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Winter Is The Season To Visit Australia's Best Wine Regions And Cellar Doors

21 Jul 2017

‘Tis the season to visit cellar doors and taste wine right across Australia. Nothing warms the cockles like a glass of wine and there’s no time like the present to hit cellar doors and sip the good stuff.

During winter, winemakers scrub the juice from their weathered fingers, hang up their vintage hats and take a breather. It’s a convivial time. A time to rug up, eat, drink and be merry. Many regions host special festivals, lunches, dinners and events to entice people to visit. It all makes for unique and memorable winery experiences. We scoured the nation for some of the best. 

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Swan Valley

Only a short 30-minute drive from Perth, historic winery Houghton is a must-see when visiting the Swan Valley. There’s 180 years of history wrapped up in the lush gardens and stately pines.

Houghton Cellar Door WA

“Houghton cellar door is cosy in the winter with modern heating maintaining just the right temperature for you and our wines,” cellar door manager Daniel Lodge says.

“The handcrafted chairs made from wine barrels sit in the foyer for you to soak up the winter sun, while enjoying the vista. You can rest in the comfort of our lounges, while reading some of our wine reviews from Australia’s leading wine journalists.”

There’s an art gallery and museum, too.

“If wine is not what you are after, there are plenty of delights on offer such as local chocolate, fudge and nougat.”

Now you’re talking. 

Also take the time to visit Olive Farm Wines who serve chocolate with wine tastings (and do a mean selection of sparkling, white, red and fortified wines). Pinelli Wines is another cellar door worth visiting.

It won Best Cellar Door With Food – Swan Valley in the 2016 Gourmet Traveller Wine Cellar Door Awards.

It is located within walking distance of Discovery Parks – Perth Vineyards. The adjacent restaurant Fillaudeau’s is a great place to hide from the cold. 

In a nutshell…

Climate: Mediterranean (warm summers, cool winters) 
Varieties: Verdelho, chenin blanc, chardonnay, shiraz, rosé, cabernet sauvignon, fortifieds
Sip at: Houghton, Vino Italia, Sittella Winery, Olive Farm Wines, John Kosovich, Mandoon Estate, Pinelli Wines
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Perth Vineyards

 

Margaret River

“The Margaret River wine region is spectacular during the winter season,” Kate Norman from Vasse Felix winery says.

“Winter mornings are beautifully crisp and clear, with no hint of wind. Sunrise over the vines is magical when the sun catches the layer of mist hanging over the vineyard. Days are best spent by roaring fires, enjoying warming comfort food at the restaurant or a charcuterie board and glass of wine by the fire in the wine lounge.”

VASSE FELIX  Pic Tourism Western Australia

There’s art to explore and if you’re feeling adventurous, the Cape to Cape track is fantastic.

“The walk takes you through beautiful, lush green vegetation, past amazing views of the coastline, and the fresh air and cool temperature will leave you feeling renewed and energised.”

It’s whale-watching time along the coast, too, so take a bottle to go and drink it while you watch nature in all her glory. What should you choose?

VASSE FELIX Pic Tourism Western Australia

“Vasse Felix cabernet sauvignon expresses the distinct regional profile. Margaret River is today recognised as a leading chardonnay region of the world and Vasse Felix is a recognised leader in the new era of modern chardonnay in Australia.”

Pair it with a chacuterie board, rabbit, duck and pork dishes or soft to hard cows’ cheese and mild goats’ cheese and you’ll be laughing.

“The Estate sommelier’s personal favourite for this wine is a lovely roast chicken or a creamy fettuccine carbonara.”

In a nutshell…

Climate: Maritime, warm  
Varieties: Cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc, merlot and shiraz
Sip at: Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines, Brown Hill Estate, Xanadu Wines, Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Bunbury Village

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Clare Valley

This wine region is one of Australia’s oldest and is best known for riesling.

“Our region is beautiful all year around,” Danielle Boulton from Claymore Wines says.

