupa Travel Insurance’s recent article, 'Australia's Best Winery Experiences​."


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crave Italy Tours - 3 days in Venice

Day 1
Leaving the village of Asolo is always difficult, but the excitement of arriving in Venice does make it a little easier to bear.
We jump into the van and head off, over the plains and beautiful farmlands to Bella Venezia. We arrive at the tronchetto where our water taxi is waiting to whisk us away to the Hotel Bonvecchiato and what a ride it was. Through some small canals and then on to Grand Canal and back through some small canals, all the while, camera clicking to capture the beauty that is Venice.

We arrive at the Hotel to a bit of kerfuffle, "scusa Signora, but you don't have a booking here at the Hotel" yikes I cry, now what? "Don't worry signora, this happens all the time, you are actually at the Palace Bonvecchiato next door! Phew, crisis averted.
What a gorgeous hotel, I mean Palace. Centrally located and a 5 minute walk to San Marco or 5 minutes in the other direction to the Rialto - perfetto! But tonight we dine in the Terazzo restaurant in the hotel and what a lovely,regional feast we enjoyed. More fuel for our busy day tomorrow. Sleep.

Day 2

After a generous breakfast (I mean huge) we head out to meet our guide Caterina, yet another amazing guide who is passionate and extremely knowledgable about Venice. I must say that you see each city in a a very different light when you have a local guide showing you around. I recommend you pay a little extra for this invaluable service it is so worth it.
So off to the Doges Palace for a look around. What a magnificent building and the paintings  that
adorn the walls were created by many of the Masters of the 12th and 13th century. Do you think the
Masters would have believed that we would be standing here, centuries later, still admiring their

Then off to the magnificent Basilica. Once again, the art work is astounding. This time the images on the walls are murals, created using stone and pieces of glass, gold plate of course  and absolutely stunning. Each time I visit this place,m I  see something or learn something new. San Marco is abuzz today with students, tour groups and all types of visitors to Venice. It is time for a break and then some shopping.

We head off to the Rialto bridge, which this time is under refurbishment ....Bugger! But it is still busy with visitors clambering over the ancient steps and shopping in the myriads of stalls selling Venetian and Murano glass, souvenirs and more. We head across to the fresh fruit and fish markets to see what 
is going on. By this time of day, the fish markets  are closed and the restaurants surrounding them are busy preparing platters of the day's catch. There are still some fruit vendors selling gorgeous looking morsels to the tourists who wander by.  After buying a few gifts for friends and family it is time to find a bar, enjoy a spritz Aperol and then find a nice place for dinner and people watching.

Day 3

Today at breakfast the excitement is palpable...  We are heading off to Murano and Burano today. We meet our guide Caterina early and head off to the vapoeretto stop. Onto the boat and we are off on our 
adventure. Unfortunately, the weather was not great but we are a group of Aussies so a walk I he rain is a treat. First stop is Burano. A village filled with colourful buildings and lace makers. One of the theories about e brightly coloured homes is that often e fishermen would come home drunk and it was easier to find their homes if it was brightly coloured- I love that story! 

We are lucky enough to see one of the very few ladies left with lace making skills, actually working on a piece. The cynic comes out in me as they explain that here are no young women learning how to make lace and that is why it is so expensive. I offered to move to Burano and learn the  skills but was ignored by the sales lady and lacemaker both. I thought I was doing them a favour, maybe they didn't consider me young enough? Whatever they thought, it looks like I won't be moving to Burano.
After a morning coffee and biscotti, it is time to head to Murano.

We jump off the vaporetto and into the winding streets of Murano with the cute little canals and 
bridges, it is bigger than you imagine. This place is the home to the master  glass blowers and artists, al busily creating their works from heir factories. We head to one of the larger factories and enjoy a tour and watch a glass blower at work. Absolutely incredible to see this beautiful glass vase come to 
life. He then goes on to create the obligatory glass  horse for the crowd in all of about 3 minutes, I just couldn't resist buying one in the gift shop later - hope he makes it home in one piece!

Time for lunch and our guide recommended that we try cecchetti at one of the bars.  This is the Italian version of tapas and has become very popular  all over the country. We head in and are greeted by a delicious choice of tidbits that would do just fine for a light lunch, washed down by a glass of wine of course.

