I still remember my first ‘lightbulb’ moment with wine. I was a non-drinking 20-year-old at a post-match pennant lunch at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney. The waiter put a bottle of red in the middle of the table, and for some reason, it piqued my curiosity. It was a humble, inexpensive bottle of Peter Lehmann Shiraz, but that juicy, delicious red opened my mind to the charms of the grape, and more or less changed my life.
Subsequently, wine and golf have become symbiotic for me. It’s hard to think of two more compatible bedfellows, and it is little surprise to see how the two interests have embraced each other geographically during the past two decades.
Most of Australia’s key wine regions have outstanding golf courses in close proximity, offering the opportunity to cross pollinate the pastimes. There is an embarrassment of riches for holidaying golfers looking to taste the finest Aussie drops when they’re not on the links. Here are a few recommendations.
It is hard to beat the New South Wales Hunter Valley with regard to sheer convenience when it comes to shifting between wine and golf pursuits. No wine region in Australia has as many quality courses as central and accessible. With less than 10 kilometres separating The Vintage, Cypress Lakes and Hunter Valley Country Club, visitors are able to waste little time getting into the swing of cellar door tastings ‘apres golf’.
In the Hunter, there is no shortage of great cellar door experiences. Of the more recognised names, Brokenwood, Tyrrell’s and Meerea Park offer impressive ranges and service, while slightly off the beaten track, De Iuliis, Thomas and Briar Ridge are well worth a visit for their high quality semillon and shiraz.
Gartelmann Wines has been given a James Halliday 5-star rating and its fantastic cellar door extends to the adjoining Deck Café, overlooking a picturesque bush setting. There, you can enjoy Hunter Valley Semillon or Mudgee Shiraz, or even the trophy-winning Orange region merlot and luscious Liqueur Muscat.
If you are happy to drive a little farther, a trip to Margan Wines in the village of Broke is recommended. Aside from excellent wines, the estate contains an expansive organic vegetable garden from which its acclaimed restaurant sources fresh produce.For dining options in the central Pokolbin area, try Muse, The Cellar and Bistro Molines.
Another reason to go…
See the best of the Hunter at the Hunter Valley Wine Festival on Saturday, June 4 at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. The fourth staging of the popular festival will have more exhibitors, food stalls and entertainment than ever – without an increase in ticket prices. A pre-purchased, $20 entry ticket (or $25 at the door) provides five tasting vouchers to use on samples of wines from 40 vineyards. There will also be beer and cider tastings, food outlets and entertainment throughout the day for adults and children. The Hunter Valley Wine Festival will be a family friendly event, with a miniature train, carousel, lemonade stall and other activities aimed at keeping youngsters entertained. The Hunter Valley Wine Festival is a Schwartz Family Company community initiative, with the local Rural Fire Service benefiting from funds raised during the festival. For tickets and information, visit huntervalleywinefestival.com. A special Hunter Valley Wine Festival Weekend Package is available at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley from $285 per night, including accommodation, breakfast and festival tickets. Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is the perfect place for travelling golfers exploring the Hunter, with an 18-hole golf course on site and easy access to nearby wineries and attractions. Offering deluxe king or twin rooms, spa suites, and multiple bedroom self-contained villas, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley also boasts a Ubika Spa, 25-metre outdoor heated pool, fitness centre and the on-site Water Dragons Club for children.
Reservations on (02) 4991 0970 or crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au.
This trip is destined to be the bucket-list tour for golf fans for many years to come. Sharing four world-class courses between them, the northern Tasmania/ King Island combination presents a compelling proposition.
It’s fair to say the experience is weighted a little more in favour of the golf enthusiast, but once you find your way to Tasmania, numerous options open up, beginning with access to the Tamar Valley and its charming, cool climate wines.
Take the wine route back to Launceston, stopping along the way to try the likes of Delamere, Clover Hill and Holm Oak, and remember before you leave to book a table at Stillwater cafe for dinner – one of the very best dining experiences in the Apple Isle.
But let’s not gloss over the joy and challenge of four remarkable, public-access courses that redefined Australia in the golf tourism industry.
