Our Australian adventure took us all up and down the eastern coast of the country, beginning with beautiful Brisbane, heading to Cairns for our liveaboard dive excursion along the Great Barrier Reef, then to Sydney and Melbourne for some cosmopolitan dining, museums, and parks. Before we headed back to the States, my brother and sister-in-law surprised us all with a day trip to Mornington Peninsula, the heart of Australian wine country.
Daniel booked the excursion with Vine Trekker, a company that offers small group tours of Mornington Peninsula as well as Yarra Valley and Australia’s Macedon Ranges. For an additional fee, you can opt for a private tour where you select exactly which wineries you’d like to visit. Our guide, Paul, picked us up at our hotel in Melbourne and drove us an hour south to our first stop, Moorooduc Estate.
Richard and Jill McIntyre planted their first vines in 1983, and they now regularly produce award-winning wines from the original vineyard that includes Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Lynda, our tasting host, was incredibly knowledgeable and obviously proud of the wines, and she had every right to be. We paid close attention and learned a lot about the varietals we sampled, which were served with a lovely cheese board and some delectable marmalade Jill makes from oranges grown on the estate. Our favorite wine from this stop on the tour was the 2014 McIntyre Shiraz. Dry and peppery, it’s perfect paired with grilled steak.
The next stop on the tour was Quealy Winemakers at Balnarring Vineyard. We were greeted by a koala napping in a eucalyptus tree, which is apparently all koalas ever do. Eucalyptus leaves are very high in fiber but very low in nutrition, and because of this, koalas sleep for as long as 22 hours a day since they don’t have the energy to do much else. And now you know.
Inside Quealy Winemakers, we were led to the barrel room, where we learned about this pioneering company that was founded 20 years ago by Kathleen Quealy. Told by many experienced (male) Australian winemakers that Pinot Grigio would never grow well in Mornington Peninsula, Kathleen ignored them and followed her instincts. Two decades later, she has been dubbed the “Queen of Pinot Grigio” by James Halliday, noted wine critic and author of the definitive guide to Australian wine. Her award-winning Pinot Grigio is lovely, but our favorite wine from this stop on the tour was Quealy’s Secco Splendido Metodo Ancestrale 2016, a sparkling wine made in the traditional rural way. Delightful!
Because my mother and I can’t pass up a garden tour, Daniel selected Heronswood Gardens as our third destination. We stopped for a few quick photos from Murray’s Lookout at Arthur’s Seat along the way.
Heronswood House and Gardens are home of The Diggers Club, which is Australia’s version of Master Gardeners in the United States. The five acres of spectacular gardens showcase a variety of native perennial and annual borders as well as kitchen and vegetable parterre gardens and elaborately espaliered fruit trees. There is also a charming shop that sells heirloom seeds and seedlings, garden tools, outdoor decor, and gift items. The Fork to Fork Restaurant is a garden-to-table cafe showcasing Heronswood’s vegetables, herbs, fruit, edible flowers, and more.
Vine Trekker is the top-rated Melbourne area tour and one of the top five wine tours in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Paul was knowledgeable, charming, and a terrific host. It was a lovely day from start to finish and the perfect way to wrap up our wonderful Australian adventure.