Thursday, 13 February 2014

2013 Trip to Tasmania - Day 3 - Bruny Island - Tasty Places


Smokehouse was the first place we visited on Bruny Island. Pretty much everything we tried there - smoked trout, salmon, sardines, sausages - was delicious. Unfortunately, most of their products had to be kept in a cool place so we couldn't take them with us. Just goes to show that there are places, like Cascade Brewery and that smokehouse, that you have to visit personally to fully enjoy their produce. They also had an impressive drinks bar to accompany their food - I wished there was a taxi service on the island, or at least my wife had a driver's licence.

The next destination was Bruny Island Cheese Company. Our first encounter with their cheeses was at Sydney Good Food and Wine Show earlier that year. Olga was so impressed by the taste that she made it a mandatory stop on our route (and, possibly, planned the whole trip to Tasmania as a pretext). At the tasting counter we weren't picky, tried whatever was offered and weren't disappointed - all cheeses were good - but if I had to choose the best one I would take soft Oen wrapped in vine leaves. It was so delicious that we ate a whole wheel for dinner. There was also a cafe where we bought and immediately devoured a pizza made with local cheese. Strangely, there wasn't quattro formaggi on the menu, a pizza which could be their signature dish.

Discovery: washed rind cheese is hand-washed with salty water daily during its maturation process. I guess, it explains the prices.



Another tasty place we found was Bruny Island Premium Wines. It was an unplanned stop, we just pulled over when we saw a sign, and it happened that the cellar door wasn't open yet. By pure chance we met the owner who was about to leave on a tractor. He wasn't the one to turn away potential buyers and decided that his tractor business could wait. 

Before trying the first glass I asked for something to spit the wine into, but the guy replied reproachingly, "We don't encourage that. Our wines are too good to spit them out." A few minutes later I had to agree with that bold claim. Being the only winery on the island, they could take the word "premium" for granted, but they really deserved it. 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir was one of the best Pinot Noirs I ever tasted. In fact, there were two different types of Pinot Noir - one with a gold Reserve label and one without. It appeared that the un-Reserved variety was made from grape grown in another place and it was not a patch on the Reserve Pinot grown locally. Many times I heard that wine quality starts in the vineyard, and Bruny Island Premium Wines provided a convincing proof - same winemaker, same grape variety, same year, same process and vastly different results for different vineyards.

Needless to say, I bought a bottle of Reserve Pinot Noir and we finished it on the same day, which was quite surprising as we usually have just one glass of wine for dinner. The reason for such gluttony was an incredibly apt match of the wine and the cheese in vine leaves that we bought in Bruny Island Cheese Company earlier. Every nibble of cheese asked for a sip of wine and vice versa - I just couldn't stop before I ran out of both cheese and wine. Surely, there is an opportunity for the winery and the cheesemaker to cross-market their products.

Next day I returned to buy a case of the Reserve Pinot Noir and regretfully found that they wouldn't give any noticeable discount on cases. 

"This wine just walks itself out of the door...", said the owner.

"... so why would we budge on price?" mentally finished I.

The only concession I got was free postage to Sydney which slashed about $2.5 off each bottle in a six-pack and, in fact, it was a better discount than one gets on average from Dan Murphy's on similarly priced wines.


Discovery: Bruny Island Premium Wines is a completely family-owned and family-operated company. I thought they would hire people for harvest but the owner said that so far they had managed to do it without external workforce. Later I found it was the case with many small vineyards.

Do you like berries? Do you like ice-cream? Do you like... tractors? Then you will enjoy a visit to Bruny Island Berry Farm


These giggling girls were paraded on the tractor in front of the astonished public. If they didn't look so happy I would have thought it was a rural way of disposing of unwanted employees. A couple at the next table wondered if a visitor could also hitch a tractor ride, but we were less extravagant in our pursuit of entertainment and contented ourselves with gastronomic delights.

The farmers didn't sell their berries other than in desserts so the experience was more that of a cafe than a farm. I remember fondly one dessert which was called Champagne Jelly. It looked splendid and was served with Valhalla ice-cream of your choice. Wishing to explore all local delicacies I pointed my finger at the pepperberry variety. The taste was intriguing (it was called "pepperberry" for reason!) but it wasn't recommended with the jelly so I chose something more conventional. Still I'd like to try a scoop of that ice-cream so I have to find a Valhalla retailer in Sydney (let me know if you have an address) or, even better, return to Bruny Island and explore the full range of the desserts on that berry farm. If there was a fountain I would definitely drop a coin in it.