I love the vibe you get within a small group of people over the course of a weekend, and on our recent Yarra Valley gourmet weekend we had such an interesting mix of people.  We all, of course, had a unifying love of food and wine, giving us common ground from the outset and the group gelled within a day as people quickly got to know one another.  We were blessed with the weather too – but then the Yarra Valley is an amazing place to be – in all seasons.  The scenery is so dramatic, the sky so expressive.  Our accommodation at Susan’s in the Valley is especially lovely to return to, after a busy day of tastings, sampling and cookery classes.  

We pack so much into our itinerary yet it just seems to effortlessly unfurl, and we’ve plenty of time at each venue, meeting the valley’s artisan producers and enjoying that exclusive opportunity to go into their kitchens to try their jams, nibble on cheeses, watch chocolate being made and sample wine straight from the barrel.

Even if our guests on the tour have visited some of these iconic wineries before, they have never been invited into the barrel room for a private tasting with the sommelier.  Nor have they stood in Lisa O’Connor’s kitchen at Jam Lady Jam as she passes you some of her damson jam to try, while answering questions as to what brought her to the valley, what dishes she uses her jams in and how many vats of fruit she cooks up at the height of jam making.  It is the personal aspect of our gourmet tour of the Yarra Valley that sets us apart and what our guests love and thank us for.  As we were leaving Lisa’s kitchen, and saying our good-bye’s, one of our guests pointed out, “this is like visiting friends.”  We then boarded the mini bus, clutching our jam purchases and we were off to Bella Vedere for our cooking class with Gary Cooper.