This photo montage provides a visual commentary of not only some of my favourite wineries that I visit in order when I venture to the area on a day trip. There is also a suggestion for a relaxed lunch which will prime even the most hungry and thirsty visitor for a big day in and amongst the cellar doors and hopefully leave you with not only a positive impression of the Mornington Peninsula wine growing region but you will also have have a chance to appreciate one of the best restaurants in regional Victoria.
At the conclusion of this page you will find links to other helpful resources should you want to visit Mornington Peninsula.
About an hour drive from the Melbourne CBD via the Peninsula Link Freeway, we happen upon T'Gallant Winery which is always a great place to start wine tasting on the peninsula as the cellar door not only has around ten wines open and ready to sample, which opens up your palate, but the service is always cheerful. I have never found this cellar door busy, especially when I visit in the late morning so you are able to get personal service. Winemaker Kevin McCarthy is responsible for a very broad range of wines which all deserve a taste or two. Having developed a "Pinot G Style Spectrum" that measures the style differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio; two styles of wine that are produced at T'Gallant Winery, just at different and evolving extremes. Not to be constrained just to cool climate white Pinot-styles, sparkings, whites and reds are all available to taste and of course purchase. There is an Italian restaurant attached to the winery however I have opted to enjoy my long and relaxed lunch at the next venue.
1385 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge VIC 3928
The next cellar door and lunch reservation is only a minute away from T'Gallant. This is the much celebrated Ten Minutes by Tractor cellar door and restaurant. Given the quality and popularity of the wine, it is no surprise that the cellar door is always a hive of activity. Given the time of the year and of course given the availability, you will have the opportunity to enjoy offerings earmarked from a single "Estate" vineyard: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grapes which hail from the Judd, McCutcheon and Wallis vineyards in Main Ridge. The "10X" wines which included a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are sourced from different vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula however only include grapes that are controlled by Ten Minutes by Tractor. I have always found the various 10X wines on offer the most intriguing however with the limited production sometimes I have been left wanting with cash in hand but no stock available to purchase. Fortunately because the restaurant is part of the winery (and vice-versa of course) what may not be available to taste is available as part of a wine matching experience with multiple degustation menus on offer at the restaurant.
A reservation was booked for 12:00 PM and after arriving early to taste the various wines on offer in the tasting room, we were taken to our table. The small dining room is situated behind the winery's public cellar door. Fortunately for us we were seated on the perimeter of the restaurant with direct views out to the vines and the sheep that methodically followed each other up and down the rows of grapes chewing on grass however every table in the house has a great view. It is an idyllic and relaxing backdrop that merges well with the fit-out of the contemporary dining room.
Ten Minutes by Tractor
1333 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge VIC 3928
Continuing on after a very satisfying and relaxing lunch, we found ourselves at the Ocean Eight Winery. Owned by the Aylward family, this is a relatively small winery even by Mornington Peninsula standards with a vineyard spanning 17 Hectares. On this visit we would be the only ones in the tasting room, which is located on a very picturesque property only a few minutes from Ten Minutes by Tractor. I have always been a huge fan of both their Pinot Gris (recently purchased at both Lau's Family Kitchen in St Kilda and Tonka in the Melbourne CBD to accompany some amazing meals despite having cases at home!) and of course their Pinot Noir. A variety of wines are available to taste at the cellar door, including a chardonnay, sparkling cuvee and if you were lucky like we were when we visited, different vintages of the various Pinots.
