Words and pictures by Chris Gallagher.
Motafrenz’s annual joint event with our two-wheeler enthusiasts from the Melbourne Motorcycle Tourers (MMT) started with an unpromising, cool grey drizzle. However, the weather did not deter nine hardy souls from Motafrenz and seven even hardier souls from the MMT from meeting outside the Olinda Creek Hotel in Lilydale for an alcohol-themed drive around the scenic Yarra Valley. While we were waiting another motor cycling group from the Ulysses Club also met in the same place and inevitably chat about the various qualities of motor bikes ensued. Eventually they left for their ride but the MMT members’ motor bikes then attracted the attention of a few random young blokes in costume – apparently from a local football club – still enjoying their Mad Saturday (rather than Monday) from the night before. Photo opportunities with the bikes as props abounded. Sadly, no one took equivalent interest in the Motafrenz cars present.
Because our MMT friends wanted to enjoy an exhilarating ride unencumbered by dawdling car drivers, we gave them a head start and then headed up the longer, but more scenic, way via Yarra Glen to our first stop (for Motafrenz) at the Four Pillars Distillery in Healesville. There we could enjoy an excellent coffee or indulge in a gin tasting. I was the only one shameless enough to partake in a tasting at 10:45 in the morning. And excellent it was too. It was fascinating to learn about the hugely varied botanicals that go into gin and the impact each has on the flavour of the resulting product. For a spirit to be gin, it must always be distilled with juniper berries but the other herbal flavourings are up to the imagination and taste of the distiller. The five gins I tasted (in minute amounts I rush to add – I was driving after all) were quite distinct in flavour. A couple in our party, who had previously done the tasting, took the opportunity to stock up on the Shiraz gin. I must say, after tasting it, I heartily endorse their choice.
We then set out to drive to our lunch venue at the Steels Gate Winery in Dixons Creek where we would meet the MMT members who had taken a different route. Again, we took the longer and more scenic road through the Talangi Forest. The winding road going uphill and down dale certainly exercised our cars’ handling abilities.
At Steels Gate Brad, our host, welcomed us and showed us to our table on the verandah commanding wonderful views over the vineyard and the valley. There were about 14 of us making for a pleasant group that was not so big that conversation was difficult. Not that there was terribly much conversation once the food started coming out. Instead, a lot of concerted munching! Brad’s amazing chef had prepared a series of “tasting plates”. That meant a plate of each of the three items on the menu for each particular course which we could share. To my mind, the duck liver paté with brioche toast was the standout. Others might plump for the king fish, the lamb or the chicken. Whatever your choice, the food was absolutely first class and well worth the price. Not only that, there was plenty of it. I don’t think anyone left the table still feeling hungry. Naturally, being a winery, one could have a glass of one’s chosen tipple to accompany the food.
Quite late in the afternoon, we bade our farewells and headed our separate ways back home after a splendid day of driving or riding, indulgent food and pleasant company and conversation. Let’s do it all again next year!