In these times of heightened uncertainty due to that other C-word, it’s important to remember that there is still joy and brightness in the world. This is not to deny or diminish the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus, the global disruption, the economic fall-out, the fear, panic, loss of livelihoods and lives and ensuing grief, the enormous stress on medical and social service professionals, and those who are vulnerable, disabled and disadvantaged.
So, to share a fun and cheerful story, last Friday my brother and I had a special day out, just ahead of all the cancellations and shut-downs. Tim turned 60 in January, and I decided to give him an experience as a present, rather than something gift-wrapped. When I read about d’Luxe Classic Car Tours in the Sunday Age travel section back in January, I knew I had found the perfect way to mark his milestone birthday.
I didn’t tell him what we were doing but he knew it involved some form of transport and a trip outside Melbourne. I’d seen pictures of the 1956 Chevrolet on the d’Luxe website but nothing prepared me for the razzle dazzle of the real thing. Purchased in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and brought back to Australia via a 2,000-mile road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles by John Frostell and his sons, Lois is a sight to behold: shining chrome fenders; spotless white wall tyres; and the body of the car – a four-door pillar-less hardtop sedan – resplendent in two shades of glorious green, turquoise and a darker sea green, with pointy fins at the ‘trunk’ end.
Within minutes Tim and John were talking cars – Tim ran a very successful consultancy in the automotive industry and knows his stuff. As we set off from the CBD towards the Yarra Valley, we relaxed into the gentle purr of the V-8 (eight-cylinder) engine, its burbling rumble a feature, so John told us, of the special muffler (part of the exhaust system), a modification by the original owner. Winding down the windows there’s uninterrupted space – that’s where the lack of pillars comes in – and when the windows are up, the expanse of glass affords 360-degree views. It was a temperate day so we didn’t need the so-called ‘4/40 Air Conditioning’ – four windows down and forty miles per hour!
Inside, the roof, dashboard and seats are all turquoise, and the front bench seat (long enough for three) reminded us of a Ford Zephyr our father drove in the ’60s. The scallop shape of the speedometer and radio is echoed by the crescent shape made by the back windows when wound down. They really knew how to make things in those days, with every detail beautifully crafted, from the shining stainless-steel trims and the green push down door locks (remember those?) to the 18-inch green steering wheel. One simply had to pose in the driving seat!
Our route was via Wonga Park and we were soon in the leafy environs of the Yarra Valley amid farms, paddocks, fruit farms and vineyards. Our first stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy, which is housed in an old farm with a corrugated roof. We tasted four cheeses, a mix of cow’s and goat’s, and we particularly loved the Saffy, a cow’s milk cheese marinated in saffron, lemon rind, cumin seeds, garlic and olive oil, and the mature goats cheese log – the Black Savourine.
From there we headed up to Medhurst Winery, where arty sculptures dot the landscape and the cellar door and restaurant are on a hill with views over the estate. We tasted our way through six or more wines including an excellent 2019 Rosé (we both purchased some), the outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, much more subtle than some of the overly floral NZ numbers, and several reds, our favourite the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Medhurst was also our lunch stop, and we shared a plate of glorious cured salmon, smoked chicken croquettes, crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, followed by tempura eggplant dusted with harissa.
By then our time was pretty much up but we snuck in a trip to Alchemy Distillery in Healesville. With former incarnations as a wood-fired bakery and an antique shop, the place is full of character, a stuffed deer looking like Diana Ross with black hair, leather skirt and boots sits surrounded by barrels and artfully arranged piles of antlers, while in another room there’s a majestic stag’s head and a surviving Small & Shattell cast iron oven set into a niche in the wall. If spirits are your thing, Alchemy make chamomile gin and citrus vodka – I tried the latter, its sharp lemony notes would make it a glorious summer drink. Eagerly awaited is their single malt whisky – we saw the barrels in the tasting room – which is due in 2021 after three years’ maturation.
All our senses fully sated, we cruised back to Melbourne to a soundtrack of Latin America jazz, Nina Simone and other mellow numbers. To find out more go to: www.dluxeclassiccartours.com