Guide out of the wine town of Gippsland
Gippsland is best known for its Pinot Noir, a sustainable calling card for the cool climate region. But the awe-inspiring landscapes of eastern Victoria offer much more than that.
With an emphasis on locally sourced cuisine, the Gippsland vineyards make the most of their wonderful surroundings, inviting everything from winding excursions to longer, more leisurely stays, with unique on-site accommodation. While the region itself is large, it can be made more accessible by focusing on certain sub-regions, also accessible via Melbourne and New South Wales.
Whether you find yourself skirting coastlines or mountain ranges, your explorations of Gippsland will be rewarded with world-class wines and inviting vibes. With that in mind, here are some highlights to help you plan your tasting trip.
Lightfoot & Sons, Calulu
Thriving between the Great Dividing Range and Bass Strait, Lightfoot & Sons’ Myrtle Point Vineyard was planted in the mid-1990s on what was then a family farm. Still a family business, the winery is renowned for its pinot noir made with cherry and plum, as well as its tasty chardonnay, shiraz and pinot grigio. Also look out for Darkfoot, his take on the ten-year-old mistelle, as well as some noteworthy bubbly and some other limited-edition experimental versions. All wine is grown and produced on site on the property. Beyond the regular tastings, the Cellar Door (open Friday to Sunday) offers a locally themed food and wine pairing platter called “Taste of East Gippsland”, featuring memorable regional dishes from Sardine, The Long Paddock and Northern Ground. Or grab your wine on the deck and spend the afternoon gazing out over the scenic Mitchell River Valley.
Lightfoot & Sons
Nicholson River Vineyard, Nicholson
One of East Gippsland’s oldest established wineries, Nicholson River Winery dates back to 1978, when Ken and Juliet Eckersley were inspired to get into winemaking, noticing similarities between the Gippsland Lake District and the South West from France, rich in wines. Directly overlooking its winding namesake, the winery presents a spectacular glimpse of the region – both in its landscapes and its products. Local artist Jenny Toye even pays homage to the region and its ecology on the brand’s signature labels. Nicholson River’s full-bodied pinot noir is a Gippsland classic, while other favorites include the preservative-free chardonnay and eucalyptus-flavored Montview Syrah. Everything is done on site, with a cellar door open every day, offering platters of local cheeses and antipasti as well as tastings, as well as a restaurant area available for private receptions.
Nicholson River Vineyard
Ripplebrook Vineyard, Ripplebrook
Catena Raffaele opened Ripplebrook Winery in 2015, and the property is steeped in memories of her father, who hailed from the Aeolian Islands near Sicily. Restaurant Giuseppes (open Saturdays and Sundays) is named after him, while the Sicilian-style wood-fired pizzas on the menu are each named after one of the seven main Aeolian Islands. This intimate atmosphere stretches across Ripplebrook, from other home-cooked meals to share, with produce heavily sourced from local producers, to the picturesque cellar door’s proximity to Mount Baw Baw. On the wine side, start with the Peppino pinot noir (a nod to the nickname of Guiseppe) then move on to rosÃ©, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
Cannibal Creek Winery, North Tynong
Cannibal Creek has come a long way from its humble beginnings in a corrugated iron barn. Spouses Patrick and Kirsten Hardiker, who started planting grapes by hand in the late ’90s, now oversee an architect-designed winery and cellar door (open daily) that updates the rustic charm of the original building. And the Hardikers continue to cultivate, pick and produce their wine by hand, using a minimal intervention approach. Settle in at the bar and jarrah and red-gum tables, or settle into a leather armchair by the log fire to explore two available guided tastings that showcase Cannibal Creek’s trusty pinot noir and merlot wines, wines crispy whites and sparkling blanc de blancs. The cellar menu, meanwhile, ranges from planks of cheeses and cold cuts to more hearty options like homemade gnocchi and mushroom and pumpkin arancini.
Cannibal Creek Vineyard
Harman Wines, Wattle Bank
Just seven kilometers north of Inverloch and the Bass Strait, Harman Wines was born out of David and Nicole Harman’s same passion for sustainability and family. Founded in a former stud farm in Wattle Bank, the estate is now home to stray chickens and sheep as well as a cozy cellar door (open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and dinner on Friday). The estate produces chardonnay, sav blanc, pinot grigio and rosÃ©, among other artisanal wines, with a preference for wild ferments and organic and biodynamic practices. Visitors can sit outside on picnic tables or in the garden pergola for a wine steal, grazing on platters of local cheeses and wood-fired pizzas, including a vegetarian number layered with roasted pumpkin, feta, pine nuts and spinach.
