Scenery with a smile, and a wine

FIONA ROTHERHAM
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014
Lavendar fields

SPECTACULAR: A lavendar farm in Tasmania lights up the landscape.

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You know it's time to go home when you can't face eating or drinking anymore.

I reached that stage by the end of my visit to the northeast corner of Australia's most southern state after being wined and dined in style.

As the Tasmanians say, you can wine your way around this island. Its burgeoning wine sector has seven distinct growing areas with many growers providing cellar door tastings and there's an abundance of fresh local food on offer from producers and at farmers markets.

I based myself in Launceston, where the South and North Esk rivers meet to form the wider Tamar River. Like Wellington and Auckland, Launceston has more than a light-hearted rivalry going on with the state's biggest city, Hobart, to the south.

My plan was to do the Tamar Valley wine route and cherry-pick parts of the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail.

The Tamar Valley (tamarvalleywineroute.com.au) is Tasmania's largest wine-producing area, best known for cool-climate wines such as sparkling, aromatic whites and pinot noir.

The well-marked route encompasses both sides of the Tamar River and south of Launceston. While the 442 metre-long Batman Bridge spanning the Tamar to the north means you can do a round trip, you really need more than one day to do the route justice.

Our first wine-tasting on the northeast side was at Jansz Tasmania, the only Tasmanian specialist solely devoted to sparkling winemaking.

Wine writers will laugh at my discomfort with spitting instead of sipping during a tasting, but it seems such a waste of good wine to see it dribbling down the spittoons. Be aware, you can get light-hearted early in the day if you don't. It wasn't unpleasant.

Eating or drinking lavender may seem odd to some but the Bridestowe Lavender Estate at Nabowla offers more than just a vista of sweeping fields of purple flowers. It is one of the world's largest commercial lavender farms and the high quality flowers are primarily used as oil for perfumery.

It took its Sydney-based owners Robert Ravens and his wife, Jennifer, a few years to turn around the loss-making estate through a relentless marketing strategy focused on Asia. Its renowned lavender heat pack bears - sold for A$55 each - have proved a big hit with Asian tourists since a Chinese pop star proclaimed her love for them on social media.

The business is based around more than just one bear - there's a huge range of lavender products on offer in the shop and cafe. I had refreshing lavender tea but didn't buy a bear (apparently Kiwis and Tasmanians never do).

While in the area we headed to the hills to meet the kids - some 200 or so goats at the Yondover Farmhouse Cheesery at Tunnel. It was established four years ago by former West Australians Mike and Gina Butler who sell 14 different cheeses, fresh milk and plain yoghurt. We sampled a selection of their award-winning cheeses out on the deck with a view over the rolling valleys below.

On the west side of Tamar the first winery we visited also turned out to be my favourite that day - Moores Hill at Sidmouth. This family-owned boutique winery specialises in estate grown single vineyard wines and co-owner Fiona Weller was cock-a-hoop the day of our tasting as their 2012 pinot noir had just won gold at the 2014 Tasmanian Wine Show. I again drank instead of spat, despite the early hour.

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The Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail is a relatively new tasting route (cradletocoasttastingtrail.com.au) based more on food than wine.

From the plethora of food and wine producers to visit on this trail we opted for The Honey Farm in Chudleigh. It makes over 50 different kinds of honey and the shop was packed with Asian tourists spending up large. I bought a jar without realising you can't bring Tasmanian honey back to New Zealand. The shop has free tastings of all its honey and other products -my pick was the hazelnut honey nougat.

Try timing a trip to Launceston to coincide with Harvest Launceston, a weekly farmers' market selling food and beverages grown and produced only in Tasmania. Just 18 months old, it's already proving a roaring success.

When we snaffled the last space in the adjoining carpark a local offered us his parking ticket which had a fair amount of time left on it. That's community for you.

It's easy to overeat at this market. There's everything from berries to burgers to beetroot to beef.

As we leave musicians started tuning up and a number of regulars were happily ensconced in seats under a marquee in the centre of the market, cups of fresh-roasted coffee in hand and food purchases at their feet.

Like most places, if you want to know where to eat and drink, follow the locals.

Fiona Rotherham travelled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania and Tourism Australia.

- Travel

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