Stop by Chrismont’s award-winning new cellar door and restaurant for an incredible wine and dining experience. Victoria’s King Valley has never looked so good.
There was certainly no fanfare, not even a ribbon-cutting to announce the opening of Arnie and Jo Pizzini’s spectacular cellar door and restaurant at their King Valley winery, Chrismont. That was little over a year ago. If they thought news wouldn’t travel quickly, they were mistaken.
In October last year, their new space nabbed the lauded National Building Design of the Year award with praise “for leveraging the natural environment to create an exceptional design”. The Pizzinis commissioned Mark Gleeson of MG Design & Building to make the most of the location – sweeping views of vineyards and bushland – and a brief to create a special wine and food destination. It features an entrance wall and freestanding fireplace crafted with stone quarried from Glenrowan and made by local stonemason Frank Vickers, polished concrete floors, Hoop pine plywood ceiling, Caesar stone tasting benches and floor-to-ceiling glass panels with the panoramic view. There is nothing quite as striking in the King Valley or beyond.
The restaurant is where the Pizzinis’ Italian heritage (Arnie from the north, Jo from the south) comes to the fore. Family recipes are the inspiration behind the uncomplicated, terrific food listed on the Larder Menu. Jo, together with her cousin and chef Giovanna Jones, have developed the dishes, while day-to-day chef Giacomo Galetti helps bring together the largely local and seasonal harvest and flavours.
When the produce is this good, there’s no need to trick up dishes: locally cured prosciutto comes topped with the sweetest, juiciest figs, plus torn pieces of mozzarella and a mound of peppery rocket ($18); polenta and rosemary chips with garlic aioli ($10) are the best I’ve had, with aioli whipped with flavoursome but not pungent black (fermented) garlic.
The garlic prawns ($16) are excellent and succulent: deveined and shelled, bathed in fragrant, warm olive oil, butter and herbs. There’s excellent focaccia, baked every morning, to soak up all that goodness.
And what’s an Italian eatery without pasta? Casarecce (common throughout Sicily) might complement braised duck ragu or a hot salami and Napoli sauce (both $27), while slices of eggplant might feature in lasagne ($27), layered and topped with cheesy bechamel sauce, housemade pesto and Napoli sauce.
You can feast or graze here over lunch, with dinner only available for 20 or more. The cellar door area doesn’t impinge on the dining experience or vice versa, and you can taste current releases between courses. The 2015 Riesling ($8 a glass/$17 a bottle) matched my dishes brilliantly and while only Chrismont wines feature, the great selection includes La Zona, which is all about Italian varieties, and all are offered by the glass.
The restaurant seats up to 300, so it will inevitably be popular for functions, conferences and weddings. Even so, the cellar door will always remain open. Yet, I would always want to visit for a tasting and lunch. It is the combination of good food and wine, the people, the space, amazing design and the panorama that makes Chrismont unique. But don’t take my word for it. Go. Just check there’s no clash with a wedding party.
What: Chrismont Cellar Door, Restaurant and Larder
Where: 251 Upper King River Road, Cheshunt, Victoria
Eat: Garlic prawns
Drink: Chrismont Riesling by the glass ($8)
or Il Ré Nebbiolo by the bottle ($110)
Mood: Smart, but relaxed with spectacular views
Details: Cellar door open daily, 10am-5pm;
lunch only, dinner for 20-plus.
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