There are very few things worth setting an alarm for on a Saturday morning (save for making it in time for the McDonald’s breakfast), but Wine Compass’ Meet The Makers wine tour might have just cracked the list.

If you’ve ever been pouring a glass of local red and wondered what the story is behind it, this backstage, all-access tour of some of the Mornington Peninsula’s finest boutique wineries is sure to satiate your curiosity (and your appetite for good food and wine, of course).

There’s barrels of fun to be had on Wine Compass’ Meet The Makers tour

There’s barrels of fun to be had on Wine Compass’ Meet The Makers tour

When? Five initial Meet The Makers tours were run across May and final one is selling out fast for this weekend (June 5). Don’t worry too much if you miss out; thanks to their success they are set to reappear in August/September, and Wine Compass will continue to operate with private and corporate tours in the meantime.

Who’s behind it? Your hosts for the day are Wine Compass founder and owner Adam Nicholls, and local winemaker Judy Gifford.

Adam has been running tours on the Peninsula for more than 2 years and brings a great knowledge and love for food and wine to the table, as well as a pumping playlist for the ride home.

Judy is the winemaker, owner and operator of Darling Park Winery. She’s been making wines for almost two decades in the Mornington Peninsula, and before that studied in France’s Burgundy region, allowing her to share a great cross section comparison of different practices between European and Australian vineyards.

What is it? Wine Compass’ Meet The Makers tour is a unique experience that allows you to go behind the scenes and meet the champions of some of the Peninsula’s best boutique wineries. It doesn’t matter if you’re a serial foodie or if you don’t even know your Pinot Gris from Noir, there’s something packed into this day for everyone.

Tour stops change up every event, but on the day I tagged along (May 30) we started out by hearing all about the wine making process from Richard McIntyre of Moorooduc Estate, while sampling their famous Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, my personal favourite, 2012 Pinot Gris.

From there we were invited into our very own host Judy Gifford’s winery Darling Park, where we were privy to learning the intricate art of how to taste wine like a pro – aka swirling and spitting. Of course, you don’t have to spit out the wine if you’re not concerned about keeping your wits sharp (and why would you, when the drive home is already being taken care of by Wine Compass), plus Judy’s delightful reds and whites seem too good to waste down the drain.

In particular, her Viognier dessert wine was a crowd pleaser, especially with the knowledge that it’s such a rare find for being grown on the Peninsula.

After so much sampling it only seemed fair to take a break with lunch (and drink more wine), so that we did at the Red Hill Epicurean. For me the canapes and sides were the real standouts: you can’t go wrong with pizza-style focaccia smothered in garlic, rosemary and buffalo mozzarella. Nor can anyone ever complain about an antipasto assortment that makes it difficult to save room for the main event.

But we managed to save a bit of space to be rewarded with the mains; a choice of grilled Gippsland porterhouse steak or pan roasted snapper. The porterhouse was popular up my end including on my own plate, but it’s hard to mark it as a showstopper. That being said, the fantastic herb roasted potatoes, truffle mash, and sautéed vegetables were brilliant offsets and made for one highly mouth-watering meal.

The main course at Red Hill Epicurean: grilled Gippsland porterhouse with garlic & caper butter and truffle mash, all in a red wine sauce

The main course at Red Hill Epicurean: grilled Gippsland porterhouse with garlic & caper butter and truffle mash, all in a red wine sauce

After filling our tummies and emptying another glass of wine from the Epicurean’s cellar, our bus was headed to the final destination, Oceans 8. Here, owner Mike Aylward treated us to some tastings straight from the barrel – no waiting around for it to mature and be bottled for us!

We’ve all heard the sayings about the importance of aging a wine, but being able to taste the difference between a 2015 yield compared to others we’d sampled from years past definitely gave that notion new life.

Waiting is for chumps - Ocean 8 owner Mike Aylward let us skip the line and taste wine straight from the barrel

At the end of the day, you’re likely to leave the Meet The Makers tour with a bit more knowledge and a lot more appreciation for the winemaking process … not to mention plenty of happy vibes from all that taste testing. If you love good food and even better wine (i.e. you are human), we strongly recommend hitting up Wine Compass for a grape escape out on the Mornington Peninsula!

Bookings for this weekend’s event 6 are filling up, so be quick.

When Mel isn’t filling her passport with stamps, she’s letting Melbourne’s multi-cultural food scene bring the world to her on a silver platter (or whatever strange hipster dinnerware every second cafe and restaurant seems to use). She loves the full spectrum of cuisines you can find hidden in this city’s cobbled laneways, from coriander-infused Asian fusions to artery-clogging American burgers and chicken wings.


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