Words Jess Gadd Images Supplied
Gippsland constitutes a huge part of Victoria, starting just outside Melbourne and stretching all the way to the NSW border. At its heart is Central Gippsland, cradled by the mountainous Great Dividing Range and its lower-lying cousin, the Strzelecki Ranges, and by the Bass Strait. It’s a geographic combination that results in an often complex set of climatic conditions for the local wineries: some areas are ideal for growing shiraz, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, while in other areas chardonnay shines – though of course a number of other varieties grow well here, too.
This means that – no matter what variety you like – you’ll find a winery in this region that fits the bill! Plus there’s the added bonus that Central Gippsland’s proximity to the ocean, and its flourishing dairy industry, deliver big time when it comes to perfect wine accompaniments like locally sourced seafood and cheese.
Here’s our guide to some of Central Gippsland’s top wineries, with tips for a few delightful detours along the way.
If you’re after scenery that takes your breath away, you can’t go past Toms Cap. This venue has it all: vineyard, cellar door, restaurant, function centre and accommodation. The views, function centre and accommodation are especially popular for weddings, private functions and getaways, but Toms Cap is a much-loved locals secret, too – one that’s worth a drive for the range and quality of food and wine (not to mention the warm hospitality).
It’s surrounded by the Strzelecki Ranges, and not far from one of Victoria’s only cool temperate rainforests, the Tarra Bulga National Park. A walk here is a top choice for a hot day – better than air conditioning! Or, if having a beach to yourself sounds heavenly, you can usually find a solitary spot on the nearby Ninety Mile Beach.
The cellar door is open Thursday to Monday, 10am to 4pm; the restaurant is open for lunch Friday to Sunday (or by prior arrangement).
322 Lays Rd, Willung South
Wines grown on site at Traralgon Vineyard include chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot, sauvignon blanc and moscato. Enjoy them over a meal in the on-site restaurant, or you can buy a bottle to take home (note that tastings are paid, and by appointment only). A popular local wedding and function venue, offering occasional live entertainment, it books out quickly so the hosts recommend you book ahead to avoid disappointment!
Open for lunch Saturday to Sunday 12pm to 2pm, and dinner Saturday 6pm until late. Bookings essential.
140 Burnets Road Traralgon
Narkoojee’s father-and-son team, Harry and Axel Friend, produces cool climate shiraz, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet and chardonnay that the critics rave about. Narkoojee is rated as a five-star winery in the James Halliday Wine Companion, and a tasting will quickly show you why: these wines are sophisticated, graceful and walk the perfect line between complexity and balance. Some of the varieties, such as the pinot noir and merlot, are only small vintages, and sell out quickly.
Cellar door is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily most of the year; the restaurant opens Thursday to Sunday for lunch, as well as Saturday and some Fridays for dinner – check ahead for times.
220 Francis Road, Glengarry
Named for its proximity to man-made Lake Glenmaggie, the water source for central Gippsland’s 130,000-acre Macalister Irrigation District, Glenmaggie Wines is definitely a family affair. You’ll sense this the moment you set foot in the cellar door, because – in that country way – there’s always time for a yarn, and the family are happy to share the story behind the winery and vintage.
Founders Fleur and Tony will explain that Glenmaggie Wines are a product of their climate – the long, slow ripening time resulting in fruit with a lower sugar content and well-developed flavour. The wines are lauded for their ability to complement, rather than overpower, food; and they are well awarded at wine shows.
Nearby Lake Glenmaggie is well worth a visit, too – particularly in times of high rainfall, when the sight of gum trees submerged in water will be a hit with the kids (and possibly the grown-ups, too!).
Open Sunday and public holidays 11am to 4pm (or by appointment).
439 McLachlands Rd, Tinamba West
Blue Gables Winery
Named for the story-book blue-roofed home nestled on the hillside among the vines, Blue Gables Winery launched its first vintage with a bang in 2009. It has continued to win awards year-on-year for all four of its varieties: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris and shiraz.
The wines are made by industry stalwarts Mal Stewart and Alastair Butt, and offered at a cellar door featuring a killer view over the green pastures of the Macalister Irrigation District. The cellar door also serves wood-fired pizzas, antipasto platters, and cheese platters featuring local, award-winning Maffra Cheese Company. There’s often live entertainment, too, and in colder weather you can warm your toes before a roaring fire.
Blue Gables, as well as some of the other local wineries, like Glenmaggie Wines and Avon Ridge Vineyard, is located close to the popular Gippsland Plains Rail Trail.
Open public holidays, Friday to Saturday 11am to 9pm (bookings essential), and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
100 Lanigan Road, Maffra West Upper
Avon Ridge Vineyard
Drop by Avon Ridge on a Sunday and you might catch the Sunday Sippers afternoon, featuring live music and lunch and drink specials. You might be able to score a little home-grown produce at the Produce Swap table. You’ll certainly be able to enjoy some award-winning wines, and breakfast or lunch with a menu that celebrates the diversity and quality of local produce. You will also certainly have a chance to bask in the beautiful views of the Avon River Valley (with or without a wine in hand, that’s up to you!).
Grapes grown here include cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The fruit is deep with varietal flavour and elegance, courtesy of the cool local climate. As a bonus, Avon Ridge makes a range of ciders, too!
Open Wednesday to Sunday, but do check ahead before visiting, because the winery sometimes closes for functions and weddings.
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday
446 Maffra – Stratford Road, Maffra
Mt Moornapa is well off the beaten track, tucked away in artsy Briagolong. The winery itself is a unique building – it’s tall: an attempt to retain lower temperatures during the hotter months. There are plenty of other design features aimed at reducing energy consumption, too – for example, the vats are elevated to reduce energy use during production periods. Even the vines were planted with energy efficiency and reduced water-consumption in mind.
At the cellar door varieties on offer include chardonnay, traminer, pinot noir, riesling and merlot: all grown on site. There’s also a picnic area with barbecue facilities that visitors are welcome to enjoy.
Open weekends and public holidays, 10am to 4pm.
741 Briagolong Stockdale Rd, Stockdale
If you have a lust for local produce, the Tinamba Hotel will deliver: with honey from one of the owner’s family farm, herbs and veggies grown on site, and local producers and winemakers featuring prominently on the menu. You can choose from the relaxed atmosphere of the public bar, or a more refined dining experience in the restaurant – the same kitchen supplies both, and the food is outstanding. This picturesque, romantic venue even scored a mention in The Good Food Guide (2018).
The town of Tinamba celebrates the region’s bounty with a popular annual food and wine festival (April). And while we’re talking diary dates, the annual Marlay Point Overnight Yacht Race (March) makes quite a spectacle as it departs from Lake Wellington just outside the nearby township of Sale. It’s well worth timing your visit to coincide with either – or both – of these events.
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunda and dinner Wednesday to Saturday
4-6 Tinamba Seaton Rd, Tinamba