Walking and Wine on a Fine Winter Wine Weekend

A bright Sunday morning during the Winter Wine Weekend saw us walk the Endeavour Fern Gully in Red Hill South.  Amongst the remnants of this cool temperate rainforest, we saw giant ferns, peppermint gums and southern sassafras surviving in a deep glade made more spectacular by a feast of local cheeses and chilled Willow Creek sparkling.

Later, we walked the Bridal Trail (the old railway track) from Red Hill to Merricks.  Here, on the Merricks ridge, we met David Chapman in his vineyard with 2015 Allies wines. This beautiful vineyard (planted in 1983) produces fragrant and complex Pinot Noir and bone dry Chardonnay full of grapefruit and stonefruit flavours.  The Allies Merricks site is unique, producing wines David attributes entirely to terroir. Later, we visited Stonier, the Merricks General Wine Store and finished the day enjoying wine in the barrel room at Rare Hare. The weekend had the Mornington Peninsula humming with thousands of visitors out and about in cellar doors but on this day, scenic walking allowed us to taste alone.

Montalto Vineyard - a jewel in the Peninsula crown

Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove is an icon of the region. The brainchild of ex-marketing guru, John Mitchell, it's one of the Mornington Peninsula’s most exciting and dramatic wineries; an experience unlike any other with so much to see, taste and enjoy.  The estate features a striking rammed-earth tasting room, piazza café and restaurant.  Overlooking vineyard, olive grove, and Sculpture Park it is all relaxed elegance where the beauty of the property sets the mood.  Montalto’s top class wines made by Simon Black can be enjoyed in the restaurant which holds a Chef’s Hat from the Age Good Food Guide.  The Piazza and Garden Café offer a more casual dining experience while summer picnics are a fabulous way to spend a lazy afternoon.  It all adds up to an unparalleled winery experience.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF WINE TASTING

It’s always nice when a father can share his passion with his offspring.  My guests today run a national nuts and bolts business and while the father oversees the national operation in Sydney, one son recently moved to Melbourne to manage the Victorian branch. Both these men simply love wine... in fact, they are besotted by it and so they booked a Plunge Ultimate Wine Lovers' Adventure to explore wineries together.

The dad lives in Woollahra where he enjoys what sounds like an impressive, well-stocked Australian wine cellar.  His son, having recently moved to Mt Martha,  hasn't got a cellar yet but does have a thirst for knowledge and a taste for local wines. 

The previous week, James Halliday’s 2017 Australian Wine Companion hit the bookstores and, as usual, a bunch of the region’s wines received very high scores.  On a gorgeous winter’s day, we set off on a customised tour; looking for wines awarded 95 points or more.

First stop was Elgee Park where Brand Manager, Pat Kettlewell met us in a timber rotunda beside the historic Elgee Park vineyard. Here a tasting of the entire range of wines included a 2013 Elgee Park Cabernet (awarded 96 points) enjoyed with a picnic hamper of local cheese, bread and olives.

Next stop was Pinot Noir at the Willow Creek Vineyard cellar door in Flinders. Here we looked at a flight of 2012 to 2015 vintage wines that showed the consistency and quality of recent vintages.  A highlight was the beautiful 2013 O’Leary Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, awarded 96 points by Halliday.

Afterwards, we drove to Stonier for a tasting of the Windmill Vineyard 100% Whole Bunch Pinot Noir (95 points). This was followed by a drive to the old Stonier family home and a chance meeting with the new owners of the property.  The  views across the paddocks and vines to Western Port Bay and Bass Strait were stunning on a day when there wasn't a zephyr of wind to speak of!

Lunch was at Paringa Estate where my guests each had a glass of 2012 House Block Chardonnay (95 points) and 2014 Peninsula Pinot Noir (94 points).   They ordered entree and matching mains which both enjoyed unreservedly.

Next we drove to Tod Dexter’s property in Merricks North for a walk amongst the vines and a lesson on cane and spur pruning techniques before tasting 2010 and 2015 vintage wines.  Around the Dexter's kitchen table, the fresher Chardonnay had more fruit-weight and greater complexity as borne out in Halliday's top scores:  97 points for the 2015 Dexter Chardonnay  and 96 points for the 2015 Pinot Noir.  Both wines were beautifully balanced, rich and full of flavour an opinion echoed throughout our group.

The last stop was Moorooduc Estate where we met the region’s great wine educator, Kate McIntyre MW and her winemaker father, the endearing Rick McIntyre. Here is another passionate wine family.  All the Moorooduc wines were given scores of 95+ in Halliday’s book and the cellar door was buzzing as a result. The McIntyre Vineyard Chardonnay received 96 points and the Pinot Noir 97. Both on tasting, they proved absolutely delicious for flavour, structure and texture. 

They may run a successful nuts and bolts business but today it was the Mornington Peninsula's turn to show these manufacturers the nuts and bolts of hand-crafted precision-made wines.  The Plunge mobile left the region filled with cases of fine single vineyard wine, all highly rated in Halliday's 2017 Companion.  I can’t wait for the 2018 edition and a return visit!