It is time to head back to Venice. It is still raining, so a stop at the Peggy Guggenheim museum is on the agenda. The modern art in the museum is amazing and what a collection, with Pollock and Picasso among them. Not really my cup of tea, but a dry and warm stop for an hour or so.

Heading back to the Hotel, we do a little more shopping, then settle in for a well earned rest and light dinner.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Crave Italy Tours - 2 days in Asolo

Day 1
So heading from the beautiful city of Verona to the ancient city of Asolo, the mountains beckon and we begin our short drive via the lovely city of Bassano del Grappa. We arrive on market day and what a market! Hundreds of stalls with thousands of people and apparently this happens every week. There were the usual store with clothes, scarves etc but there was also the beautiful flowers and fruit and vege stalls each boasting a colourful array of the freshest and most delicious looking fare.  We noticed piles and piles of fresh white asparagus.....yummmmmm and boy were they popular, obviously fresh and in season.

After a quick bite to eat, we head to the beatiful Alpini Bridge. It is so gorgeous and the views of the mountains are quite spectacular. This bridge is a reproduction as the original was destroyed during the war as so many were, but even so, this bridge is a must for any visit to the north of Italy. After taking heaps of photos (heaps!) we head to the Poli Grappa distillery, another famous attraction in the town.  We are shown the process of making grappa then the best bit, we head to the tasting room! Here, we are shown the young grappa versus aged grappa and also all of the flavoured grappa, all I can say is it was lucky that Maurizio is driving!

Back in the bus and the excitement is building as we wind our way to Asolo.

Such a gorgeous town that is steeped in history. Many famous artists and writers have spent time in this town as it is renowned for its tranquility and beauty, you can see why it is so inspiring with little lanes and walkways every which way you look. But before we can explore, it is time to head to a regional dinner in one of the local restaurants.

8 courses later we leave the restaurant having dined on fresh asparagus, pasta, risotto, beef, chicken, you name it, we probably ate it and it was beautiful. Eating Italian style takes some getting used to, but we have done our very best to immerse ourselves in the culture and graciously accept our hosts offerings ( that is code for we ate way too much, but didn't want to upset anyone by refusing a course).

Back to Asolo to plan day 2

Day 2

It's Mothers Day and the church bells are ringing.
Maybe it's the fact that we are in holidays or we have all become hopeless romantics, but there is nothing quite like the sound of the bells early in the morning.
There is hustle and bustle in the square as the famous Antiques market is getting underway, with vendors arriving from all over to display their wares. Lots of antiques that would be perfect for renovating your villa as well as pieces of jewellery, lamps, mirrors, frames, you name it, we saw it.

During the early part of the morning, we decided to climb the famous Rocca. A monument that no one has an explanation for, it is just there and has always been. It is a big climb, but the views on this spectacular day are worth a million dollars After taking lots of photos and drinking in the beauty of the Asolan plains, it is time for coffee and people watching in the square.

This afternoon, we head to Treviso, often referred to as the other Venice. Another ancient town with Romanesque and medieval buildings dotted throughout the historic centre. When in Treviso it is important to look up, as the frescoes dotted along the street are from the 12th and 13th century. It is always amazing to watch every day life going on underneath these beautiful and historic pieces of art without so much as a glance from the people who live here - look up people!

Back to Asolo to find a restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal together.  Ahhhhh.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Crave Italy Tour - 3 days in Verona

We head from the Lake Como region east towards the ancient town of Verona, not too far for Australians to travel but our driver Maurizio recommended a coffee stop at an AoutoGrill which is an amazing experience and some of the best coffee in Italy can be found at these "service stations" on steroids and then a stop at Lake Garda to break up the 2 hour trip.
Well, what a surprise was Sirmione!
Yes, that is a castle!

What a beautiful, ancient village, complete with moat and courtyard, and then the lovely little village surrounding the castle was a shoppers paradise.  This was a great spot to take a break and soak up the history.  There was about 50 Gelato shops with the biggest gelato I have ever seen so it was very touristy, but don't worry about that, just soak up the beauty that is Sirmione.  I will be back one day!

