48 hours on the Mornington Peninsula
When it comes to weekends of pure indulgence, there are few destinations more appealing than the Mornington Peninsula. I fell in love with the place a couple of years ago, tempted by its natural beauty and seduced by its wines. It’s a love affair that continues to deepen as return visits reveal layers of charm. From wild and secluded surf beaches to soothing hot springs, DIY beach picnics to day-long degustations, the region is irresistible.
A taste of what’s in store...
It was the early 70s when a few intrepid wine lovers, inspired by great wines of Burgundy, had a look around and noticed that the Peninsula was perfect for Burgundian varieties. Thirty years on, these vines are now producing some truly exhilarating wines.
Where to drink
Regional flavours at Paringa Estate
You couldn’t have a more iconic intro to the Peninsula than at Paringa. Built from the ground up on an old apple orchard in 1984, hard work and winemaking talent have made these legends industry stalwarts. Their cellar door and restaurant is as gorgeous as their grapes so plan to stay a while. Warning: watch out for the comedy geese the prowl the property.
Taste history at Main Ridge Estate
One of the early pioneers of the region, Nat and Rosalie White, founded Main Ridge after their rough climatic comparison to Burgundy stacked up. It has certainly paid off in some of the most sought after small batch wines on the Peninsula. While the Whites have since moved on from the property, Nat is still involved as a consultant winemaker. Supply is super limited, so if you’re after a bottle, getting into the cellar door and onto the mailing list is your best bet.
Out of the ordinary at Quealy
Kathleen Quealy was another winemaker whose reputation as a local identity preceded her. I remember a visit to the Peninsula back in ‘98 and visiting T’Gallant where I discovered great pinot grigio - Kath and her husband Kevin Mitchell were early champions of the variety in the region.
Kath is not afraid to experiment with varieties, blends and styles and the Peninsula is all the better for it. These are fascinating wines with equally fascinating names, ask about the ‘Pobblebonk’. And keep an eye out for wildlife too, we were lucky enough to spot a koala in the trees lining the driveway on the way out.
where to eat
Share plates at Foxey’s Hangout
Foxey’s Hangout is perfect for lunch with groups of friends. It’s run by brothers Michael and Tony Lee - winemakers and restaurateurs who stepped back from the restaurant game in Melbourne to move to the Peninsula.
Ordering is easy. Just start at the top and work your way down the share plates menu - I’ve found it’s a great way to sample quality local produce.
You can bottle and label your own sparkling wine here too, it’s good fun and a hands-on insight into the process of making and bottling sparking. Call ahead to book.
A very long lunch at Polperro
If it’s an indulgent long lunch you’re after, with the quintessential vineyard view, Polperro is your place. And if you can’t bear to leave (you won’t want to) there’s beautifully styled accommodation in villas just a very short (downhill) stroll from the restaurant and cellar door.
Inside the cozy restaurant, outside on the deck or wrapped in a blanket by the fire pit, sit back, relax and immerse yourself in the spectacular setting.
The food here is next level and the gorgeous wines by Sam Coverdale set the scene for an epic feast. His Polperro wines are all about the Peninsula and his ‘Even Keel’ range go further afield. Wherever you end up, it’s going to be a happy place.
If you don’t have time for lunch, at least make time for a tasting, the cellar door service is spot on.
A degustation at 10 Minutes by Tractor
This was the scene of one of my top 10 dining experiences - a degustation of so many courses I lost count. Perhaps it was the three wines that accompanied each course - a vertical tasting of single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs spanning several years. This is the kind of place you need to spend some serious time at, so book your accommodation nearby and make the most of it.
where to hang out
Admire art at Montalto
Home to winemaker Simon Black’s brilliant chardonnay and pinot, this cellar door is one of the most beautiful places to walk off lunch. Wander beyond the vines and around the property, and you’ll discover around 20 permanent sculptures scattered around the place.
Make a splash at the Hot Springs
Seriously, imagine a belly full of food and wine followed by an an array of thermal pools to sink into at the end of the day. Bliss. There are several pools to choose from or you can lash out with the full spa package featuring massages and facials. You can even dine and bathe. Yep, have a dip in the thermal pools then eat and drink without having to change out of your bath robe. Perfect.
Hit the beach
You’re going to need more than 48 hours to explore the region’s natural wonders. At least stop by Mt Martha on your way home and catch the sunset, preferably with a picnic of local produce and a bottle of chardonnay - hit up the Cellar & Pantry in Red Hill for provisions.