Tasmanian roads less travelled

The Agrarian Kitchen offers weekly cooking, gardening and lifestyle classes. A 1-acre walled garden has been established on-site allowing cooking class guests to forage for the ingredients that they will use in the class.

It is worth heading off the beaten track to discover some rustic joys in Tasmania, travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports.

So, you really want to get away from it all? 

You’d like to be in a quiet vineyard setting with spectacular views and no neighbours, but within an hour of a city. And while you want a rustic experience you don’t want to miss out on life’s little luxuries. Quality Smeg appliances, fast wifi, a wine fridge…  

Welcome to the Picker’s Hut on the Invercarron vineyard property in the Jordan Valley, north of Hobart, where you’ll struggle to see another property no matter how intensely you scan the horizon. 

There are few better places to breathe in some fresh air, take in the tranquillity and re-charge the batteries. 

The pleasures here are simple ones – but satisfying. A barbecue overlooking the vines, perhaps, a game of chess, or the chance to read a book on the terrace while taking in the meandering Jordan River below. In winter you can toast some marshmallows over the firepit.

The only sounds will be those of birds, or perhaps the bleating of a sheep or two. 

The Picker’s Hut looks and feels modern, but has a fascinating history. It was an original hut from the Brighton Army Camp down the road, and was built to house Tasmanian soldiers before they departed to fight in World War Two. 

Those huts were also used to house prisoners of war from 1944-1946, immigrants from Europe in the late 1940s, as shelter for victims of the 1967 bushfires and intermittently for camps for army cadets. The camp was decommissioned in 1999 and the huts had been sitting idle since then. 

This hut was transported to the Invercarron vineyard in in 2016 and had been used by vineyard workers and fruit pickers before being repurposed in a rather glamorous way. Although the external structure has changed, the original foundations and floorboards are the same. 

The Picker’s Hut has two bedrooms and is suitable for a maximum of four guests, who have plenty of room to stretch out, perhaps in front of the wood fire on a colder night. There is a bath – also with a view – and a shower in the bathroom, as well as a separate toilet. 

The owners – the Jones family, who have farmed in the Jordan Valley for seven generations –  have thought of just about everything from the fully equipped kitchen with a range of cooking utensils and well-stocked pantry to large windows in every room to provide panoramic views. 

There is an excellent house book with details on the hut and nearby destinations. 

Hobart is just 45 minutes away, but you’ll need to bring dinner supplies as there are no local restaurants that you can pop out to. 

Day trip options include the Derwent Valley and Coal River Valley wine regions, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and the growing town of New Norfolk, home to the popular Agrarian Kitchen eatery and cooking school. 

The Invercarron vineyards contain pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes – and visitors are encouraged to take a stroll through the vines.

The rate of $595 per night includes a welcome basket of breakfast provisions including cereals, fresh farm eggs, a loaf of local sourdough bread, butter, fresh milk and condiments, as well as a bottle of estate pinot noir. 

Guests are encouraged to book direct and save. See https://www.thepickershut.com.au/

Just half an hour north of Hobart, you’ll find a newish vineyard eatery that offers one of Tasmania’s best wine and food experiences – with views to match.

The Shed at Derwent Estate sits on a hill surrounded by vines, and looks down over the River Derwent.

On a sunny day there is no better place to enjoy a glass or two of wine and some local produce.

The original shed on the Derwent Estate land was built on the Mount Nassau sheep farming property in the early 1900s but burnt down in the 1967 bushfires.

Rathbone Cottage (circa 1820) and the Homestead (circa 1830) survived and are still used today as the Derwent Estate tasting facility and as a private residence by the Hanigan family, who have lived and farmed here for five generations.

The Shearing and Tractor Shed replaced the original shed and in 2021 work began on “The Shed” Restaurant, which has been built in exactly the same footprint as the Shearing and Tractor Shed. Many of the table bases have been built with timber from the Shearing Shed. 

It is a charming and rustic setting – and the vineyards have produced fruit for world-class wines including Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay.

We mixed and matched snacks with some wines by the glass , bypassing the Bruny Island oysters for parmesan and leek croquettes with lemon mayo; smoked duck breast with blackberry and a linseed and native pepper crisp. A super-rich Dorper lamb croquette with green tomato relish was the star of the show. 

The grilled octopus with Romesco sauce, black garlic and under-stated chimmichuri and the pan-fried blue-eye trevalla with buttered leek, sprouting broccoli and pickled radish were both impressive.

There are several Vegan and vegetarian options, as well as desserts and cheeses with Tasmanian producers Pyengana and Grandvewe well represented.

The drinks list features around a dozen Derwent Estate wines by both the glass and the bottle, and a range of vintage wines dating back to 2010 on a by-the-bottle list.

Derwent Estate is at 29 Lyell Highway, Granton TAS 7030. The cellar door is open 10am-5pm daily and The Shed Restaurant from 11am- 5pm Wednesday to Sunday. Bookings are recommended.

See https://www.derwentestate.com.au/

Long-time favourite The Agrarian Kitchen (top image) offers some of the best gourmet experiences in Tasmania. Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet now offer weekly cooking, gardening and lifestyle classes at their base in New Norfolk – under an hour from Hobart.

A one-acre walled garden has been established on-site allowing cooking class guests to forage for the ingredients that they will use in the class. Full day classes will commence from $440 per person with a maximum 12 guests per class.

These courses include a guided garden tour, hands-on cooking experience and a three-course lunch matched with Tasmanian wine.

The menu is crafted from the best of the garden that day, while the masterclasses are for those looking for specific knowledge -from learning the butchery elements of how to breakdown a carcass, to making your own cheese, bread, charcuterie or pastry.

A whole range of classes and specific skill-based workshops are also available, from grafting fruit trees and propagation, to protected growing and composting.

The Agrarian Kitchen began back in 2008 when Dunn and Demanet opened The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School and Farm within their home in The Old Schoolhouse in nearby Lachlan.

They later took over the Bronte building in nearby New Norfolk’s Willow Court – the town’s old mental asylum. The Agrarian Kitchen restaurant was born in June 2017, followed by the more casual The Kiosk. For details visit https://www.theagrariankitchen.com

See more of Winsor’s wine reviews at www.gourmetontheroad.com