It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when long afternoons stretch into late inky evenings, wineries throw open their cellar doors, and we all get stuck into the good stuff. With a significant chunk of the year spent tucked away plotting our summer escapes, there’s no better place to start the Christmas break than a long lunch in a vineyard. So dust off your Akubra, polish up the RMs, and check out our roundup of the best wineries Victoria has to offer.
Point Leo Estate
It’s easy to lose a day at the Point Leo Estate, with 50 sprawling acres of vineyard, multiple restaurants, and a sculpture park to muse over. Opening in 2017, it’s become a fast favourite on the peninsula, with a stunning backdrop of coastal views and sun-scorched vines. Lunch is a toss-up between fine dining at the award-winning Laura (re-opening 18 December) or a more relaxed nibble and glass of sparkling on the wine terrace.
Noisy Ritual is redefining the cellar door, sourcing the best grapes from across Victoria and fermenting them in their very own inner-city basement. Their small-batch, low intervention wines are produced and guzzled right in the heart of Brunswick, preferably enjoyed with a grazing board of local cheeses in the bar. The best part? No designated driver required.
Passing Clouds Winery
Passing Clouds Winery has a hell of an origin story, starting when owners Graeme and Sue traded their city jobs in for the dry plains of Bendigo to try their hand at winemaking. Now their son Cameron is at the helm, expanding to the greener pastures of Macedon Ranges to add pinot noir and chardonnay to their traditional Bendigo reds. Here you’ll find their cellar door, a welcoming, laid-back space just a five-minute drive from Daylesford. Cameron McKenzie’s menu reflects the eating rituals of the family working in the vineyards, with meats and fish cooked slowly over the charcoal pit, and seasonal produce sourced from their veggie patch.
Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula has won just about every hotel design award there is in Australia. This isn’t your cute, B&B style accommodation. It’s more Blade Runner meets The Ritz. Super mod detailing, rain showers, double vanities, custom-made bath products—spend a bit more and you even get a deep-soak Japanese bathtub.
Soak up the understated elegance of Sam Coverdale’s Polperro, a single-vineyard label loved for its sustainable ethos, bio-dynamic wines, and killer dining menu. Their 80-seat restaurant offers front-row views of the valley and an extensive wine list, but if you want to get properly stuck into nature, take the organic produce to-go with a Polperro picnic for two.
Willow Creek Vineyard has been producing ace minimal intervention chardonnays and pinot noirs for decades, but it was the arrival of Rare Hare that cemented them as a winner. The communal dining space is casually elegant, with a toasty hearth inside and vine-laced hills sweeping below the deck. Choose from three in-depth cellar door experiences, curated carefully to pair with any attention span.
Pimpernel is the tiny, pared-back estate run by the Harrigans, tucked away up in Coldstream. The family pick, bottle, and label their wines by hand, cultivated from non-irrigated vineyards to intensify the flavour of the fruit. Here you can sample the wines away from masses, with groups of only six welcomed into the nook of a cellar door for tastings.
RED HILL SOUTH
Come for the wines but stay for Simon Tarlington’s menu at Mornington’s Paringa Estate. Over summer they’re offering set menus for lunch and dinner, where you can expect only the best ingredients from the region—from the Gippsland beef right down to the Tyabb horseradish. Floor-length windows in the dining room give first-rate views to the vines below, improved only by a glass of pinot noir or shiraz.
Equal parts farm, winery, restaurant, and wedding venue, Zonzo Estate embraces the good life and smooshes its chubby cheeks. The centre of the action is in the old milking shed, where eating, drinking, and being merry is more than encouraged, it’s compulsory. Rarely is a wine created last in a food pairing, but winemaker Caroline Mooney has crafted an incredible range of vintages to match Zonzo’s rustic Italian menu.
Where better than the creative community of Castlemaine for the off-beat winemaking co-op Boomtown to spring up. A place for aspiring young winemakers to collaborate and develop their ideas, here you’ll find small-batch, experimental wines. Head along to Boomtown Fridays for toasties, decadent pet nats, and a roaring good time.
If you have an affinity for fermentation without the faff, head to Mont Rouge Estate for an understated winery encounter. They open to the public on weekends for wine tastings and a BBQ lunch, but don’t expect your average sausage sizzle. The French-informed cellar door offers oaky pinot noirs and chardonnays, paired perfectly with a slab of seared halloumi and a sun-soaked terrace.
Keen to make it a weekend stay? We scoped out some of the best wineries to stay the night.
Image credit: Anson Smart