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Meet The Makers Event Review: May 23

Quealy Winemakers, Tucks Ridge, Red Hill Epicurean & Darling Park

Wine Compass’ Meet The Makers tour is the Mornington Peninsula like you’ve never seen it before. Delving behind the scenes, you are privy to exclusive access to some of the brilliant minds behind the Peninsula’s best wines, food, brews and more.

Adam Nicholls, owner and founder of Wine Compass, and Judy Gifford, chief winemaker and owner of Darling Park, are your guides through this glorious day. They both offer their own unique and insightful addition to the day; Adam with his more than 2 years of knowledge running wine tours in Victoria and Judy with her over 18 years’ experience growing wine on the Mornington Peninsula, as well as impressive background studying in Burgundy, France.

Both are passionate about all the Peninsula has to offer, which was very obviously displayed throughout the day.

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Hosts Judy and Adam enjoying a tasting at Darling Park

Stop 1: Quealy Winemakers

Our first stop introduced us to Kathleen Quealy, winemaker and owner of Quealy Winemakers. Kathleen is the person to thank for all of your favourite Pinot Gris and Grigio variants from the Peninsula, as she was the first to plant them in the region – earning her the nickname of “Queen of the Pinot Grigio” from James Halliday.

As one of the most well-known winemakers in the area the Quealy stop had a lot to live up to; luckily it exceeded it. Here we sampled her delightful Pinot Noir, Italian styled white wine, Muscat, and, of course, famous Pinot Gris.

The simplistic, no-frills setting made it easy to focus on the brilliance of the wine, and amplified the authentic nature of the Quealy Winemakers estate.

quealy tasting

The region’s most well-known winemaker: Kathleen Quealy

Stop 2: Tucks Ridge

Our second stop brought us to the quaint and boutique estate of Tucks Ridge. The historic winery has been around since 1985, and was joined by respected winemaker Michael Kyberd in 2004. Michael was our host for the day, taking advantage of Tuck Ridge’s rich heritage with a comparative look into various vintages of the same wine.

We sampled some yields that were up 20 years old, as well as some exclusive unreleased wines. With the winemaker himself there to answer all our questions and offer interesting insights, it really highlighted the unique take that Wine Compass has created with the Meet The Makers series.

tucks ridge tasting

Tucks Ridge Winemaker Michael Kyberd hosts a special structured tasting

Stop 3: Red Hill Epicurean

After working up an appetite we headed to lunch at our third stop: the Red Hill Epicurean. This is one of the Peninsula’s most notable restaurants, and they did not disappoint on this occasion with their two course lunch.

We started off with shared entrees – an assortment of smoky focaccia with buffalo mozzarella, garlic and rosemary, as well as antipasto delights of cured meats, vegetables, cheeses, and dips. Then we faced the almost impossible task of choosing between three glorious mains: porterhouse steak with garlic and caper butter, truffle mash and fine leaves all in a red wine sauce; pan roast snapper with tomato seafood nage, olives and herbs; or roast pumpkin ravioli, burnt butter sauce and pumpkin seeds.

As if that wasn’t enough to get us all drooling, we were presented with shared sides to pile on our plates, including perfectly roasted herb potatoes, fried cauliflower, and more. All in all, the perfect mid tour break and just the fuel we needed for our fourth and final winery stop.

epicurean antipasto

Red Hill Epicurean antipasto

Stop 4: Darling Park

After spending the day getting to know Judy, it was extra special heading to her Darling Park winery. As mentioned, she has a great wealth of experience and knowledge about growing wine, particularly in the Mornington Peninsula, and she communicates that in a fascinating way.

Our education on the winemaking process included some practical, ‘hands-on’ learning too – i.e. plenty of sampling of some of Darling Park’s finest. We tried out her Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and the show stopping Ice Viognier dessert wine.

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Judy Gifford explaining the de-stemmer at Darling Park

With all four stops done and dusted, we returned back to the drop off point in our shuttled mini bus (goodbye, arguments over directions and designated drivers) with full tummies, satisfied palates and a whole lot more knowledge. For lovers of food and wine, you can’t beat the unique and special experience that Wine Compass offers in the Meet The Makers tour.

Meet the Makers and Private Foodie & Wine Lover tours

If you are a private or corporate group looking for a unique and special wine, food and produce experience (that can incorporate Meet the Makers), take a look out our pages below: