Wine Tasting Around Australia

Aug 13, 2015


There was a time when Australia’s top wineries had little to offer beyond. . .  magnificent wine. Now, as more of them serve fine food, quality vino is just one of the attractions. Bon appétit.


Ten Minutes by Tractor

The views are exquisite – a postcard of rolling hills and well-tended vines in the rural heart of the Mornington Peninsula. Housed in a rustic-chic timber and corrugated-iron structure, Ten Minutes by Tractor backs up the scenery with seamless service, outstanding modern Australian cuisine and a wine list that ranges beyond its own award-winning pinot noir and chardonnay. Chef Stuart Bell is fond of the high/low approach: pan-fried hapuka and crumbed local mussels with pomme purée and a bold romesco or the sweet-sour beauty of quail with fig purée and beetroot glaze.

1333 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge; +61 3 5989 6080

Terrace Restaurant

Victoria’s north-east isn’t short of great winery restaurants but this might take the cake – the grand All Saints estate, one of the oldest wineries in Australia, with its imposing red-brick castle complete with grand hall and turreted keep. It certainly primes expectations and the restaurant, a permanent marquee overlooking lush grounds, keeps up its end of the bargain. British chef Simon Arkless brings his visual flair to food that doesn’t need to shout to be noticed, from roast fillet of snapper with seared scallops, hazelnut truffle pesto and cauliflower purée to chargrilled porterhouse in a red-wine jus. Complete your meal with one of the acclaimed All Saints fortified wines.

All Saints Estate, 315 All Saints Road, Wahgunyah; +61 2 6035 2222

Innocent Bystander

This modern glass, steel and timber edifice – the cellar door for Yarra Valley heroes Innocent Bystander and Giant Steps wines – is a hard-working food wonderland built with an eye for the dramatic. It’s possible to spend a whole day here in the cheese room, bakery, coffee roastery, pizzeria and café. The democratic nature of the operation extends to the wine list, studded not only with estate wines but notables from near and far. Enjoy one of these with tapas such as pastrami-cured king salmon or something heartier, such as the ale-braised beef cheek with roasted parsnip and pickled sprouts.

336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville; +61 3 5962 6111


Cupitt’s Kitchen Restaurant

The South Coast may be known for its stretches of sand and surf but just a stone’s throw from shore is one of the state’s best winery restaurants. Among Ulladulla’s hills, Cupitt’s cellar door is housed in a stone creamery built in 1851. The restaurant itself sits atop a wine cave filled with the vineyard’s barrels – all of which can be viewed through a glass floor. In the kitchen, chef Russell Chinn pairs solid French technique with local produce, each course matched with the winery’s own drops. A 2014 Cupitt chardonnay cuts through a Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip velouté, while grilled snapper with saffron couscous goes beautifully with the 2014 Mia Bella arneis. This is casual, country dining with a splash of sophistication.

58 Washburton Road, Ulladulla; +61 2 4455 7888


Orange has become the centre of the New South Wales food bowl, thanks to a swell of wonderful producers and a string of restaurant success stories. Shaun and Willa Arantz’s Racine, overlooking La Colline’s vines in the foothills of Mount Canobolas, is one of the most spectacular dining spots to emerge in the region. Olive walls and crisp white tablecloths provide a smart canvas for the stars of the show – the region’s ingredients. Asparagus and peas add freshness to mushroom gnocchi, while seared lamb saddle gets cosy on a bed of eggplant purée. With an artisan organic bakery attached, Racine is one of the most exciting food offerings in the state.

42 Lake Canobolas Road, Orange; +61 2 6365 3275

Muse Dining

Australia’s major capitals may lay claim to setting the food trend agenda but chef Troy Rhoades-Brown has other ideas. Deep in the heart of our oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley, he’s putting traditional practices back on the table by giving them a breath of fresh air. On the green grounds of Hungerford Hill winery, his brigade makes everything on-site – from bread to smallgoods – and he adds a sense of adventure to a menu that rivals many of his CBD contemporaries. Hunter Valley quail gets a sweet kiss from salt-roasted beetroot, while coffee and pickled rhubarb balance the gaminess of Mandagery Creek venison. A stellar wine list exploring the best of the region, without being confined to it, has helped put Muse well and truly on Australia’s culinary map. And if you’re looking for a more casual experience, check out Muse Kitchen on the Keith Tulloch Wine estate, which offers a contemporary but low-key take on European cuisine. 

