Explore this peaceful wine region, then cosy up by a log fire to sample the fruits of your winery rounds.
Just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Heathcote is the quiet achiever that punches above its weight among Victoria’s more vocal wine pockets. It’s home to around 40 passionate producers who make some award-winning drops, with a particular focus on red wine. The cellar doors are generally small, family-run operations, set in rustic sheds and heritage buildings. Weekends are the perfect time to knock on their doors and sample their fine drops.
The focus is on shiraz in the Rhône Valley style. Full-bodied and spicy, this red drop thrives in Heathcote’s mineral-rich soils and warm climate. Other Mediterranean varietals have more recently been added to the mix, with many of the town’s wine growers experimenting with sangiovese, grenache and tempranillo. The town also produces a handful of whites, including riesling, chardonnay, viognier and marsanne.
Heathcote is a place to enjoy a long lazy lunch between cellar-door hops. Many of the wineries also champion local providores, so you can gather a bounty of provisions for a cheeseboard dinner to enjoy next to the fireplace. Alternatively, classic pub vibes meet craft brews at the Tooborac Hotel & Brewery, while off-the-beaten-track cafe Heathcote Harvest is a true embodiment of the paddock-to-plate ethos.
Three op shops sit on the main drag if you enjoy a rummage, and the mini gorges of Pink Cliffs are tucked up the back streets if you’re more natural-world-minded.
Welcome to Heathcote
From a wild-rabbit pub pie to a paddock-to-plate salumi board, hearty dishes round out the region’s excellent liquid offerings.
Heathcote is known for its shiraz, but its mineral-rich soils also deliver some surprising whites. There’s a craft brewery too, perfect for punctuating all that cellar-door action.
This winery has a narrow focus – growing mainly shiraz, a sangiovese here, a vermentino there – but that’s its strength. There’s not a bewildering array of wines to taste and try, just a handful of great options. It’s the same story in the kitchen, which focuses on grazing platters and comfort food that gets out of its own way.
Cycle the region on the converted rail trail, mosey through the farmers’ market, or take your love of wine to the next level.
Rent-a-Row, The Shiraz Republic
This family-run winery lets oenophiles take their wine nerdery to the next level by renting a row of grapes to produce their own small-batch vintage. The 25-acre property at Cornella was once the site of the town post office. These days it produces 60 tonnes of shiraz a year, most of which gets hand-harvested and basket-pressed by each row’s caretakers, before being fermented in demijohns (the bulbous, narrow-necked bottles you often see in wicker covers) and bottled. The Shiraz Republic (formerly Cornella Ridge Estate) started supplying grapes to budding winemakers in 2007, before opening its cellar door in 2010. It’s also just launched a craft-beer line, Cornella Real.
Hibernate with your other half in an off-grid eco-cabin. Or fill a cosy cottage or motel lodge with a few friends.
A wine trail around Heathcote
You could approach a trip to Heathcote at one of two paces – with a hurried, must-see-everything attitude or opting for something a little more leisurely. We recommend the latter. Relish the country quiet, savour each sip, and soak up the undulating landscape of granite outcrops and lush green pasture.
Stroll down the main street to this cellar door set in a historic produce store. It’s particularly cosy when the fire’s roaring – linger over a glass of your favourite wine and some house-made bread and butter.
8th Oct – 9th Oct 2016
Heathcote Wine and Food Festival
While events of this nature are usually dubbed “food and wine” festivals, mix up the order of these two components while on the ground in Heathcote and you may encounter a few stern glances. This is a “wine and food” festival.