“But the Clare Valley in winter is truly something else. The air is pure and crisp, the land intermingles with trimmed and bare vines ready for spring, and green and lush pastures dotted with cows and sheep. And of course, there are open fires and delicious red wine.” 

For the ultimate winter tipple, Danielle recommends The Dark Side of The Moon. 

“In the depths of winter here in Clare it can be pretty dark and dreary, so exploring the dark side seems logical.”

Sevenhill Cellars

Sevenhill Winery is also worth a winter visit.  It was the first winery established in the region and the cellar door is packed with history. Explore the underground tunnels and check out the museum, where you can learn about the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who settled Sevenhill in 1851 to produce sacramental wine.

The Clare Valley Regional Wine Show is held in October. 

In a nutshell…

Climate: Continental, warm days, cool nights 
Varieties: Riesling, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot
Sip at: Wines By KT, Claymore Wines, Sevenhill, Kilikanoon Winery, Shut The Gate Wines, Mad Bastard
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Clare  

 

Adelaide Hills

It’s all about reds in the Adelaide Hills during the winter months. Winter Reds Weekend runs from 28 to 30 July and involves more than 30 cellar doors.

Each one hosts special lunches, dinners and shindigs, with this year’s theme ‘play with fire’. It’s a wonderful time to visit the leafy region located a short drive from Adelaide’s CBD.

Hahndorf Hill Winery   Pic Jeremy Watson

Visit Hahndorf while you’re there for some great German grub and pop into Hahndorf Hill Winery at any time of the year for a chocolate and wine tasting experience you won’t forget. There are more than 90 wine labels and 48 cellar doors to choose from. Grab your rubber boots, jacket, scarf and sense of adventure and visit them all. 

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool
Varieties: Chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, shiraz and merlot
Sip at: The Lane Vineyard, Hahndorf Hill, Deviation Road, Bird In Hand, Murdoch Hill, Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard, Shaw + Smith, Somerled
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Adelaide Beachfront

Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard   Pic Adelaide Photographers

 

Barossa Valley

“The thing I love most about this region in winter is rugging up in your winter clothes, visiting cellar doors that have an open fire, drinking red wine and enjoying local produce,” owner, grape grower and winemaker at Whistler Wines Josh Pfeiffer says.

Josh urges people to consider drinking whites and rosé over winter.

“Just drink them at room temperature. My favourite wine over winter would have to be our 2015 Thank God It’s Friday cabernet/merlot blend, matched with roast lamb and veggies.”

The winery’s cellar door has an open fire and looks out at a natural bush setting. They have a build-your-own platter option, so you can enjoy local produce with your wine. They also host a curry and cabernet event on 13 August, with around 700 people expected to turn up.

“The Barossa Gourmet Weekend is in early spring, so set aside the weekend of 2 and 3 September. We are expecting around 3000 adults to pass through.”

Turkey Flat Vineyards (located next to Discovery Parks – Barossa Valley) has a cellar door in a historic bluestone building complete with a wood burning fire. 

What should you take with you? “Mataro is especially suited to all things from the slow cooker,” winery staff member Emily Hay says.

Whistler Pic daniel purvis

“The plush tannins, ripe fruit and savoury tannins match perfectly with rich, wintery dishes like oxtail stew and lamb shanks.” Emily also recommends the rosé.

“Just after release it’s at its best and is a fantastic food wine.”

Turkey Flat’s Ancestor Shiraz vines turn 170 years old this year and they’re hosting a dinner to celebrate. Africola’s Duncan Welgemoed will do the cooking (keep your eye on the Turkey Flat website for details).

“If you can’t make it to the Barossa we’ll be heading to Melbourne as part of Barossa. Be Consumed (barossa.com) on 22 July at the Melbourne Meat Market.”

In a nutshell…

Climate: Warm to hot
Varieties: Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, chardonnay, semillon, riesling
Sip at: Tscharke Wines, Hewitson, Kaesler, Peter Lehmann, Penfolds, Grant Burge, Whistler, Chateau Tanunda, Seppeltsfield
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Barossa Valley

 

McLaren Vale

“I love the stark beauty of the landscape beneath frequent rainbows and the fact that we have time to really talk to our guests in winter,” marketing manager at McLaren Vale’s Primo Estate Catherine Woods says.

“I think winter is the best time to visit, as all the cellar doors are quiet and relaxed (sometimes you even catch a winemaker pouring wine during these quieter months). We can take the time to find a wine you love and tell you the story behind it.”

Primo Estate Pic Adam Bruzzone

The region is a 45-minute drive from Adelaide and Catherine says the cold weather means it is easier to get a table at restaurants. The winery hosts Winter Wild Lunch on 5 and 6 August. The courtyard will be filled with the smell of rotisserie-roasted porchetta and the wood oven is fired up to bake handmade gnocchi with venison ragu. Rich, red JOSEPH wines accompany the feast.

Olive oil, also produced by many wineries, is great in winter. Primo’s JOSEPH First Run, the first extra-virgin olive oil of the season, is fresh from the press in winter. “You simply can’t beat the taste of it at its most vibrant and delicious.”

If fortifieds are your thing, head to d’Arenberg, where there’s a a variety to choose from and a roaring fireplace cranking all through winter. 

D'Arenberg Cube

The winery also has a restaurant (d’Arrys Verandah Restaurant’s degustation lunches are something special) and offers one-off experiences. Try a range of different vintages of The Dead Arm Shiraz in a vertical masterclass or play winemaker for the day at a blending bench session. While you’re there, take a gander at the gobsmacking new Cube, a five-storey multi-function building set among mourvèdre vines. It will include a new tasting room, a restaurant, private tasting rooms and state-of-the-art facilities on each level. 

In a nutshell…

Climate: Warm, Mediterranean 
Varieties: Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, mataro, chardonnay, semillon
Sip at: d’Arenberg, Coriole, Wirra Wirra, Beach Road, Primo Estate, Chapel Hill, Oliver’s Taranga, SC Pannell
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Adelaide Beachfront

 

VICTORIA

The King Valley

Fancy some prosecco, sangiovese or nebbiolo? The King Valley in north-east Victoria’s high country is Australia’s home of Italian varietal wines. Local family-owned Pizzini Wines bagged the 2016 crown for Tourism Wineries, Distilleries & Breweries. Their cellar door has a cooking school and hosts food events including A Tour Of Tuscany With Pizzini (a masterclass celebrating sangiovese, brunello and chianti during October 2017), and annual Gnocchi Carnevale (18 to 19 November). The celebration of gnocchi is part of the Wines of the King Valley’s La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival

If you happen to be in Canberra over winter, you can attend Tastes of Two Regions (11 to 13 August). The event showcases King Valley wines and drops from the Rutherglen region, which specialises in durif and muscat (also located in the north and protected by the Great Dividing Range). La Dolce Vita (18 to 19 November) is also worth checking out. The family-friendly event lets you meet winemakers and features live music and entertainment, markets, local produce and handcrafted goods.

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool
Varieties: Prosecco, sangiovese and nebbiolo
Sip at: Pizzini Wines, La Cantina King Valley Corsini Vineyard, Gracebrook Vineyards, Politini Wines, Chrismont
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Lake Hume

Sam Miranda Winery Pic TourismVictoria

 

Strathbogie Ranges

Head for Ned Kelly country for an off-the-beaten-track wine tasting experience in the high country. The team at Fowles Wine recently renovated their cellar door near the Hume Highway in Avenal, north-east Victoria. The simple building is made from mudbricks and timber from a nearby farm.

“Our vineyards and winery sit at around 500 metres above sea level, so the region has a very Alpine feel that we love in winter,” CEO and vigneron Matt Fowles says.

“We get flurries of snow and temperatures as low as minus six degrees with cloud settling in the valleys below. It’s all very pretty. There’s always open fires, hearty food and great reds around the table.” The cellar door has a natural playground, a picnic area and animals for the kids. Live theatre events are also part of the cellar door experience.