Arriving in Verona is always exciting, with the ancient walls surrounding the city welcoming you to the city like an old friend. Arriving at our Hotel  Palazzo Victoria we realise that we are in  the heart of the  city, right beside one of the ancient Roman gates and a 3 minute walk to the hustle and bustle of Piazza Erbe - just perfect.  Tonight, we dine at undoubtedly the most famous restaurant in Verona 
the 12 Apostles. It was a fabulous experience.  The staff were attentive and so proud of the food they presented to us, it was outstanding. To top the  night off, we were lucky enough  to tour the cellar with the restaurant owner.  A very modest man who explained that his family were all  working in the business and had been for generations and then he showed us the most amazing ruins that they had discovered in 1989 which, it turns out, are the outer edges of the magnificent Arena. The ruins were incredible, simply incredible.

Day 2
This morning we meet our guide Alessandra who takes great delight in showing is and explaining the best attractions Verona has to offer. The magnificent Castevecchio, the home of the famed Romeo, the mausoleums of some the most famous Veronese, the magnificent Arena and of course the infamous balcony of Giulietta! How surprising it was to find out that the balcony was a prop (a sarcophagus in fact) for a Romeo and Juliet movie! Oh well, it is still a must see on any visit to Verona.

After we leave Alessandra, we have some free time to explore the city. A walk along the Fiume Adagio and we at the ancient Roman Theatre - madnificent! With a bit of effort, we climb to the top of Verona!

Now, it's time for Proscco and a well earned lunch at one of the many cafes near the Duomo and a paseggiatta  through the markets in Piazza Erbe. This is always a great place to find some inexpensive souvenirs to take home to family and friends. Tonight, we explore and find a trattoria for a Spritz Aperol and pasta for dinner!

Day 3
Today we asked Maurizio to drive us out of the city to take a look at the countryside. He said he had a few ideas for us and boy, what a great spot to spend a few hours.  After winding our way through the the vineyards that produce the famous Soave and Amarome wines, we end up in a beautiful lakeside 
village called Lazise.  Meandering along Lake Garda (the other side to Sirmione) this town boasts a 12th century church and many other Romanesque buildings. Every turn is a postcard and we all took 
some great shots of this radiant town. Luckily for us, there  was also a huge array of shops to wander through, leather, and souvenirs were the purchases for the morning.. By 10am, it was time for caffe oh and a couple of Spritz! We are certainly settling in to the Italian way of life.

Back to Verona to spend the afternoon as we please with one stop at a local supermarket. Yep, if you travel to Italy, you MUST visit a supermarket, the displays, array of foods are amazing and well worth a look. One last walk down the beautiful marble streets lined with the most famous of shopping brands, then off for a final spritz and dinner inVerona, followed by my favourite gelato in Italy. How pretty!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crave Italy Tours - 3 days in Lake Como and Bellagio

We are on an adventure. A wonderful journey through The North of Italy exploring  the beauty and immersing in the  culture that is "Bella Italia!"
Flying to Milan via Dubai is long - let's not beat around the bush, but the anticipation of what is to come overrides any signs of jet lag!  Arriving in  Milan , we meet our guide Maurizio, the ever present and oh so helpful gentleman that has taken us under his wing to ensure that we see the best there is to see of his beloved exciting to finally meet him.
Now, off to Lake Como and our home for a few days, the gorgeous lakeside town of Bellagio.

The Hotel Belvedere is just gorgeous and our apartment boasts stunning views of the beautiful Lake. A short stroll and we are in the heart of Bellagio looking for our restaurant, the Tratorria San
Giacomo, famous amongst tourists and locals alike and serving traditional Italian fare. After imbibing
in a glass or two of the local white wine and enjoying a plate of pasta, we head back for a well
deserved rest and to ponder our next adventure.

