Winemakers love to wax poetic about wine, unsurprisingly. According to Peter Dillon, senior winemaker for Handpicked Wines, “The great pinot noirs of the world are like a peacock’s tail, unfurling its feathers down the back of your throat.”
The company owns vineyards in Mornington, Yarra and Barossa valleys, Margaret River, Tasmania, Central Otago and Italy, and there are plans to acquire more overseas.
They revere the grape and approach their craft with religious care. Dillon and head winemaker Gary Baldwin spend much of their time travelling to wineries under the Handpicked Wines banner, checking details like the density of the vine shoots, making sure the grapes are protected from hail, and tasting the fruit.
With wineries around the world, the traditional cellar door approach (where a winery has a retail shop on site) doesn’t reach enough of the Handpicked Wines audience. So it’s brought the cellar door to the city, opening in a warehouse space in Chippendale’s Kensington Street.
“We’re focused on quality and regional expression. If you’re tasting a Barossa shiraz, it will taste like a quintessential Barossa shiraz,” says marketing manager Imogen Hayes.
Handpicked Cellar Door isn’t trying to be another wine bar. “We want to be complimentary to the area. People can come for a tasting before dinner, or grab a bottle of wine to BYO in Spice Alley.”
The by-the-glass menu has 40 wines in three levels of quality, from every day to premium. There are also 30-minute wine tastings where customers can try a few varieties with a sommelier.
The food menu is a light accompaniment to the wine list. Created by Ocello in Surry Hills, it’s split into charcuterie like salami and prosciutto, and cheeses from around the world: soft, washed-rind, hard and blue.
The high-ceilinged brick warehouse has a long history in the booze trade, starting life as the original Carlton & United brewery. Tall windows have been cut into the scrubbed brick front, letting in a cool light from the street. An original “No smoking” sign remains painted high on one wall.
The minimalist, warm design is by Design Office from Melbourne. Natural wood stools line curved countertops in the centre of the room. It’s here that sommeliers host tastings. The seating area has tables in front of comfortable banquets. Opposite the seating area, glass-fronted fridges, shelves and tables display rows of wine bottles for sale.
It’s a lovely place to try a pinot from Dillon's home base in Mornington. He says, “The Mornington pinot has a pure fruit expression, and wonderful length of flavour.” Even for the wine uninitiated, that’s poetry to the ears.
Handpicked Cellar Door
50 Kensington Street Chippendale
(02) 9566 0999
Sat & Sun 10am–10pm