Weekender’s guide to the best wineries in the Macedon Ranges
Plan the ultimate winery weekender with our guide to the best of the Macedon Ranges.
When you think of wine in Victoria, the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Heathcote immediately spring to mind. But there is another emerging wine destination that is closer, quicker to get to and as spectacular as them all.
Introducing the Macedon Ranges. At just over 60 kilometres from Melbourne, and just under an hour’s drive, this wine-region-less-travelled is producing wines with as much depth, elegance and finesse as any from its better-known Victorian siblings.
But don’t be fooled by its relatively recent emergence. Vineyards were originally established in the area more than 150 years ago (some as early as the 1840s), but it is only in the last 60 years that winemakers have begun to revive the local viticulture. Pioneering this renaissance were Tom Lazar (Virgin Hills) and Gordon Knight (Granite Hills) who started replanting vines in the 1960s and ’70s, with Granite Hills, like many wineries in the region, still a family-run operation.
Slides: Lunch at Passing Clouds, view from the cellar door, main meals at the restaurant; Mount Macedon Winery, antipasto plates; pinot noir harvest at Curly Flat, Granite Hills vineyard.
Now the hills are crawling with boutique outfits producing small volumes of deliciously premium wine that has, seemingly by stealth, established the Macedon Ranges as one of the state’s most exciting regions for cool-climate pinot noir, shiraz, riesling and chardonnay, as well as rare and interesting drops from varieties such as lagrein, gewurtztraminer and tempranillo.
Where are the Macedon Ranges?
This picturesque vine country is nestled into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, between the granite boulders of Cobaw Ridge and the alluvial goldfields hinterland. It is home to more than 40 wineries and 30-something cellar doors specialising in elegant cool-climate varieties.
What’s so good about cool-climate wine?
Climate can impact everything from the grapes grown in a particular region to how they taste once they make it into the bottle. Certain varieties prefer cooler climes and, with Macedon Ranges being the coolest wine region on the mainland, it is ideally suited to aromatic grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay. Cooler regions generally produce wines that are lighter, lower in alcohol and more delicate, with subtle floral and fresh fruit flavours. And Macedon's wines definitely exhibit classic cool-climate style.
Where to stay
Whether you’re into camping, caravan parks or eco-cottages, there are plenty of accommodation options in the Macedon Ranges that make it the ideal escape for a cheeky weekender. Base yourself in Woodend, Lancefield, Macedon or Malmsbury to explore the region’s myriad cellar doors and wine sellers.
Six of the best wineries to visit in the Macedon Ranges
There’s been grapes in them thar hills for nearly 50 years. Originally established in 1970 by fourth-generation farmer Gordon Knight, Granite Hills remains, one of the region’s most exciting and innovative wineries. Now run by Gordon’s son, Llew (chief winemaker), and his wife, Andrea (a lawyer-turned-vinetrepreneur), this boutique producer is still pushing the envelope and encouraging Victorians to try something new. Their gruner veltliner (an Austrian specialty that is gaining a reputation in Australia) is a must-try, as is The Gordon, a classic Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, made in honour of Granite Hills’ founding father. With Andrea piloting the wine flights at cellar door, there’ll be belly laughs and beautiful wines aplenty.
Open from 11am to 5pm daily. 1481 Burke and Wills Track, Baynton. granitehills.com.au
Hanging Rock Winery
If you like your reds served with a side serve of art then Hanging Rock is the winery for you. Their inaugural Art in the Vines sculpture exhibition, which featured 25 handcrafted works by leading local and international artists, was held earlier this year and was such a success they are set to launch their next series, Sculpture in Motion, on 26 October. If you can’t wait ’til then to visit, their cellar door has a stellar line-up. Get around the estate-grown and extremely limited Jim Jim Pinot Noir or, for something seriously special, the Macedon NV Brut Cuvee rivals many of the most prestigious French champagnes. It’s spent 15 years on its lees – which is a fancy way of saying that it is going to be all biscuit, bread and brioche, balanced by a bouquet of apple, peach and honey.
Open from 10am to 5pm, daily. 88 Jim Road, Newham. hangingrock.com.au
At Gisborne Peak winery you can do more than just enjoy a wine tasting or lunch among the vines; you can even adopt one. If you’ve always wanted to be a grape parent, their vine adoption kit comes with a photo of your adopted vine, tasting notes and invites to wine dinners, tastings and even a Picnic with your Vine. If you’re more into drinking the fruits of someone else’s labour, stop in for a tasting and woodfired pizza session. You can even stay the night at one of their luxury eco-cottages.
Open 11am to 4pm. daily. 69 Short Road, Gisborne South. gisbornepeakwines.com.au
One of the best things about winery hopping is lunch. And there’s no better place to satiate your appetite than at Passing Clouds. From its elevated Musk vantage point (just five minutes from Daylesford atop the Great Dividing Range), you can sit out on the deck and enjoy a slow-roasted lunch while taking in lush, rolling vistas. The dining room is open for lunch from noon, Friday to Monday and there is a set feed-me menu ($60 per head) on weekends. Passing Clouds formed in 1974 and, like many Macedon wineries, is focused on producing premium pinot noir and chardonnay. The wines won’t disappoint.
Open from 10 to 5pm, daily. 30 Roddas Lane, Musk. passingclouds.com.au
Pinot noir has developed something of a cult following over the last decade. And Curly Flat is one of the driving forces behind its rise to grape stardom. This Victorian vineyard has been absolutely crushing it (pun intended) for years, producing some of the state’s most sipped, not to mention celebrated, pinots, with their wines consistently scoring 95 points and above from James Halliday. One was even ranked Decanter’s best Aussie pinot in 2015. The latest release (2016) is drinking beautifully and offers glorious red fruit, spice and sipability. Park yourself in front of the fireplace and get ready to take your tastebuds on a fine wine adventure. Don't miss the The Curly 2012 Chardonnay; with seven years already on it - it's a beauty.
Open weekends from 12 to 5pm, or by appointment. 263 Collivers Road, Lancefield. curlyflat.com
Mount Macedon Winery
Did you even go to the Macedon Ranges if you didn't stop in at AFL star and All-Australian footballer Dylan Grimes’ winery? Situated at the foothills of Mount Macedon, Mount Macedon Winery, which Dylan co-owns with partner Elisha Rodriguez, is the ideal spot to un-wine over a long lunch or sip and savour sumptuous cheese and antipasto platters. Our hot tip? The house pinot noir goes down a treat with the potato and prosciutto pizza. There is also on-site accommodation – complete with private outdoor decking, fully equipped kitchen and flat-screen TV loaded with the latest movies – if you’re keen for a longer stay.
Open from 11.30am to 4.30pm weekends. 433 Bawden (Douglas) Road, Mount Macedon.
If you want to sip your way through the region, Macedon Ranges' annual Budburst Festival, held over 9-10 November, will see wineries big and small fling open their cellar doors, literally, for a weekend of good food, fine wine and friendly hospitality. macedonrangeswineandfoodfest