Archives for posts with tag: Pinot Noir

Yabby Lake remains one of the best places on the Mornington Peninsula to have lunch.  The wine is terrific and the different price points mean it’s easy to find something to suit your budget.  I rarely find the need to go past the Red Claw range – that Pinot Noir is just brilliant lunchtime quaffing wine and to be honest, describing it in those terms is doing it an injustice.

The menu is simple.  Thankfully it lacks all that fussiness you so often find on the Peninsula.  Whatever you pick is going to be good.  Then there is the restaurant space itself which is part of the landscape thanks to the huge wall of glass that runs its entire length.  You are in one of the Peninsula’s beautiful valleys with a squadron of kangaroos making the odd unannounced, relaxed appearance.  Everything about Yabby Lake is relaxed except for the service which combines just the right amount of attentiveness with “OK, I see you just want to be left alone”.

I went there recently.  Worked my way through the delicious salumi board and then had the Confit de Canard – with a bottle of that Red Claw Pinot Noir.  Fantastic.  Good food and wine just makes you feel better, and that was certainly the case with that lunch.

Another weekend, another lunch, but this time I headed up Stumpy Gully Road to Stumpy Gully Winery and Regardz, the current operations centre of one Bernard Ricca.  Anybody who knows the Peninsula will know that Bernard is a legend in his own underpants.  I was with three other people so we decided to order and share.  All I can say is what a feast!  To start – terrine and pate, banana prawns and pork belly.  A fantastic combination of flavours and textures.  Then the Salmon and Steak dishes.  You can tell that a lot of thought had gone into the sauces which were sophisticated without being over bearing.  For once the steak actually tasted of steak – how many disappointing steaks have you had recently – and paid a lot of money for?  To finish we rounded up a Creme Brulee, a lemon and lime tart and the Belgian Chocolate Souffle – Kapow!  What a meal.


The cellar door at Stumpy Gully Winery complete with Regardz, the restaurant of Bernard Ricca.

Like everybody, chefs have their good and bad periods.  At the moment Bernard is definitely firing on all cylinders.  Much like Yabby Lake, Stumpy Gully offers wine at different price points, which makes having two bottles almost justifiable.

You couldn’t put Yabby Lake or Regardz in the “cheap eats” category.  Starters are up to $20 and mains are touching the $40 mark.  But I think in this case it would be fair to say that you are getting value for that money.  The food, the locations, the service, the wines make these two excellent lunch venues.


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.

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 was fossicking around the Peninsula as you do on holiday, and came across a gem of a place in Mount Eliza (Victoria, Australia) – the Fine Wine Merchant.  Not a large shop, but a veritable Aladdin’s cave stuffed to the rafters with fine wine of all descriptions.  Great Australian labels, shelves of Bordeaux and Burgundy, gracious looking Rieslings, undiscovered Portuguese beauties, even Chateau Musar.

Fine Wine Mt Eliza

Some of the prices for the Burgundy are simply eye watering – they make the best Australian Pinot Noir look positively economical.  And there are things within that are quite hard to find outside of cellar doors.  Next time you are in the neighbourhood pop in and have a look.  I came away with an Avignon from Kaesler which was perfect with the braised belly pork I cooked that evening.

Meanwhile, down in the vineyard, it’s hedging time again:

Hedging before

Aaaarrgghhh!  It’s a brothel!

Hedging after

Crisis sorted – for the time being.