Our Stone Dwellers shiraz or cabernet are my favourite winter tipples,” Matt says.

“These wines are classics that most clearly reflect our region’s qualities in the glass – lovely, centred wines. Not many people know but we are also sheep farmers and I would recommend drinking these wines with a hearty braised lamb shoulder or lamb shanks.”

While you’re in the area, check out Sedona Estate. The hillside cellar door has wonderful views of a secluded valley, best observed next to the roaring log fire with a glass of shiraz and a tasting platter made using local produce. The cellar door hosts an annual Longest Tasting event in November. Think top-end beef paired with Sedona wines. You can also taste local drops at Euroa Butter Factory

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool
Varieties: Sparkling wine, riesling, shiraz, cabernet
Sip at: Fowles Wine, Sedona Estate
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Melbourne

 Giant Steps Pic TourismVictoria

Yarra Valley

This historic wine region can be found 45 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD. Victoria’s first wine-growing district is a pretty spot. Chardy, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz are the Yarra’s most common varieties but the diversity of soil and climate means there’s plenty to sip at cellar doors.

Wineries like Giant Steps go the distance to make sure there’s a reason to visit and hide from the cold. On 28 July, Giant Steps hosts a winemaker dinner, one of many throughout the year. Join Steve Flamsteed and Macgregor Forbes of Mac Forbes for an exclusive meal with matching wines in the Barrel Hall dining room.

By day, the cellar door and restaurant does wood-fired pizza, charcuterie and tapas in a glass-walled space with industrial-chic decor.

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool
Varieties: Fine sparkling wines, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz
Sip at: Giant Steps, Yarra Yering, Coombe Farm – Melba Estate, Domaine Chandon, Dominique Portet, Hanrahan Estate, Mandala and DiVino Ristorante
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Melbourne

DomaineChandon pic TourismVictoria

 

Mornington Peninsula

You’ll find this beautiful coastal wine region less than an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne. During winter, good things come in small toasty packages. Small, family-run Mornington Peninsula winery Merricks Creek has been in operation for decades and recently moved with the times by adding a cellar door and restaurant.

Winemaker Peter Parker and his son Sam know that an excellent pinot noir and chardonnay tasting needs a dash of fire. Their new open-plan cellar door is adorned with fireplaces. 

If you want to taste the best the region has to offer without worrying about driving, tour group Wine Compass runs great bus tours across the region. Learn about tradition at Tucks Ridge, do a barrel tasting with winemaker Mike Aylward at Ocean Eight, sip among the barrels with Quealy Wines winemaker Kathleen Quealy and her son Tom, or chew the fat with chatty John Harper from lesser known cellar door Bluestone Lane. You’ll be welcomed like old mates at each winery.

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool
Varieties: Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, cabernet franc, shiraz and merlot
Sip at: Merricks Creek, Ocean Eight, Tucks Ridge, Quealy Wines, Bluestone Lane
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Discovery Parks – Melbourne

 

TASMANIA

Winter is a reason for celebration in Tasmania. It’s when the annual winter festival Dark Mofo is presented by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the home of Tasmania’s oldest winery. 

“During winter, our cellar doors make sure the fire is burning or heater is on so visitors can enjoy our glorious clear, crisp days with a glass of something Tasmanian,” Sheralee Davies, chief executive officer of Wine Tasmania says.

“Our Tasmania’s Wine Trails (winetasmania.com.au) provide details of cellar doors, which are open daily during winter.” There’s the Tamar Valley Wine Route in the north (visit Launceston and Cataract Gorge while you’re there).

Wine Tasmanaia pic Adam Gibson

Launceston is the gateway to the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s oldest wine-growing area and a hot spot for cellar doors, markets and restaurants. There are more than 32 vineyards within driving distance across the Tamar Valley, Pipers River, Launceston and Relbia. The Southern Wine Trail includes vineyards very close to Hobart. Hit Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley and the Huon/Channel wine growing areas for a taste of the best. The East Coast Wine Trail includes one of Australia’s best road trips: The Great Eastern Drive. 

