I’m no expert on Zen, and certainly no expert on chemistry, but I have an ongoing love affair with the Peninsula, particularly its wines and through years of cellar door tastings, dinner parties and lazy afternoons relaxing with a glass, I have come to view wine through what might be called Zen-coloured glasses.
Finding Zen is all about simplifying your life– yoga, meditation and spending time with loved ones. In tasting wine it’s about finding focus, blocking out distractions and slowing down. When you find Zen, wine becomes more enjoyable, as you practice being in the present you breathe and find calm.
The fastest growing industry on the Peninsula is ‘wellness' and moderate consumption of wine fits perfectly into this lifestyle. Everyone wants better health; we want to look younger, live longer and enjoy life more as we age. We are seeing yoga centers, healing spas, hot springs, massage retreats, and yes, more wineries promoting healthy lifestyle through wise choices.
Red wine, in moderation is heart healthy. Antioxidants found in wine help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of 'good' cholesterol and protect against artery damage. The key message is, ‘drink less but drink better’. So if you’re looking for quality wine, made in small batches with fewer additives, then the Peninsula is the place.
Today across the region, wineries use fewer pesticides in the vineyard; they've reduced chemicals and are more eco-friendly, promoting natural soil improvement. There’s Zen to be found in a sympathetic approach to the natural environment , but to find Zen in wine tasting… well, first try meditating in any of the following temples of vinous splendour.
Tod Dexter grows distinctive wines with good structure, complexity and length of flavour. The Dexter wines reflect their site, in this case the cool sandy loam of Tuerong North. Tod has called the Peninsula home since returning as a winemaker from Cakebread in the Nappa Valley in the early 1970s. Back then his hair was long, he rocked out to the Beatles and drove a surf wagon. Today Tod has remained a cruiser, unflappable in the face of even the most testing vintage. His fastidious approach sees batches of pristine fruit come into the winery without a blemish. These bruise-free grapes are handled with a zen calmness to make lythe and savoury Pinot Noir and chiseled and polished Chardonnay. Definitely worth seeking out.
At Crittenden Estate Winemaker, Rollo Crittenden has always produced long-lived wines of highly individual style from sustainably managed and mature estate vines. The Pinot Noir has real glugability, while the Chardonnay goes from strength to strength. Set amidst the tranquility of gardens, lawn, vines and ornamental lake, the new Wine Centre is where to try Rollo's cutting-edge range of Italian and Spanish varietals under the Pinocchio and Geppetto labels . The rock stars in this line-up are the Zumma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, made from the finest estate fruit from the oldest vines. In 2015 the winery introduced a new tasting experience that includes various wine flights which is proving a great alternative experience for the region.
Wander into the cellar door at Moorooduc Estate and chances are you'll come across winemaker, Rick McIntyre fussing over barrels full of highly-structured Chardonnay. Outside in the vineyard, 30-year-old low-yielding, unirrigated vines are the perfect tools to produce Rick’s complex wines. The Moorooduc Estate Chardonnay is a regional icon but the Pinot Noir also has exceptional depth of flavour and richness. Notwithstanding its modest production, the wines have found their way onto a veritable who’s who list of Melbourne’s best restaurants. The cellar door attracts wine enthusiasts drawn by the scent of the legendary wild yeast ferment and Rick’s weekend baking of sourdough loaves in his wood fired oven. There are many in the region, but Rick’s wines stand out like a beacon of exceptional character.
Like a cool Chapel Street bazaar, Nazarray Estate oozes alternative chic. This is where Peninsula winemaking abandons the safety net and visitors discover Pinot Noir made with a combination of wild yeast and whole-bunch ferments. A place to sit and quietly enjoy the surrounding bushland, here is also where winemaker, Paramdeep offers funky innovative wines- very Burgundian in style that can be sampled alongside traditional Indian flavours from the kitchen. The cellar door always offers something unusual like the railway carriage that it’s housed in. It’s worth checking what’s on offer here as on some weekends, host Nirmal will present a menu featuring mouth-watering Indian curries and sample platters. Yum!