The Mornington Peninsula lies at the bottom of the Australian state of Victoria. It is a glorious place – rolling hills, farm land and fantastic beaches.  Over the last forty years, wine has become a significant industry here which has enhanced the appeal of the peninsula in a most luxurious and satisfying way.  The 2011 wine touring map from the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (www.mpva.com.au) lists 58 cellar doors, of which 50 are open at least once a month – the others by appointment only.  In 2011 I managed to visit 35, plus four which aren’t on the map – to join the mpva you have to pay a crush levy, which some people don’t want to do.

So now, based on those visits, I am very pleased to announce the vinblue 2011 Mornington Peninsula cellar door awards.

Best ShedElan Vineyard.  Elan is a great shed, the real deal.  The wine is made and stored there, and typically you’ll meet Selma, who does all the vineyard work and is the winemaker.  Another great shed to look out for is Merricks Estate.

Best Value DiningNorthway Downs.  It’s important for peninsula to offer a range of places to eat, at a range of prices.  $40+ for a main course is just too expensive for many people.  At Northway Downs you can get really good Austrian themed food for less than $20 a main.  It’s brash, it’s bonkers but brilliant.  You’ll be up and dancing to the Austrian Oompah music in no time. Honourable mentions: Jones Road and Dromana Estate.

Best fine dining – Salix at Willow Creek.  For when you do want to spend money, Salix is a great place to go.  Consistently good food, and a great range of wines to match.  Salix have the main restaurant, but also a most excellent “bistro” area, for smaller, cheaper meals.  Honourable mentions in this category go to: Ten Minutes by Tractor, Montalto and Crittenden.

Best Chardonnay at a cellar doorParinga Estate Chardonnay.  Simply superb Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay, from a great winemaking team.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar doorDarling Park Pinot Noir.  I don’t know whether it’s me, but I find so many pinots at the cellar door have a strange metallic taste to them.  Not so with Darling Park.  Always fresh and just delicious, and there is a good atmosphere in the cellar door.  Well made wines.

Best other red at a cellar doorThe Vale Tempranillo.  The Vale is “off the mpva map”, but do try and find it, just outside the village of Balnarring.  I tried the 2005 and 2010 wines, both excellent.

Best other white at a cellar doorQuealy Balnarring Vineyard Pinot Grigio Friulano.  Quealy is more like a wine innovation centre than a vineyard.  There’s always something new and exciting happening there.  This grape variety Friulano adds genuinely new flavours to the Peninsula.

Best overall cellar door experienceTucks Ridge thanks to Sonya.  The cellar door at Tuck’s Ridge is not grand, but the range of wines is excellent, and Sonya is an excellent cellar door person.

So congratulations, and I am very much looking forward to 2012.  I’ve already done five cellar doors, but of them later.  I hope 2012 is a great year for vineyards everywhere.

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