It’s 11am when we leave the warmth of the car to venture into Foxey’s Hangout. We’re welcomed by the warmth of the kitchen, which is located in the dining space. A group of happy wine tasters are taking in Foxey drops.
Host Michael Lee whisks us upstairs for a peek behind the scenes. It’s cooler in the winery but we’re distracted by rows and rows of barrels and bottles of sparkling sitting upside-down in racks, each one carefully tapped and turned by Michael daily. He takes us through the traditional process of removing the sediment from the sparkling and dressing the bottle, which we get to take home with its own birth certificate.
In the kitchen, his brother Tony is cooking up simple fare for the day ahead: BBQ quail, zucchini fritters, bread with the house pistachio spice. It’s the perfect setting for a luxurious long lunch.
An opportune window is filled with a quick duck into Red Hill Caterers. A very decent country coffee, an outstanding ginger cake and a charming selection of gifts make this understated cafe a highlight.
Dinner is a fancier affair, with a little mystery. Namely, how we access the restaurant. At Port Phillip Estate a tremendous, 120-metre wall sways its way along the peak of a hill and an impressive, penitentiary-worthy portal is the only visible entry point. As it turns out, if you walk close enough to it, it will swing open, revealing the foyer and views out over the vines to Port Phillip Bay beyond.
The estate offers far more than just the restaurant and tasting room, and if you’re lucky a friendly host will show you down the impressive staircase to the winery floor and barrel room, where the architecture alone is breathtaking.
After a hard day of assessing the grapes of the region, bed beckons and we lay our heads at Morning Sun Vineyard, which offers a B&B and restaurant. The comfortable apartments are generously sized. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms and spectacular views over Morning Sun’s own vines make it a relaxing home away from home.
After breakfast in Morning Sun’s dining room, it’s time to saddle up. Mornington’s Horseback Winery Tour offers up near-retirement steeds who know the tracks of Mornington well enough to rarely need steering (aside from a quick diversion or two from low-hanging branches, which they seem quite fond of). Friendly guides cater the ride to our level of horsemanship (low), and wineries along the way reward us with tastings.
Of note is Mantons Creek, with its fabulous wines by Owen Goodwin and wife Rhiannon and restaurant and accommodation offerings that are consistently improving. It’s definitely one to watch. A keen hound watches over the resident pest control (chickens and ducks) and a red pickup truck adds even more charm to this hidden-away gem.
We double back to the restaurant, christened Frederick, after Owen and Rhiannon’s son, who toddles past occasionally. Local word is to try chef Andrew Ledson’s polenta chips, but sweet lovers will be far more interested in his treatment of a pear with yoghurt pudding for dessert.
Our wine tasting duties done – and duly noted in the growing collection of bottles in the boot – it’s time to head back home.
Red Hill Caterers Cafe & Store
5 Mornington-Flinders Rd, Red Hill
(03) 5931 0122