The cellar door at Yabby Lake is closing for a month, to reopen again in early July.  The plan is to build a new cellar door away from the main dining area, and to increase the size of the restaurant.

Having shut up shop at Willow Creek, Salix has reappeared close by in a more casual form.  The vineyard that was Merinda Park, and then Mrs Nicks is now re-branded as Barn & Co.  The plan is for share plates, pizzas and a few more substantial dishes with a wine list not restricted to the vineyard.  This is on Myers Road between Stumpy Gully and Balnarring Road.  I look forward to trying it out.

The Mornington Peninsula Winter Wine Weekend is in full swing.  Just about all the cellar doors on the peninsula will be open, many with special offers and their own “entertainments”.  I was up at the Red Hill shed yesterday and it was buzzing.  It gets a little squashy in there by 1 pm, but the range of wines available to taste is huge.  The food was great this year too – excellent rabbit baklava from Paringa, superb Italian pulled pork burger from Red Hill Epicurean and Salix Barn came up with slow cooked beef.  There is still time to head on down.  Do be careful with drinking and driving – Victoria’s finest will be out in force.


Best value diningNorthway Downs.  It remains the same crazy Austrian themed carry-on that it’s always been, but you can guarantee a good time, great oompah music and the best schnitzels on the peninsula.  A most excellent afternoon out.

Best fine diningSalix at Willow Creek.  This is unfortunately a celebration of things now lost.  Last week Salix shut up shop at Willow Creek as the new owners of the property push ahead with their plans to build a conference centre.  The restaurant has been running there for around eleven years – I remember being emotionally moved by venison sausages and puy lentils, and a fabulous scallop dish.  Amazing food, a great venue and excellent service.  I for one will miss you Salix – so long and thanks for all the confit!

Best Sparkling Wine at a cellar doorStonier.  Their 85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir blend is brilliant.  The Rose is fabulous too.

Best Chardonnay at a cellar doorYabby Lake.  The thing about the cellar door at Yabby Lake is that it is consistently good – no matter what you ask for.  Dropping in for a Chardonnay on the way home from Mornington is a real treat, and it doesn’t get much better than the Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar doorHurley.  The Garamond – stunning.  You just know when you’ve found something special, and this is it.  A great flagship wine for the Mornington Peninsula.

Best other white at a cellar doorTucks Ridge.  For just about everything non-Chardonnay really.  The winemaker, Michael Kyberd, has produced a great range of whites which are excellent examples of their varietals – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Savagnin.  If you’re not sure how these should taste, head on down to Tuck’s Ridge.

Best other red at a cellar door100 Hunts Shiraz.  This was available at the Merricks General Store, and is a great example of a Mornington Peninsula Shiraz.

Best overall cellar door experience – Merricks General Store.  An inspirational example of what you can do with an old shed on a country road.  It has a good range of wines to taste, coffee, food and a produce store – and it’s all so gorgeous darlink!  Honourable mentions in this category have to go to: Polperro, Stumpy Gully Vineyard, Moorooduc Estate and Paringa.

Hastings Rules – we don’t count Main Ridge Estate.  Nat and Rosalie White are icons and would win most things most years, so they remain vinblue legends and do not have to fight it out with the rest of them.  But if you haven’t been to Main Ridge, then don’t delay.  Nat and Rosalie are moving on.

Best shed – I’ve taken out the best shed award this year – because I’ve run out of sheds to give it to.  everybody is going up market.  The best sheds are of course Elan Vineyard, Merricks Estate, Miceli.  Myrtaceae might count as a shed – it’s a very smart shed.

Myrtaceae 1

This is a little gem of a place tucked away in Main Ridge – Myrtaceae.  It’s owned and operated by John and Julie Trueman – John looks after the vineyard and Julie makes the wine.  They produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their 2.5 acres and do everything themselves on-site save for the bottling.

The cellar door at Myrtaceae

The cellar door at Myrtaceae

Now if I were a restaurant owner, this is exactly the kind of wine I would want on my list.  It’s exclusive, something different – far removed from the “big boys” of the wine trade that fill so many wine lists.  It’s got a great story, and when you rock up at the winery, you meet the winemaker.

The Pinot and Chardonnay I had at the cellar door were both excellent, and at $35 a bottle the Truemans are not pushing their luck – it’s good value.

Riedel tasting glass

Riedel tasting glass

They serve tastings in the Riedel tasting glass.  This is quite an ingenious thing designed to help you really appreciate the aromas of the wine.  It feels a little odd rolling your glass across a barrel top, but it all seems to work very well.  Definitely Sound but probably sneaking into Fine.  Do pay a visit.

PS In a previous post on the Merricks General Store I made reference to a Myrtaceae Rose – this was made by John and Julie’s son but alas is all sold out.

