I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published November 22nd 2020
Cool Climate Taste Test
Located less than an hour from Melbourne and with vineyards ranging between 300 and 800 metres above sea level, the Macedon Ranges is Australia's premier cool climate wine region producing great pinot noir, excellent chardonnay, a variety of outstanding sparkling wines and some quite unusual varieties as well.
There are more than 40 wineries in the region, all of them worthy of a taste test and, like all regional tourism business, they're constantly adapting to meet the changing requirements as COVID-19 restrictions are wound back. To help you get out there, enjoy the countryside and some truly great wines, I've tried to make choosing a little easier for by listing 5 of my favourite Macedon Ranges wineries.
Mount Towrong Vineyard
Mount Towrong is a small family-run vineyard and just a little different to others in the region in that it specialises in producing a range of traditionally grown Italian varieties.
Mount Towrong produces a range of quite different traditional Italian varieties. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
At 600 metres above sea level, Mount Towrong is a 'cool climate' vineyard with just over 2 hectares under vines but through sourcing quality fruit from other regional growers is able to produce an impressive range of Prosecco, Chardonnay, Garganega, Fiano, Verdicchio, Nebbiolo Rosa, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Lagrein and Nebbiolo.
Mount Towrong Cellar Door is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM for tastings, sales and light meals. The venue is very popular but seating is limited, even more so operating under strict COVID-19 restrictions, so you will need to get in early and book. There's ample parking on the property.
Getting There .....
Mount Towrong Vineyard is on Mount Macedon, 65 kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD, about a 50-minute drive via the Calder Freeway/M79.
Once home to Clydesdale working horses, Paramoor Farm was transformed into Paramoor Winery in 2005 by husband and wife team Will & Kath Fraser and today the horse's former barn, tack room, stalls and smithy's forge house this much talked about and award-winning winery's cellar door.
Paramoor's unique tasting room is a former stable and Smithy's Forge. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
With a swag of awards for its range of Riesling, Pino Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz & Merlot and with the plaudits of wine judges and commentators ringing in their ears, Paramoor Winery is a 'must visit' attraction for anyone who appreciates a great drop.
It's even caught the eye of prestigious wine judge James Halliday, who cites Paramoor as "an excellent producer of very high-quality wines" and judges several to be among the best in Australia.
Will Fraser's philosophy has always been to favour quality over quantity and with this in mind, he hand selects grapes from both his own vines and a wide selection of growers throughout Central Victoria to produce a range of great wines at reasonable prices.
Paramoor's Cellar Door, with its array of horse-drawn implements & accoutrements, the blacksmiths forge and countless other rural curiosities, is open Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM until Christmas. To sit and sample award-winning wines surrounded by this collection of memorabilia is a great experience and talking point but with COVID-19 restrictions in place, pre-booking is very strongly recommended.
Getting There .....
Paramoor Winery is set in the heart of the Macedon Ranges, an easy 1 ¼ hour drive from Melbourne via the Calder Freeway.
Hanging Rock Winery was established in 1983 by John & Ann Ellis, who set out to make Australia's first traditional method, cool-climate sparkling wine.
Just an hour's drive from Melbourne the Newham property is overlooked by both Mount Macedon and Hanging Rock and is located just 3 kilometres from its iconic namesake.
Hanging Rock Winery pioneered the production of cool climate, traditional sparkling wines in Australia. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Hanging Rock sources its grapes predominantly from the Macedon Ranges and Heathcote districts but frequently goes farther afield, bringing in fruit that allows them to offer a wider range of wines.
As well as its signature sparkling varieties, Hanging Rock Winery produces Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Gewurztraminer.
The Cellar Door is open daily between 10 AM and 5 PM but subject to COVID-19 restriction. Go to the website to review their very detailed COVID-19 Safe Operating Plan.
For a strictly limited time, Hanging Rock is offering a special 'By 5 Get 1 Free or Buy 10 and Get 2 Free' offer.
Getting There .....
Hanging Rock Winery is 79 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, just over an hour's drive via the Calder Freeway/M79 and the C324.
Gisborne Peak Winery has been popular for years, attracting visitors to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of its Cellar Door and a tempting selection of quality wines and light meals served on the open-air deck or, in cooler times, inside by the fire or in the heated marquee.
The Gisborne Peak Cellar Door is a delight all year 'round. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The first vines were planted here in 1978 and by 2014 Gisborne Peak had been nominated as one of the Top-10 Cellar Doors in Victoria by the prestigious AGE Good Food Guide and followed that with a Gold Medal for their 2009 Riesling and Top-4 placings for two of their Chardonnays.
Gisborne Peak produces wooded, unwooded and Sparkling Chardonnay, Allegro, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Pinot, Shiraz and Muscat using both its own grapes and others from as far afield as the Barossa Valley.
The Cellar Door is currently open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12 till 5 PM for lunch and light snacks. Gisborne Peak is dog-friendly and pre-booking is essential as the operation adapts to ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions.
Getting There .....
Just a little bit off the beaten track Gisborne Peak Winery is 53 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, about a 50 minute drive via the Calder Freeway/M79 and Couangalt Road.
Granite Hills Wines punches well above its weight having taken more than 500 awards in Australian and International wine competitions, trail blazing viticulture in Australia's coolest wine region.
By the late 1960's farmers, Gordan and Heather Knight could see the writing on the wall. Declining prices for sheep could well spell the end of life as they knew it on their Baynton property and prompted Gordon to sell off about half of his land and invest in a vineyard, with trial plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Riesling undertaken in 1970.
Granite Hills is home to one of the most relaxed wine tastings I've ever enjoyed. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The couple survived the worst Locust plague in local history in 1973 and today Granite Hills produces a wide range of product under 3 labels, TOR, Granite Hills and Nardoo. Varieties include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Blanc to name just a few.
To quote James Halliday, "After a quiet period in the 1990's Granite Hills has been reinvigorated, with its original two icons once again to the fore. The Rieslings age superbly and the Shiraz is at the forefront of the cool-climate school in Australia". Strong praise indeed.
The Cellar Door is open daily from 11 AM to 5 PM but, in these challenging COVID-19 times it would be well worth calling ahead to make sure your visit can be accommodated.
Getting There .....
Granite Hills Wines is at Baynton, 90 kilometres north of Melbourne and about a 90-minute drive via the M2, C7643, C325 and the Burke & Wills Track.
So there you have it, five of my favourite local wineries which I'm sure will make your trip to the Macedon Ranges one to remember.
One of my personal favourites Paramoor Winery is just one of many great experiences to be had on a visit to the Macedon Ranges Wine Region, one of Australia's truly great wine producing areas. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media