The dynamic duo of Ocean Dunes and (world No.24) Cape Wickham on King Island have entered the global consciousness with a bang. In the process, the couple has turned the sleepy Tasman Strait outpost into a bonafide golfing destination in the blink of an eye.
All this, too, within a decade of the establishment of Barnbougle Dunes and its sister course, Lost Farm, on the northern tip of Tassie. Both of which sit comfortably in the top 10 of Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses.
It is not inconceivable that within a few years, all four courses could occupy a place among top 10 of the prestigious rankings.
It only serves to underline the uniqueness of the opportunity that awaits.
For finding a balance between golf and wine pursuits, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula takes first prize. It is the home of an extraordinary number of Top 100 courses, including three courses at The National, St Andrews Beach, The Dunes, Moonah Links, Portsea and Sorrento. Even outside of this core elite, there are numerous other layouts, including Flinders Golf Club, that provide a high-quality golf experience.
When golf is done, you’ll find yourself in the midst of one of Australia’s most exciting and vibrant wine regions. Pinot noir and chardonnay are the signature grape varieties, and both prosper in the cool climate environment this peninsula offers. For some of the best versions of both, look to Yabby Lake, Eldridge Estate, Kooyong, Main Ridge and Montalto. Food is a particular asset of the Mornington. Ten Minutes by Tractor is generally recognised as the pinnacle of fine dining on the peninsula, with Veraison, Montalto and Paringa Estate just a few of those that make up an impressive following pack.
OUR TIP: Take advantage of Peppers Moonah Links play-and-stay offer of overnight accommodation, full breakfast, 18 holes of golf for two (including cart hire) and a complimentary bottle of local Crittenden Estate from just $395.
Mornington Peninsula Classic
Register to play the Seventh Annual Mornington Peninsula Golf Classic, held October 3-6. Golfers will experience graded tournament play on four Australian Golf Digest Top 100 courses on Victoria’s stunning Mornington Peninsula: St Andrews Beach Golf Course (No.20), Moonah Links (Legends, No.29), Portsea (No.62) and Sorrento Golf Club (No.66).
The MP Golf Classic is an individual stableford tournament and is open to men and women. The early bird entry fee is great value at only $595 if you register before June 20, 2016. Go to golfmorningtonpeninsula.com.au
No wine enthusiast can leave the Barossa Valley off their to-do list. The spiritual home of Australian wine contains a who’s who of vinous royalty. Penfolds, Henschke, Peter Lehmann, Yalumba and Rockford are just a few well-known brands, but the Barossa is also a hotbed for innovative small producers. With over 150 in the region, there is a wine here to satisfy both the purist and the adventurer.
For a less mainstream experience, seek out the likes of Dutschke, Ruggabellus, Kaesler, Kalleske, Radford and Spinifex.
The Barossa is home to a number of outstanding restaurants. FermentAsian delivers both classy Asian-inspired food and a creative wine list, while Vintners Bar & Grill and Appellation continue to over-deliver after many years at the forefront of regional dining.
While the golf offering within the region isn’t trumpeted, there are still two enjoyable layouts to experience. Both Tanunda Pines and the Barossa Valley Golf Club offer tranquil settings and convenient access to accommodation and amenities, with tee times generally available during weekdays. It shouldn’t be forgotten that four outstanding courses – Royal Adelaide, Kooyonga, Glenelg and Grange – are less than an hour’s drive away, meaning that you can stay in Adelaide and commute, or vice versa. In the Barossa, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
A Match Made in Heaven
Glenelg Golf Club is one of Australia’s premier private golf facilities. Regarded as the most strategic, challenging and best-conditioned layout in South Australia, Glenelg offers a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Members and guests have long enjoyed Glenelg’s alignment with world-renowned Henschke Wines, forged through decades of family involvement. As part of the Four Reds golf package, 18 holes around the stunning Glenelg will be complemented by a post-round tapas plate from the executive chef’s selection of seasonal hot and cold produce, as well as a bottle of Henschke’s Keyneton Euphonium. A perfect way to spend a day in Adelaide. See fourreds.com.au for more
Possibly not the most fashionable wine and golf destination, but those that overcome any prejudice about the rural location will be richly rewarded with quality golf courses and outstanding value-for-money wines.
