Australia and New Zealand – Six of the best wine and food experiences

Get up close and personal with your food and wine

By Winsor Dobbin
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Wine tour at Sandalford in the Swan Valley

Wine tour at Sandalford in the Swan Valley

Scallops at The Old Cable Station, Stanley, Tasmania
Penfolds, Barossa Valley
Tony Lee, Foxeys Hangout, Mornington Peninsula
Nine restaurant at Tower Lodge in the Hunter Valley


From creating your own sparkling cuvee to blending your own red, from sitting down to eat with the fisherman who caught your crayfish and the man who made the wine you are drinking, Winsor Dobbin highlights six of Australia and New Zealand’s best gourmet experiences.


Foxeys Hangout – Mornington Peninsula

Brothers Tony and Michael Lee own and operate Foxeys Hangout, one of the most beautiful wineries/cellar doors on the Mornington Peninsula. At weekends, the architect-designed building with sweeping vineyard views over a steep valley becomes a gourmet Mecca with a cellar-door menu cooked by qualified chef Tony that includes tasting plates of dishes like mushrooms grilled in vine leaves and barbecued quail. Choose from a bar snacks or a "vigneron's table" lunch based on your wine choices.

Guests can also join Michael in the winery to create their own sparkling wine. Michael takes visitors through the sparkling winemaking process, including disgorgement, dosage and corkage. They are invited to watch the disgorgement process and select their own dosage levels. After tasting the house range of sparkling wines, and those at several different sweetness levels, visitors choose how many grams of sugar should be added to their blend and whether they want to make their wine in a white or rosé style.

You can take your bottle home and Foxeys Hangout keeps a record of your preferences so that wines can be reordered and disgorged to your specification at any time.

Phone: (03) 5989 2022


Matakauri Lodge – Central Otago

New Zealand’s newly revamped luxury lodge, a sister property to Kauri Cliffs and the Lodge at Cape Kidnappers and a member of Relais & Chateaux, offers a range of gourmet activities.

One of the best is a package with Over The Top Helicopters that sees guests set off in a chauffeur-driven limousine from Black Cars company to the heliport, where pilot Louisa “Choppy” Patterson and her team offer a selection of destinations including a flight over some of the finest pinot noir vineyards in the world, stopping in for tastings at wineries like Mount Edward and Felton Road.

You can “drop in” and pick up a winemaker to be your guide for the Wine by Invitation tour (Duncan Forsyth from Mount Edward, if you are lucky) and then learn about the history, soil, wines, climate and the grapes as you ‘copter to a selection of local vineyards – and travel as far as your budget stretches.

Lunch can be at Mount Edward, feasting on local produce and cheeses made just down the road. Back at the 11-suite lodge, meals are served overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Remarkable, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges. Executive chef Dale Gartland has worked at English two-hat Michelin restaurant Gidleigh Park and matches dishes like seared scallops and grilled scampi with garlic and parsley butter, crayfish thermidor or fillet of beef with roast shallots, potato puree and asparagus matched to a fine collection of New Zealand wines, including several choices from the owners’ own labels: Dry River, Te Awa and Kidnapper Cliffs.

Phone: +61 (3) 441 1008


The Old Cable Station – Stanley, Tasmania

This historic telecommunications centre outside Stanley, in Tasmania’s far north-west, is today a country guesthouse and restaurant with views of Bass Strait. It specialises in local dishes like char-grilled octopus, local scallops, oysters, abalone and Cape Grim beef. It’s a top spot for a country weekend away at any time of the year but its quarterly seasonal producers lunches are draw for foodies throughout Tasmania.

Talented cook Charlotte Brown and team pull out all the stops for their seasonal degustation lunches with each course matched to wines from a local producer; maybe Chartley Estate or Stoney Rise. These are traditional long, lazy lunches that start early and finish late – with the unique selling point that guests get a chance to chat with farmers and fishermen while enjoying their produce; making it a fabulous foodie experience.

Then taste the produce from, and mingle with the producers of the likes of Hursey Seafoods, Shipwreck Point Oysters, Tasmanian Abalone, Tasmanian Farmed Rabbit, Johnston Gourmet Meats from Smithton, Montagu Berries and Brandsema of Turners Beach, whose tomatoes are a throwback to a previous generation. The next seasonal producers' lunches are scheduled for April 10 and July 10, 2011.

Phone: (03) 6458 1312


Penfolds – Barossa Valley

The Penfolds name is synonymous with Australian red wine and the company’s Nuriootpa winery, in the heart of the Barossa Valley, is both historic and atmospheric.

Visitors can choose from two very different experiences; the Make Your Own Blend tour and the Taste of Grange – both offering red wine lovers the chance to live out their vinous fantasies.

Would-be winemakers will enjoy the Make Your Own Blend tour, for which guests first tour the cellars, then put on white coats and enter the winemakers' laboratory where they are given the opportunity to blend a wine from grenache, shiraz and mourvedre batches in the style of Bin 138. Their wine is then bottled for them to take home with their name on the label as assistant winemaker.

The Taste of Grange tour, meanwhile, offers a peek behind the scenes and the chance to taste several rare Penfolds wines – including the legendary Grange. Bookings for both tours are mandatory.

Phone: (08) 8568 9408


Tower Estate – Hunter Valley

A stay in a luxury Relais & Chateaux retreat, a degustation dinner with matching wines in one of Australia’s most exclusive restaurants; a tour and tasting at Tower Estate winery? All are on the agenda at Tower Lodge in the Hunter Valley.

Tower Lodge won the “Global Luxury Lodge” award at the 2010 World Luxury Hotel Awards, while its restaurant, known simply as nine, was named best new restaurant at the national 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence.

The Lodge is an exclusive haven that has just a dozen guest suites, an intimate lounge and bar, baronial dining room, and cosy library along with an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, a 1.6 km walking track, a heated pool, a sauna, gym and massage facilities. Located nine feet underground in an old cellar, nine offers a very different dining experience for a maximum of 16 diners.

Degustation dining is partnered with wines available by the bottle, or with dishes matched with a variety of Tower Estate wines. In house guests can also enjoy the similarly Spanish-influenced Tower Estate cellar door, the brainchild of the late Len Evans and where former Wirra Wirra winemaker Sam Connew is now working her magic. Alongside the open-plan cellar door is a private tasting room for small groups of members and VIPs.

Phone: (02) 4998 7022


Sandalford – Swan Valley

Sandalford, founded in 1840, is one West Australia’s oldest and largest family-owned wineries. Its Winemaker for a Day experience offers wine aficionados the chance to get up close and personal with a high-tech winery.

The tour includes a behind-the-scenes visit, where guests learn about the winemaking process. They then learn from qualified winemakers why and how blending between different varieties and regions is conducted.

That is followed by the chance to put their knowledge to the test, creating their own wine blend, which will be critiqued by the winemaking team, before enjoying the wine over a meal in the picturesque winery restaurant, which overlooks the vines. The three-hour package is available on Saturday mornings only and bookings are essential.

Phone: (08) 9374 9300



  • Hunter Valley (NSW)
  • Central Otago (NZ)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • North West Tas (TAS)
  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)
  • Swan Valley (WA)

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February 24th, 2011
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