2450 Broke Road, Pokolbin; +61 2 4998 6777


The Barrel Room

Two-and-a-half hours drive south-west of Brisbane you’ll find the Granite Belt wine region. It’s also the Sunshine State’s nippiest area but the cosy, cavernous Barrel Room will banish those chills. Warm your hands by the pot- belly stove and savour the garlicky aroma of rustic Italian fare wafting from the kitchen. Order a bottle of the Ballandean saperavi and a bowl of handmade pasta. The seven-hour-braised organic Mallow lamb belly with confit garlic pomme purée and roasted baby vegetables is unpretentious comfort food at its best. Then sit back and admire the wall of barrels for which the restaurant is named – the oldest working wine barrels in Queensland. 

354 Sundown Road, Ballandean; +61 7 4684 1326

Ocean view Estates

Tucked away on a pretty, winding mountain road on the outskirts of Brisbane, this vineyard and restaurant combines a relaxed, rural atmosphere with chic, contemporary fare. Large windows and verandahs offer eye-catching views of the rose garden, lake and hillside vines. The idyllic surrounds are momentarily forgotten when a starter of fork-tender lamb ribs arrives with zingy sumac-spiced yoghurt. Sous vide eye fillet follows, served with handmade oxtail dumplings, smoked-potato whip, burnt onions and sweet baby beets. The winning flavours continue with a peanut-butter parfait with caramel popcorn. If over-indulgence is a concern, a stroll around the lake is a pleasant way to make amends.

2557 Mount Mee Road, Ocean View; +61 7 3425 3900


Four Winds Vineyard

With its polished concrete, repurposed timber and wine-barrel-stave pendant lights, this cellar door hums with a cool, contemporary vibe. The winery has mastered the art of keeping things simple, wooing day trippers with its selection of shiraz, riesling, cabernet, merlot, sangiovese and wood-fired pizzas. Sample a crisp, off-dry riesling while your potato, gorgonzola and rosemary pizza bakes in the outdoor Italian oven. This is one of the only vineyards serving food in sleepy Murrumbateman but bookings are taken and there’s plenty of space to kick back outside in warmer months. Treat the kids to a homemade chocolate brownie and send them exploring through the vines. You’ll want an excuse to settle in for the afternoon.

9 Patemans Lane, Murrumbateman; 0432 060 903

Lark Hill winery 

Chickens can be seen and heard among the vines at Lark Hill, a nod to the Carpenter family’s commitment to making biodynamic wines. The philosophy extends to the kitchen, where chef Chris Carpenter uses biodynamic produce where possible, some of it grown by his 99-year-old grandfather. Indulge in a lazy lunch on the timber deck or grab a spot by the fire inside. Cold air and shallow soils make for delicate, well-balanced wines and the fixed-price menu for two courses or three courses comes with recommended drops for each dish. Spicy nam jim and zesty finger limes give blow-torched scallops a kick and are the perfect precursor to handmade ricotta ravioli with local hazelnuts, slow-cooked egg and dukkah.

521 Bungendore Road, Bungendore; +61 2 6238 0266


Vasse Felix

Home of the region’s first commercial vineyard, Vasse Felix is a shoe-in for any Margaret River itinerary – yet history is but one of the estate’s assets. The contemporary art gallery. The world-beating wine. The invitingly cosy bar. All genuine reasons to set course for this corner of Cowaramup. Then there’s the restaurant, one of the country’s premier vineyard dining rooms. Long-serving chef Aaron Carr is relentless in his mission to keep up with global trends, as shown by winners such as barely cooked marron teamed with wild mushrooms and a piquant sherry vinaigrette. Local produce and assured techniques are constants, culminating in brilliant sweets such as caramel and mulberry ice-cream with hay-infused custard.

Cnr Tom Cullity Drive and Caves Road, Cowaramup; +61 8 9756 5050

Millbrook winery

While many chefs talk the seasonal, local-produce talk, Millbrook Winery’s Guy Jeffreys is one of the few who walks the walk, growing the plants that star in his earnest vegetable-centric cooking. Those fried flowers of tromboncino – an Italian summer squash – stuffed with a comforting mixture of duck and grits? Picked just hours before service. The shrivelled coins of fermented cucumber crowning garnet-rare slices of hanger steak? Another carefully tended resident of Millbrook’s sprawling garden. And on it goes, right through to a joyous finale of doughnuts accompanied by ice-cream made using summer berries grown you know where. Sensational views and modestly priced estate wines are fine accompaniments to the kitchen’s handiwork.

Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale; +61 8 9525 5796

Mandoon Estate

Founded in 2009, what Mandoon Estate lacks in history it makes up for in ambition and knockout wines. From the whiz-bang winery and brewery to thoughtful touches like the children’s playground, this estate, developed by owner Allan Erceg, is something the Swan Valley region can be proud of. In the smartly appointed restaurant, chef Michael Hartnell’s dishes are rich of technique and artful of arrangement. Marron, roasted veal sweetbreads, pancetta and pea tendrils materialise as a meticulous assembly of poached crustacean, springy offal and various iterations on the theme of pea. Tender duck is served with a fudgy, slow-cooked duck egg while molten chocolate fondant finds companionship in a lush popcorn ice-cream.

10 Harris Road, Caversham; +61 8 6279 0500

Pepper & Salt

Silas Masih’s punchy Asian-accented cooking contrasts with the restaurant’s bushland setting, combining to make a memorable experience. Born in Fiji but trained in Melbourne and on Hayman Island, Masih arrived in Western Australia’s Great Southern region with a diverse set of food experiences. His seafood kitchari, a paella-like jumble of rice and lentils, is a nod to his Indian heritage while a laksa broth with Moreton Bay bugs betrays a confidence with Asian flavours. His silken chocolate tart, however, translates to joyous excess in any culture. The restaurant resides on the Forest Hill Vineyard but its cellar has contributions from producers throughout the region. 

Forest Hill Vineyard, 1564 South Coast Highway, Denmark; +61 8 9848 3053


Penfolds Magill Estate

Magill Estate remains one of Australia’s most beautiful restaurants, seeming to float like an enchanted glass-encased pavilion above a five-hectare vineyard of old shiraz vines, which contributed to the first vintages of Grange in the 1950s. The restaurant’s award-winning chefs, Scott Huggins and Emma McCaskill, have set out to create one of the nation’s finest restaurants in an impressive space recently reshaped by acclaimed architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb. The seven-course dégustation menu includes winter dishes such as salt-baked celeriac with cubes of spit-roasted chicken, chicken essence and shaved truffles, and baked cheesecake ice-cream with apple jelly, muntries and shaved walnuts. They’re also in charge of the menu at Penfolds’ adjacent new cellar door and kitchen café, creating a winery complex without peer in Australia.

78 Penfold Road, Magill; +61 8 8301 5551

Hentley Farm

It’s not just Hentley Farm’s wine portfolio that has put the place on the map but its restaurant, housed in the restored 1840s stone stables overlooking the vineyards, has also become a gastronomic landmark under Barossa-born chef Lachlan Colwill. His two set-menu options (diners are advised to allow up to four hours for the eight-plus course Discovery menu) are seasonal and largely Barossa-based, served to a maximum of 36 guests by one of seven chefs – each presenting the dish they’ve just prepared, such as pink snapper with a sour pesto of verjuice and oxalis (a type of sour sorrel) with a local mettwurst paste.

Cnr Gerald Roberts and Jenke roads, Seppeltsfield; +61 8 8562 8427

d’Arry’s Verandah

The d’Arenberg winery restaurant is not a place where you’ll want to rush lunch, especially if you take on the six-course dégustation menu. Just sit back and enjoy the open fire, watch the mist sweep over the hills and admire the dorper sheep grazing in the vineyard below (except, of course, they’re also on chef Peter Reschke’s menu as lamb bresaola, with lamb’s brain and roasted walnut mayonnaise). Key dishes include lobster and blue swimmer crab ravioli with lobster bisque and chocolate-and-chilli-braised kangaroo tail with kangaroo saddle. Wines include about 50 from d’Arenberg, 35 of them by the glass.

Osborn Road, McLaren Vale; +61 8 8329 4848


Josef Chromy

Goat dairy farmer and chef Matt Adams has a diverse life, dividing his time between his farm and the stunning vineyard restaurant at Relbia’s Josef Chromy winery. It clearly works for him because his food is among the most exciting in the region. Order “Big or small” dishes, such as miso-glazed trout, slow egg, forbidden rice and XO chicken broth or “A main that is all mine”, such as black Angus scotch fillet with braised cabbage, caraway and speck. There are Josef Chromy matches for each dish but also wines from different regions as well as a “museum” list featuring the estate’s older vintages. 

370 Relbia Road, Relbia; +61 3 6335 8700