Corowa, Yarrawonga, Cobram-Barooga and Tocumwal are just a small selection of more than a dozen golf clubs that could be included in a prospective golf tour. These largely tree-lined, parkland style courses are renowned for their tranquility and provide a stern test for golfers of all levels.
If Murray River courses are sometimes overlooked and underestimated, then the same can be said for the adjacent Rutherglen wine region. Home to legendary wine families that date their origins back to the mid-1800s, this is fortified wine heaven. Many of the world’s greatest examples of late harvested wines originate here, with the rare, barrel-aged cuvee from Morris, Chambers Rosewood and Campbells keenly sought after by wine aficionados the world over.
It is hard not to have a serious soft spot for Margaret River. Peaceful, beautiful, scenic, with pristine beaches, it has an x-factor that sets it apart. And that’s before you begin to explore the wine offering, which these days includes many of Australia’s very best cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.
For chardonnay, look to Pierro, Cullen, Voyager and Fraser Gallop, but this is a stunning category in Margaret River and there are another 15 to 20 producers worthy of mention. For the pinnacle of cabernet sauvignon, look to Woodlands and Cullen for fine, ageworthy examples. Golf isn’t front of mind here, but you can still mix and match and find some quality layouts in Margaret River Golf Club and Dunsborough Lakes. Head farther north however and golfing heaven awaits, with courses like Secret Harbour, The Cut and Links Kennedy Bay that can be worked into a schedule that incorporates the three-hour drive between Perth and Margaret River.
Have time to Swan around?
If you’re in Western Australia sampling the Margaret River’s finest, make sure you take a trip up to the picturesque Swan Valley.
Staying and playing at Novotel Vines Resort is a must for any golfer. In addition to the Lakes and Ellenbrook championship layouts, golfers can sample more than 180 years’ worth of winemaking experience in the many vineyards of the Swan Valley.
Renowned for chenin blanc, verdelho, shiraz and petit verdot varieties, this region has a unique blend of small, boutique wineries and big international names such as Houghton and Sandalford.
Don’t overlook this region in your scouting of potential golf and wine tours. With Barwon Heads, Thirteenth Beach and undiscovered gems such as Curlewis Golf Club, there are more than enough well-designed golf courses in the area. When it comes to wine, seek out established names like Bannockburn and By Farr, two of Australia’s very best pinot noir producers. Others to look for are Clyde Park, Curlewis, Jack Rabbit and Leura Park.
It’s also worth mentioning the food offering, with a number of excellent restaurants focusing on fresh regional produce. At the pinnacle of this list is the outstanding Brae, near Lorne, a venue now widely regarded as in the top 10 restaurants in the land.
Of course, this is not an exclusive list of possibilities. If you’re rightly interested in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, Victoria’s Yarra Valley, or even NSW’s Orange region. All are worthy of greater investigation.
The bottom line is wine-loving golfers looking for opportunities to combine their passions are spoilt for choice. Few countries offer as many wine and golf regions so highly regarded by their respective worlds.
Get out there and enjoy it.
For more information on a Golfing Great head to Visit Victoria.
Editors’ Pick on the beautiful Bellarine…
Jack Rabbit Vineyard is an essential destination for any golf and wine trip to the Bellarine Peninsula – jackrabbitvineyard.com.au. In addition to award-winning wines, Jack Rabbit’s restaurant, winery and cellar door offers unrivalled panoramic views across the bay to Melbourne, the You Yangs and Geelong. Jack Rabbit is open seven days for lunch, guided tastings and cellar door sales, 10.30am – 5pm, as well as Friday and Saturday nights for breakfast and dinner. Minutes down the road is Leura Park Estate (leuraparkestate.com.au), an established and dynamic force on the Bellarine, which operates 10am–5pm, Thursday–Sunday. Owners Lyndsay and David Sharp boast an impressive stable of sparkling, pinot, chardonnay, blanc de blanc, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. There’s also a marvellous selection at Yes said the Seal winery, which went straight into James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion with a 5-star rating in 2015. Yes said the Seal (yessaidtheseal.com.au) comprises a suite of refined, limited release, maritime climate wines. But the Sharps aren’t just in the wine business – the Bellarine stalwarts opened their Flying Brick cidery (flyingbrickciderco.com.au) in December 2014.