Geelong, Bellarine, Moorabool Valley and Surf Coast dwellers need little encouragement to brag about the region’s abundance of postcard-perfect wineries, headline-grabbing restaurants, award-winning farmgates and iconic natural attractions. Not to mention the scenic golf courses, specialty cafés and easy accessibility from Melbourne by road, train or ferry, plus Avalon Airport close by. Since everyone should experience the gastronomic riches of Geelong and its sub-regions, here we recommend three cellar doors designed to enrich any wine lover’s weekend.
If you like your pinot noir super-fragrant, your cool-grown shiraz served with locally sourced Angus beef, and your glass of top-rated chardonnay enhanced by sea views, read on. Pictured top: Terindah Estate's The Deck
Aside from the exemplary wines (including a plethora of high-scoring, single-block pinot noirs and elegant, long-finishing chardonnays), Clyde Park’s distinctive amphitheatre-shaped vineyard makes for a supremely inviting pastoral setting. In addition to ample terrace seating overlooking the valley of vine rows and Bannockburn farmlands, inside the smartly decorated barrel hall you will find long dining tables ideal for big groups (or breezy days). The wood-fired pizzas on offer (incorporating produce from the likes of Meredith Dairy and Salt Kitchen Charcuterie in Ballarat) have earned Clyde Park a steady stream of regulars, many of whom embrace the child-friendly atmosphere. The à la carte menu, meanwhile, is characterised by hearty dishes such as beef bourguignon sourced from Sage Farm next door and fish in prosecco batter. If you’re looking for take-home options beyond the flagship wines – and it’s worth remembering the site was established by pinot pioneer Gary Farr back in 1979 – it is hard to go past the cellar-worthy Geelong shiraz, the 2016 vintage as much savoury as fruity according to James Halliday.
Perfect for: A casual Sunday lunch with a group of friends, perhaps as the central stop on a Moorabool Valley tasting tour or ahead of a banquet-style dinner at Inverleigh Cellar and Kitchen. Central Geelong attractions such as the Little Creatures Brewery are within a half-hour drive. Open daily from 11am and playing host to local musicians on Sundays (when it is worth reserving a table), this cellar door is also a popular wedding reception venue for a reason. Tastings are free for individuals and small groups.
Must-try wine: 2016 Clyde Park Single Block D Pinot Noir, 97 points
Winemaker Ben Mullen says to expect characters of dark fruits and concentrated herbs, oak spice and long structural tannins. James Halliday agrees ‘the palate has the power and drive of a tip top great Premier Cru from Vosne Romanee’.
Clydepark.com.au | 03 5281 7274 | 2490 Midland Hwy, Bannockburn, VIC 3331
Set in a French-style farmhouse complete with fireplace, leather armchairs and garden-party terrace, the cellar door at Scotchmans Hill is the epitome of country charm. As locations go for sampling gold medal-winning wines beneath the gum trees, a platter of locally grown olives and creamy brie close at hand, it does not get much better than this Bellarine winery. From its high point on the peninsula, the vineyard just outside Drysdale makes for a picturesque backdrop at any time of year, particularly when a clear sky delivers a view of the Melbourne skyline across Port Phillip Bay. For a $5 fee (refundable with any bottle purchase) visitors can taste an extensive range of regionally specific wines under the Scotchmans Hill, Cornelius, Hill and Swan Bay labels, from beautifully weighted chardonnay and Old World-style sauvignon blanc to age-worthy pinot noir and spicy shiraz. A private room with space for up to 20 guests is available for tailored tasting experiences, but if you would rather just bring a canine companion with you rest assured that dogs are welcome within the grounds.
Perfect for: A lazy afternoon of sipping with your partner while perusing the latest edition of Halliday Wine Companion magazine, perhaps after brunching on fresh Australian Blue mussels in Portarlington (10 minutes away). Open daily from 10:30am, the breadth of wines on pour at Scotchmans Hill make it a good stop for those keen to wrap their heads round subregional traits. A complimentary bus transfer runs on weekends (and can be arranged on weekdays) from the Portalington ferry port, which is a 90-minute cruise from Melbourne. Bookings are recommended.
2012 Cornelius Single Vineyard Syrah, 96 points
Chief winemaker Robin Brockett says to expect a well-structured wine with a long finish, while James Halliday describes ‘utterly delicious red fruits at its heart, with a garland of gently spicy/savoury tannins and French oak [that] will be lovely now or in 20 years hence’.
Scotchmans.com.au | 03 5251 3176 | 190 Scotchmans Rd, Drysdale, VIC 3222
When the winery name translates to ‘most beautiful’ you know the views are going to be knockout, and the fact that Terindah Estate boasts a private beach and an al fresco bar called The Deck should give you an idea of the panoramic vista taking in sea, Melbourne skyline and the You Yangs. Since it opened early 2017, The Deck has attracted more than a few local devotees who enjoy reclining in Cote d’Azur-style loungers with a trophy-winning shiraz or bright pinot grigio and a French-inspired sharing platter. If you fancy something more filling than duck, brandy and port paté, be sure to book into The Shed restaurant for lunch or dinner and sample dishes such as seafood blanquette with creamy pinot gris sauce. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the restaurant means you don’t have to sacrifice the view for culinary satisfaction and the wines on offer include a showstopping rosé and elegant zinfandel alongside the classic varietals of the region.
Perfect for: A family day out for foodies and thalassophiles (ocean lovers) who particularly enjoy boutique, hand-harvested wines when they come with Instagram-worthy scenery and cuisine. Day tours from Melbourne are available including the 90-minute cruise from Docklands across Port Phillip Bay, return winery transfers, lunch at The Shed and a second tasting at a neighbouring cellar door. You might also combine a visit with a tasting at the Flying Brick Cider Co or The Whiskery, a trip to Portarlington, or a spot of antiques shopping in Geelong (20 minutes away). The cellar door is open daily from 10am.
Must-try wine: 2015 Terindah Estate Single Vineyard Shiraz, 94 points
Winemaker Tim Byrne says to expect ripe plum and strawberry fruit paired with white pepper and the smokiness of French oak on a silky tannin structure. James Halliday says ‘complexity is its middle name [with a] spicy/savoury/foresty/peppery patina to the bouquet and palate alike’.
Terindahestate.com | 03 5251 5536 | 90 McAdams Ln, Bellarine, VIC 3223
To find out about more cellar doors across the Moorabool Valley, Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula, return to the Geelong wine region guide >