2014 vinblue cellar door awards

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.


2013 vinblue cellar door awards

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

Best shed – Miceli. Its unmistakeably a shed, with wine in it.

Best value dining – Darling 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 door – Elan 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 door – Paringa Estate Chardonnay. A beautiful example of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay – fruit perfectly integrated with a touch of new oak.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar door – Phaedrus 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 door – Willow 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 door – Elan 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 experience – Yabby 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.

2012 vinblue cellar door awards

I should have got this out much, much sooner, but my own vintage got in the way, and there are so many good cellar doors to visit. It’s more fun being at a cellar door than writing about it. Anyway, I am very pleased to announce the vinblue 2012 Mornington Peninsula cellar door awards – Hastings Rules apply.

Best shed – Merricks Estate. A true and wonderful thing, full of ideal shed compatible items including the venerable George Kefford, one of the original Mornington Peninsula winemakers.

Best value dining – Jones Road. Sigi’s at Northway Downs is still an absolute riot, but you can’t go anywhere to better Jones Road for good value dining. Roast lunches, excellent pizzas from their wood fired oven and generous starters, combined with a reasonably priced and excellent range of wines. The place is comfortable, relaxed and Rob and the team do a great job. Please visit.

Best fine dining – Ten Minutes by Tractor. Simply exquisite. Expensive with touches of Blumenthal, but in a sea of over-priced mediocrity, this is an island of salvation. Salix at Willow Creek, last years winners, have mislaid their mojo just a little bit.

Best Sparkling Wine at a cellar door – Elan Estate Sparkling. Selma at Elan keeps on re-inventing, and this is a beauty. $25 of superb value Chardonnay based fun and fizz. But don’t think this is fizzy nonsense – it is a great sparkling wine. In my opinion it easily competes with bottle shop French champagne selling for twice the price.

Best Chardonnay at a cellar door – has to go to Geraldine McFaul and the team at Willow Creek. The Chardonnay Project was a wonderful thing, as is Willow Creek Chardonnay. Personally I’m still smarting from the loss of the WCV range, but you can’t have everything.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar door – Garamond 2010 by Hurley Vineyard. You would be forgiven for wondering whether the $60 you spent on a bottle of Pinot Noir wouldn’t have been better spent on three bottles of $20 Pinot Noir. After the first few glasses would you notice, or even care? Well the Garamond is a wine that is so good that you can see why it costs $60 plus. Expensive, but still good value for money – that is how good this is. Warning – you must appreciate good Pinot Noir and Burgundy to enjoy this wine. Avoid if “Shiraz is your thing”. You won’t get it at all.

Best other red at a cellar door – is also probably the best value red wine on the Mornington Peninsula. It is the 2010 Tempranillo from the Vale vineyard. A beautiful red wine – John and daughter Caroline are doing a great job.

Best other white at a cellar door – this was one of the harder decisions, because there are a number of worthy contenders. In the end it goes to Jones Road and their Jones Road Junior Pinot Grigio. For around $20 you get a delightful, fresh, flavour filled wine – just brilliant as the first bottle with a Jones Road lunch.

Best overall cellar door experience – has to go to Gary and Dromana Estate. Dromana had a lot going for it – great location, a good variety of wines, an interesting building, art works – and Gary who worked very hard to make sure people had a good time. I’m not sure how it will turn out for Dromana Estate – we wish them well.


2011 vinblue cellar door awards

The Mornington Peninsula lies at the bottom of the Australian state of Victoria. It is a glorious place – rolling hills, farm land and fantastic beaches. Over the last forty years, wine has become a significant industry here which has enhanced the appeal of the peninsula in a most luxurious and satisfying way. The 2011 wine touring map from the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (www.mpva.com.au) lists 58 cellar doors, of which 50 are open at least once a month – the others by appointment only. In 2011 I managed to visit 35, plus four which aren’t on the map – to join the mpva you have to pay a crush levy, which some people don’t want to do.

So now, based on those visits, I am very pleased to announce the vinblue 2011 Mornington Peninsula cellar door awards.

Best Shed – Elan Vineyard. Elan is a great shed, the real deal. The wine is made and stored there, and typically you’ll meet Selma, who does all the vineyard work and is the winemaker. Another great shed to look out for is Merricks Estate.

Best Value Dining – Northway Downs. It’s important for peninsula to offer a range of places to eat, at a range of prices. $40+ for a main course is just too expensive for many people. At Northway Downs you can get really good Austrian themed food for less than $20 a main. It’s brash, it’s bonkers but brilliant. You’ll be up and dancing to the Austrian Oompah music in no time. Honourable mentions: Jones Road and Dromana Estate.

Best fine dining – Salix at Willow Creek. For when you do want to spend money, Salix is a great place to go. Consistently good food, and a great range of wines to match. Salix have the main restaurant, but also a most excellent “bistro” area, for smaller, cheaper meals. Honourable mentions in this category go to: Ten Minutes by Tractor, Montalto and Crittenden.

Best Chardonnay at a cellar door – Paringa Estate Chardonnay. Simply superb Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay, from a great winemaking team.

Best Pinot Noir at a cellar door – Darling Park Pinot Noir. I don’t know whether it’s me, but I find so many pinots at the cellar door have a strange metallic taste to them. Not so with Darling Park. Always fresh and just delicious, and there is a good atmosphere in the cellar door. Well made wines.

Best other red at a cellar door – The Vale Tempranillo. The Vale is “off the mpva map”, but do try and find it, just outside the village of Balnarring. I tried the 2005 and 2010 wines, both excellent.

Best other white at a cellar door – Quealy Balnarring Vineyard Pinot Grigio Friulano. Quealy is more like a wine innovation centre than a vineyard. There’s always something new and exciting happening there. This grape variety Friulano adds genuinely new flavours to the Peninsula.

Best overall cellar door experience – Tucks Ridge thanks to Sonya. The cellar door at Tuck’s Ridge is not grand, but the range of wines is excellent, and Sonya is an excellent cellar door person.

So congratulations, and I am very much looking forward to 2012. I’ve already done five cellar doors, but of them later. I hope 2012 is a great year for vineyards everywhere.