My Adelaide PR friend Belinda recently came to visit me in Melbourne. She was running a half marathon (during which time I was naturally enjoying a double dose of eggs Benedict, opting for my stretchy jeggings over lycra).
Belinda enjoys all things wine possibly more than I do, so on the Monday post-run I thought the most obvious daytime activity for us was to head south-east on a self-drive winery tour of the Mornington Peninsula. She didn’t need much convincing. In fact, she was awake at 7am behaving like we were off to Paris.
Quick facts about the Mornington Peninsula wine region
Despite us both being full blown South Australian wine snobs, we knew very little about the Mornington Peninsula as a wine region, except that they had wineries, which produced grapes and turned them into wine. I couldn’t have told you names, varietals, locations, nothing! So I decided it was wise to seek the advice of an authority before we tried to sniff out some cellar doors with our elementary knowledge and nose.
We pulled into the Frankston Visitor Information Centre, an hour out of Melbourne. The lovely volunteer staff handed us a map and gave us a quick lesson on wine tasting in the Mornington Peninsula. This is what I learnt:
- The hero grape of the cool-climate Mornington Peninsula wine region is pinot noir, although pinot gris and pinot grigio are fast becoming local celebrities. Chardonnay and increasingly shiraz are also regulars on the tasting list.
- 50 wineries call the Mornington Peninsula home, all varying in size.
- These wineries are centred around the towns of Red Hill, Main Ridge and Moorooduc in the hinterland; and Merricks, Balnarring and Dromana on the coast.
- Dining options can be found aplenty.
Belinda and I were first pointed in the direction of the ex-apple orchard-turned-winery T’Gallant, being told it was a Mornington Peninsula institution.
After pulling into the car park we stopped for an obligatory selfie in front of the wine barrel cellar door sign. We then had trouble finding the entrance, until we realised that on the wine barrel that we’d just posed in front of was a big arrow pointing in the direction of the cellar door. #embarrassing
T’Gallant’s tasting list is an extensive A4, back and front inventory, so settle in for a long one. With red and white wines satisfyingly covered, a point of difference is T’Gallant’s range of (five!) sweeter wines. I was most impressed by its Romeo, a sweeter, medium-bodied red wine crafted from pinot noir, sangiovese and shiraz, with a touch of Rutherglen muscat, which creates its uniqueness.
The day we were there they also had a buy three, get the fourth free, which prompted me to high five the unsuspecting cellar door staff. T’Gallant seem to have regular specials, so it’s likely you can find a deal that works for you.
Lunch at T’Gallant’s La Baracca Trattoria
Post tasting we were happily directed next door into the wooden shed-like La Baracca Trattoria restaurant for a quick lunch. A quick lunch that turned into several hours spent feasting on wood-fire pizzas.
The restaurant had a warm, cosy feel and was a welcome respite from the outside drizzle. It obviously kept us Blu-Tacked to our seats because we should have moved on sooner, given we only gave ourselves time to visit one more winery.
T’Gallant’s other casual dining option, Spuntino Bar, is only open on weekends.
T’Gallant | 1385 Mornington–Flinders Road, Main Ridge, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5931 1300
Port Phillip Estate
Where T’Gallant is all rustic, wood and wine barrels, Port Phillip Estate is a complete 180 degrees – as opposite as red wine is to white.
Despite signage on Red Hill Road telling you that you’re pulling into the right place, there is a moment of car park doubt when you wonder if you’ve some how mistakenly arrived at a secret military bunker. For all that’s in front of you is a solid cream rammed-earth wall. No wooden signage reassuringly pointing you in the right direction of the cellar door (whether you choose to see it or not is a different story) and certainly no wine barrels.
Hesitantly, we walked up to the only part of the wall that looked remotely like a door. Things get weirder, with the solid door creaking open on its own. The James Bond moment is worth it, as you’re suddenly met with some of the most Instagramable cellar door views in the country, looking out across the vineyard, valley, Westernport Bay and Bass Strait.
The cellar door and tasting facility is super professional, modern and slick, yet still warm, with a huge fireplace adorned by a log feature wall and wooden roof panelling. Talking to the cellar door staff, we were told that when the facility was built in 2009, the decision was made to steer away from your traditional rustic winery fit-out. They wanted to go for something completely contemporary to set Port Phillip Estate apart from their atypical winery counterparts, which they most definitely do.
In terms of wine tasting, Port Phillip Estate’s tasting list is also quite different, whittled down to half a dozen favourites from its Port Phillip Estate and Kooyong wine labels. My pick was the delicate 2011 Quartier pinot noir.
Lunch at Port Phillip Estate
Slight vignette here. No, Belinda and I did not eat two lunches the day we visited – she may have just run a half marathon but I didn’t have my stretchy jeggings on – however, while here wine tasting I got a quick glimpse of their $35 cheeky three-course, seasonal lunch menu and, suitably impressed, vowed to soon be back.
Last weekend, I indeed returned to Port Phillip Estate with my husband in tow and had, “the best $35 lunch I’ve ever had,” according to Jude.
I have to agree, it was fine dining on a budget. As part of the $35 deal, we both got to choose a starter, entrée and main from their regular cellar door lunch menu. Jude opting for an oyster with shallot vinaigrette, beef brisket and a meat medley casserole; while I went for the parmesan grissini with olive tapenade, squid and pappardelle with mushrooms. All six dishes were faultless. Even the complimentary bread and olive oil, presented in a brown canvas bag, were photo-worthy.
However, it’s the pappardelle pasta that I’m still dreaming about. Upon every mouthful of rich, buttery pasta I couldn’t communicate, instead letting the cellar door’s piped piano music fill the silence. Jude equally enraptured by his flavour-filled casserole.
Expecting a tasting menu with small portions, post lunch we were surprisingly full. We desperately needed to take a walk on the outdoor timber deck, allowing the cool winter air to bring us back down from our food heaven.
With incredible food and views, I’ve decided it’s a great place to take the next set of parents that come visit, or anyone we want to impress really. We were so smitten with Port Phillip Estate’s cheeky lunch menu that my normally wine/winery-hating husband started concocting plans two days later to go back.
Note: the $35 lunch deal is VERY IMPORTANTLY offered in the cellar door dining area, as opposed to the actual dining area.
Port Phillip Estate | 263 Red Hill Road, Red Hill South, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5989 4444
Mornington Peninsula wine country is…
The scenery on the Mornington Peninsula is breathtakingly beautiful. So lush and green that you could easily get confused and think you’ve fallen asleep on a Boeing A380 and woken up in the English countryside. The wineries are like magical finds, often hidden by dense foliage creeping up to the roadside.
Both T’Gallant and Port Phillip Estate serve up a fantastic, sophisticated and very professional winery experience. I can see why the Frankston Visitor Information Centre pointed us in their direction – their both great poster children for the Mornington Peninsula, yet so wildly different.
Only getting around to two wineries I feel like I have just skimmed the top of the barrel when it comes to wine tasting in the Mornington Peninsula. But sure as grapes I’ll be back!