On our third visit to Heathcote, home of some of my favourite reds this side of the Barossa, we actually got out to some cellar doors.
Previously, we hit the three in the main street — one is a Hub for the region, so there’s a selection of the local offerings to be had there. This time, with the benefit of a three-night stay and superb winter weather, we ventured forth from our base at Cranford Cottage (I’ve extolled its virtues previously, and these remain undimmed (indeed, they come with additional ‘resident’ kangaroo, and egg rings *wink*); a three-nighter is the minimum to really gain the benefit of this bucolic B&B). Being invited to join a Friday-night soiree and meet some of the locals, including winemakers, all friendly to a fault, just added to the impetus to make the most of the weather — and the wine.
Just up the road is Downing Estate, and OMG, the humble cellar door — essentially a garage under the house — belies the quality of the wine. We scooped up very well priced ’07, ’08 and 2011 shiraz, had a chat with vintner Bob and played ball with his dog Max.Then we chugged to the other side of town, out to the shore of Lake Eppalock, to take in the lakeside splendour of Armstead Estate. The cellar door is in an old hut near the 1865 homestead, with fire, cheese and olives, and again the wine was hard to resist — even a Marsanne came home with us, this riesling-style white earmarked for a hot day and a cheese platter. A cab sauv and a Roxy’s Paddock shiraz rounded out the souvenirs. There are plans afoot to add B&B cottages, and what an addition they would make to this already ideal picnic spot.
We’d run out of puff so skipped Sanguine Estate and its enticingly labelled Kindred and Progeny reds (players of Vampire: The Masquerade will understand the temptation, as if the quality of the vino wasn’t enough): got to save something for next time.
We did, however, keep up the tradition of a meal at the Willow Room — Kirstyn had venison and I had barra, both dishes brilliant — but were a little dismayed to see the business and building up for sale. Here’s hoping the tradition of fine food and top service continues!
I can also report that the gravel drive up to the Mt Ida lookout is not rewarded by an unrestricted view: perhaps best seen from the porch with a tipple.
Among the region’s many events, two to keep track of are the Heathcote on Show in June and the Wine and Food Festival in October. Or just pop out on a spare weekend: it’s little more than an hour from Melbourne.