As far as wine regions in Australia go, the Mornington Peninsula is one of the lesser known, and perhaps underappreciated regions. What I love most about the Peninsula is the strength of its “cellar dooring”. And with many boutique wineries in the region, it always feel like a more intimate experience, compared to some of the larger commercial centres.
Acclaimed for its cool climate wines, the region is particularly famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but varietals like Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and Tempranillo have also surged in popularity recently, both locally and internationally. Finally, the wine in the Peninsula is gaining the fame it deserves, albeit slowly.
Located in the hinterland of the Mornington Peninsula, Red Hill is a foodie and wine lover’s paradise and home to a tapestry of scenic vineyards amongst its winding roads, rolling hills and orchards. One of my favourite vineyards to visit is local gem, Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove – a family owned and run estate.
The view at Montalto Vineyard is as good as it gets. The on site Piazza Café is a gorgeous spot for casual dining on the Peninsula. It has been recently renovated to take advantage of its beautiful views over the vineyard, retaining its connection to the gardens and picturesque property. It’s a venue fit for all seasons; a stylish enclosed courtyard with cosy heaters is the perfect choice in winter, while the sprawling outdoor deck and garden is a great option for sunnier days. If you’re looking for a finer dining experience, the hatted Montalto Retaurant is a great option for a long leisurely lunch.
We started the day at Montalto’s cellar door and tried a selection of their white wines (my personal favourite is the Chardonnay) and finished with some of their deeper reds and signature Pinot Noir. Since Montalto has six vineyards on the Peninsula, they have a real diversity of fruit and wine, so they can make really interesting and complex wines.
We were lucky enough to sit outside on a crisp winter’s day, the sun just enough to keep us warm and cosy.
Montalto is a gorgeous spot to watch the change of the seasons On our visit the autumn vines were just starting to give way to winter. Stark winter trees were warmed up by the golden leaves, which were clinging on to the last shred of autumn.
With a modern Australian twist, the menu is designed to share. Diners can start with a nice range of snacks from the ‘small menu’ followed by a selection of fresh salads and vegetables, fish and meat and pizzas hot from the wood oven.
Montalto’s food philosophy centres on using local, seasonal produce, with an emphasis on sustainable and ethical food production. And with one look at their abundant vegetable garden, you can really tell they practise what they preach. Each day, the kitchen and gardening teams pick the produce to ensure it is super fresh and wholesome for the day ahead.
The ‘Feed Me’ menu is a great option for the hungry, or the indecisive! For $45 per person, diners can have a sample of the full menu. We only had a small breakfast in the morning, so this option was perfect for us.
We started with their house made spelt and fennel ciabatta paired with olive oil (Montalto Olive Oil of course!).
This was followed by a number of dishes from the small plates menu including two grilled king prawns teamed with passionfruit and coriander butter. The succulent prawn flesh effortlessly fell apart from the shell, with the help of the buttery coriander and zest of the passionfruit. This was followed by a skewered quail, smothered by a sticky and caramelised sesame and ponzu marinade: A dish definitely worth getting your hands dirty for.
Another highlight was the sautéed squid which were cooked to perfection, combining beautifully with plump white beans and a punchy lemon and olive dressing. This was further complemented by a plate of pickled chilli, radishes and cauiflower fresh from the garden.
On the larger plates, the confit duck legs literally shone on the plate. A warm orange and juniper marinade had a gorgeous aroma, and a delicious sticky consistency unapologetically sinking into the duck skin with ease. Finished with edible flowers, this was a picture perfect dish, which not only delivered on beauty, but also on flavour.
A salad of iceberg lettuce, radish and parsley was enough to complement the duck, without overpowering it, but the chardonnay dressing was a little too creamy for my liking, I would have preferred something a little fresher with an oil base.
Fresh from the pizza oven, the woodfired roast pork pizza (a new special) was a delight to eat. The crisp, thin base was topped with roast pork, stracciatella di bufala cheese and finished with basil leaves and chilli. A simple dish but oh so delicious!
Unfortunately there was no room for desserts this time around. But next time I have my eye on the fig, chocolate and coconut meringue .
After lunch, we went for a casual meander around the property, exploring the on site sculpture garden and its many vegetable gardens and wetlands, which are a sanctuary for local water birds. There’s a lovely walk extending from the Piazza, weaving through the sculptures and the vineyards below. You can also bring a glass of wine with you. Added bonus.
The property also caters for gourmet picnics. There are five beautiful picnic sites on the property. I cant wait to try this when the weather gets warmer. There’s always another excuse to come back!
Montalto Piazza Cafe Mornington Peninsula
A 33 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South VIC 3937
T (03) 5989 8412
I was invited as a guest of Montalto. All views are honest and my own.