Just over an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne is the Mornington Peninsula, a region with a worldwide reputation for premium quality Chardonnay and Point Noir. This year we kick off our weekend escape series in the picturesque winery region that is a world-class leisure destination that ticks the boxes for work and play.
Our three-day adventure was just dipping our toes into the water of this region that has become renowned for its wines, restaurants and golf and with the introduction of new tastes with craft breweries, cider makers and distilleries.
Day 1 started with a tasting of Willow Creek wines at Rare Hare, the onsite cellar door and restaurant that is part of the newest kid on the block, five-star hotel Jackalope. Cellar Door Manager, Simon walked us through a journey of their cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Rare Hare white and the vineyard creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Our first 6-pack in hand, it is time to join the buzz of Thursday afternoon dining in the restaurant with oysters, shared plates and the best of local produce.
No visit to Rare Hare would be complete without popping into the much acclaimed Jackalope for a sneak peak to see what the buzz is all about. This very cool, contemporay and modern hotel draws you into its magic as soon as you enter the Hotel. From the edgy bar, and blue lit hallway you are drawn to this modern oasis and then there is Doot Doot Doot that has a reputation of excellence. By chance we were able to secure a date for Saturday night to explore what has only been reported as dining excellence.
This is an absolute understatement. From the moment we arrived at the restaurant, the staff were friendly, engaging and incredibly knowledgable of the menu, the wine and the local region. This is an experience that everyone should get to experience, whether it is a date night, special occasion with friends or for a team getaway, it is an absolute must.
Our trip coincides with the Australia Day long weekend and one of the hottest days of the victorian summer, so the best solution for our Day 2 of exploring the Mornington Peninsula was to map out a day of wine tasting and local produce.
With over 200 vineyards in the Mornington Peninsula and more than 50 cellar doors, we are absolutely spoilt for choice. One of the things we always do when exploring a destination is to tap into the local region, to find out their favourite wineries, restaurants and hidden treats.
First stop Merricks General Store for a delicous breakfast of local produce and to stock up on the best of local produce from the store filled with jams, chutney’s, oils and the MGWS muesli so that we can continue our experience on our return home.
We start our wine tasting at Pt. Leo, an impressive property that lies between the seaside villages of Merricks Beach and Shoreham on the eastern side of the Peninsula on Western Port Bay.
The Estate’s Restaurant and Cellar Door are perched on the highest peak of the property in a building that was meticulously built with the view in mind. Every table has a 180-degree view over Western Port Bay, Philip island, the vines and the impressive Sculpture Park. Tastings in the open planned cellar door is nothing short of impressive with the professional and passionate staff. The signature Mornington Peninsula varieties are showcased here, Pinot Gris; Chardonnay; and Pinot Noir, as well as their estate Shiraz. Our first case ordered, we are off to our next destination and highlighly recommended local favourite, Pier 10.
Our host, Craig walks us expertly through the fantastic collection of wines from this small and family-run vineyard with varieties from their Sparkling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Rose. Craig’s friendly and welcoming introduction to their wines has us walking away with our first case of Pier 10 wines, ordered and set for delivery to home – this is one winery you will return to each time you visit the region.
Next stop, the picturesque Montalto winery, a family-owned estate with award-winning wines (make sure you try the Pinot), Montalto Restaurant with a contemporary fine-dining experience from the wood-fired kitchen or for a more casual dining, you can enjoy wood-fired pizzas in the Piazza garden before taking a stroll in the sculpture trail. There was a private function on the day of our visit to Montalto and a complete fire ban, so pizza was off the menu. Our next stop, we travelled further into Red Hill to Polperro Winery for lunch.
Polperro Winery is nestled among the vines on a stunning 25 acre property in the heart of Red Hill. The Polperro Bistro is a seasonal feast from the Polperro garden and wines from the intimate cellar door. Lunch for us starts with oysters, duck liver pate that is served as a delicious lollypop and then deliciously fresh barramundi. The intimate cellar door hosting 10 guests at at time is stunningly designed to showcase the full range of wines from Polperro and Even Keel wines.
Established in May 2014, Polperro is a boutique winery that offers an on-site bistro, luxury accommodation and intimate cellar door which showcases the Polperro and Even Keel wine.
Day 3 was all about water views and the beautiful hussle of Sorrento Village on a busy Saturday of the long weekend. A walk around Sorrento’s laidback village takes in the history, galleries, boutiques and homewares; an absolute shoppers delight. After a lazy stroll down the hill we enjoy a walk along the pier to The Baths Sorrento for a seafood lunch with breathtaking views of the bay.
Our final stop before we farewell the Mornigton Peninsula is 10 Minutes by Tractor, with a temporary tasting room set up at their sibbling venue Petit Tractor. The cellar door team not only take through the full flight tasting of their wines from their three regions, but an insight into the history of the wine journey and how three vineyards that were each ‘ten minutes by tractor’ apart from one another became one estate.
The Mornington Peninsula has it all from sandy beaches, award winning wineries, craft breweries, luxury accommodation and shopping, hot springs, hikes and adventure to a choice of 15 prestigous golf courses, this is one destination that you will return again and again as it has so much to experience.
Whether it is a weekend getaway, a celebration, leadership retreat or conference the Mornington Peninsula our team can design the perfect itinerary for you to Eat, Stay and Play in this premier destination. I know we can’t wait to return for our next adventure!