Passion for the Peninsula

By Louise Johnson
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Geraldine McFaul, winemaker, Willow Creek wines. Picture: Craig Moodie

Geraldine McFaul, winemaker, Willow Creek wines. Picture: Craig Moodie [©Craig Moodie]

After backpacking through Europe and working in the UK Willow Creek’s new winemaker Geraldine McFaul found herself back in Australia and in need of a “real job”. 

She was part of the first intake into the winemaking degree at Charlie Sturt University in 1992.

“I was fortunate to receive the Ron Potter Scholarship at Charles Sturt University – it provides a paid winemaking traineeship at the University’s commercial winery,” she says.

Her interest in wine came about during her time overseas and on graduation from Charles Sturt she returned to Europe for a vintage with Cellarworld International, making Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley. Then the Mudgee girl returned to Australia and started full time at Stonier, where she stayed until her recent move to Willow Creek.

Geraldine says working in a small team and concentrating on estate fruit is one of the highlights of her new role. “ I love working with a really enthusiastic, small team, with everyone working hard to grow and make great wine, and have a bit of fun on the way,” she says.

How has the Willow Creek 2008 vintage shaped up in terms of quality?
It looks really good, quite generous and ripe in style, reflecting the very warm vintage.

What are the challenges stepping into the winemaker role at the end of the process?
Just getting a good understanding of the styles and how the wines might mature over the next few months, so I’m able to make informed decisions on when to bottle.

What you are most excited about for your first vintage at Willow Creek?
Making the most of the vineyard differences/variations across the varieties with some small (micro if necessary) batch trials.

What sort of changes are you planning?

We will harvest our first crop of Pinot Gris in 2009, so that will be a brave new world for me, need to assess the fruit before making final style decisions. With the existing wines the changes will be evolutionary tweaking rather than wholesale style changes – the wines already look pretty good to me.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever made?
I’m very proud of the development of the Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Windmill Vineyard at Stonier – I hope to be able to open a bottle twenty years down the track and to be still struck by the fruit quality and balance from that site.

What’s the biggest challenge in winemaking?

Probably to do less rather than more – to pull back on very tempting things like lots of new oak, or really extractive techniques for colour and tannin – just let the character of the vineyard speak louder than winemaking.

What would you like to see change in the world of wine?
For people to feel less intimidated by wine; lose some of the stuffier aspects.

Geraldine’s Mornington Peninsula favourites:


  • 2006 Windmill Vineyard Pinot Noir from Stonier (as mentioned above)
  • 2006 Willow Creek Cistercia Chardonnay, for power and complexity from older vines,
  • Nat White’s always pure and precise Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir.

It’s very hard to choose between favourite restaurants so I will stick to local producers...

  • Mornington Peninsula Chocolates (especially the Lime Ganache),
  • Red Hill Cheese (great washed rind cheeses),
  • The brief, but glorious season of white cherries from Red Hill each December cannot be beaten.

One perfect day:

  • Sticking to the Westernport Bay side of the Peninsula so it’s do-able...Late breakfast at the Somers General store, thankfully re-opened, and with great views out to Phillip Island,
  • then set out for the top of the hill to taste the Main Ridge Estate wines,
  • visit Red Hill Cheese for a tasting,
  • head back down to Willow Creek Vineyard for a tasting and wonderful lunch on the deck at Salix,
  •  then roll down to Merricks to visit Paradigm Hill, Stonier and Merricks General store to taste Quealy and Elgee Park Wines,
  • definitely drop in to Mornington Peninsula chocolates
  • and end up in Flinders for local mussels.
  • Or even easier, go to The Long Table to have them already prepared for you.



  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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