Grape time Mornington Peninsula wine trail

Grape time Mornington Peninsula wine trail
A brisk walk through some lovely scenery is a great way to clear the head and hopefully take a few centimetres off the waistline after a few days tasting the great wines and produce of this pretty region an hour southeast of Melbourne. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s only 40 years since commercial winemaking began in the region, with the planting of vines at Baillieu Myer’s Elgee Park vineyard. Now, with more than 50 wineries in the region, a wine-lover is spoilt for choice. Follow a few simple suggestions and you should have a marvellous time. Unless you take one of the several wine tours available, you’ll need a car as, while it is a reasonably compact area, you won’t be able to walk between wineries. One of your group should act as designated driver because the temptation to swallow the tasty drops on offer can be high and even spitting can have you heading dangerously close to legal limits if you try enough wines. There’s plenty of accommodation, ranging from B&Bs to luxury hotels and apartments, so find a base and take a few days to explore. Several wineries, including Port Phillip Estate, Crittenden Estate (Lakeside Villas), Red Hill Estate (Max’s Retreat) and Morning Sun, have accommodation on site. On a recent visit, I stayed at Hummingbird Eco Retreat in Red Hill. The 15 guest rooms are set in about 30ha of National Trust bushland and feature renovated retro furnishings and sustainable fittings. It made a comfortable, well-located base and its Edible Art Cafe provides healthy meals that chef Bruce Paulie ensures taste far better than might be implied by the word “wholesome”. Paulie was an executive chef in Melbourne when he was diagnosed several years ago as a type 2 diabetic. He has made it his mission to show people that healthy eating doesn’t have to mean a boring diet. Hummingbird is a short drive from the major cluster of wineries around Red Hill and Red Hill South. Among the Red Hill wineries are the spectacular Port Phillip Estate/Kooyong winery, with its award-winning building and wines to match, Eldridge Estate, Darling Park, Foxeys Hangout, Lindenderry and Polperro, with Crittenden Estate a little to the north. Around Red Hill South are such names as Merricks Estate, Paringa Estate, Ocean Eight, Paradigm Hill, Red Hill Estate, Stonier and Tuck’s Ridge. In here you’ll also find Merricks General Wine Store, where you can taste the wines of a few smaller producers, including Elgee Park, Balnarring/Quealy and Baillieu, who are all a little off the beaten track so decided to set up a joint cellar door and bistro where their wines were more accessible. Further northeast, heading towards Bittern, are Willow Creek, Hurley, Scorpo, Elan and Bluestone Lane, with Box Stallion a bit to the northwest. In the Main Ridge area, you’ll find Ten Minutes by Tractor, Micelli, Morning Sun, Main Ridge, Vidoni Estate and Olive Grove and a couple others, while in the north around Moorooduc are Moorooduc Estate, Yabby Lake, Dromana Estate, Barmah Park, Phaedrus Estate and Jones Road. Subtly silky pinot noir is undoubtedly the glamour grape of the region but don’t expect them to all taste the same. Depending on elevation, location and vineyard layout, you could find anything from fresh lighter drops showing strawberry and raspberry fruit that drink nicely when young, through to rich, complex reds with dark cherry and savoury characters that can age for years. The region shows that the right places can produce very good shiraz, although you won’t find any 15 per cent Barossa fruit bombs here. They show more spice and pepper to go with elegant dark red fruits in the raspberry and blackberry spectrum. In the whites, chardonnay is predominant, with styles ranging from crisp grapefruit and melon numbers showing restrained oak and crisp acid through to richer white peach and cream characters, but all show good natural acid and an ability to take time in the bottle gracefully. The other rising white is pinot gris, undoubtedly helped by the success of the variety in the hands of Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy, firstly at T’Gallant and then at Balnarring/Quealy following T’Gallant’s takeover by Foster’s. Again, styles can range from fresh, crisp pinot grigio in the Italian manner to rich, powerful Alsace-inspired drops. There also are quite a few sauvignon blancs about, though they lean more towards France’s Loire Valley for inspiration than New Zealand’s Marlborough. And the irrepressible Quealy even has one of Australia’s first examples of the Italian grape fruilano, which is stored in Tuscan terracotta amphoras lined with beeswax. Don’t try to tackle too many outlets in a day¬† – I’d suggest no more than six if you are being sensible about it, otherwise you’re in for a case of sensory overload. It’s a good idea to check winery opening times¬† – while a decent number open every day, quite a few open only on weekends, with some open once a month and others by appointment only. When it comes to eating, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Many wineries now have restaurants or cafes as part of their cellar-door setups, ranging from top-class establishments such as The Dining Room at Port Phillip Estate, Max’s at Red Hill Estate, Stillwater at Crittenden Estate, the restaurant at Paringa Estate, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Salix at Willow Creek, through to a little more relaxed but equally tasty food at Yabby Lake, Merricks General Wine Store and several others. Away from the wineries, I’ve also dined at and enjoyed the offerings at The Long Table at Red Hill South and La Petanque at Red Hill. — The writer was a guest of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association and Tourism Victoria. Go2MORNINGTON PENINSULA- Getting thereThe Mornington Peninsula is about an hour’s drive southeast of Melbourne.- Staying thereHummingbird Eco Retreat offers a range of accommodation, from standard rooms to executive suites.Ph (03) 5989 2504 or see For winery information, see general information, see or

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