Archives for posts with tag: Chardonnay

Whinstone is a very attractive vineyard, tucked away in a little valley on Dunns Creek Road in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula.  Vineyards can be beautiful, and be in beautiful locations, but in terms of what they produce, that absolutely depends on the people who look after them and their craft in wine making.  With Whinstone the vineyard remains rooted to the Red Hill soil while in recent times the people have come and gone.

The original vineyard was planted in the mid 1990s and wines under the Whinstone label first became available around 2003.  One of the original Whinstone websites is still on-line at this link.  A few years back the owners sold to a Chinese investor who uses the house but leased out the vineyard.  This was at the time that Darling park was also changing hands to become Mont Rouge as it is today – which recently went back on the market again.  The very experienced ex-Darling Park winemaker Judy Gifford leased the Whinstone vineyard for a short while to continue making wines under the Darling Park brand, but now the mantle has passed to Eammon Donnelly and his brand – Fenian.


So there is still an operating cellar door at 295 Dunns Creek Road, and it’s open the first weekend of the month.  There you will find Eammon and some most excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – ironically not all sourced from that vineyard for the time being, but there are plans to change that.

Then, just when things were beginning to settle down, the Chinese owner has decided to move on and put the whole property on the market.   Who knows what future that means for Fenian, but hopefully Eammon will find a way to keep making good wine.



It is a strange thing, but in Australia we have a public holiday so that we can celebrate the birthday of the Queen of the United Kingdom.  Now I grant you that she is still the Australian head of state, and in terms of ruling things she does a pretty good job, and she has been ruling things for a very long time – but this is something they don’t even get time off for in the UK!  Not that I am complaining – I’d much rather have Queenie (God bless you Ma’m) as head of state than some hideous Abbott-Berlusconesque character as President complete with Bunga Bunga parties hosted by good catholic virgin girls.

I digress.  The sound people of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA) have picked the Queen’s birthday long weekend as the time for the Winter Wine Weekend – a festival of fine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the latest in ModOz cooking.  This year 49 wineries assembled their wares in the shed on the Red Hill show grounds to showcase their wines.

Inside the Red Hill shed - Winter Wine Weekend 2015

Inside the Red Hill shed – Winter Wine Weekend 2015

One of the most important skills you need to take with you into the shed is the ability to swirl, slurp and then spit.  Technique is everything.  You will be swirling and slurping with some of Melbourne’s most fanatical and fastidious wine bores – it’s just as important to have the correct glass action as it is to have your Hunter wellies in this season’s colour or your hipster beard trimmed to perfection.  Of all these skills however, the spitting is the most important, for this simple reason – if you don’t you’ll end up so drunk that you probably won’t remember how the day ended – and chances are it will not have ended well.  The maths tells all.  There are 49 wineries.  Imagine you were able to get round them all and taste everything.  You’re looking at roughly half a glass of wine per winery, so say 25 glasses in total.  25 glasses of wine equates to about five bottles.  Five bottles of wine over lunch is a huge – but dangerous – achievement, so back to the spitting.

Most people find the spitting a bit unpleasant – it doesn’t feel very polite, and it’s hard to remain chic and elegant when you’re lining up to douse the spittoon.  All I can say is that it comes down to confidence.  Spit with confidence.  Announce to the world “I do this all the time!” and let rip.  Add a flourish at the end.  There are only two major risks with spitting – the first is that you don’t form the correct shape with your teeth and lips and manage to shoot the wine down your chin and onto your shirt – very messy.  The second is that you miss the spittoon completely and hit the glass of the person standing next to you – very embarrassing.  While you are getting the hang of it, there is no reason why you can’t move the spittoon to a place where you can guarantee a hit.  But with the spittoon in your hand, NEVER feel tempted to do a Sideways, no matter how desperate the urge.

Winter Wine Weekend 2015

Winter Wine Weekend 2015

I tried quite a number of wineries.  The ones I was most interested in were those that don’t have a cellar door.  Yal Yal put on a good show.  Very well made wines.  The Chardonnay is of that acidic style – no malolactic fermentation.  I think my preference is for the rather more traditional and softer Chardonnays, but alternatives are always good.  Principia also showed some good wines.  My feeling was that they needed just a little longer in the bottle to settle and integrate.  I bought Phaedrus Chardonnay to go with lunch, and Elan’s sparkling was superb as always.

A good day out.  May it continue for many years.


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 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!

polperro cellar door 01

The way to the cellar door at Polperro

A new and welcome addition to the cellar doors on the Mornington Peninsula – Polperro.  Based on the property that we knew as The Vines, Sam Coverdale has opened a new bistro and cellar door selling his Even Keel and Polperro wines.  I haven’t eaten there yet, but all the feedback is really good, and the building and surroundings are really quite beautiful.  The Bistro has a large open deck overlooking one of those secluded Peninsula valleys.  It’s quite charming.  The menu looks a little ModOz – but that’s not a bad thing by any means when it’s done well.

The cellar door itself is a little daunting at first – you descend into what seems like the very bowels of the building and find yourself in a darkened room.  The day I visited the sun was about as bright as it gets, and it took my eyes a full five minutes to adjust to mood lighting.

polperro cellar door 02

The descent into the cellar door at Polperro

But once you get used to it, it’s a fine tasting space – small with a high central table and tall chairs.  There is no bar between you and the cellar door person – it’s all sitting around the table together, talking about the wine.  I think it works well.  Great wine racks line the walls.

