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Photos Credit: Glenn Harris

Experience Wine Culture Extraordinaire at Australia's Port Phillip Estate

Oct. 30th, 2017

Less than an hour’s drive south from the manic pace of Melbourne, Australia is the Mornington Peninsula.  A beautiful stretch of earth with crystal blue waters on each side, verdant national parks and quaint seaside towns. In the middle of the peninsula is a breathtaking mountain range that vacillates between lush, green forests and picturesque farmlands, with cattle, sheep, all manner of vegetables and, of course, the grape. The Mornington Peninsula has now become a wine-tourism mecca where oenophiles flock to the peninsula’s cellar doors to taste from the source of world-class Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. One standout experience that travelers have put on their epicurean must-do list is the Port Phillip Estate. A wonderfully unusual winery, fine dining restaurant and boutique hotel created to celebrate Australia’s fully-emerged wine culture.

Port Phillip Estate is a family-owned winery created in homage to the memories of the family patriarch, Giorgio Gjergja. His family now continues the tradition of his grandfather, who produced wine in the Dalmatian coast of Italy. The family now owns two of the Mornington Peninsula’s top wine labels, Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate.

Port Phillip Estate

As guests pass through the beautiful farmlands and coastline of the Mornington Peninsula, they come to a striking architectural piece of art. Its ultra-contemporary design is as riveting as the Guggenheim or an architectural gem from Zaha Hadid. The abstract, 400-foot façade of exposed concrete swirls from one circular surface to a conic end without a window or surface interruption in sight. Beyond a door is revealed two striking impressions. The first is the modern and sophisticated space of the winery’s cellar door. The rooms are filled with natural light from the 20-foot glass walls which also provides sweeping views of the outdoor vistas. There is a cellar door tasting area and a casual dining venue on one side and the other their fine dining 85-seat bistro.

The second thing you’ll notice is the breathtaking views of the vineyard. From the enormous wooden terrace and outdoor space, you’ll gaze upon acres and acres of lush grape vines, verdant hills and an idyllic valley with a pond. In the distance a mountain rises, and in the other direction are the blue waters and views of Westernport Bay and Phillip Island.

Port Phillip Estate

The Mornington Peninsula is known for producing some of Australia’s top Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs; and is one of the area’s well-respected wine houses, having produced award-winning wines over the past several years. Below the cellar door is where the magic happens, lead by the company’s Chief Wine Maker, Sandro Moselle. That’s where you’ll find the vast barrel storage area, bottling area, laboratory, and rows and rows, and shelves upon shelves of bottles in the wine museum.  

The two labels, Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate, produce 20 wines. They are known for creating wines that respect the inherent characteristics of the fruit, the vintage season, as well as the terra from which it grows. The wines mature in French Oak barrels with a non-interventionist process with spontaneous fermentation.

The Kooyong Estate Chardonnay is one of the heralded wines produced at the estate. Expect notes of oatmeal, ginger, mint and citrus flavors in this mid-weight wine. Another popular wine is the Kooyong Haven Pinot Noir. This is a single vineyard wine from 19-year-old vines, fermented in oak barrels with a maturing of 14 months before bottling. You'll note black and red fruit, orange and black cherry, cinnamon and vanilla notes. This approach of simplicity and respecting the fruit, characteristics of the terra and season with the honesty of limited intervention makes the Port Phillip Estate wines so worthy of the endless awards as well as love of those that drink it. 

Port Phillip Estate

Good wine demands equally good food. The fine dining restaurant at Port Phillip has also received a slew of well-deserved accolades. Gourmet Traveller described the dining room at Port Phillip Estate as "one of Australia’s top one hundred dining experiences, the very picture of a chic modernist château."

The restaurant is helmed by Executive Chef Stuart Deller, who began his career in London working top restaurants such as the Oak Room under Master Chef Marco Pierre White. His menu is sourced from local ingredients and prepared with European cooking techniques. Each dish is created to be enhanced by a pairing with the Kooyong or Port Phillip Estate wines. The dining experience changes based on what is available from the area's small producers and what is in season. Expect cuisine such as the Roasted Burrawong Gaian Duck, polenta, onions and fragrant consommé; or the exotic Wallaby Rump with grilled radicchio, beets and almond.

Port Phillip Estate

Unbeknownst to many is that the winery has a lovely boutique hotel. Each unit has its own walk-out terrace and amazing views of the vineyard. Indoors is modern and chic with a sunken living area and evocative object d’art. The bathroom is exquisite with large soaking tub perfect for two. There are fluffy Missoni bathrobes to relax in as well as Aesop bath amenities.

Port Phillip Estate is an epicurean dream destination. One of the best cellar doors in the world, award-winning wine and meals, as well as chic accommodations. For the lover of great food and wine, look no further than Australia's Mornington Peninsula and the Port Phillip Estate.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 95 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and often exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)