The Best Cellar Door Experiences in Australia

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Jun 28, 2017

by JO MCKAY

Take wine and add chocolate, art and cooking.

Match chocolate with wine

Hahndorf Hill Winery
Adelaide Hills, SA

Wine-tasting in a glass-walled balcony overlooking vines and pastures is a perfectly civilised experience but at Hahndorf Hill Winery, there’s an indulgent twist. Here, wine flights are teamed with chocolate. And it’s good chocolate, whether it comes from Adelaide establishment Haigh’s or superstar chocolatiers such as Michel Cluizel and Deniz Karaca. Why chocolate and wine? Apparently, both have the ability to reflect terroir – the soil, climate and geography where the beans and grapes were grown. Choose a ChocoVino tasting to suit your palate – milk or dark, red or white – but be sure to also sample the winery’s grüner veltliner, the Adelaide Hills’ white varietal du jour. ChocoVino tastings from $24 a person

Discover art in your glass

Moorilla
Berriedale, Tasmania

When art-lovers and wine connoisseurs collide, the result is a rather special blend. Moorilla’s Posh-As Day at Mona offers the chance to explore David Walsh’s thought-provoking Museum of Old and New Art, as well as the vineyards and barrel rooms of his lauded winery. A three-course lunch and ferry transfers in the Posh Pit (an exclusive lounge with wine and canapé service) are included, as are a private vineyard tour and subsequent tasting where decanted wines are served in elegant cut crystal. Those wanting to take it up another notch can stay overnight in the swank Mona Pavilions. Posh-As Day at Mona experience $400 per person

Learn Nonna’s secret recipes  

Pizzini Wines
King Valley, Vic 

In the picturesque King Valley – a region dubbed Little Italy due to the prominence of Italian grapes – you’ll find A Tavola!, the Pizzini Wines cooking school. Run by matriarch Katrina, the hands-on tutorials range from Salting, Smoking & Curing to the ever-popular Pasta, Gnocchi & Risotto, where you’ll master dishes such as gnocchi with burnt butter and sage and Nonna’s traditional bolognaise (a recipe from Katrina’s mother-in-law – a significant step up from the midweek spag bol). At the end of the class, Katrina finishes the cooking while you partake in wine-tasting before reconvening to enjoy the meal. Classes from $145 per person

Do a rockstar tour  

Audrey Wilkinson
Hunter Valley, NSW 

Touted as a behind-the-scenes tour, this daylong experience is more like an all-in-one wine educational and scenic adventure. Start with a helicopter transfer to the Audrey Wilkinson estate for a private tour, chatting with chief winemaker Jeff Bryne as you taste from old and new barrels. Then it’s off to a three-course lunch at nearby Hunters Quarter, followed by a scenic flight over the Pokolbin vineyards and a final stop at the cellar door for a vertical tasting, sampling shiraz and semillon – varieties for which Audrey Wilkinson is known. Behind the Scenes Premium Experience from $600 a person

Explore a diva’s estate

Coombe
Yarra Valley, Victoria

At the height of her fame, Dame Nellie Melba was one of the world’s highest-paid celebrities so it’s no surprise to find that the Melba Estate is fit for a diva. The property features a gallery (housing her diverse collection, from Louis Vuitton travel cases to Hans Heysen masterpieces), an elegant eatery and a cellar door showcasing the estate’s Coombe Farm wines. But the highlight is being able to view parts of Melba’s home, Coombe Cottage (in winter only). Guests can tour her boudoir, music room, the dining room and entrance hall, which are off limits to the public at other times of the year. A Glimpse of Melba Tour $125 per person

Crush some grapes  

Flame Hill Vineyard
Montville, Qld 

Crushing grapes with your feet was once a serious part of the winemaking process; today, it’s more about fun. Flame Hill Vineyard, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, embraces both the tradition and the joy of grapes between the toes in its annual Stomp festival. The day includes live entertainment, lunch and a wine-tasting (with a ticket purchase) but come 4.30pm, it’s time to hop in the barrel and squash those babies with tootsie power. It’s a great way to get a foot in the winemaking game. (Boom, boom!). Tickets $55 per person (kids under 12 are free)

Drink tawny as old as you are 

Seppeltsfield
Barossa Valley, SA 

Wandering through Seppeltsfield’s Centennial Cellar is a stirring experience: it’s row upon row of tawny-filled barrels, dating back to 1878. One way to partake of this incredible 139-year legacy is on the Taste Your Birth Year Tour, a 30-minute experience where age is an asset. According to Seppeltsfield’s Nigel Thiele, each vintage will have “individual characteristics; the product of that one ripening season in the Barossa”. If the thrill of tasting your own vintage isn’t enough, consider the extensions of this tour. You can sample a 100-year-old vintage or a dram from significant years in history or your own life. Taste Your Birth Year Tour $75 per person

Play winemaker for a day 

Sandalford Wines
Swan Valley, WA

Winemaker wannabes, step right up: this is your chance to craft a bespoke wine (and be rewarded for your efforts). This three-hour package includes an overview of Sandalford’s history, a winery tour, lunch and a tasting of eight wines – but the highlight is the blending session. Helped along by a booklet explaining the art of wine blending, you’re given three vinos (merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon) and left to concoct your signature potion. Once you’ve nailed it, you’ll need to re-create it for the judging round. Competitiveness is encouraged – blend the best and you’ll take home a bottle of Sandalford tawny. Winemaker for a Day package $145 per person

Walk among the vines

Lowe
Mudgee, NSW 

If you’ve ever had fanciful notions of following in Tom and Barbara Good’s footsteps from British sitcom The Good Life then a post-wine-tasting stroll on this self-guided Wine, Walk and Cycle Trail through the Lowe property is for you. There are vineyards, cork tree plantations, fruit and nut orchards, bees, chooks, a pigeon house and even a compost heap – this is an organic farm, after all. A delightful map, illustrated by local artist Rachael Flynn, shows the way; overleaf, useful information is combined with dry one-liners. The donkeys, for instance, “do absolutely nothing useful… they generally like people more than people like them”. Free

SEE ALSO: Fly-Fishing and Wine-Tasting at Josef Chromy Estate