We joined Jeff for the Pooches and Pinot half-day tour on a gloriously sunny, warm June afternoon. We fit in four stops–three wineries and the Four Pillars distillery–and the pace was great; lively but never rushed. Jeff is both a friendly, fun host and extremely knowledgeable about the area and about wine…we consider ourselves one dilettante and one complete newcomer when it comes to wine, and we each learned and enjoyed a lot. And our dog had a great time, too…he got attention, got to sunbathe on a deck, got put in his place (gently and appropriately) by one winery’s resident dog, and got water, treats, and a safe traveling spot from Jeff.
He chose excellent wineries. We went to Yering Farm, with its airy, rustic barn tasting room (concrete floors, a wood fire, and much dog love from other visitors). From there, we popped over to Helen & Joey, my new favourite, with a spectacular deck view that feels like sitting on a hillside in Tuscany…and some of the most knowledgeable and voluble hosts ever. It was so beautiful, we whiled away extra time. Then into Healesville for the gin tasting paddle in a heated courtyard, and a scoot across the street to Payten & Jones, a small storefront-style cellar door but with a warm environment (dog welcomed indoors), some of our favourite music (Wilco) on the stereo, and some really spectacular wines.
Though we wanted to buy at least one bottle at each stop, just to have a tangible memento of the trip, we never felt the least bit of pressure to buy anything. Once we paid the tour fee, it was a “no need to touch your wallet” experience, with the message that there are lots of places on the tour–you may find something you want to buy, but if you don’t love it don’t buy it.
I won’t spoil your fun discoveries by saying too much about Jeff and his background, but suffice it to say, he’s incredibly well suited to doing these tours, and he elevates the experience. Go! You won’t regret it.