The vintage on the Mornington Peninsula is just about over.  All of the Pinots will be safely in barrel.  Only some Shiraz and Merlot will still be lingering in their fermenters, having enjoyed the last of the long autumnal days on the vine.

From what I’ve been hearing, 2015 will be a good year.  All the numbers were on the mark, but perhaps a few of the yields were a little disappointing for some.

We had a great day pressing out our reds – a veritable feast of seafood and rabbit (yes, we ate the Easter bunny) and finished off with oxtail cooked in Chardonnay grapes (Elizabeth David recipe).

Filling the last barrel was a little problematic – squeezing everything from the last basket of the day, the press begins to skitter around the floor, and the wooden blocks creek and crack under the pressure.  You can’t rush a pressing.  Once the press is tight, you have to let the liquor drain from the grapes at it’s own speed, which is why having a progressive lunch makes perfect sense.

I think in the end we pushed our press as far as we could.  A structural failure probably means it really is time to stop.

Broken block

As you peruse your April May 2015 edition of Gourmet Traveller magazine you will enjoy the “Best Cellar Door Awards”.  Naturally I was intrigued by the winners in the Mornington Peninsula section.

The Star Cellar Door went to Moorooduc Estate.  This is a most excellent choice on many fronts, but Star Cellar Door?  Well I think on this occasion I will agree with GT but only because super cellar door person Emma has surfaced again there.  Emma and Kate are running the WSET courses again.  In their own words:

Emma Mordue and Kate McIntyre are running the WSET II again this year.  The course will run at Moorooduc on Tuesday evenings 6-8pm over 8 weeks, with the exam on week 9, and starts on the 31st March.

This is a course I must sign up for, and I can think of few better places to do it than Moorooduc Estate.

Best Large Cellar Door went to Yabby Lake and again I have to agree with GT.  I end up having a glass of Chardonnay at Yabby Lake on a regular basis and they have never put a foot wrong.  A most excellent choice.

Best Cellar Door and Cellar Door with Best FoodParadigm Hill.  Now this I find very problematic.  You may have noticed that I have never mentioned Paradigm Hill, and this is because you can’t just go and taste – you have to buy the tasting platter and go through a whole rigmarole.  Personally I find it very off-putting.  And food?  The vineyard is only open the first weekend of the month and as far as I know has no reputation as a restaurant at all.  The wine is good but I think in this case GT has really missed the mark.  For good food how about Salix, or Yabby Lake, or Ten Minutes by Tractor, or Stillwater, or Jones Road, and if you want to go totally Austrian Northway Downs!

Best Tasting ExperienceCrittenden Estate.  Yes, a most excellent cellar door, made even better by the restaurant Stillwater which has always produced beautiful food.  Crittenden has for a long time had the biggest range of wines available for tasting, from at least five distinct labels – it can be quite a daunting prospect.  Just recently they have opened their “Crittenden Wine Centre” – which I have yet to try.  This “has introduced an exciting new way of experiencing wine on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula” – OMG!

Best Additional ExperienceFoxeys Hangout.  Yes, I think I can go with this one too.  I spent a very enjoyable lunch there a little while back, and the Foxeys Hangout Pinot Noir is a good example of Peninsula Pinot.

So not a bad effort from GT.  I must get on and do my own awards for 2014.

Vintage is all about buckets and hot water hoses, and scarlet skins smeared across old rugby shirts.  It’s the sound of a shovel scraping up squashed berries, and pumps whirring away and the sucking noise as grape juice empties from the sieve.  It’s wearing a pair of old shorts that should never be worn in public, knobbly knees and flappy Wellington boots.  It’s the smell of sweet must and yeast from the ferment.  It’s a sticky ruby coloured hand clasped round a glass of Pinot at the end of a long day.



This was the bucolic scene I came across recently at Moorooduc Estate – the family McIntyre hard at work bringing in the harvest.  I was on a quest to find a present for a winemaker’s birthday.  What do you buy a winemaker that already has a shed filled with fine Pinot Noir?  More Pinot Noir of course!  But not just any old bottle – it has to be something a little special, and thus the trip down the dusty track that is Derril Road.

This is a good cellar door, with an interesting range of really well made wines.  For the dinner itself I picked up a 2012 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir.  But for the man’s personal cellar I bought a 2012 Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir.

As Autumn closes in around us and the vine leaves turn gold and crimson, soon will come the clanking sounds of the wine press and the groans and creeks of the wooden blocks as the reds finish their ferment, and we squeeze what we can from our ever perplexing Pinot.

I’ve mentioned Hurley Vineyard in a previous blog from 2012.  It’s been a while since I’d darkened their door, so I dropped in recently to see how things were going.

