NEW YORK, New York, October 17, 2006 РMelbourne is a melting pot of cultures, food culture not least among them Рa reality delectably mirrored in a profusion of packed restaurants, caf̩s, bistros and bars. Fashionable, eclectic and eccentric, the city's dining spots offer a tantalizing tour of the world's great cuisines, from the traditional to the most wildly inventive. Thus, it's only natural that the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au) kicking off its 15th annual celebration of Victorian gastronomy on March 16, 2007, has become the largest food and wine event of its kind.

The proof? More than 250,000 foodies descend upon Melbourne each year to mingle with acclaimed international chefs during the two-week festival that covers more than 140 food and wine events across the entire state of Victoria. Highlights of the 2007 program include the return of the original MasterClass (March 24 – 25), which will bring a star-studded lineup of the world's hottest cooking talent to Melbourne to share their vast knowledge in an intimate setting at the Langham Hotel Melbourne; the World's Longest Lunch, where 5,000 people will sit down to lunch at 23 scenic locations across Victoria; and the Ultimate Cellar Door, showcasing some of the state's finest vintages. Experts from Australia and around the world – from renowned chefs, winemakers, growers, purveyors, authors, food and wine commentators and critics – will round out the series of events with talks, lectures and demonstrations.

Victoria, the "wine state," has 22 wine regions – more than any other Aussie state. Of its 500 wineries, more than 250 have cellar doors for public tastings and offer a local food experience – from simple country cafés to elegant fine-dining venues, drawing food and wine novices and connoisseurs alike throughout the year. The Yarra Valley is home to Victoria's oldest vineyards and is recognized as one of the world's great wine growing regions. The area is also known for its Regional Food Trail, a self-drive tour that crisscrosses the valley with 100 suggested stops at orchards, farm gates and roadside stalls to sample, savor or pick your own fresh local produce.

2007 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Package
An easy way to enjoy the March festivities is with ATS Tours' Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Package. This ultimate 12-day/nine-night Australian gourmet experience features three nights at Chateau Yering Historic House – a Relais & Chateau property in beautiful Yarra Valley, including the World's Longest Lunch on Friday March 16 at Victoria's first vineyard, Yering Station, and a cheese and winemaking workshop on Saturday March 17 at the famed DeBortoli Vineyard.

During three overnights at Lake House, a Small Luxury Hotel in Daylesford and Australia's most highly awarded gourmet retreat, gourmands can enjoy a tasting dinner of several courses featuring the region's fresh produce, a wine tasting with the sommelier in the 10,000-bottle private cellar, a country style breakfast on the first morning, and a bottle of local sparkling wine. The area – Victoria's spa country – is rich with mineral springs, working artist studios and quaint village streets, surrounded by natural forests abundant with indigenous flora and fauna.

Three nights' accommodation in Melbourne include tickets to the Festival Gala Dinner in Melbourne on Friday March 23 featuring a five-course Mediterranean dinner accompanied by Victoria's finest wines as well as tickets to the MasterClass Series on Saturday March 24 at the Langham Hotel Melbourne.

Prices from $4,979 per person* includes roundtrip economy class air from New York to Melbourne (other gateways available) 9 nights accommodations, and seven-day car rental in addition to all events listed above.

As a bonus offered exclusively to ATS Tours, guests who book by December 31, 2006 will receive AUD$50 credit for dinner at Melbourne's award-winning Botanical restaurant, a signed copy of the Lake House cookbook, and a hot mineral water spa treatment in one of the Lake House Salus Day Spa's private cedar tree houses overlooking the lake and lagoon.

*Terms and conditions apply; taxes are additional.
For more information or to book the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Package, please visit ATS Tours' website www.atstours.com or visit www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au. For more information on Melbourne and Victoria, visit Tourism Victoria's website www.visitmelbourne.com.

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