Warrenmang Vineyard and Resort
Warrenmang Vineyard and Resort is situated in the hamlet of Moonambel, about 15 minutes out of Avoca and two hours from Melbourne. The location is blessed with magnificent views of surrounding valleys and mountain ranges. Warrenmang deserves to stand alone in my treatment of the Pyrenees wine region, not simply because we stayed at the property for a couple of days – and it’s the third time we have stayed there – but because, to our palates, this place produces the best wines of the district.
The wine is grown in three distinct vineyards – Warrenmang, Mountain Creek and Avoca. The first of these was planted in 1974 and includes the varietals Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dolcetto, Chardonnay and Traminer. Mountain Creek is just next door and began in 1975 with plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, and now also includes Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris. The Sauvignon Blanc was chosen for serving to Queen Elizabeth on her 2000 tour of Australia. About 20km away, the Avoca vineyard is the source of Luigi Bazzani’s most recent award winning wine, the Black Puma Shiraz. Additional plantings in 1998 and 2002 of the Italian varieties of Barbera, Brunello, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo have been used to produce his latest special wine – the Vinello.
This is the best place in the area to stay for lovers of wine, food and nature; a perfect destination for a romantic weekend or gourmet getaway. On-site cottage and suite accommodation caters for up to 80 guests. Perched high on a hill, cottages have private balconies which, on the eastern side of the property, afford wonderful views of the vineyard and landscape beyond. The large 10 person spa and the sundeck beside the restaurant are also great places to take in the view. It is a popular venue for weddings – on the deck, beside the pool or even in the underground wine cellar; and the guest simply stay on-site.
The Grange and the Lodge are are perfect for groups of friends who wish to share adjoining accommodation and communal recreational facilities. There is even the Rose Cottage which is perfect for the honeymooning couple. There are no phones, no TV – this is the ideal place to have a quiet, wind-down from a hectic city life.
We arrived on the Friday afternoon and after settling in to our cottage, went straight down to the cellar door to renew our acquaintance with Luigi Bazzani and his fabulous wines. One of our favourites from past visits, the Torchio, is sadly unavailable now as it was a one-off. This has been replaced by The Miracle 2008 ( a limited release, robust and powerful Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend), but it is not on tasting, so we ordered it at dinner. We instead tasted the 2011 Bazzzani Shiraz Cabernet and the 2008 Bazzani Vinello, both excellent well-priced ready to drink now wines. The 2011 Bazzani Chardonnay is a favourite with visitors – we didn’t try it.
Our favourites were the 2009 Warrenmang Grand Pyrenees (a 5 star Bordeaux style blend), the 2009 Warrenmang Estate Shiraz (their flagship red, a powerful wine from non-irrigated 35 year old vines, shortlisted by Winestate Magazine for “wine of the year”) and the unbeatable 2009 Black Puma Shiraz (rated 95/100, Gold Medal and 5 stars by wine critic James Halliday).
We began our dinner preparations with a drink of sparkling 2000 Bazzani Saluté (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) out on the deck and moved inside for the main event.
The celebrated restaurant – winner of 3 Golden Plate Awards in 2013 – offers a seasonal menu with a focus on fresh produce from local suppliers. It is not unusual to find rabbit, hare, yabbies or trout on the menu, though on our visit this time we had crispy pork belly, scallops and prawns in a glorious garlic cream sauce, twice cooked duck and fantastic mushroom gnocchi. The chef, Sean, and the wait staff are professional yet friendly and really added to the enjoyment of our visit. Naturally we drank Warrenmang wines with our meals (although there are other local wines on the list) – The Miracle 2008 and the 2004 Warrenmang Estate Shiraz.
We finished our evenings in the bar, reading, lingering over the last of the wine and rounded it off with hot chocolate before wandering up the hill to our cottage, very satisfied.
On a Sunday morning, guests at the resort are treated to a tour of the cellars and further wine tasting. Day visitors can join in for a fee. It is very interesting to see all the vats and barrels and hear about the wine-making process. For example, the grapes for the Black Puma were crushed in open fermenters to ensure maximum colour and flavour extraction. The wine was then hand plunged twice daily on skins and then basket pressed, before being matured for over 30 months in French oak. Athalie was on hand to take our wine order – a mixed 6 of our favourite quality reds – and at a significant discount to resort guests.
UPDATE 2019: Luigi and Athalie have gone – they have reached the time to retire and the vineyard and resort have been sold. Luigi’s wines can still be bought online. I hope the next winemaker can continue to produce such excellent wines. We wish Luigi and Athalie all the best for the future.