Saturday, 4 August 2007

Surfing and Sipping; The Mornington Peninsula

A Day Cruising the Mornington Peninsula
3rd August

The Mornington Peninsula is one of my favourite places. Though parts of it are full of people who have misplaced their heads, the Westernport Bay side is still nice and sleepy. A few days down the beach staying with mates was an opportunity to enjoy some great food, bottles of home brew, walks on the beach, a touch of surfing and of course a couple of wineries. Putting the surfboards on the roof, a mate (who is also a bit famous brewer) and I headed out for a surf and sip.

Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks
First stop was Stonier, an establishment I've always been a fan of. I'm not sure if they make me so happy because it's just down the road from my mates' house or because the people at the cellardoor are always so friendly or because once I got a big box of their wine very cheap or because they just make great plonk. Anyway looking at their snappy website I'm impressed that their location map features Antarctica, before zooming in to Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula. Talking to the boss at the cellardoor I can understand why; apart from being a super friendly bloke he was a man with a soft spot for the ocean. He chatted, gave us a taste, then nodded towards our surfboards and told us to piss-off and catch a wave.

Stonier specialised in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; the varieties the Peninsula is renowned for. First up was the Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2004; a refreshing drop that was all about crisp, green apples. The Chardonnay 2005 was a nice wine, it had a good nose, tiny hints of oak, was well balanced with a full and textured feel in the mouth. The Reserve Chardonnay 2005 was a bit more nutty and honeyed, but clean and drinkable. Produced from the vines around the winery the KBS Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 was more restrained with a toasted nose and a lovely minerally palate. The pretty and very drinkable Pinot Noir 2005 was a fruity delight; raspberries, strawberries and cherries all wrapped up in a package of subtle spice. The Reserve Pinot Noir 2005 had the lovely fruit flavours, but also had savoury herbs, spice and a hint of lively acidity. All up a great selection of drinkable wines and though I use to think they were expensive, by today's standards they offer pretty good value.

Paringa Estate
44 Paringa Rd, Red Hill
Taking the advice from the bloke at Stonier we headed for a surf. I'm a bumbling novice so when I saw the approaching black clouds I implemented the emergency plan and turned tail towards a second winery. Dropping my brave mate and his board at Pt Leo I headed to Paringa Estate and its awesome views across Westernport Bay. On arriving I was encouraged to take my tasting glass of Riesling outside and inspect the view of the vineyard, but unfortunately the black clouds finally arrived and forced another retreat. The cellardoor is well setup, with the views, friendly staff, a restaurant with a tidy looking menu and a gaggle of geese that seemed to be enjoying all the rain.

Paringa Estate has a reputation for producing excellent Pinot and interesting cool climate Shiraz. They produce three levels of wine; the Peninsula, Estate and Reserve ranges. The price tags on their reserve wines almost match their million dollar views, but many argue they are well worth the coin. Paringa as I understand is one of the very few producers of Riesling on the Peninsula; for $15 I thought their crisp Riesling 2005 wasn't a bad attempt. The Estate Viognier 2006 was a rich, opulent and intense offering, but the alcohol seemed a little unbalanced and confrontational. The two Chardonnays, the Peninsula 2005 and the Estate 2005, I thought were pretty good. The Peninsula Chardonnay was clean with a hint of acidity and lots of citrus flavours, while the Estate had stone fruits, walnuts, almonds and a hint of oak on the nose; while the palate melted with honey and caramel. The Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006 was a bright, vibrant wine with fruit all over the shop; cherry, plum and red current dominating, with a little green pepper ground on the palate. I really enjoyed the Estate Pinot Noir 2006; it had the fruit flavours of the Peninsula but was more restrained and complex; the nose whiffed spice and pepper and the palate had a pleasant, savoury, green herbal thing going on. The Peninsula Shiraz 2004 had sniffs of earthiness under the initial fruit smells; the tannins and structure seemed pretty good, though the pepper and dry sour notes on the palate were a little bit full on. The Estate Shiraz 2005 was a lot more rounded, soft and classy; yes there was a bit of pepper on the palate, but there were also seductive hints of dark berries, chocolate and a little milky coffee - a good wine. Unfortunately I didn't get to sample the Reserve Pinot and Shiraz and was encouraged to call back on the weekend when they are opened and it was promised I'd be impressed.

I picked my brave mate up from Pt Leo beach; he was raving about the surf and I was raving about the wines. We headed home for a coffee before driving to Melbourne to catch a little Friday night footy.

Visit the Mornington Peninsula website.

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