Mornington Peninsula is a labyrinth of wineries and a foodie haven. Here are the 5 wine and food stops you’ll want to plan into your next roadtrip.
1. Crittenden Wine Centre
Rollo’s nose, Crittenden Estate, Mornington Peninsula.
At the sleek, light-filled Crittenden Estate Wine Centre we enjoy something different, a terrific seated wine-tasting to explore some of their 26 diverse wines.
“We offer people a structured wine flight where they can taste five pinot noirs, or maybe a Spanish-style wine, Italian variety or a mixture of all,” former Young Gun Winemaker, Rollo Crittenden explains as his two impish blond-haired boys wriggle on his lap.
“Our tasting flights help customers discover varieties they might never otherwise try,” says wine manager Clayton Hiskins. “It’s fun and not at all intimidating.”
It certainly opened our eyes to the fabulous tangy spritz of Spanish variety Los Hermanos txakoli (perfect for tapas) and a full-bodied fruity Pinocchio sangiovese.
2. 2 Macs Farm
Ripe for the eating, heirloom tomatoes, 2 Macs Farm, Mornington Peninsula.
We walk through a grove of bracken ferns to meet Mary McCarthy in her cute-as-a-button farmgate cottage at 2 Macs Farm. Wearing green-embroidered jeans and a T-shirt sporting the words ‘Fate Loves the Fearless’, Mary leads us down the garden path (literally) sweeping us up in her enthusiasm for healthy living and eating.
Plump tomatoes and eggplants soak up the sunshine on the highest point of Main Ridge. Nearby, her builder-furniture-maker-apiarist-farmer hubby, Bill, is churning up a paddock-to-plate organic garlic.
As we approach his clever corrugated iron chook condos on wheels, dozens of Rhode Island Reds start humming a happy tune. “It’s because they think I am going to feed them,” Mary laughs. I’m ready to move to the farm, or at least take one of her detox cooking classes, since this 60-something farmer and cook looks half her age!
3. Polperro Vineyard Dining
Polperro Vineyard Dining is the coolest dining spot on the Mornington Peninsula.
Sam Coverdale’s Polperro Winery is nestled among the vines and shaded by ancient Angophora trees on a stunning 25-acre property in the heart of Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula. The owner and winemaker established Polperro in May 2014, a boutique winery that offers on-site dining, intimate cellar door and luxury accommodation that showcases the Polperro and Even Keel wine.
Polperro Vineyard Dining, the classy restaurant, is decked out in charcoal and cream, grey mohair wraps on the chairs, and is buzzing with a long table of friends enjoying lunch. Clusters of people relax on the deck shaded by a row of stately Angophoras. Others soak up the sunshine on the lawns that overlook rows of vines descending to a wetland pond.
“We don’t shut the kitchen at 2.30pm. You can hang out all day if you want to,” laughs Sam, whose easy-going charm sets the tone. “Some people have been known to come for lunch, lounge on the deck all afternoon, and then stay on for dinner. We own Saturday night down here. It’s a bit of a crab trap; it’s hard to get out!”
And, if you can’t bear to leave you can curl up in one of the beautiful villas and do it all again the next day. Sam’s wines are nothing to sneeze at, either. His salmon-coloured rosé makes a great aperitif, while his Even Keel syrah goes down a treat with any of chef Daniel Kerekes’ meaty selections.
4. Bass & Flinders Distillery
Bass & Flinders Distillery founders Wayne and Bob.
The Stingray sports car out front alerts us that it’s not all bucolic business as usual at Bass & Flinders Distillery. Silver-haired founders Wayne Klintworth and Bob Laing have a passion to deliver on the premise that you can never have too much good booze. They saw the Peninsula was awash in fine wines but no distilled spirits, so they invested in a traditional Alembic copper pot still and fast-tracked their skills with a French master distiller.
Their love child is Ochre, an Australian aged eau de vie. “Let’s not use the C word”, says Wayne, referring to cognac, which was released in March after maturing in Taransaud oak barrels for four years. In the meantime, their artisanal gins have tapped into the current zeitgeist.
Even more popular are their gin masterclasses, where you can create your own botanical blend with the likes of coriander, lemongrass, and, best of all, grains of paradise. Now we’re talking.
5. Epicurean Red Hill
Try the pizzas, Epicurean, Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula
A hungry AT team, with cover (issue 64) star Marion Grasby in tow, pulled into Epicurean at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula just in time for pizza day. Housed in The Shed, the restaurant is kept cosy with log fireplaces and, of course, a wood-fired oven, which was hard at work during our visit, pumping out delicious, thin-based pizzas.
As well as the considered, local wine list, we loved the bar-side chesterfields and the adjacent homewares shop housed in a 1900s cold store.
More on Mornington: The good-life getaway to Mornington Peninsula