Do you drink wine? Are you an avid wine appreciator, or do you not like it at all? No matter what your answer is, read on, as I’ll give you at least one reason to visit a winery or a wine region on your next day off. I am lucky to live in the Yarra Valley, surrounded by the beautiful environment: rolling hills covered with vines, farms, horses and stunning views. I see this stuff every day, but I don’t get bored of it. I often take friends to this region and show them around. Quite often people tell me they don’t like wine, but I take them to the wine region anyway, and more often than not they love it.
So, who is up for a road trip? This statement often generates a round of positive cheer and excitement, as most of us have that inner adventurer that just wants to go somewhere. That adventurer is even more relevant now, after two years of restrictions, border closures, capacity limits and masks. How fun is it to get a group of friends or family together and go exploring? Creating new memories, sharing fun moments, and just simply spending time together — yes, they are all things that are now back on the menu. A wine region — any wine region — offers plenty of room to play when it comes to tickling the adventurer’s fancy. Even if you’re not a wine fan, come for the views, the fresh air and the getaway.
For me, visiting cellar doors has almost become a religion when buying wine. It is quite rare that I go to bottle shops for my liquor shopping and there are a few reasons why. Apart from the banal ‘try before you buy’ safety blanket, my biggest reason for going to cellar doors is the stories that come with the experience. I get inspired by stories. In a world of an ever-growing abundance of products on the market, I love knowing where my wine comes from. By going to cellar doors you not only get to see where your wine is from, you get to hear all the production stories and inspirations behind it. If you’re lucky, you might meet the owner, or the winemaker, whose passion for their project carried them through all the drama and plot changing twists and brought them to where they are today. You sit at the bar, sipping on your favourite wine and listening to the stories — like someone’s reading you a romantic novel, but coming straight from the source.
Certain experiences can’t be replicated in a different environment. Quite often, boutique producers will offer experiences that are ‘cellar door only’. These range from special wine and food pairings to vineyard tours and special project wines. I love special project wines because this is where you can really see a winemaker's personality shine. They are usually made in small batches, as test projects and are available in cellar doors only. For me, this is reason enough to make a trip. Any qualified winemaker can make wine to a set style — the style that’s expected of that winery, wine region or grape variety. Not everyone, however, is daring enough to do something different. The creativity that’s involved in trying to do something else, a new idea coming to life and becoming a consumable product is something magical for me. The result -— a wine that tastes unique with an accompanying story of inspiration, imagination and resilience. You don’t get that at your local bottle shop.
So why am I telling you this? I want to inspire people to get a group of friends and head down to a wine region, because regardless of whether you love wine, you will have fun. Unfortunately, in the shadows of the pandemic stagnation, there’s still a shy ‘are we allowed to do this?’ The answer is yes. Further, we need to do this to support both our own sanity and our local businesses. For many of us, there’s a lack of eventfulness in the last couple of years, so let’s override this, let’s create new experiences and new stories
Up to Taste!
The Cellar Door Exclusives
Adelaide Hills — Greenhill Wines 2019 Estate Grüner Veltliner — $26
For Paul Henschke, the yeast guy of the famous Barossa family, every wine produced from his nano-vineyard in the Adelaide hills is a special project wine. The Grüner Veltliner is a nice easy-drinking white, perfect for a sunny day. Aromas of passionfruit and crisp apple, pear and stone fruit hit your senses, followed by a well-textured palate of apple and pear with a long crispy citrus finish.
Mornington Peninsula — Ocean Eight Rosé — $34
When we went, we got the real ‘meet the owner’ experience. For Mike, this is a passion and a lifestyle project. He doesn’t compromise on quality, and it shows. Made from pinot noir grapes, this rosé is everything you want in the latter. It’s light in color, fresh and floral on the nose to start, followed by juicy fruity aromas. On the palate, it has the distinct taste of strawberries and cream with perfect acidity ensuring a crisp and dry finish.
King Valley — Pizzini Canaiolo 2019 — $35
Ok, you’ve seen the Pizzini label pretty much everywhere — at your local, on a restaurant’s menu or at a friend’s party. So how is this a ‘cellar door exclusive’? Because when you make the trip to Pizzini, you get presented with a list of wine varieties that most people haven’t even heard of. Most are cellar door exclusives and available to taste. Have you ever tried a Verduzzo or a Canaiolo, for example? How often do you get to try something completely new? Canaiolo was a great discovery for me. It is a wine that is made to be aged, like many Italian wines. This is the kind of wine that bites you back when you take a sip, so if you’re into wines with a sharp and grippy textural finish, you will love this one! The palate is dominated with flavours of black cherries and plums followed by dark chocolate notes and spices. The grippy tannins at the end create an almost smoky tobacco leaf sensation.
McLaren Vale — Chalk Hill Alpha Crucis Shiraz Series
Alpha Crucis is not just one wine, but a must-do experience for all Shiraz lovers. The series celebrates the influence a winemaker has over how the wine tastes. A world-first project of its kind, where six of Australia’s leading winemakers were given a parcel of the grapes from Chalk Hills’ heritage vineyard to produce a shiraz with their personality. This is an ultimate creativity expression project, showcasing the variety of techniques and artistry.