For every good dish, there's a wine. In the Tamar Valley, near Launceston, renowned for its pinot noirs and sparkling wines, growing conditions and microclimates differ on opposite sides of the Tamar River. "It's much cooler over on the east side," Holm Oak winemaker Rebecca Duffy says. "They have much more fertile soils over there and they grow a lot more sparklings."
The best place to taste the diversity is on the West Tamar, where the views are about as good as the wines, with roads travelling in sight of the river almost the entire way. Here, you can sample fortifieds and ciders at Holm Oak, Tasmania's signature riesling at Goaty Hill, or a red from the state's oldest cabernet vines (planted in 1966) at Velo. Ray Kroeze of Prestige Leisure Tours takes visitors to tastings on both sides of the river. Wineries pack and send home one another's bottles, no matter how eclectic a visitor's collection becomes.
Ash Mair won MasterChef: The Professionals in Britain last year and is back in his old stomping ground this weekend and next to share culinary secrets. Mair presents a dinner as part of Savour Tasmania at Stillwater restaurant tonight, a masterclass demonstration at the Launceston Harvest Market on Sunday(See Page 6), and a dinner in Burnie on June 8-9. Stillwater and its neighbour, the Pinot Shop, host a pinot and truffle weekend on July 28-29. The shop is lining up at least 50 top Tassie pinots to taste, many from outstanding 2009 and 2010 vintages, with about 30 producers on hand to pour. The wine tasting costs $69. See www.pinotshop.com.
Movies by the barrel
Relbia is the Tamar's silent partner, with three cellar doors cradled in a valley 15 minutes' drive south of Launceston. At its heart is Josef Chromy Wines, its cellar door and restaurant housed in an 1880s-built homestead overlooking vines and lake. The cellar door has an encyclopaedic tasting list of 19 wines; winery tours start each Sunday at 11am. The winery is also the venue for a winter film festival, with classics such as Rebel Without a Cause and Psycho screening every second Friday from June 15-September 21.
Hobart's Festival of Voices hosts storytelling and choral performance, a capella and women's barbershop. The festival opens with a midwinter Firesong bonfire in Salamanca on July 6 and for the following 10 days features workshops and performances by the likes of Katie Noonan, June Caravel and Moira Smiley & VOCO.
Time to perform
Launceston's big winter warmer is the Junction Arts Festival, featuring more than 50 events - almost all of them free. Held from August 22-26, performance, visual and media art, literature, music and dance are showcased, utilising ambitious "stages" as diverse as a performance bus, rooftops and disused city spaces. Jon Sasaki (Canada) and Coney (Britain) will be there. Melbourne theatre company One Step at a Time Like This will perform En route, a theatrical walking tour commissioned for the London Cultural Olympiad.
Van Diemens luxe
The Van Diemen's Land Company (VDL) once owned much of the land west of Burnie. Beside the wharf in Stanley, VDL's 1843-built bluestone storehouse has seen time as a butter factory, customs house and fish processing plant. The building is now the stylish three-suite @VDL boutique hotel.
Pick of the suites is the King Loft, which looks out to views that seem to incorporate almost everything about Stanley: the Nut, wharf and Tatlow's Beach. Queen suites start from $225 a night; the king loft apartment is from $350 a night. See atvdlstanley.com.au.
Red Feather in your cap
About 15 kilometres from Launceston at Hadspen is one of Tasmania's first coaching inns, built in 1843, and still receiving guests. Red Feather Inn is a subtly luxurious hotel, its French provincial styling mixing old-world appearance with new-world comfort. It has four rooms inside the main inn, plus a twin-level hay loft where exposed sandstone walls still bear the marks of the stone's extraction.
Guest dinners, prepared by house chef Tanya White, are offered Tuesday to Saturday. A cooking school operates at Red Feather each weekend, with chefs including E'cco's Philip Johnson featuring artisan bread making and smoking and curing meat.
Rooms start at $350 a night.
Join the highlands cast
The central highlands is one of the world's great trout fisheries, and the annual brown-trout season opens in August. Of the state's 3000 or so lakes and rivers, those held in highest esteem include Arthurs Lake, the larger Great Lake and small Penstock Lagoon. The most revered stream is the tailrace fishery at Brumbys Creek, noted for the excellent sight fishing in its clear waters.
Convict confines to open
A key element of Tasmania's convict history, the Cascades Female Factory, is opening another area to visitors. Yard four, which housed up to 600 convicts at a time and is part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage listing, contained laundries and nurseries for pregnant convicts and young mothers. The yard is expected to be opened to the public next month.
Plane to sea
Hobart's new seaplane service gets visitors to destinations near (say, Port Arthur) and far (Wineglass Bay). Tasmanian Air Adventures (TAA - how quaint) leaves from Kings Pier Marina in the middle of Sullivans Cove. Flown by former British air force pilot Jethro Nelson, TAA's de Havilland seaplane can fly to key wilderness hotels and areas - as long as there is enough water on which to land. Prices start from $99 for a scenic flight over Hobart.