Archives for posts with tag: Darling Park

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.



A time of panic! Elan Vineyard has run out of 2010 Shiraz at the cellar door, and the next vintage hasn’t been released yet! For a moment I was quite overcome, but regained composure enough to make it down to Ritchies Balnarring where I was able to pick up half a case – with a discount. It was tense there for a while. No such problems with the Vale and the 2010 Tempranillo – they still have that wine available, although the cellar door is running on a “by appointment only” basis for the time being.

In my last post I mentioned that Main Ridge Estate will be on the market soon. It appears that Darling Park is also up for sale. Darling Park is a beautiful little vineyard, that has always produced good wine. I hope Judy Gifford and the wine making team find a sympathetic owner.

Tomorrow is Melbourne Cup Day – a huge day for the horse racing fraternity – and the wineries are getting in on the act. Pier 10 is offering a three course lunch for $60, with extended opening hours across the long weekend. Port Phillip/Kooyong is offering two courses at $78, three at $95 and the Cup race televised – and Cup Specials on wine sales. Willow Creek is pushing the edge of the envelope with four courses for $75, the race on a big screen TV, live music and a 10% discount on the ’08 Brut. OMG! And they have the Justin Yap Band playing live blues in the Barrel Hall on Friday 21st November. Yabby Lake has just released a swag of 2013s, all most excellent.

Ritchies IGA (Australian supermarket chain) have formed a relationship with an outfit called Red Rabbit for on-line wine sales. Vintage Cellars is offering the SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah 2013 – this years winner of the Jimmy Watson Trophy – along with a couple of interesting looking Bordeaux. Over in the Barossa, Kaesler announced the release of the 2012 Alte Reben Shiraz – limited stocks apparently, at $150 a bottle, but that does come with free delivery (!).

In between all this we managed to bottle our own 2013 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at the weekend.

It’s all happening down on the Mornington Peninsula, and the weather at the moment is fantastic.

I am very pleased to announce the vinblue 2013 Mornington Peninsula cellar door awards – Hastings Rules apply.

Best shedMiceli. Its unmistakeably a shed, with wine in it.

Best value diningDarling Park. Sigi’s at Northway Downs, and Jones Road remain good value for money but Darling Park are doing great things with their platters, simple lunch plates and pizzas. Good wine selection to go with the food.

Best fine dining – Not awarded this year. It’s my own fault – I just haven’t been to enough places to be able to give you a considered opinion.

Best Sparkling Wine at a cellar doorElan Estate Sparkling. I’m giving this to Selma for a second year running, for her 2011 vintage. There are a lot of sparkling wines available now on the Peninsula, but Elan still has it. Prices have gone up a little to $28, but it still represents great value.

Best Chardonnay at a cellar doorParinga Estate Chardonnay. A beautiful example of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay – fruit perfectly integrated with a touch of new oak.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar doorPhaedrus Pinot Noir. Phaedrus get the award for being able to pull a really decent wine out of a horrible year – 2011 – and at a price of just over $20. The Mr Wolf is worth trying too. Honourable mentions are Bluestone Lane and Stumpy Gully.

Best other white at a cellar doorWillow Creek Pinot Gris. This was one of the harder decisions, because there are a number of worthy contenders including the Paringa Reisling, Yabby Lake Pinot Gris and the Darling Park Olivarni Pinot Gris.

Best other red at a cellar doorElan Shiraz. Loved the 2010 vintage, which is just about sold out now unfortunately. Rich flavours with white pepper – a great example of a cool climate Shiraz. The 2010 Tempranillo from the Vale vineyard is still available and is still great value.

Best overall cellar door experienceYabby Lake. Brilliant – I went in one day and had a simple plate of terrine with glass of Red Claw Sauvignon Blanc and then a Pinot Noir. Delicious food, great atmosphere, good service and excellent cellar door staff, reasonable prices and they picked up the 2013 Jimmy Watson trophy for their Block 1 Pinot.

Hastings Rules – we don’t count Main Ridge Estate. Nat and Rosalie White are legends in their own underwear (and probably everybody else’s too). They would win most things most years, so they remain vinblue legends and do not have to fight it out with the rest of them.

Proverb on the blackboard at Darling Park

Proverb on the blackboard at Darling Park

I recently had a very pleasant lunch time at Darling Park, tasting the wines and sampling the pizza and a salmon quiche.  The menu is quite simple, but every time we’ve eaten there it has been a good experience, and good value with their lunch plates typically under $20 each.  I particularly enjoyed the pizza. I think I was in that kind of mood.

The wine list at Darling Park

The wine list at Darling Park

As for the wines, I have to say the whites were ahead of the reds.  The stand out for me was the Olivarni Pinot Gris – rich, with a very subtle oily texture and flavours of pear and fig, just like their own tasting notes say.  The reds – well they didn’t do much for me at all, especially the 2011 reserve Pinot Noir at $48.  Like The Cups, I think they might be pushing their luck a little. The wines are definitely in the Sound category, but I couldn’t stretch them to the Fine on that showing.

Darling Park is well worth a visit.  The staff know their wines and are enthusiastic about them which is always a sign of an excellent cellar door. And you get the added bonus of the Bass & Flinders distillery (excellent gin).