After five days in Sydney, five days in Melbourne was the next stop on our Australian vacation. After my time in Melbourne, I found that it was very similar to Toronto with its many cultures and global food scene. I was quite at home since I'm Canadian. However, if I had to choose a wine region, it would definitely be Victoria over Niagara. Our first wine region to visit was the Mornington Peninsula, just south of Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay. We had the most fantastic guide from Elevate Tours who designed the most perfect day that took us from boutique wineries to the large corporate type!
Our first stop of the day was at Yabby Lake Vineyards, which make wines from their own vineyards, and also from the ones they have in Heathcote. From the Mornington Peninsula vineyards we got to try their Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. From their Heathcote vineyards, we tried their Grenache Rosé and Shiraz. Although it was the middle of winter in Australia with the fireplace roaring that morning, the Grenache Rosé stood out as my favorite. One thing I've noticed about Australian vineyards is their use of local artists. Many of them use local artists to design their wine labels and to provide sculptures for their gardens that are part of their restaurants. Like it Hunter Valley, they had just finished their winter pruning. However, I was able to find a photo of their vineyards from their website to see the difference between the summer and winter months.
The second stop of the day was at Moorooduc Estate, which ended up being my favorite vineyard that we visited during our time in Australia. I can finally say after visiting this vineyard that I like Pinot Noir now. For the longest time, I never cared for the variety even though I should since I've been told during my studies that Pinot Noir is always one of those varieties that people like in the wine industry. However, I always found it too earthy for my taste until I tried Australian Pinot Noir, which is very fruit-forward, but still has some earthiness to it. One our way out, Ric pointed out the winery's unofficial mascot, a peacock. He said the it just showed up one day because it had been cold and raining, and it needed some shelter. However, the peacock never left, and has made its home in the outdoor café.
After our day in Mornington Peninsula, I looked for Moorooduc on restaurant wine lists, and did find it as part of the wine list of fine dining establishments. Though it's a small boutique winery, it definitely has a premium reputation in the region.
Our third vineyard was Quealy Wines, which was the most interesting stop we had made during our tour. In addition to tasting the wineries Pinot Noirs, Muscats and Pinot Griogios, we also got a private tour of the winery. The age their wines in either oak barrels or concrete vessels. Some of the wines are even aged in amphorae, a container that the ancient Romans used to store their wines. It was the first time for me to see these type of vessels.
As usual, I took photos of the vineyards so that I could remember the type of pruning methods. Although I thought I was far enough from the vines, the winemaker came out and told me that I needed to be further away. This is quite understandable since Australia has some of the strictest quarantine measures for entering the country. Vineyards are especially worried about contamination since visitors can easily contaminate the vineyard with simply the soles of their shoes. After this visit, I noticed that the other places we had visited often had fences to make sure visitors don't walk through the vineyards.
Although the Pinot Noirs were among the best I had in Australia, the highlight of the visit was the resident koala, Kooki, who has been living in the eucalyptus tree outside the tasting room for the past 13 years. Ric told us that she is incredibly protective of her tree, and has chased out numerous suitors over the years who have tried to share the tree with her. This was the very first time for me to see a koala in the wild, and since then I've been watching way too many koala videos on Youtube.
In addition to the Youtube videos, I've become very interested in the loss of habitat for the koalas in Australia. On our way home while we were waiting for our flight back to Tokyo in Sydney, I came across the Save the Koala foundation at a gift shop that was selling hoodies to raise money to protect these endangered animals. One of the first things I'm going to do once I get a full-time job in the wine industry is to become a sponsor for a koala that lives on one of the protected reserves throughout Australia. The organization allows you to "adopt" a koala for a year, and your adoption fees pays for the koala's food and medical care. You can even visit your adopted koala!
The last stop of the day in the Mornington Peninsula was Port Phillip Estate, which is one of those mega estates that has holdings in many different regions. It started out as a very small winery, but it now has 20 estate and single vineyard wines. There's a hotel with fining dining and a top-class tasting room that makes up the estate. Despite the size of the estate, it uses biological farming and everything is hand-pruned and hand-harvested! It was a cloudy and drizzling when we visited since that's typical winter weather in the Mornington Peninsula, but in the summer, you can see all of Port Phillip Bay from the restaurant! I bought a bottle of their flagship wine, the Ferrous Pinot Noir, which I'm supposed to lay down for about 10 years. It'll definitely be a challenge to keep it for that long in my cellar!