Hurley is all about one thing – Pinot Noir.  It is all they grow, make and sell – and they don’t make that much of it either.  In a good year they make three distinct Pinots:

Lodestone – Burgundian clones 114, 115, 777 and MV6

Hommage – Clone G5V15

Garamond – Clone MV6

When things aren’t so good – like 2011 – everything goes in a bucket and they make an Estate wine.

Hurley three pinots

Three Kings of Peninsula Pinot Noir – Lodestone, Hommage, Garamond from Hurley

They are very focused on their climats and terroir, and on treating the wines in the gentlest way possible – no pumps, just gravity feeds.

The end result?  It is fabulous Peninsula Pinot Noir.  It really is about as good as it gets.  The winemaker’s notes talk about blueberries, red cherries and plums, but believe me this is how great Australian Pinot Noir should taste.  It’s Fine.  For whatever reason, my favourite was the Hommage.

Don’t go there and ask if they have anything sweet.  Don’t even think about Shiraz.  Do go if you love Pinot Noir.  Prices are between $56 and $67 a bottle which ordinarily I would call steep – but in this case you probably are getting good value for money.  Watch out for the two white ghost hounds as you drive in.

Hurley barrel room

The winery at Hurley Vineyard

The Estate wine is supposed to be pretty good.  They’ve sold out at the cellar door, but I think I saw some on the menu at Ciao Bella in Balnarring.

The vintage is in full swing on the Mornington Peninsula.  Most of the vineyards on the “Moorooduc plain” – the flatter northern bit – have already picked.  The people “up the hill” – Main Ridge and Red Hill – will be starting about now.

It looks like a good year.  We got our Chardonnay in at 23 brix and 3.26 ph.  The Pinot came in at 24 brix and 3.4 ph – so the numbers are spot on.  Loads of lovely Chardonnay fruit.  The yield on the Pinot is only average.  We had very little disease which is fantastic – only a few bunches of Pinot with mildew.

So I’m hopeful the 2015 wines will be most excellent.  The picking day lunch was the usual train smash.  I think we started around 2pm and it was 8pm before everybody surrendered the table – two cases of empty bottles later.  Wine making is not for the faint hearted.

Pinot into crusher

Pinot Noir into the crusher-destemmer – thank you very much!

Down in the vineyard things are looking very good.  The vines are fruitful and generally disease free.  At this stage I’m hopeful that 2015 will be another great year.


Chardonnay – January 2015, Mornington Peninsula

 Now I am not sure of the truth of it – but several people I have spoken to recently have come up with this idea that if the Pinot vines have a low yielding year, then it takes them a couple of years to get back to full production.  Consequently I was receiving dire warnings about low yields again this year, but I’m just not seeing it in my own little vineyard – thank the Maker!  The bunch count is looking reasonable.

Pinot vraison

Pinot Noir – January 2015, Mornington Peninsula

And veraison is upon us!  The Pinot grapes are showing their first signs of colour and so on go the nets – they’re going on all over the Peninsula at the moment.  The big vineyards have a fabulous tractor implement that can spread a net over four rows at a time.  In my vineyard we have get out a broom and the nearest available tall person and throw them on by hand.  We link all the nets together over the rows and build the “big sky tent”.  You might just be able to make it out in the picture below .

Nets over vineyardYou have to keep checking nets.  Holes can appear in them at any time, and despite everything birds still manage to get into the fruit.  But whatever, the vintage approaches!


I recently had an excellent cellar door experience at the Merricks General Store.  This old Peninsula building is now the home for three vineyards – Quealy, Elgee Park and Baillieu.  Quealy has recently been bought out, but the wines are still available there, as well as some other interesting guest wines.

It’s a lovely space – very charming, and a great range of white wines on tasting including Quealy’s now legendary Pobblebonk, to the exotic Friulano, then two Viogniers, Pinot Gris and Reisling.  There was also a fine Chardonnay from Dexter.  The reds available include three Pinot Noirs, a Nebbiolo and the Vaughan Vineyard 100 Hunts Shiraz.


The surprise for me was a Rose from Myrtaceae.  This tiny vineyard makes great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but a Rose from Pinot and Shiraz – most unusual.

It’s all well made wine.  I came away with the:

  • Elgee Park Family Reserve Reisling 2014 – $30 – beautifully fresh.
  • Selwyns Fault Myrtaceae Rose – $25
  • Vaughan Vineyard 100 Hunts Shiraz – $30 – not a heavy, stuffy old shiraz.  Something I can only describe as “uplifting”.

Although the Merricks General Store is now really about good food – including breakfast – and wine, they do still hold true to the idea of selling provisions.  Along one wall are a whole range of exotic preserves and organic chocolates to tempt you.


Out of the back of the store itself is a little art gallery no less.

So all in all a great place to visit – three excellent vineyards all producing wine in the sound to fine category and the prices make them reasonable value.