Australia’s ultimate winery experiences
Wining and dining amongst the vines…. in style
By Robyn Lewis
Around the world, Australia is becoming increasingly well-known for its high quality food and wine experiences – visitors who come here now rank Australia third in the world after France and Italy for food and wine!
Before they arrive, most visitors don’t know of our fabulous food (or wine), Tourism Australia's recent reseach reveals, but when they get here, they’re blown away.
So, it’s time to bring Australia’s light out from under the bushel and let it shine!
Many people ask us at VisitVineyards.com to recommend Australia's best wine and food experiences. I always say, “Well, it depends….” – on where you are, what you enjoy, and what your tastes are.
For some, it’s sitting with your partner on an unspoilt beach, with a hamper of freshly cooked crayfish, some just-shucked oysters, fresh baked bread, a selection of local cheese and fruit, plus a bottle of magnificent sparkling wine – and for others, it’s more casual, a stroll through a market perhaps, followed by a wine tasting and long lunch with friends.
Replace that with prawns, mud crab and coral trout in Queensland, marrons and truffles in WA, salt bush lamb in SA… suddenly it’s not so simple, in a country as huge and diverse in climate as Australia.
But always there are those who want the ultimate winery experience, and are willing to pay for it. Fabulous wine, food, service and attention to detail. Preferably with a great view and architectural merit.
So, where are our top winery experiences and vineyard restaurants? It’s a hard call – teams of food critics from our nation’s leading news organisations tough it out each year to decide which regional wineries and their restaurants should have stars or hats, or which might have fallen off their pedestals.
But there are consistent performers, vineyards or wineries where you can take international wine lovers and foodies or visiting VIPs with complete confidence.
Here’s a selection of some standouts chosen from around the country, by state (in alphabetical order).
We’d love to hear your views, or any suggestions to add to the list, in the Facebook comments box below. Click on the links to read more about these ultimate winery experiences, of which we can all be proud.
ACT and surrounds:
- Capital Wines and GRAZING Restaurant – offers a great cellar door experience and casual dining spot at Gundaroo, ACT.
New South Wales:
- Audrey Wilkinson – a pioneering vineyard in the Hunter Valley, offering premium wine tastings, picnics amongst the vines, wine museum, scenic helicopter flights and premium vineyard accommodation with private chef if desired.
- Bimbadgen Estate and Esca Restaurant – another excellent Hunter Valley experience, dedicated to the art of regional food and wine matching, with expansive views over wine country.
- Tempus Two – modern, sophisticated elegance in the Hunter Valley. Private tastings by arrangement in their striking cellar door, with the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop and Oishii for Japanese-inspired dining in the Tempus Two Complex.
- Tower Estate and Roberts Restaurant – dare I say icons of the Hunter Valley? Roberts captures the history of the Hunter Valley experience, adjacent to the magnificent Tower Estate cellar door and 5 star accommodation, which can be exclusively booked.
- Tyrrell’s – no visit to the Hunter Valley is complete without a visit to the historic Tyrrell's cellar door, which although having no restaurant, offers private tastings in the Tyrrell’s original homestead or Private Bin room, and is the quintessential Australian winery experience.
- Wyndham Estate – another old vineyard, known for its Hunter Valley opera and concerts, but offering far more. Enjoy intimate wine tasting masterclasses in the historic barrel room, contemporary Australian cuisine in their verandah restaurant. and a great feeling of spaciousness and relaxation wandering through their 100 ha grounds.
- Sirromet and Lurleen’s Restaurant – located south-east of Brisbane and 1/2 an hour from the airport, in lush forest surrounds. The quality Sirromet experience is a surprise to many Queensland visitors, and Lurleen's Restaurant offers modern Australian dining in elegantly casual surrounds.
- Chapel Hill and The Gourmet Retreat – cooking demonstrations, tastings and cooking school, terroir tours and gallery, located high in the McLaren Vale.
- Chateau Tanunda – Australia's largest chateau, totally restored to its imposing glory, in the Barossa Valley. Exclusive, fun wine tasting experiences with regional food by the resident chef.
- D’Arenberg Wines – wine adventure tours, degustation meals, private masterclasses, wine blending and more overlooking the beautiful McLaren Vale. Scenic flights also available.
- Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre – an Australian wine brand known throughout the world, offering vineyard tours, tastings, masterclasses, wine and food matching experiences, lunch dining and bicycle hire for picnicking in the Barossa Valley.
- Penfolds Magill Estate – the birthplace of Penfold's Grange and a must-visit for any serious wine lover to Australia, particularly the Grange barrel room. The Magill Estate Restaurant has been newly refurbished (reopened September 2013) and offers contemporary cuisine inspired by NOMA in Denmark, and Australia's most expensive wine and food degustation.
