As seen in the Qantas Magazine, January 2019
Story by Peter Bourne & Rebecca Villis
Despite its proximity to Melbourne, this scenic wine region has managed to fly under the radar – until now.
A 90-minute drive north of Melbourne, Victoria’s Heathcote region doesn’t hold back on its bucolic charm. Visitors are greeted by what looks like a giant game of marbles abandoned centuries ago: large granite boulders strewn across sharp green peaks. Roads wind through this dramatic landscape punctuated with rolling hills before reaching the area’s heart, where vast open bushland dotted with ageing eucalypts takes over.
But Heathcote is much more than scenic drives and must-stop lookouts. A burgeoning food and wine scene is also part of its charm. It all began in 1955 when Czechoslovakian vigneron Paul Osicka and his family arrived and planted the first vines in Graytown. Two decades later, Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill in Ladys Pass produced spectacular shiraz, which remains the region’s signature variety.
Today, some of the country’s big names in winemaking – Tyrrell’s Seppelt, Brown Brothers – have vineyards in Heathcote. Yet the area is still something of a local secret. It’s not set up for mass tourism (there are no big bus tours here) and the only visitors you’re likely to encounter are kangaroos and emus wandering among the vines. But that’s precisely what makes it a wonderful escape – much like the Napas and Champagnes before tourists discovered them. Plan a weekend here now before the rest of Australia catches up.
Wild Duck Creek Estate
Make an appointment to taste these small-volume high quality wines, including the Duck Much Shiraz that impressed American wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr (wildduckcreekestate.com.au)
Drink now – White Duck Roussanne Viognier
Cellar – Springflat Shiraz
Winemaking siblings Mark Hunter and Jodi Marsh focus on regional hero shiraz but don’t overlook their blushing rosé and juicy tempranillo (sanguinewines.com.au)
Drink now – Tempranillo
Cellar – D’Orsa Reserbe Shiraz
Viognier and shiraz are championed at this tasting room in a produce store dating back to the 1850s gold rush (heathcotewinery.com.au)
Drink now – Mail Coach Viognier
Cellar – The origin Shiraz
Rhône Valley vigneron Michal Chapoutier joined forces with Jasper Hill to create La Pleiade, a local shiraz with a French accent. The cellar door in Heathcote offers wine from Chapoutier’s vineyards in the area and the Victorian Pyrenees (mchapoutier.com.au)
Drink now – Tournon Lady’s Lane Vineyard Heathcote Shiraz
Cellar – La Pleiade Shiraz
Winemaker Tobias Ansted is the mastermind behind wines that favour Rhône varieties. Enjoy the fruits of his labour at this bucolic cellar door (tellurianwines.com.au)
Drink now – Rosé
Cellar – Tranter Shiraz
EAT, DRINK, SHOP
74 High Street, Heathcote
0439 499 948
Heathcote’s best brekkie spot is on the edge of town in a modern, airy space that’s all grey and blue tones with timber and concrete accents/ There’s Proud Mary coffee from Melbourne and crowd-pleasers such as coconut porridge with creamed Arborio rice and berry coulis.
The Verandah Café
2905 Lancefield-Tooborac Road, Tooborac
Overlooking grapevines and hills laden with granite boulders, Merindoc’s cellar-door café serves fresh fare that goes perfectly with the glorious setting. Choose from small bites, platters and specials such as poached salmon with salad that includes ingredients pricked straight from the kitchen garden.
Heathcote Inn Restaurant
9 Hunter Place, Heathcote
The relaxed eatery at this 13-room hotel offers Italian-style food with an emphasis on local produce. The wine list is a rollcall of regional producers, from Paul Osicka to Jasper Hill, which the farm-to-fork menu includes dishes such as housemade gnocchi with three-cheese-and-parsley- cream.
FOR TAKING HOME
80 Tooborac-Baynton Road, Tooborac
On their Italian-inspired mixed farm, Gary and Cynthia Harbor took advantage of the granite-rich soil by planting an olive grove next to their grapevines. You too can reap the rewards by picking up a bottle of their cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, which is available in three types: manzanilla, nevadillo blanco and a blend of correggiolo and frantoio.