The sprawling Heathcote wine region is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. The region is home to more than 50 wineries and vineyards with relaxed and welcoming cellar doors.
About Heathcote, James Halliday says: "Viewed from the air, the red soil country is a spectacular scene: square or oblong patterns of vivid red alternating with verdant green rows of vines. On the ground, the slopes of the Mount Camel Range are equally impressive, and it is easy to see why land values have soared."
Sanguine EstateAs you enter the main gates of Sanguine Estate, the beauty of the property is breathtaking. The winery is situated among rolling hills, vineyards, tree-lined gullies and on the famed 500-million-year-old Cambrian earth fault line.
The Sanguine cellar door is in the inner sanctum of the winery and barrel room – be sure to leave plenty of time to take photos while tasting wine among the fermentation tanks and barrels. Enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace while overlooking manicured gardens with vineyard views.
Sanguine Estate wines combine the rich fruit characters found in northern Heathcote wines with the savoury and spice characters found in southern Heathcote wines. Each wine is wrapped in the unique minerality, soft tannins and elegant texture found in central Heathcote (or Sanguine’s vineyard location).
Sanguine Estate is one of only three Heathcote wineries to become a top red 5-star Halliday-rated winery.
Winemaker Mark Hunter says: The Sanguine Estate vineyards are located in central Heathcote just 9kms from the heart of the township. From a microclimate and terroir perspective, the vineyard site is positioned such that cool southerly breeze is encouraged through the vineyard thanks to the valley (opposite Mount Ida). The hot winds are negated partially by She-Oak Hill on the northern boundary. The site has decaying Cambrian rock vineyards to the north of the Heathcote GI, and a combination of shallow sandy loam over decaying mud stone on the highest site and silty clay from old river beds at the lowest point. These three soil types, and the microclimates, offer very exciting blending opportunities and allow for the making of complex and elegant wines.
Mark's must-try wine: If you were to choose just one wine, it would have to be the D’Orsa Heathcote Shiraz. It's not only a stunning wine but it's also enriched with family winemaking history dating back to the 1860s from great-great-grandfather, Pietro D’Orsa.
Local favourite spot: The Heathcote region is full of small family-owned and operated boutique cellar doors, breweries, gin tasting rooms, accommodation places, cafes and restaurants.
Find out more | 77 Shurans Lane, Heathcote | 0484 918 295
Peregrine RidgeThe Peregrine Ridge cellar door is located up to six metres above ground, on the Mount Camel Range, and overlooks 90 per cent of the Goulburn Valley. The view is 180 degrees and changes with each season. Inside the architecturally designed cellar door is the living room you always wanted. Tastings are served at your table, to create a personalised experience, and each wine has been bottle aged to allow the wine to come into balance before being released.
The cellar door building is approximately 60 per cent glass and has an impressive entrance ramp. The building is surrounded by a mixture of old-growth trees (many over 400 years old) and recent plantings that have retained the clear view of the horizon while feeling very natural. If you haven’t visited before, you're in for a big surprise when the door opens.
Winemakers Graeme Quigley and Sue Kerrison say: Our wines are classic Heathcote shiraz – they have high fruit intensity coupled with mineral earthy overtones and high natural acidity. All wines are barrel matured for up to two years. We then bottle age our wines to allow all the fruit and oak characters to integrate and enhance the wine experience. Typically our wines are five to eight years old on release and the tannin structures are quite silky. We think our wines are among the very best from Heathcote.
We have a single vineyard that is high on the east side of the southern end of the Mount Camel Range. Our vineyard catches the early morning sun and is usually in shade by around 6pm, so our fruit takes a bit longer to ripen than our neighbours which deepens the fruit characters. The vineyard is cane pruned and grown in an organic manner.
Graeme and Sue's must-try wines: Graeme's go-to wine is the 2009 Winemaker’s Reserve or the 2006 Limited Release (depending on the food!), while Sue's must-try wine is the NV Sparkling Shiraz.
Local favourite spot: The wineries are all worth visiting! Lake Eppalock is full and brimming with water sports. Take a walk in the local conservation reserves or cycle along O’Keefe Rail Trail to Bendigo and back.
