Ah, dear Melbourne winter. You bring out the dark cloaked, coffee-swilling, art critic in all of us.

Sunday’s cold and foggy haze seemed to me the perfect excuse to go and see the Archibald Prize, presented at the TarraWarra Museum of Art. I remember going to the marone and gold treasure chest of the Arts Centre in Melbourne to see the Archibald prize with my parents when I was younger. Now rural galleries seem to use large prizes as draw-cards for their winter tourist seasons – which is quite alright with me. It was a great opportunity to catchup with my good friend Cassie, listening to John Farnham all the way up the Eastern Freeway to the Yarra Valley. I rugged up in my Sunday best (this photo channelling Sartorialist style was taken in University Street, Carlton whist an old bloke looked on disapprovingly!) Veronika Maine coat, Seed Femme booties and Gorman woollen dress – it was a day out, after all!

When we arrived at TarraWarra, it was shrouded in mist and bustling with Melbournites. It seems like everyone decided a day out of town was on the cards! The museum is very contemporary, with beautiful curved architecture, and glorious picture windows in the viewing gallery – as impressive as the art to look at. The collection of Archibald paintings was substantial and hung throughout three rooms. My favorite paintings were…

Del Kathryn Barton’s portrait of Cate Blanchett and her three sons, which I loved for its intense indigenous-style dot painting and weird, beautiful bird and rhododendron theme. I enjoy Del’s work and hope to have a piece in the Ruby Assembly HQ in the near future – I know they’re kind of disconcerting but there’s something about celebration of the family in them I find uplifting.

Angus McDonald’s portrait of Ann Lewis, AO. The use of light was really arresting in this painting, and I find the steely determination in Ann’s eyes impressive. Ann ran Gallery A in Sydney from 1964 to 1983 and has been an important part of the Australian arts community. She is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, but the artist noted that although her body has changed since her health has deteriorated, her lust for life and inner strength haven’t faltered.

Xenia Stefanescu’s self portrait, executed in a style which reminds me of the patterns on traditional Greek and Macedonian kilims. I like the ageless, 2D quality to this piece and the unabashed celebration and indulgence of the work. The artist loves dogs and roses, and here she is – ensconced between them with happy licks and fragrant, giant flowers.

I recommend the Archibald Prize at TarraWarra – it will be displayed at the museum until late July. Here’s a view of the TarraWarra lake and nearby vineyard, perfect for a Sunday adventure out of Melbourne.

So….. now that we’ve satiated our lust for culture….. it’s time for a ladies lunch, right? And maybe more John Farnham.

Where else to go but Chateau Yering?

We went to the Sweetwater Cafe, which has a beautiful country-house style entry hall and an old-world kind of charm. It’s nothing like their more contemporary restaurant, and I must admit it does need a bit of a refurb. However, it was still lovely to sit inside and watch the rain sleet down over the camellias and lush gardens while we enjoyed a wicked tasty steak and vino.

Yes indeedy, that paris butter on the steak really made for a tasty end to a wonderful day with a special friend.

So. Be your own art, wine and life critic and enjoy a day out at the Archibald. You know if you like art, and you know if you like wine. You don’t really need anyone else to tell you what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. A bit like reading some difficult tome at University – if it seems too convoluted or difficult, likelihood is it is poorly written. The same goes for art, wine and friendship. I feel blessed to have enjoyed all three in one little day.