- Seppeltsfield Wines – taste the tawny fortified wine (formerly 'port') created in your birth year, enjoy tasting flights and canapes, and wine history and educational tours of this historic estate in the Barossa Valley.
- Wirra Wirra – the Wirra Wirra cellar door is a fabulous winery experience in the McLaren Vale, also offering private and corporate events and tastings, and cheese matching (but no restaurant on site).
- Yalumba – Australia's oldest family-owned winery in the Barossa Valley offers tastings in the Wine Room(formerly the Brandy Store), dinners, and also tastings in the Menzies Wine Room at the Yalumba Menzies Vineyard in the Coonawarra.
- Home Hill – a relaxing, rural wine and food experience in the Huon Valley, south of Hobart, perfect for a long lunch.
- Josef Chromy – a genuinely world-class wine and dining experience at the beautiful cellar rood and restaurant at Relbia, just south of Launceston. Walk amongst the vines, and enjoy an open fire in cooler weather.
- Frogmore Creek and Meadowbank Restaurant – the restaurant and cellar door just near Hobart Airport have been newly refurbished (reopened September 2013) and are a stunning and relaxing location to take international guests. Nearby quality vineyard accommodation at Riversdale Estate Cottages and Olive Grove.
- Moorilla (MONA) and The Source Restaurant – words can scarcely describe this incredible contemporary art museum cum music, performing arts, dining and accommodation experience, located in the Derwent Valley, 20 minutes north of Hobart. A must-visit for all modern-art-loving visitors to Australia.
- All Saints Estate and Terrace Restaurant – one of the best and most historic wine estates in Victoria, with excellent wine and food experiences at historic Rutherglen in the north-east.
- Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa – offers the 'ultimate luxury' for weekend getaways in the Yarra Valley, with spas, Ferrari tours of the Yarra Valley, wine appreciation courses, wine and food matching and ballooning adventures.
- Balgownie Estate – the Bendigo estate offers wine tastings and luxury accommodation amongst the vines.
- De Bortoli Estate – offers great lunches with an Italian flair and matched wines, personalised wine and cheese tastings, behind-the-scenes tours, tutored adn barrel tastings in the Yarra Valley just east of Melbourne.
- Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove – one of our personal favourites, in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula, offering casual and modern Australian dining indoors and in the garden, picnics in the wetlands, wine and olive oil tasting, and a sculpture park.
- Morning Star Estate – enjoy wine, glorious views over Port Phillip Bay, 22 ha of manicured gardens, and elegant lunches in a historic mansion on the west of the Mornington Peninsula
- Port Phillip Estate – contemporary luxury, fabulous food and wine, stuning architecture and accommodation to match overlooking Westernport Bay on the east of the Mornington Peninsula
- Red Hill Estate – wine tastings, great dining experiences and on-site vineyard accommodation at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula
- Shadowfax – a contemporary wine tasting location, with indoor and outdoor casual Australian dining, in the Geelong wine region
- Yering Station – elegance incarnate in the Yarra Valley, with stunning architecture and sculpture collection, and 'consistently outstanding' wine. The restaurant offers wine and food matching and there is a private dining room.
- Willow Creek and Salix Restaurant – contemporary, relaxed Australian wine and fine food on the east of the Mornington Peninsula
- Cullen Wines – a more relaxed but nevertheless world class wine and food experience, featuring biodynamic wine and organic food.
- Lamont’s – a hidden gem of the Margaret River, with first class food, wine and food matching and art in an elegant but more casual atmosphere,
- Leeuwin Estate – internationally known for its outstanding wines, restaurant (featuring local seafood) with al fresco verandah dining area, opera and concerts amongst the vines, cooking classes and art gallery. A must-visit in the Margaret River
- Vasse Felix – another stunning art collection in a contemporary setting, with excellent wines to match, in Margaret River. The Vasse Felix restaurant has been described as 'the benchmark winery restaurant in Australia' by The Australian's food critic John Lethlean.
- Voyager Estate – Cape Dutch architecture comes to the Margaret River, with manicured gardens, wine tastings and wine and food matching, estate tours and high teas.
As noted, some of the above, for example Tower Estate, Chapel Hill, Port Phillip Estate, Yering Station and Moorilla (MONA), also have world-class accommodation on site, or nearby such as the Mansion Hotel at Werribee Park, adjacent to Shadowfax.
Art features at several, including MONA with its extraordinary contemporary art collection and museum, Vasse Felix and Yering Station. (TarraWarra also houses a contemporary art collection, but we have found the overall experience not to be in the same class, so it is not listed currently.)
The word ‘iconic’ is vastly overused in the world of wine, but many of these wine estates and wineries well deserve the accolade, and are certainly amongst the ultimate wine and food experiences in Australia, and indeed the world.
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