Finding ourselves with a little time on our hands on the way back home from a country wedding, we allowed ourselves a little indulgence in our long-time hobby of wine tasting. The two areas we passed through were the southern edge of the Bendigo wine region and the cooler climate Macedon wine region. Both areas are very accessible from Melbourne, being only about an hour or so up the Calder Freeway.
For many years now we have been visiting and ordering wines from these two favourites – BlackJack Wines and Harcourt Valley Winery. Side by side on the old Calder Highway – now renamed Harmony Way – these two consistently produce some of the best full-bodied reds of the region.
First planted in 1994 and named after an American sailor during the goldrush era who jumped ship, BlackJack wines have won numerous awards in recent years, including the 2004 Premier’s Trophy for best Victorian wine of the show. The Shiraz and the Block 6 Shiraz just keep on winning medals. James Halliday, wine critic, consistently scores these two wines around 95 points and rates the winery as 5 Star. They also produce a very drinkable Cabernet-Merlot and Major’s Line Shiraz and an easy drinking and Chortle’s Edge Shiraz. We recently purchased a case of the Major’s Line, and though it is approachable now, it will benefit from a few years in the cellar. My favourite on the day was the Block 6.
Since the first vintage in 1980 Harcourt Valley Vineyards has won over 500 medals and 34 trophies, making the winery the most awarded in the Bendigo wine region. Although most of these have been for their different Shiraz styles and Cabernet blends, the range here also includes Riesling, Chardonnay and Rose. In a departure from traditional offerings, they are also producing The Ginger Kid Ginger Beer and an American Pale Ale named the ‘Sightings’, after various sightings of a ‘big cat’ in the area. Since we have a number of Harcourt Valley Shiraz already in our cellar, we came away with their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon instead.
The tasting area was modernised a couple of years ago and the owners are now also offering functions with room for 100 seated inside the winery or up to 200 for a cocktail style reception. There is a deck outside providing opportunity for relaxing with a glass of wine and a gourmet regional food platter while enjoying views over the vineyard.
Further south along the Calder Freeway, the terrain gets more mountainous and can even get a touch of snow in colder winters. In fact it is Australia’s coolest grape growing region. The winery par excellence in this area has to be the Hanging Rock Winery in a little hamlet called Newham. The hillside tasting room gives great views of the actual Hanging Rock, with Mount Macedon in the background. The winery was established in 1983 with an aim to produce Australia’s best sparkling wine.
The Macedon NV Brut is made in the Methode Champenoise style from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact the Brut Rose NV was selected by James Halliday as one of his top 100 Australian wines for 2014. He also highly rated the estate grown 2014 Jim Jim Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir, giving them each 94 points. Being avid red wine drinkers, we love the yellow label Heathcote Shiraz from their Heathcote vineyard, which does very well in shows every year. There are five ranges of wines with more than 20 different wines – The Flagship & Reserve range, The Black Label range, Yellow Label range, The Rock and The Odd One Out! The Ellis family also promote their 2010 Blazeaid Shiraz Cabernet, at a bargain basement price, donating 20% of sales to the Blazeaid charity set up to help victims of the 2014 bushfires which devastated the area nearby. Why not check out their website and order a few?