Longleat Wines

About 30 minutes south of Shepparton (on the way home to Melbourne!), is the modest and unassuming little cellar door of Longleat Wines at Murchison – a short detour that’s worth the effort.

This is a true family run winery and cellar door. Guido brings his passion for making wines designed to share and enjoy (especially with food), while Sandra makes some damn fine cheeses that are also available at the cellar door.

Guido’s Italian heritage is evident in the styles of wine that he makes, and words like ‘generous, flavourful and food-friendly’ spring to mind. In fact, all conversations with Guido and Sandra quickly turn to the food that will best complement the wines.

It’s a lovely, intimate experience chatting, eating, and drinking with people who genuinely love what they do. Guido brings his heritage to the fore in wines like Garganega and Sangiovese, both textural and interesting in a white and red wine respectively.

The deck cafe is lovely for a glass of vino, a coffee and a platter, but they also do lunches – which are a generous feasting occasion and definitely require a booking.

Nillumbik Estate

Between Eltham and the Yarra Valley floor, there’s a gateway of roads winding through rugged bush country called Christmas Hills, Smiths Gully, and Kangaroo Ground. You could be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing here but uncompromising rocky soil, scrubby tree cover, and kangaroos.

Pay attention, though, and you’ll spot a little sign that offers wine, pizza and views.  At the end of a typical country driveway, you’ll find a modest but stylish building, almost right on top of a vineyard, overlooking a close valley that opens out into the view beyond.

Nillumbik winery has been on this site for two and a half decades. It’s a family business, with the friendly owner John making the kinds of wine he loves to drink – those best enjoyed with food. The restaurant is a tucked-away secret, renowned for its pizzas. With that view and a bottle of John’s wine, you’ll lose an afternoon here just taking it all in. It’s a simple recipe for success, really: make pizza, make wine, serve it on a deck that overlooks the garden and beyond. Not much to argue with there.

Medhurst Wines

Just off the Maroondah Highway, tucked up against the Warramate Hills, sits the winery, restaurant and cellar door of Medhurst Wines. The long driveway winds up the hill, past the red shed on the dam, past significant sculptures perched elegantly on the lawn, to the architecturally designed building which overlooks the picturesque close view. This part of the experience alone is worth the trip.

Medurst is the ‘retirement project’ (if you could call such hard work retirement) of ex Southcorp CEO Ross Wilson and his wife Robyn. It’s a family business, executed in a thoroughly professional manner. Every detail on the property is carefully considered: from the wave of the vast front glass on the cellar door, to the way a winery of considerable size is perfectly nestled into the hillside.

Speaking of detail, winemaker Simon Steele is all about the details. The Yarra Valley Pinot Noir is a fine expression of the fruit; bright cherry balanced with weight and complex spice notes.  The Rosé, a perennial fave and often on the ‘Pink List’ at the Healesville Hotel, is dry, savoury and so so drinkable.

With the newly renovated kitchen and dining area comes a new chef. Robin Sutcliffe brings his quiet, uncompromising passion for doing simple things right to Medhurst. The pickles, which provide a delicate acidic balance on platters and other dishes, are all made by him in-house. Simple dishes like arancini are elevated with his deft touch. Grazing food, dishes of deliciousness, and damn fine wines mean that a long slow lunch under the shade, overlooking the vines, makes so much sense.

Central Gippsland Wine Trail

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.

Toms Cap 
#twohoursout

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.

Details:
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

Traralgon Vineyard
#twohoursout

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!

Details:
Open for lunch Saturday to Sunday 12pm to 2pm, and dinner Saturday 6pm until late. Bookings essential.
140 Burnets Road Traralgon

Narkoojee
#twohoursout

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.

Details:
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

Glenmaggie Wines
#twoandahalfhoursout

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!).

Details:
Open Sunday and public holidays 11am to 4pm (or by appointment).
439 McLachlands Rd, Tinamba West

Blue Gables Winery
#twoandahalfhoursout

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.

Details:
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
#twoandahalfhoursout

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.

Details:
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday
446 Maffra – Stratford Road, Maffra

Mt Moornapa
#threehoursout

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.

Details:
Open weekends and public holidays, 10am to 4pm.
741 Briagolong Stockdale Rd, Stockdale

Tinamba Hotel
#twoandahalfhoursout

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.

Details:
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunda and dinner Wednesday to Saturday
4-6 Tinamba Seaton Rd, Tinamba

 

ACCOMODATION OPTIONS
Toms Cap Vineyard
Mansi on Raymond
Abington Farm B&B
The Matador
Frog Gully Cottages