Dirty Three Wines, Inverloch
Named after the three âlandsâ (that is to say the vineyards) where they grow their grapes, the couple Lisa Sartori and Marcus Satchell present their small range organized from a cellar door (open from Friday to Sunday) in the seaside town of Inverloch. Their juicy Pinot Noir draws on the best elements from each of these vineyards, while the sparkling shiraz is especially popular during the holiday season. Seated tasting flights are available, with a ready-to-fire or outdoor ambiance, accompanied by regional cheeses and cold meats, as well as local gins and beers.
Sale three wines
The wine farm, South Leongatha
After making wine in France, New Zealand and his native South Africa, where he studied viticulture and oenology, Neil Hawkins moved to South Gippsland last decade with his wife Anna. He brings this wealth of experience to The Wine Farm’s small but impressive minimal intervention range, which is completely unbonded and unfiltered. Try the clean and balanced chardonnay, tangy pinot gris and sparkling pÃ©t-nat, as well as the must-have pinot noir. Although there is no on-site restaurant, the winery hosts bi-monthly tasting sessions (https://thewinefarm.com.au/events) where you can sample wine, cheese and homemade crackers in a bucolic setting. And if you’re planning a longer farm visit, opt for intimate accommodation at The Cottage, a quaint country retreat for up to six people.
The wine farm
Waratah Hills Vineyard, Fish Creek
Perched along the road to Wilsons Promontory, Waratah Hills is the southernmost vineyard on the Australian continent. Planted two decades ago in the Burgundy style, with low trellising and tight planting, the vineyard produces peppery pinot noir and citrus chardonnay as well as a sparkling blanc de blancs and a pinot-based rosÃ©. Meanwhile, wine consultant Mark Protheroe is curating the vineyard’s secondary label, Prom Road, which splits into prosecco, shiraz, and a few picnic-ready wines ideal for an afternoon outing. Housed in a former tractor shed, the airy cellar door (open Friday through Sunday) taps fresh produce from the Aherns fruit market just 15 minutes down the road – and some ingredients even closer (the vegetable garden). Enjoy your visit in the sun with relaxed seating options on the patio and lawn.
Waratah Hills Vineyard
Narkoojee, North Glengarry
Meaning ‘place of flowers’ in the local Koori language, Narkoojee began when Harry Friend planted vines on his parents’ dairy farm in 1980 and moved into the property with his wife Val the following decade. Today the cellar includes a cellar door (open daily) as well as a full restaurant with the Strzelecki chains as a backdrop. The menu features pizzas and other dishes with an emphasis on local produce – from mushrooms and garlic to filet mignon and a bowl of garden vegetables – and each dish (except dessert) is accompanied by a wine pairing suggested. As for these wines, explore the ValÃ©rie range aged in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz barrels, as well as limited editions and other ranges, all at affordable prices. And above all, don’t sleep on Athelstan Merlot, a Pomerol-style drop rich in black plums, cinnamon and blackberries.
Vineyards on Avon, Maffra
Avon Ridge Vineyard has made a name for itself with pinot noir and blanc de blancs grown in Gippsland, as well as a refreshing range of ciders sourced from apples, pears, strawberries and even West Gippsland passion fruit. . The on-site restaurant, meanwhile, got a makeover in 2019 when Molly Work and Jim Inglis of Sale’s Portside Food & Wine renamed it The Vines on Avon, a welcoming breakfast and lunch spot (Thursday to Sunday) and a popular wedding destination. Choose a wine list that extends beyond the immediate region to offer a sample of Victorian and more distant drops. Don’t be surprised to come across nifty cocktails and soft live music, with a vintage trailer serving Avon Ridge drops and South Gippsland beer in the garden.
Avon Ridge Vineyard
Toms Cap Vineyard, South Willung
Nestled in the heart of the Strzelecki Ranges nature reserves, the perched vineyard of Toms Cap has evolved steadily since the early 90s, producing a 3 Dogs range that includes a rosÃ©, a shiraz, a riesling and a white sav. Also look for a blend of sparkling chardonnay and a dark purple cab sav. Of course, the 100-acre property is a solid calling card, flanked by blue gums and cascading hills. This makes it a sought-after weekend lunch spot that is worth a visit, with generous views and sunshine. The restaurant offers long lunches from Friday to Sunday (during the warmer months you are encouraged to linger on the deck and on the lawn) and the cellar door is open for wine sales. And four on-site cottages make for dream accommodation, whether you want to enjoy the sunset, sunrise, or both.
Toms Cap vineyard
Discover more of Gippsland’s unique wine destinations here
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This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Victoria.