The Dandenongs are always about 4 or 5 degrees colder than Melbourne, which means about 15 degrees colder than Brisbane over Easter. It was great. Scarves and boots worn with long neglected coats pulled out of the back of the wardrobe. My friends David and Janet have a couple of acres near the toy town of Olinda, which, like other towns in the area, is large on twee Tudor style tea shops and lolly stores.
Winter hasn’t a grip on the Dandenongs yet. At Brambledene, the gardens are still green with many flowers having survived the onset of the cold. The big winds up there have blown the chestnuts onto the ground, but as yet, there is only a scattering of autumn colours on the trees.
On Easter Monday, we left the hills for a day trip to the Mornington Peninsula. The Peninsula is about 80 km south of Melbourne, As well as bay and ocean beaches, the Peninsula is a well known wine district, specialising in cold climate styles. At Paringa Estate we tasted the pinot noir and shiraz. The pinots were a bit thin, suffering from a couple of dry summers, so we bought a bottle of the shiraz for dinner.
Port Philip Estate at Red Hill is spectacular. The cellar door and dining room sit within a curved building, designed by Wood/Marsh Architecture, with views to the coast. Again the recent pinots were a bit thin, but described as ‘elegant’ by the woman doing the pouring. She didn’t convince the visiting French man next to us who much preferred the softer wines from home.
Back in the Dandenongs, the wind had come up and it was getting cold. For dinner, David cooked a pea, pumpkin and shitake mushroom risotto, with a side of sugar peas and lightly dressed avocado.
We finished with a plum tart recipe from last Saturday’s Weekend Australian and the shiraz from Paringa Estate. The next day, it was back to Brisbane to put the scarf and boots away until that one day in August when it might drop below 20 degrees.