If (like me) you love your wine wicked and without the wankery, it’s worth planning a weekend wine adventure on the Moorabool Valley Taste Trail (MVTT).
Taste your way through any of a dozen or so cellar doors and get to meet real people behind the wine brands in the fast-growing Moorabool Valley wine region.
Small, family-owned wineries dominate. Most weekends you’ll find growers, winemakers, family producers and boutique operators on hand ready to chat about the challenges and joys of this tough cool climate region. They have a couple of things (at least) in common: a genuine love for what they do and a distinct lack of wankery. Expect big warm welcomes, loads of belly laughs and secret-story moments.
Some cellar doors swing open seven days a week, others are more niche and only open to the public the first Sunday of the month (or by appointment). Grab an MVTT map at Visitor Information Centres or any of the MVTT businesses and plan yourself a day or two of grape expectations.
You’ll soon find your own faves. Here are my personal picks (in no particular order).
For a niche winery experience you can’t beat a first-Sunday of-the-month visit to Spence Wines. You’ll meet Peter Spence, a quintessential small-batch winemaker of Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He does it all: grows the grapes, hand-prunes, hand-harvests, stomps, ages, bottles and pours. Ask him about biodynamic and sustainable farming practices, the difference between a barrel and a barrique, and to pour you a splash of his favourite child: his award-winning Shiraz. And keep an eye out for Raz, Pete’s high-energy, easy-to-love little pooch (who loves greeting guests at the door). Bonus: Award-winning Barwon Ridge Wines and ultra-boutique Ceres Bridge Estate are either on your way to or from.
There are few places as inspiring for Sunday lunch as the restaurant deck at family-owned Del Rios of Mount Anakie. Blessed with sweeping views, it’s where conversation naturally lingers over Spanish-inspired dishes and fabulous estate-grown wine vintages including Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Try the Spanish Chorizo Sliders with the 2013 Anarchist Red Blend or a Winemakers Cheese Platter with a 2015 Chardonnay. Pop into the cellar door on the way out for tastings and a chat with one of the Del Rios. Bonus: Staughton Vale Vineyard is just up the road. Wink, wink.
I’ve loved Clyde Park Vineyard since my nephew married the love of his life on the terrace overlooking the jaw-dropping valley of vinerows. Superb wines (including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris), barrels of atmosphere, a brand new cellar door and cracking good food. The bistro menu is totally shareable with oodles of wood-fired wickedness and 5-star wines by the glass. Make mine Peking Duck Pizza and Pinot Noir. Bonus: Keep an eye out for Eagles Rise Wine; they’re practically neighbours.
Venture on the road less travelled. Deep in the valley, find Moorabool Ridge Wines perched high on the ridge with its vines threaded along the banks of the meandering Moorabool River below. Linger on the verandah of the 1856 shepherd’s cottage for cheese platters, focaccias, fresh-baked goods, coffee and fine wines, all served with a good dose of chit chat by owners Tim and Jo. Varieties include Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz, Semillon and Chardonnay/Semillon and the shelves are always groaning with house-made jams, pickles, relishes and olive oils. Yum! Bonus: Not far beyond is Rowsley Fault, an award-winning winery that also happens to be topographically named.