Sam (not Coverdale, another Sam) was the host and he was excellent.  It’s great to meet people who know about the wines they’re offering, but who also have a sense of passion about the whole thing – not just a $20 an hour job.  We got through:

  • 2013 Even Keel Riesling, Canberra Districts, ACT $27
  • 2014 Even keel Pinot Noir Rose, Tumbarumba, NSW $25
  • 2012 Even Keel Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula, VIC $35
  • 2012 Polperro “Mill Hill” Chardonnay, Main Ridge $55
  • 2013 Even Keel Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, VIC $40
  • 2012 Polperro “Mill Hill” Pinot Noir, Main Ridge $65
  • 2012 Polperro “Landaviddy Lane” Pinot Noir, Main Ridge $65
  • 2013 Even Keel Syrah, Canberra Districts, ACT $40

All were very well made – they definitely put this cellar door in my Sound to Fine category.  I thought the Riesling and the Rose were excellent and at good price points (for the Peninsula).  My favourite was the Polperro “Mill Hill” Chardonnay – a great addition to fine Chardonnay on the Peninsula.  The two top of the range Pinots were very fine, but very light and delicate – that has to be your thing to go the $65 they cost.

All in all a most excellent cellar door – well worth a visit.

It’s probably the worst kept secret in wine circles on the Mornington Peninsula – Main Ridge Estate is up for sale.  After an amazing wine career spanning forty years, Nat and Rosalie White are planning on calling it a day.  An expression of interest (EOI) will go out some time in November 2014.

And who would be interested?  Well if you love fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay you would kill to get your hands on those vines.  Year after year the Chardonnay that comes out of Main Ridge is just superb – it has to be one of the great wines of the world.  The Pinot Noir has made it onto Langton’s List.  Despite being tiny, this is a very serious Australian vineyard.



But is Main Ridge anything without Nat and Rosalie?  Well the character of the place would certainly change, but there is no reason why, with the right winemaker, the quality couldn’t continue.  And that I think is the key.  A big company could buy the brand and start churning out cases and cases of Main Ridge – but that would be missing the point.  Part of the attraction is that Main Ridge wines are very limited in quantity and thus quite exclusive.  Maybe other wines “by Main Ridge”? – hopefully a lot of people will be thinking how to make the best of this stunning property, without weakening the brand.



The icing on the cake is that the house on the property is a truly unique architect designed creation that flows down the hill amongst the vines, complete with its own little plunge pool.  So if you love wine and have a few spare millions lying around (AUD), then look out for the EOI.

For a sneak preview of what you get have a look at the Kay & Burton Report, Episode 7 – eight minutes and 6 seconds into the video.

Our grape harvest is in and – well it was dismal.  The super new spray unit and tractor kept the disease away but the yield!  Last year we picked just under 500 kg of Chardonnay – this year 300 kg.  Pinot Noir, last year 450 kg – this year 140 kg.  I’d heard from several people that everybody on the Peninsula had suffered the same fate thanks to a cold, wet December at fruit set time.  The wines will be pretty good – there just won’t be that much to go around.  We put the Pinot Noir through the crusher destemmer and then stood around the 500 litre fermenter looking down at a sad, lonely pile of grape pulp way down there in the bottom of the tank.

There was only one thing to do – have lunch.  Mussels cooked and smoked under pine needles on a piece of galvo – quite delicious.  Ooodles of pancetta, prosciutto and capocollo, followed by a huge loin of pork.  Wines from Phaedrus, Stumpy Gully and Bluestone Lane – and our own cellar.

After that we made the decision to throw everything in a bucket and let it be what it will be.  So we pressed out the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir together, and will create some form of Rose – wild yeast ferment.  The grape juice tasted delicious.  Who knows what the wine will be like, but I’m going to dig out my sparkling wine recipe.  Should be a lot of fun – something special from a pretty ordinary year.

The weekend before, when I was hunting around for local wines for the lunch, left me with a really good feeling about the people I met on the cellar doors.  Maïtèna at Phaedrus, Jason at Stumpy Gully and John at Bluestone were all excellent – knowledgeable about the wines, generous with the tasting and with a deal for cellar door visitors.

I went to see what they were up to at Dromana Estate – the cellar door reopened before Christmas following a hiatus when they obviously had to sort out some financial difficulties.

Had no idea what to expect – but it’s all good.

The new owners have done a great job with the restaurant area.  The building itself is an old homestead.  The dining areas were in the old rooms of the house, which made for a slightly weird collection of spaces.  Now everything has been opened up – walls knocked through – and it looks so much better.

The restaurant is called Terre – and again they have obviously made a point of getting together a good team.  It’s not particularly cheap with starters at $19 and mains at $34.  I hope the quality is good – I’ll let you know when I try it.

Dromana Estate and Terre

Dromana Estate and Terre

The cellar door hasn’t changed – still a good space.

They have been rethinking their wines – mostly made by Peter Bauer.  The “i” range is to be discontinued.  This is a throw back to the days of Gary Crittenden. The great deal at the moment is a case of i Pinot Grigio or i Sangovese for $120 – a bargain.  There isn’t much left.

This leaves them with three labels:

Mornington Estate – Sauvignon Blance, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at around the $24 mark.

Dromana Estate – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at just below $40.

Traeger – Verdelho and Shiraz from vineyards in Nagambie Lakes in central Victoria.

And then there is the Asciutto – a wine made from partially air dried Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to intensify flavours – quite unique.

To be honest I enjoyed everything.  The Mornington Estate Pinot Noir is very interesting – a very “bright” nose, cherry and intensity in the colour.  Very different to the more Peninsula classic Dromana Estate Pinot which is darker and heavier.  The chardonnays were both excellent and the Verdelho is unusual, but in a good way.

Jill and Gary on the cellar door were great hosts too.