The Pyrenees, Victoria’s best-kept wine secret
When you hear Pyrenees, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the French Mountain range. But Victoria has its own version of the Pyrenees, and it’s also pretty awesome. Nestled amongst the rolling hills and pretty little country towns, the Pyrenees produces some of the best cool climate wines in the state.
However, the Pyrenees isn’t overly popular with tourists, and many Victorians have never even heard of it. The overseas crowds tend to visit the more famous Yarra Valley or the Mornington Peninsula, as do most Melbournians. We decided to head to the Pyrenees for some relaxation and nice wines, and that’s exactly what we encountered. Even on a long weekend, we had the area almost all to ourselves. It was a real delight!
Where is the Pyrenees Region?
The Pyrenees wine region is a leisurely two-hour drive from the centre of Melbourne. It’s a lovely drive through the countryside, and once out of the city, you will be driving past endless fields of crops and cattle (and in spring, Canola, which I’ll get to later).
So why should you visit the Pyrenees?
To taste some awesome wines!
It almost goes without saying, given that it’s a wine region, but wine tasting is probably going to be the first thing you tackle. With twenty-two cellar doors in the region, you could be tasting until you drop, literally! Or you can just pick a few. Here are a few of the wineries we loved:
Blue Pyrenees Estate
Established in 1963, the Blue Pyrenees estate is one of the most renowned wineries in the region, producing award-winning wines. The friendly man at the cellar door gave us lots of information about the winery and each of the wines that we tried. We learned that the Blue Pyrenees was established by Remy Martin, the succeeding owner of the French champagne houses Krug and Piper Heidsieck. It probably explains why their sparkling wines are outstanding. Another favourite was their Shiraz. You might want to use the waste bucket if you are planning on tasting their entire range, as they have a lot of wines to try!
Warrenmang has been owned and run for forty years by the veteran restaurateur and vigneron Luigi Bazzani. We had the pleasure to meet Luigi, during our tasting and he gave us a full explanation of each wine that they had for tasting, as well as some no longer available. He also talked to us about the history of the vineyard, which was highly interesting. You could clearly see the love that he has for his vineyard and his grapes. That passion is clearly reflected in his wines, which are all outstanding. If you visit on a Sunday morning, you can join him on a guided tour of the underground cellar and barrel hall, which is also really interesting.
While there, you have to try the Black Puma and the Beyond! I don’t normally buy expensive wines because I always end up drinking them too quickly, but even I couldn’t resist buying a bottle each of those two wines!
Sally’s Paddock Redbank Winery
Sally’s Paddock was established in 1973. It has a rustic cellar door and produces a great sparkling wine called the Sasha, and an even nicer Shiraz. Pair either of them with a delicious platter of local cheeses and you’ll be in heaven! They even do great coffees and cakes if you need a break from the wine.
To visit an old gold mining town, Avoca
Avoca is the heart of the Pyrenees, and it’s the main town in the area.
Although it’s quite small, Avoca is a very interesting town. It’s an old gold mining town, and most of its shopfronts have retained their original facades. If you are interested in the history of the town, pick up a map from the information centre and take a self-guided heritage walk around the town, where you’ll learn about its rich history, and walk past many historic buildings.
If you are there on the fourth Sunday of the month, be sure to check out the riverside market that is held on the banks of the Avoca River. It’s a great place to buy local wines, fresh vegetables, crafts, and local produce.
Behind the main street is a cute little ornamental Chinese garden that is also worth a quick visit.
It’s stunning in Spring!
As I mentioned earlier, if you happen to visit the Pyrenees in spring, you are in for a treat. One of the highlights of our trip was driving past field after field of Canola plants in bloom. It was a great surprise, because we had never seen them before, and at first we were puzzled as to what those bright yellow flowers were. The entire region was a photographer’s paradise, and we stopped many times to get a shot of those endless yellow fields.
And it’s not just the canola, there were many wildflowers in bloom as well, on the side of the road, within the vineyards, everywhere. It was a real treat to the eye!
It’s very close to the Grampians!
The Grampians National Park is not far away, and if you’re all worn out from too much wine tasting, you can easily head there from the Pyrenees for the day. It’s only an hour and a half drive to the northern part of the park. The Grampians offers some amazing hiking, beautiful waterfalls, fantastic mountain scenery, and lots of wildlife spotting.
Where to eat?
This beautiful country pub dates from the 1850’s. Recently renovated, it is a multi-award winning restaurant. It serves outstanding food, has an extensive cellar of local wines. and a fantastic range of craft and boutique beers. It’s a wonderful dining experience, but be sure you make a reservation, particularly on weekends.
Cafe Blue – Blue Pyrenees Winery
After tasting the many wines at the Blue Pyrenees cellar door, walk across to their small cafe and order one of their fantastic tasting plates of local produce. Be sure to pair it with a nice glass of their wine of course!
After finishing your wine tasting and cellar door tour, why not have lunch at Warrenmang? Set high up on the hill, their restaurant has great views across the vineyard and has a large outside deck area to enjoy the sunshine on a nice day. The restaurant is very rustic and features beautiful axe cut timber beams and a stone fireplace. Why not enjoy a glass of the Grand Pyrenees with your food?
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Warrenmang Vineyard and Resort, and we loved its rustic feel. The resort offers timber cottages with splendid views of bushland and rolling vines. We would enjoy those views from our own balcony, which was a delight, especially when paired with a glass of Warrenmang’s award-winning wine. It is a tranquil retreat and you won’t want to leave.
If you manage to drag yourself away from the wine, go for a sunset stroll around the grounds. You will come across lots of wildlife. Kangaroos are plentiful in the area, and they love to come out for a drink down the dam or to hop around the vines. The cottages are old and rustic, but extremely comfortable. And of course, you can always enjoy dinner at the on-site restaurant, if you’ve had one too many glasses of wine!
So if you haven’t visited the Pyrenees before, be sure to add it to your list. The wines are fantastic, the scenery is breathtaking, and you are guaranteed a great, relaxing weekend away.