The Yarra Valley is just a short drive from Melbourne CBD and offers a wide range of tasting options. Among the glitziest choices is Levantine Hill, with a gourmet restaurant operated by celebrity chef Teage Ezzard, sculpture gardens and its own helicopter pad and some stellar reds and chardonnays. Also in the region is TarraWarra Estate, which boasts a top-end eatery, new tasting rooms, its own museum of modern art and wine styles like nebbiolo and barbera alongside regional stars chardonnay and pinot noir.
On the other side of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula’s standouts include newcomer Point Leo Estate, where former Rockpool chef Phil Wood mans the pans at Laura, one of two on-site restaurants. There are also expansive gardens and a sculpture park. You’ll discover exceptional wines, views, and accommodation, as well as fine dining, at Kooyong/Port Phillip Estate, while Polperro offers relaxed tastings and serious wine and food matchings.
Out of town, Clyde Park is a dramatically-sited facility with a busy tasting room and casual eatery just outside of Geelong, while Passing Clouds near Daylesford has just revamped its tasting room, serves hearty, rustic chic lunches and will soon be visited by local trains at its own railway platform at Musk. Enjoy a little slice of Italy in the King Valley, where the Dal Zotto family, Australian prosecco pioneers, serve up Italian- inspired seasonal and regional produce in their Trattoria.
New South Wales
The Hunter Valley is a two-hour drive north of Sydney, and its many cellar doors have seen it described as “Hollywood for wine lovers.”
For a peek behind the scenes at 150 years of winemaking history the Tyrrell’s cellar door offers tastings of exceptional Semillons and shiraz and a cellar door tour, while Hungerford Hill is home to a modern tasting facility and Muse restaurant, where chef Troy Rhoades-Brown has built a formidable reputation for his regional cuisine. Coming soon, and doubtless worth the wait, is the brand-new Brokenwood cellar door and The Wood restaurant, which will open late in the year. For an authentic taste of rural Australia, visit Heifer Station outside Orange, where tastings of affordable varietals are available in an atmospheric old woolshed and kids can enjoy a petting zoo. Take any curious overseas guests here for an authentic slice of Australiana.
Local stone and reclaimed timber were used in constructing the new Clonakilla cellar door at Murrumbateman, outside the national capital, where the tasting bar is made from repurposed wine barrels and manned by very knowledgeable staff. This was the birthplace of the shiraz-viognier blend in Australia.
Outside Mudgee, the Lowe Wines cellar door is set in a corrugated iron shed with wooden furniture. David Lowe’s organic wines can be matched with local produce at the adjacent The Zin House eatery run by Lowe’s partner and local foodie Kim Currie.
The new star cellar door in McLaren Vale is d’Arenberg’s multi-purpose The Cube, an award-winning glass-encased steel and concrete structure that sits five storeys high, surrounded by vines, with its design inspired by a Rubix cube, with rotated “modules” that give the illusion of floating above the ground floor entrance. The Cube houses public and private tasting rooms, bars, a restaurant and an art gallery.
Over in the Barossa, the completely made-over Seppeltsfield cellar door has become a place of pilgrimage for wine lovers from around the globe wanting to taste ancient fortified wines dating back 100 years or more. The cellar door features private tasting pods, while Fino is undoubtedly one of the best cellar door restaurants in the country.
Down the road in the Eden Valley work is underway on a new cellar door at Henschke, home of the iconic $825-a-bottle Hill of Grace. The Henschke family has been making wines for 150 years, and you can feel the history all around you. Yalumba, meanwhile, offers a range of tastings and tours of its historic facilities, including a rare on-site barrel cooperage.
In the Clare Valley, the wonderfully rustic chic Skillogalee - home to the first winery eatery in the region - is a must for both tastings and vineyard lunches served indoors or al fresco on the veranda under the shade of an old olive tree. Match the winery’s fabled rieslings with Port Lincoln sardines.
The famous gabled winery of Wynns Coonawarra Estate in Coonawarra, the region’s leading producer, offers visitors the chance to craft their wine blend as well as tasting fine cabernets and shirazes. The first vineyards were planted here in 1891.
A visit to the Moorilla cellar door and The Source restaurant, part of the extravagant MONA complex, is de rigueur for anyone visiting the Apple Isle, while Stefano Lubiana’s homely cellar door and country-style Osteria is more laid back and offers the chance to sample a fully biodynamic range along with Italian-accented dishes. Tamar Ridge, on the East Coast, offers tastings overlooking the ocean and vines, while Velo Estate, just a short drive outside of Launceston in the Tamar Valley, has an updated tasting facility and is home to highly-rated Timbre restaurant.
The fabled Margaret River strip is home to several of Australia’s finest cellar doors, including Voyager Estate, with its superb tasting room staff, dramatically different Cape Dutch architecture and gourmet restaurant offering serious food and wine flights. Family owned Leeuwin Estate, which hosts regular concerts, is another standout, also with a gourmet restaurant on site. In the Swan Valley, outside Perth, Sandalford cellar door offers river cruises, tutored tastings, guided tours and is home to a gourmet eatery that is a regular award winner.
Central Otago is home to several of the most spectacular tasting facilities in the world – and world-class pinot noirs that can match the best of Burgundy. Head to regional pioneer Rippon on the banks of Lake Wanaka for incredible views and world-class wines presented by very well-trained staff.
For those visiting Auckland, artists enclave Waiheke Island, ‘the island of wine,’ is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland and home to several tasting facilities including Stonyridge, which also boasts an olive grove plantation and the popular Veranda Café, a top spot to taste the premium red wines.
Outside Christchurch, in North Canterbury, Pegasus Bay has been owned and operated by the Donaldson family since the 1970s and has a global reputation for both its wines and dining room. The menu is created around the wine list, each dish being matched with a suggested wine. It changes regularly to utilise seasonal ingredients.