One of the cool things about being a writer is that you occasionally get to go on field trips, all in the name of research. For a lot of this year I’ve had a bit of a secret project brewing in my brain. It hasn’t made it any further than the plotting stage and I’m not even sure it’ll be written, let alone published. But if the project does go ahead,  it’ll be set in a place very much like the Yarra Valley, a gorgeously lush region north-east of Melbourne filled with vineyards, some top-notch restaurants, the famous Healesville Sanctuary, art galleries, golf courses and lots of other lazy Sunday drive attractions.

I was once reasonably familiar with the region, thanks to my former agricultural seeds career, but that was a long time ago and as I discovered on Sunday it’s changed a great deal. To begin with, there’s been an explosion in grape plantings and every second drive seems to lead to a cellar door. Not that that’s a bad thing – not from this wine lover’s point of view – but it has led to an increase in traffic. Once upon a time this was sleepy-hollow territory. Not any more. We took one look at the line up of cars to get into the farmer’s market at Yering Station and kept driving. I had countryside to ogle and photograph, notes to take and, well, wine to buy!

First stop, De Bortoli Wines at Dixon’s Creek, where we’d really hoped to have lunch. The restaurant, Locale, is renowned for great food but sadly it was booked out. We did, however, buy some amazing cheeses from the cheese room – a sublime, gooey French cheese called Le Dauphin, a delicious taleggio and a Swiss-made variety called, cheesily, Julius Cheeser! Oh, and wine. We bought that too. Those bottles of goodness were simply too lovely to resist.

Have a look at this view from the rear of De Bortoli’s. Perfect looking place to set a book, don’t you think?

I was quite captivated by this horsey property. I can see my hero messing around here. Except for the power lines. Think we’ll leave them out of the description.

Mandala is where we enjoyed lunch. And bought more wine. Very nice wine too! The restaurant, with it’s beautiful huge windows, timber ceiling and light-filled interior would make a great backdrop for a hero-heroine showdown scene. Suitably disguised as a fictional venue, of course!

So, research trip done. Now all I have to do is write the book. Easy-peasy!

Sigh, if only that were so…

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