Find out more | 404 Cornella-Toolleen Road, Toolleen | 0411 741 772
Munari WinesThe Munari Wines cellar door is a hidden gem located right off the Northern Highway, just eight minutes from Heathcote. Situated beside the vineyard, the renovated stables (once a sheep station) has retained its Old World charm.
When you arrive you’ll be greeted by Panther the black Labrador. Step into light-filled atrium and warmly lit tasting room to experience its charm firsthand. A relaxed and intimate experience with knowledgeable staff hosting you, or the Munari family themselves, you’ll feel right at home in the cellar door. Settle in for an intimate seated tasting of white, red and dessert wines.
The Munari cellar door overlooks Ladys Creek with views of Mount Ida – a classic Australian landscape not to be missed. Inside the cellar door the space is filled with antiques, artwork, charming lamps and sculptures. Guests can also enjoy a light lunch, seven days a week, overlooking the vines on the terrace.
For over 30 years, owner and winemaker, Adrian Munari has been perfecting his winemaking style and cosy cellar door. Adrian follows an Italian ethos of producing food-friendly wines, and the Heathcote wine region's warm days and cool nights allow for a fruit-concentrated and elegant style of winemaking.
Owner and winemaker Adrian Munari says: We're able to produce a range of distinct wines from our estate because we have vines ranging from 25–35 years old, along with a variety of soils ranging from sandy loam, black soil, clay and the famous, terra rosa soil. We also grow five different clones of shiraz, which allow us to blend and produce two distinct styles of shiraz – The Beauregard and our flagship wine the Ladys Pass (as well as three sangiovese clones). We're located just north of Mount Ida, which acts as a natural rain shadow. Our vines receive very little rain and rely mostly on irrigation from our rain-fed dams that produce concentrated wines with great structure.
Adrian's must-try wine: In September we released our inaugural Next Chapter Sangiovese, which we are loving due to the medium body and fruity, aromatic nature. Produced from sangiovese fruit that we grafted in 2018 (replacing merlot and malbec) it has lovely apple and blackcurrant aromas with strawberry on the palate. It's the perfect summer red.
Local favourite spot: We love the goat tacos at Palling Bros Brewery and just across the road is The Union Hotel. For live music we head north to Shiraz Republic who are always discovering new musicians and put on a great day out.
Find out more | 1129 Nothern Highway, Ladys Pass | 0429 804 360
McIvor EstateMcIvor Estate Winery is a must-visit for wine connoisseurs traveling to Heathcote. The vineyard sits on a north-facing sloping hill (where all fruit is grown and sourced from). Due to its location, McIvor Estate experiences a cooler climate than the rest of the region – which allows the fruit to develop and ripen longer.
McIvor's vineyard and olive grove – which pays homage to the Italian heritage of the original owners – are nestled among the rugged, ashen boulders and rolling hills of Tooborac. A testament to the magic of the Australian landscape, the property is home to some of the region's oldest plantings of sangiovese, nebbiolo, and marsanne, along with award-winning vintages and a rich array of local flora and fauna.
The cellar door, which is currently being renovated, is due to reopen in March 2023.
Owner Simon Connolly says: We believe the Heathcote wine region is destined to be the next must-visit destination for oenophiles looking to experience the unique wines and local produce of this picturesque area. Just a stone's throw from Melbourne, it's the perfect location for a weekend getaway.
In the vineyard, we hand-select every piece of fruit from our meticulously cultivated vines. Our varietals include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, marsanne, roussane, viognier and Italian varietals like sangiovese, nebbiolo, vermentino, and the highly acclaimed shiraz. Each vine has been tended to with the utmost care, which has resulted in vintages that have earned numerous accolades.
Simon's must-try wine: The vermentino – it embodies the original roots of the winery. Our property is a reflection of the beauty of the Heathcote wine region, its scenic landscape and rich history.
Local favourite spot: We highly recommend visiting some of our favourite restaurants and bars in the region. Try Palling Bros Brewery, Tooborac Pub and all of the other wineries in this beautiful scenic wine country.
Find out more | 80 Tooborac-Baynton Road, Tooborac | (03) 5433 5266