Have you ever watched Masterchef and wondered what it would be like to be one…
Ever wanted to go on a private winery or brewery tour?
Ever thought about the logistics involved – who’s going to drive, what vehicle to go in, which places to visit… I’ve given up already. Never fear, Little Wine and Beer Tours can arrange it for you. Whether you want to keep it local or you’re travelling interstate, the company organises tours in the Canberra region, the Hunter Valley, South Australia’s Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale and even Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. All you have to do is get a group together and decide when and where you want to go.
The small group tours include an itinerary and essential information about each winery, tailored tasting experiences at four wineries or breweries, a driver and air-conditioned bus, special cellar-door discounts and a Little Tours gift (including a tote bag to carry any goodies you buy along the way). It was my first ever winery tour, so while I can’t offer any comparisons, I can report that the Little Wine Tour was everything I’d hoped it would be. A leisurely day of being driven around picturesque vineyards, sipping wine, enjoying a hearty pizza lunch, more wine. You can also be safe in the knowledge that you’re supporting small local businesses and trying local produce too.
The tour caters for everyone, from the novice to wine connoisseurs.
The information pack included details of each winery, what to expect, a wine-tasting guide, tips for discussing the wine and getting a good deal at the cellar door. Seasoned wine lovers experienced something new too – Emma has made special arrangements with some wineries who offer unique tasting experiences. We were lucky enough to get a personal tasting experience with Fiona from Yarrh Wines and an advanced taste of Four Winds Vineyard’s 2015 Rosé, which at the time hadn’t yet been bottled. We also visited Helm Wines and Long Rail Gully Winery.
Each cellar door has its own personality and offers something different.
Nestled on a hill, the views from Yarrh, established in 1997, were charming and they had a great variety of wines. Ken Helm of Helm Wines is a living piece of Australia’s wine-producing history. He explains how his ancestors planted the first vines at Rutherglen in Victoria and that Helm was one of the first vineyards established in the Canberra region in 1973 by CSIRO academics. He also entertained us with fun-facts about Australia’s Prime Ministers as he gave us a private tour of the winery.
Doing a Little Tour is a great opportunity to buy wines you can only get at the cellar door and learn something from the experts without having to plan the trip yourself (or pick a designated driver!).
Garry and Barbara at Long Rail Gully Winery showed us a fantastic selection of their wines, including some that are almost sold out. I snagged a few bottles of their 2006 Merlot, which I will be keeping for a special occasion. Bill at Four Winds Vineyard was also happy to chat about wine and his business. He explained how European wines are named after the region they’re made in, because they’ve had centuries to figure out what grows best there. In the rest of the world, wines are named after the grape used. Emma is just as passionate about wine as the wine makers themselves with the Little Tours a result of several years of her first-hand research.
“I’ve been keeping a bit of a journal of the best experiences I’ve had at boutique locations,” says Emma. “So I can share that with people who are keen to explore, taste new things or just want an introduction to the world of boutique, craft or artisan products but aren’t sure where to start.”
“I’ve also been speaking with the wineries and breweries to make sure that they want to participate and checking out the cellar door experiences on offer in the last few months – it’s been a pretty tough gig,” she says tongue-in-cheek.
“There’s been around a dozen tours that I’ve organised as a hobby for friends, which have been my test tours,” she confesses. “I’ve definitely made a few mistakes and learned from them before deciding to start a tour company.”
Emma finds it impossible to choose her favourite Australian wine region, although being from Newcastle, the Hunter Valley holds a special place in her heart. “I’m pretty nostalgic about the Hunter Valley – I fell in love with beautiful wine there and it was the start of the journey,” she reminisces.
Now based in Canberra, she’s also relished in getting to know our regional wines.
“Murrumbateman and Lake George wineries were like discovering an unknown gem – exciting and adventurous.” But says Emma, other regions have a lot to offer as well.
“South Australian reds are bold, fabulous and just what I feel like right now as we head into winter. Even though the Barossa and McLaren Vale are some of the most well established regions, they are still full of quirky newcomers,” Emma explains.
“Tassie is where I learned to like white wine, the Riesling was stunning – and local gourmet produce is incredible. The Yarra Valley is a place for some extraordinary experiences – an entire day of sparkling tastings and so many craft brewers so close together!”
The tours are designed for groups of 12, but Emma does cater to custom packages. The Little Tastes are another great option if you’ve got a willing driver.
“Our Little Tastes are a completely new concept. Often when you visit a winery on your own you aren’t sure where to go, or you’re one of many at the cellar door,” explains Emma. “Little Taste self-drivers get a package with their itinerary, dedicated experiences and can include lunch – all they need to do is show up!”
I highly recommend doing a Little Tour. Emma has created a fuss-free option that includes everything you need for a great day of unwinding and enjoying boutique wines (or beers if you prefer) with friends. So what are you waiting for? Gather those friends and book in soon for a weekend of wine…
What: Little Wine and Beer Tours
Where: Pick up available from Canberra (and other interstate options)
How much: Little Wine Tours $95 per person ($125 incl. lunch), Little Beer Tours $150 per person ($180 incl. lunch) – prices based on groups of 12; Little Taste self-drive tours $20 ($45 incl. lunch)