The mild climate means there’s plenty of sweet berries, nuts and cool-climate wines to try. Finally, the North Coast Wine Trail is packed with spectacular coastal views and cellar doors at Barringwood, Emilia Wines, Ghost Rock Vineyard, Leven Valley Vineyard, and Prickly Mo Wines

StoneyRise QLDPic: Stony Rise Wine Company, Tasmania.

Events for the calendar include the Great Eastern Wine Weekend (12 and 13 September) and The Seafarer’s Festival (22 October). The Seaferer’s Festival is a family day of activities, food, wine and entertainment on and by the sea is held at Hobart’s Bellerive Boardwalk. Wine Tasmania also presents the VIN Diemen Tasmanian wine, beverage, food and tourism event in Melbourne and Sydney each August (vindiemen.com.au).

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool 
Varieties: Pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and sparkling wines
Visit: Stoney Rise
Closest Discovery Holiday Parks: Discovery Parks – Hadspen, Cradle Mountain, Devonport, Mornington, and Hobart

 

QUEENSLAND

It’s not uncommon for wineries along Queensland’s Granite Belt to experience snow. The state’s best known wine region has altitudes of 700 to 1250 metres above sea level and a similar temperature range to central Victoria (that’s chilly).

Crossed by the New England Highway, which runs from Dalveen to Stanthorpe, Ballandean and further south, meets the border with New South Wales at the historic town of Wallangarra. Other wine regions across Queensland include Brisbane and Scenic Rim, Darling Downs, the Gold Coast Hinterland, Granite Belt, North Burnett, Somerset Valley, South Burnett, Sunshine Coast, and Western Downs.

In a nutshell…

Climate: Cool 
Varieties: Shiraz, merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc, sparkling wines 
Sip at: Ballandean Estate
Closest Discovery Holiday Parks: Discovery Parks – Hervey Bay

 

NEW SOUTH WALES

There are 14 regions to explore in New South Wales: Canberra District, Cowra, Gundagai, Hastings River, Hilltops, Hunter Valley, Mudgee, New England, Orange, Perricoota, Riverina, Shoalhaven Coast, Southern Highlands and Tumbarumba. The oldest is the Hunter Valley located north of Sydney.

“The Upper Hunter Valley is an absolutely beautiful place during winter,” James Estate chief winemaker Alex Finnie says.

James Estate

“Frosty mornings with amazing sunrises lighting up the sandstone escarpments. There are loads of local fairs and markets with plenty of fresh produce and of course, great wine.”

What is the best tipple for winter?

“For me, it’s shiraz,” Alex says.

“We have just released our 2016 Estate Shiraz, a classic Hunter Valley medium-bodied wine with plenty of red fruit weight and spice. A wine like this pairs perfectly with spicy Asian dishes, ideal for warming the bones on a cold winter night.

Winery Shed Hunter Valley Pic Mike Newling

Keith Tulloch Winery pic Lisa Maree Williams

The James Estate Wines Vineyard and Cellar Door is located at Baerami in the Upper Hunter.

“Throughout the winter months, you can stay warm and sip on some exceptional wines in front of the fire pit.” 

In a nutshell…

Climate: Warm to hot
Varieties: Shiraz, chardonnay, semillon and verdelho
Sip at: Mount Pleasant, Usher Tinkler Wines, Tyrell’s, Tulloch, McWilliam’s, Casella, Calabria
Closest Discovery Holiday Park: Central Coast Holiday Park – Budgewoi, Central Coast Holiday Park – Canton Beach

 

Discovery Your Next Holiday Among The Vines >

 

This winter wine feature was published in G’DAY Magazine.

Header image: Pipers Brook Vineyard. Pic: Tourism Tasmania & Tamar Valley Wine Route. Credit: Chris Crerar. 

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