There’s no getting around the fact 2020 has been a terrible year for many Victorian wineries. Last summer’s bushfires caused smoke taint that wiped out entire crops in some of the state’s most prestigious wine regions.
But things are finally looking up. Plentiful rain has turned parched pastures green, vineyards are budding with grapes again, and tourists are returning with a thirsty enthusiasm.
Holidaying close to home is officially the way to go this summer, which means Victoria’s top cellar doors can expect a lot of love. In partnership with Click for Vic, an initiative that encourages people to support Victorian businesses, we point you towards some of the state’s best cellar doors, both city and country.
Chambers Rosewood Winery
Fortified wine is king in Rutherglen, a wine region near the Murray with a long and proud winemaking tradition. It was hit especially hard by smoke taint last January. One of the area’s most enduring family businesses is Chambers Rosewood Winery, which has been producing internationally renowned drops for six generations.
The best spot to sample Chambers’ award-winning muscat, muscadelle and topaque is right here in the Barkly Street front yard under the shady European trees. There’s some wonderful family history displayed on the walls inside (including an impressive doll collection that belonged to current winemaker Stephen Chambers’ grandmother) and if you get a chance, ask for a peek at the ancient, sweet-smelling oak barrels. Dogs are also welcome (and will be well looked after by the Chambers’ farm dogs).
Chambers Rosewood Winery
Located on stunning river frontage in the Nagambie Lakes region, Tahbilk Winery encompasses vast river flats and eight kilometres of wetlands. Established in 1860, the property takes its name from the local Daung-wurrung clans’ word for the area: “tabilk-tabilk”, or “place of many waterholes”. The cellar door includes a restaurant and outdoor deck area, plus a tasting room that offers 25-minute guided sessions between 10am and 4pm daily. The aptly named Wetlands View Restaurant is open Thursday to Monday.
It’s quite incredible how little the cellar door has changed since the 1800s, with redgum pillars, handmade bricks and mudstone still intact. Take a wander downstairs to the underground cellars and smell the history (and of course the wine). You can also book an “Art of Winemaking” blending experience.
Noisy Ritual Urban Winery
You don’t need to leave the city to visit this remarkable – and very different - cellar door. Noisy Ritual is a community winery in Brunswick East, where the wine is made entirely by members (you might be the next one), who do everything from stomping the grapes (yes, it’s true) to fermenting, bottling and labelling.
Its laneway cellar door just off busy Lygon Street is now open for summer dining and sampling a wide range of drops – everything from sparkling chardonnay and pinot gris to sangiovese and shiraz. Gigs and events were a feature here pre-Covid, and will likely return once restrictions ease and summer kicks in. Anyone is welcome to become a member (and therefore a winemaker), and there’s something very special and rewarding in drinking (or gifting) wine you’ve helped create.
Noisy Ritual Urban Winery
You don’t compile a best-of cellar door list without including a Yarra Valley vineyard. Family-owned Oakridge Wines in Coldstream represents the fertile, sun-filled valley in fruity and elegant style. It was the very first upper Yarra Valley vineyard, established in 1978. The wine is now curated by chief winemaker (and former Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year) David Bicknell.
Like all wineries, Oakridge has had to adapt to the new Covid-19 regulations governing food and drink service. This means no hovering around the bar for a group tasting. Instead, Oakridge offers seated group tastings, with three wine experiences to choose from.
Try a basic sampling of five Oakridge wines, or choose the 864 Single Block Flight, which explores Oakridge’s fine 864 range (the pinot is our pick). If white is your passion, you might like the Chardonnay Masterclass, which will take you through the history of upper Yarra Valley chardonnay and have you alert to the subtle nuances between vintages.
All wine-tasting experiences are 45 minutes long and accompanied by tasting plates loaded with local and house-made produce. If you’re coming for lunch, the kitchen garden provides the majority of fresh vegetables and herbs at the acclaimed restaurant. Bookings are essential.
Jamsheed Urban Winery
A dimly lit warehouse in Preston filled with vintage lamps, industrial finishes and casual couches creates quite a mood at this innovative urban winery. Jamsheed is the brainchild of winemaker Gary Mills, who promised a “dive bar” when he opened the urban cellar door late last year. The playful and occasionally iconoclastic winemaker (he’s been known to do unthinkable things like ferment shiraz without destemming the grapes – quelle horreur!) buys grapes from all over Victoria and makes the wine right here at the urban winery.
Mills himself will often be the one pouring the drinks and is always happy to have a yarn. The single-vineyard syrahs are exceptional, but anything will taste good in this atmospheric urban setting.
Woodfired pizza from in-house kitchen Josie is always close at hand, and the winery does fancier meals on set dates and for special events (check their website for details).
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Victoria. Support Victorian producers by buying online through Click for Vic and hitting the road to visit in person.