Day 2
Today we met our guide Matilde, who is a passionate local with the most amazing knowledge of the
history and facts of this amazing peninsular.  We stroll around the village and learn about the age and
history of the buildings that last night we walked past without any knowledge or respect for their
story. Today, we look at everything in the village with a fresh new respect for the history of  this

We head down to the lake where our ferry is waiting and head off to the quaint village of  Veranno
With its lovely buildings and fabulous Boardwalk.  After admiring a couple of the churches and the castle, we head down to enjoy a meal in front of the port. After enjoying the obligatory, daily gelato it
is back in the ferry for a joy ride around lake, listening to Matilde and her wealth of knowledge about the churches and villas speckled along the lakeside.

Early evening, we say goodbye to Matilde and head down to the village for passeggiata and a meal - pasta of course then on to Hotel Belvedere for a well earned rest.

Day 3
We ventured today to the border town of Lugano. This gorgeous Swiss Italian town is only an hour away we whisked out way through the mountains and about the most gorgeous lakes - all of them emerald green and bursting with life.
Lugano is a blend of historic and new buildings and we spent the morning wandering around he city centre with all of the big brand shops and their spectacular window display - Rolex anyone?
A light lunch of pretzels by the lake and it was time to head back via the city of Como with its
magnificent Duomo and historic city centre.

Back to Bellagio and time for dinner where our waiter could not resist when he heard our accents "where do you come from mate?" He asked and then told us of his many trips to Australia and  how wanted to own a farm with a helicopter!

So our three days have come to an end in Bellagio and we all have a new love in our lives. Thanks to Crave Italy for making our experience here fabulous.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Vintage 2016

Well we have made it!
Vintage is upon us and it looks fabulous so far.
The weather has been 'interesting' to say the least and we are about 10 days ahead of our usual picking dates, but the fruit is looking great so you can look forward to some amazing wines from this vintage.
Picking the whites began in January with the Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat then before we knew it, the Viognier, Chardonnay & Semillon were ready.
So here we are on the 22nd of February and we are picking red grapes.....amazing! But when the grapes are ready, they wait for noone and we pick.
Today, we are crushing 30 tonne of fruit, again......amazing.  Vintage looks like it will be over before we know it.
Take a look at this amazing Durif.  Beautiful, what more can we say.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A short stay in Sorrento and a near miss!

The 2015 Italian Cousins...All things Italian tour left Umbria with clothes that were starting to feel a little cosy!

We arrived on the Amalfi Coast just as the sun was setting on a beautiful clear afternoon.   The Grand Hotel Capodimonte, a luxurious hotel overlooking the sea was our home for two nights.  Our personalised menus promised a plentiful dinner of four courses.

There were two choices for our day on the Amalfi Coast.
Some chose to visit the incredible city of Pompeii, while the rest of the cousins opted for a trip to the Isle of Capri.
Both of the tours were complemented by great tour guides and definitely more ticks on the bucket lists today.


We found some fantastic shopping in Sorrento.  Now that we are near the sea, sardines, mussels and plenty of fish are on the menus.  Today was the day that we acquired a new Italian Cousin....a handmade clock which was a brilliant idea when purchased, took up too much space and caused plenty of concern for the rest of the tour!  But was worth it in the end!

Our second and last night in Sorrento was lit up by a massive thunderstorm.  An all night lightning and thunder show kept some awake.

We needed to make an early departure from Sorrento to make it in time to the Naples train station for the 6 hour train ride to Sicily.  Our driver Maurizio had warned us of the heavy traffic, suggesting that 2.5 hours for the 51km trip would be required to safely make our train.

It was like a scene from the movies, we thought we had plenty of time... the traffic was a disaster...And then there was the continuing thunderstorm.... We were in a 50km queue of stop go traffic.
Maurizio in the lead car quietly chewed his nails!  Julia was googling Plan B.  With 5 minutes until the train departure we were still kilometres out of town and hadn't hit the inner city traffic.  Who even knew which platform or how far we had to run!

Finally, our destination the Naples Railway Station was upon us!  it was the quickest unloading of 11 pax and 23 bags (and a clock) ever!  The shortest of hugs and kisses to our wonderful drivers and RUN! 

In the space of 5 minutes, we had found Platform 14, found our train, found our carriage, lost Roy, lost Julias suitcases, found Roy, found the missing suitcases, loaded 23 bags (and a clock) and realised Italian trains never leave on time.  We made it!  Sicily here we come!