It seems the operators of Port Macquarie struggle to do anything by halves, demonstrated best in their offering of fully-fledged wineries.
From a vineyard planted alongside one of the world’s largest mazes, to the only volunteer-run winery in the country, to a cellar door within an art gallery – Port Macquarie delivers a dynamic mix of vineyards set in unique locations, and all within driving distance to the region’s many beaches. Here, a guide to its best wineries and cellar doors.
Head 30 minutes inland from Port Macquarie into the hinterland of the Hastings River Region to find a curious combination of a vineyard planted alongside an architecturally-designed lilly pilly hedge maze that reaches two kilometres high and contains over two kilometres of winding paths to explore.
The family-run 10-hectare vineyard specialises in producing premium chardonnay, verdelho and fortified wines, merlot and ports – think sparkling pinot noir chardonnay, chocolate and blueberry liqueurs, and a shimmering blueberry rose that’s a fruity twist on a summer staple. Sample the range at the onsite cellar door with a wine tasting paddle accompanied by a cheese and charcuterie platter featuring the region’s best produce.
Alternatively, assemble your own picnic spread featuring a bottle of Bago wine, cheese platter, handmade chocolates and local produce and preserves from the onsite shop to be enjoyed in a sun-soaked patch of grass on the property before you venture into the iconic hedge maze to round out the experience.
Wine and cheese has long been touted as the perfect pair, but Long Point makes a strong case for art to transform this famous duo into a winning trifecta.
The vineyard and gallery hybrid (located just 18 minutes’ drive from the centre of town) offers wine tastings, local art and delicious produce all under the one roof. Premium chardonnay, frontignac, verdelho, cabernet, chambourcin and tempranillo all feature on the cellar door tasting list.
Don’t miss the 2017 chardonnay, best described as a complex and rewarding wine with fresh guava and melon and hints of green apple, with a well-balanced vanilla oak finish. And be sure to order the famous Jolly Nose Tawny and refreshing alcoholic Ginger Beer while you’re there.
Take your beverage of choice with you to accompany your viewing of the gallery which features works by a number of talented local artists and exhibits that rotate on a bi-monthly basis. Check the gallery’s Facebook page for artist events prior to your visit.
The Cassegrain family, who are descended from an old wine-making family in France, have spent the last 30 years combining their rich knowledge of traditional French winemaking methods with modern Australian techniques to produce a diverse portfolio of award-winning wines.
The multi-region producer’s grapes are grown on the alluvial flats of their 4.9 hectare Hastings River vineyard, featuring semillon, verdelho, chambourcin, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon; and in the New England region of NSW at the 30-hectare Richfield Vineyard (part-owned by Cassegrain Wines) for chardonnay, verdelho, semillon, shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and ruby cabernet varieties across the 30-hectare vineyard to produce their extensive range of wines.
Find the cellar door within the working winery on the Cassegrain Estate just 13 minutes’ drive from the Port Macquarie town centre. Stay for a tasting – don’t miss the chambourcin and sparkling wine varieties – purchase a picnic to enjoy on the grounds of the winery, or opt to dine at twotriplefour, the paddock-to-plate restaurant housed on the estate. For something completely different, combine your wine tasting and meal with a trail ride through the vines with Port Macquarie Horse Riding.
In the mid-nineties a community conservation group banded together to salvage an important part of Port Macquarie’s winemaking heritage – the Douglas Vale History Homestead & Vineyard. Today the site, which dates back to 1859 and is located conveniently in the centre of town, has been thoughtfully transformed into a working vineyard and museum that is run entirely by volunteers. Making it the only one of its kind in Australia.
At the height of its glory the estate spanned 44.7 acres and produced international acclaimed award-winning wines. Approximately 4.1 acres of vineyards remain of the property today and the not-for-profit organisation produces a small variety of wines that include two whites, a rose, two reds and a fortified wine made from villard blanc, chardonnay, chambourcin and shiraz grape varieties.
Arrive in time to take one of the daily tours of the museum and grounds, followed by a wine tasting at the cellar door accompanied by a cheese platter – and the pleasure of knowing you are supporting the local community.
Find Little Fish Café and Vineyard overlooking the vineyards of Innes Lake Estates just 11 minutes outside of town. Tastings of the Little Fish and Innes Lake range of chardonnay, frontignac and verdelho, cabernet and chambourain are available by appointment, but the best way to taste their vino is alongside a meal in the French restaurant helmed by Steve Delandemare.
The French chef has drawn inspiration from the cuisine of his homeland to create a modern menu using the best seasonal produce, perfectly paired with a glass of their wine offering. Try the fig and red wine braised beef cheeks matched with a glass of the Inneslake Shiraz.
Dine on the veranda overlooking the vineyards or in the gardens among the jacaranda, poinciana and magnolia trees. Alternatively, bring your own picnic rug and dine alfresco among the vines with a pre-ordered platter from the restaurant that is overflowing with local produce, meats, cheese and horderves.