Archives for posts with tag: Yabby Lake

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.


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.

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.

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.

Have I mentioned that the Mornington Peninsula is a pretty good place to live?  Yes, loads of times.  I am able to move seamlessly between an early morning ocean dip with dolphins, to fresh breakfast croissants, to shopping at Mornington, to lunch over looking Port Phillip Bay, a little afternoon wine tasting, another ocean dip to freshen up before dinner at any number of restaurants.

And although I want to keep this all to myself, I should let you know that some visitor association or other is desperate to tell you you could do a similar thing.  Have a look at this web site from Wine Food Farmgate.  Most of the big commercial cellar doors are taking part – but alas not many of the smaller, perhaps more intriguing ones.

For those of you who are serious about Pinot Noir – and only for you – the Peninsula scored a major triumph in that Yabby Lake picked up the 2013 Jimmy Watson trophy, the first ever for a Pinot Noir.  Read the Decanter, or the Guardian.  It’s a fantastic result for Yabby Lake – their 2012 Block 1 Pinot Noir.  It’s available for tasting at the cellar door – I tried it recently while in the very capable hands of Erin.  And there is still some for sale.

The dining area at Yabby Lake.

The dining area at Yabby Lake.

I know from hard experience that making good wine takes great effort, and making great wine is an act of faith, luck, love and endeavour.  Peninsula wines are not all good by any means – some people think a little too “lifestyle” rather than “wine style” – but well done Yabby Lake.  Since it opened, always a really good cellar door, and now creating great wines.  How long before a Langton’s List entry?

I’ve had two very good food experiences recently at cellar doors.

I was mouching around Mornington one Saturday thinking about lunch time and headed off to Yabby Lake.  There I indulged in the Thai fish cakes – and it was a perfect meal for that occasion.  Lots of fresh salad, rocket and a divine lime dressing to accompany some hearty fish cakes.  Superb flavours, ideal with a glass or two of their Red Claw Sauvignon Blanc.  $16 for the food, around $8 for a glass of wine – excellent.

The second was at Jones Road on a Sunday – their roast option.  Roasts can be stodgy, stale affairs but not at Jones Road.  The thing that impressed me the most was the quality of the vegetables.  Sugar snap peas, broccolini and baby carrots that were superb, and a creamy gratin dauphinois that had just the right hit of garlic.  You take it for granted that the pork and crackling were very good.  Add to this the range of Jones Road Junior wines and you’ve got an excellent and affordable lunch out.  $25 for the main, $5 for a glass and $20 for a bottle – worth celebrating.

Yabby Lake has been making wine on the Peninsula since the 1990s from two large vineyards, one up at Red Hill and the other in Moorooduc.  The company also has vineyards in Heathcote.  The Mornington Peninsula cellar door only opened this year in the Moorooduc vineyard, very close to the new PenLink road.  It’s a very attractive space, full of light thanks to a wall of full length windows that overlook the vineyard.  The bar is a decent length, able to accommodate a lot of wine tasters at any given time, and unusual and original art works decorate the walls.  Some back vintages are available for sale and are on display in wine bins.  It has a good feel to it – not over stated, relaxed but professional.

Vineyard side of the Yabby Lake cellar door

Food is available, and at reasonable prices.  One time I visited I tried the platter – terrine, bressiola, smoked and cured meats, and then had the cassoulet.  I enjoyed it all.  Main courses are in the AUD$ mid 20s.  There is a kids menu.

The dining area at Yabby Lake.

There are really three ranges of wines.  First is the Red Claw range, all coming in at around AUD$22.50 – Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Rose, Pinot Noir, and a Heathcote Shiraz.  All of these are sound wines and on the good value side of the line.  Well made, distinctive.

Wines available to taste at Yabby Lake.

The Yabby Lake label moves the prices up considerably.  Pinot Gris at AUD$30, Chardonnay at AUD$45 and then the Pinot Noir at AUD$60.  For me, the best of the whites was the Pinot Gris.  It had excellent balance between fruit and acidity, and was just pleasant to drink.  I didn’t get on so well with the Chardonnay.  I picked up strange oak phenolics and a lot of acidity.

Relax at Yabby Lake.

The third range uses the Yabby Lake label but is a series of single block wines – wines made from single blocks of vines from the vineyard.  All the Pinot Noirs were excellent with hefty price tags – up to AUD$80 a bottle.  Occasionally every Yabby Lake Pinot Noir vintage from 2006 is available, and that is an enlightening experience to taste across all those years.

Wine bins at Yabby Lake.

In summary then this is an excellent addition to the cellar doors on the Mornington Peninsula.  It is definitely worth a visit – good food, and a range of wines that make the tasting experience worthwhile – and no mention of a tasting fee which is encouraging.  The cellar door people – Erin in particular – were most excellent.  Go visit.

S to F – good value