Ocean Eight Winery
271 Tucks Road, Shoreham VIC 3916
After admiring the view and enjoying the pleasant and professional service afforded to us by Nick, the cellar door manager at Ocean Eight, our journey would take us a mere five minutes to Eldridge Estate in Red Hill. I have always fancied this tasting room as one of my favourites on the peninsula. Not just because of the amazing view where you can relax on the balcony that overlooks the vines but because of the owners, David and Wendy Lloyd which you will find running the small cellar door on occasion but also a colourful cast of characters that they know that are keen to give you a robust pour, have a laugh and share stories. It is easy to spend hours at this winery and on this visit, the majority of it was spent being heckled by the quirky winemaker, David Lloyd, as I made the mistake of making a bet with him on the last Australian Open - specifically who would win the Women's Championship and because I supported the lovely and beautiful Maria Sharapova, who could not deliver in the end, I owed David a bottle of wine. I made a another mistake by bringing him a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yarra Valley when I should have known that he doesn't like that variety at all. After he threatened to pour it down the sink I said on my next visit I would return with a special Pinot Noir that would surely impress him, however since he produces one damn good Pinot Noir himself, I reckon that I have an uphill battle to face, but it is all part of the fun. On this visit, only a few bottles of Gamay were left in their inventory which I greedily purchased as it is one of the only Gamay's on offer in the area however discounting the rarity, is a mighty fine drop. Tasting their Shiraz and Pinot was the highlight for me whilst we mused about our cricket team. You could spend hours at this cellar door just admiring the view however we had to bid the vineyard farewell as we were on the clock and had two more places to visit.
120 Arthurs Seat Road, Red Hill VIC 3937
A five minute drive from Eldridge Estate and you will be within the warm embrace of both the Paringa Estate cellar door and restaurant. A celebrated eatery that I was keen to enjoy dinner at, but sadly was not able to because I failed to make a booking. A notable highlight on the menu being wallaby sourced from Flinders Island Meats (at the time of this writing, this information is correct) the same product that was earlier enjoyed at Ten Minutes by Tractor. This time we were left to pull up a pew and enjoy the service at the cellar door, which is spitting distance from the restaurant, not that you would spit indoors, but you get the idea. Despite having a wide range of red and white wines available to taste, I am always partial to the Pinot Noir (do you see the common theme with what I most enjoy on the Mornington Peninsula) however given the service in the tasting area and the magnificent views out over the property from the restaurant, it should come at no surprise why this restaurant is always booked out and it is not just because the restaurant received a 15/20 rating in The Age Epicure.
44 Paringa Road, Red Hill South VIC 3937
Fortunately it is only a five minute drive from Paringa Estate to Stonier Winery in Merricks which gave us thirty minutes precisely to taste their range of wines. Besides being able to have an informal tour of the barrel and fermentation rooms if that strikes your fancy, you can purchase a cheese platter supplied by local producer Red Hill Cheese and enjoy a glass of one of their big earthy wines. This is one of the reasons why I like to end my tasting journey at this cellar door; the tastes of Pinot Noir on offer are arguably the biggest and boldest in the region. If your palate isn't already challenged, there is a quality sparkling wine and a chardonnay available to taste however the star of this place is the Reserve Pinot Noir which I always buy by the case.
362 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks VIC 3916
After a relaxing day touring the Mornington Peninsula wine region, it may be prudent to check into one of the many places that can accommodate you overnight, head out to Red Hill or even back to Paringa Estate to enjoy a magnificent dinner with local produce or even attempt a cheeky beer or two at the Pig & Whistle Tavern back in Main Ridge. For me there is nothing like a refreshing ale to cleanse the palate before undertaking the return journey back to Melbourne (where I usually take the opportunity to nap) or even before heading to the coast and spending the evening and ultimately night in Sorrento. There are many wonderful cellar doors and restaurants on the peninsula and these are just simply a handful of them that match my particular and unusual tastes. I would encourage you to explore the area which could take weeks, responsibly of course, being aware that in the summer and on the weekends, the foot traffic at the various wineries increases but also the temperature of your boot which has the potential to spoil any wine that you are bound to purchase. When I am looking to impress friends from outside of Melbourne, I follow the itinerary outlined above and if you do, I really doubt that you will regret it.
The Mornington Peninsula "Official" Tourism website can be found here.
The "Official" Mornington Peninsula Tourism Map can be found here.