Explore Tassie’s famous Tamar Valley wine region with a knowledgeable guide on this great day out from Launceston. You’ll visit up to six vineyards for tastings, and enjoy a delicious platter lunch. Hotel pick-up and drop-off are also included. Duration: 7 hours (approx.)
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Tassie has turned on a day that only our island state can.
The soft morning sunshine glitters on the water of the Tamar as we make our way north from Launceston through the river’s eponymous valley and wine producing region, past trim hillside vineyards, rolling fields of deep green, groves of native bushland and riotous explosions of colour from roadside gardens tumbling over old country fences. If you were to try and define paradise in Oz, this landscape would have to be a serious contender.
Our guide David shares some of the region’s history and heritage. He’s not a local, but you wouldn’t know unless he chose to tell you. Both his knowledge of the region and its wine scene, and his passion for sharing it with visitors, are immensely impressive.
I’m travelling with Prestige Tours Tasmania on their full day Tamar Valley wine tour from Launceston. There’s also a half day option available. During the course of the day we’ll visit up to six wineries (depending on time) for included tastings, and enjoy a grazing platter lunch with a glass of wine. Our transport is clean and comfortable. There’s generally a maximum of six guests per tour, which keeps things very intimate. Today’s group is made up of myself, another Aussie, two Brits, and David at the wheel, and we’re soon chatting away like old friends.
Tassie is predominantly known for cool climate wines like chardonnay and pinot noir. However, lovers of heavier reds like shiraz and merlot shouldn’t go into a cold sweat. You will encounter some bolder drops on this tour. It’s also interesting to hear from David that while Tassie’s wine grape production accounts for less than 1% of the national total, the fruit fetches in excess of three or four times the national average price. Good things do indeed come in small tonnages.
It’s not long before we make our first stop of the day. Boutique family-run Velo Wines is home to some of the oldest vines in the state. The cellar door is simple and stylish. It’s the perfect showcase for the vineyard’s handpicked and largely handcrafted wines. The sparkling rose is magic, and the award-winning cabernet shiraz has personality plus. Onsite eatery Timbre Kitchen is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday, and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. I take a quick squiz at the menu and find myself vowing, ‘I’ll be back.’
Our next stop is Tamar Ridge, where it’s all about pinot noir. Owned by wine giant Brown Brothers, half the estate is devoted to growing pinot fruit. The cellar door offers a tasting flight of four pinot noir vintages, best enjoyed while you drink in the stunning valley views.
From here, it’s just a short drive to Goaty Hill Wines — our lunch stop. But first, David swings by the Auld Kirk. This beautiful stone church dates back to the 1840s and was constructed largely by convict labour. It’s an enduring link with the region’s colonial past.
At Goaty Hill we’re welcome by two red tin goats that stand on either side of the entrance, and the estate’s two owners and family friends — Markus Maislinger and Tony Nieuwhof. Goaty Hill received a five-star rating in the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion and these guys couldn’t be happier. The sparkling rose is the perfect accompaniment to our platter lunch, which is bursting at the seams with local bounty.
We pass by the town of Beaconsfield, scene of the tragic mining accident of 2006 and the miraculous rescue of Todd Russell and Brant Webb two weeks later. While we don’t stop there on this tour, I have previously visited the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, and it’s an engaging must-see if you get the opportunity.
Heading south, David pulls into roadside Loira Vines — a gorgeous boutique winery, ciderie, and soon to be brewhouse. Owned and operated solely by a husband and wife team (who visited the property on a wine tour in 2017 and decided to buy it!), this place just couldn’t get any more delightful. The small property grows pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, and shiraz, and we try a selection of drops in the newly constructed cellar door. While you’re there, check out the stunning onsite accommodation, where guests can wake up overlooking the pond and stream, rimmed with rushes and complete with a resident platypus!
We have one final winery to visit — Swinging Gate Vineyard — and in terms of the wine itself, this is probably the most memorable stop of the day. You may not love them all, but you’ll certainly remember them. In the rustic, re-purposed machinery shed — now the estate’s cellar door — we meet owner and winemaker Doug, who talks us through the range. Highlights for me include the 2018 Sweet Blush — a sugary summer drop of 100% pinot gris with eight hours on skin, and the pungent Modern Monk Pinot Noir Pet Nat ’19 — based on the centuries-old process of bottling the wine before the fermentation process is complete (thought to have originated in the 15th century monasteries of the Loire Valley). I certainly haven’t tried anything quite like it before.
We all troop down into the vineyard to check out the Domescapes glamping dome — a futuristic tented accommodation option, complete with panoramic windows, plush furnishings and an ensuite bathroom.
On the way back to Launceston, David makes a quick final stop at Brady’s Lookout in Rosevears. Yet more vineyard rows cascade down the hill below us towards the Tamar River, which meanders gently through the emerald green landscape. If this isn’t paradise in the land of Oz, it’s pretty darn close.
Adam travelled as a guest of Prestige Tours Tasmania.
Cover image courtesy of Tourism Tasmania. Image: Rob Burnett
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.