While Adelaide has the Barossa Valley, Sydney has the Hunter and Melbourne the Mornington Peninsula, Ballarat’s go-to wine region is the Pyrenees.
Dominated by the rugged and beautiful Pyrenees ranges with peaks that soar to 750m, the foothills and flats below have proved to be perfect for growing grapes and making wine since the first vine was planted in 1858.
Today, there are over 25 wineries in the region, many offering exceptional cellar door experiences, picnics, barrel tastings and award-winning winery restaurants.
Together with unique outdoor walking trails, hidden picnic spots, charming country villages and thriving towns, the Pyrenees is the stunning wine region Ballarat locals head to – and it’s just 45 minutes west of town.
339 Taltarni Road, Moonambel
Taltarni is a wine synonymous with the Pyrenees.
One of the pioneers of the Pyrenees renaissance in the 1960s, Taltarni, with its beautiful vineyards in Moonambel, is one of the most popular and well-known wineries of the region.
Go behind the scenes and discover where the magic happens with the Taltarni Barrel Room Experience. Delve into the world of premium winemaking with a winery tour and barrel tasting of select vintages. The Barrel Room Experience is just $25 per person, with a Taltarni guide taking you through the vineyard’s portfolio with a seated tasting of six wines.
Following your tasting, your group can indulge in a ploughman’s platter of locally-produced cheeses, meats and breads. Also, consider the Taltarni wine and cheese pairing. Enjoy a pairing platter to sample three Taltarni wines from the Essence and Dynamic ranges alongside three Goldfields Farmhouse cheeses, which are proudly made in Ballarat. This is served with local honey, bread and crackers. The perfect platter for a sampling of the local Pyrenees region.
606 Elmhurst-Glenpatrick Road, Elmhurst
Beautiful, rustic and rugged, this is a Pyrenees cellar door like no other.
Wimmera Hills Winery is set in the upper reaches of the Wimmera basin where grazing country meets the rugged forest. From every angle, you get to take in the pristine valley lined with vines.
On arrival, you’re welcomed by the wonderful and witty Jane and Ben Baker, who make you feel like old friends. Once settled, they take you through a relaxed wine and gin tasting.
On a hot day, the Nude Shiraz is a go-to choice. It has the flavours of a dry rose with a hint of caramel.
When it comes to the gin from Mrs Baker’s Still House, there are over seven different gin varieties to try, including Shiraz Gin. This has flavours of chocolate and shiraz and a hint of honey.
Consider spending the afternoon under the shady trees by the cellar door enjoying a delicious and yet simple paddock-to-plate lunch with a few Wimmera Hills wines or some Mrs Baker’s Still House Gin with a mixer.
656 Vinoca Road, Avoca
2021 will be remembered for the summer of the picnic.
Blue Pyrenees Estate near Avoca has geared up for the perfect picnic experience combining fine food, beautiful landscape and a bottle of its flagship sparkling wine, Midnight Cuvee. The grazing platters consist of local and house-made goods including tapas, smallgoods, charcuterie and cheese. Order a platter and lay out the picnic rug (which is provided with the platter) in your chosen spot in the shaded gardens.
A short stroll up the hill from the winery is the cellar door. Here you learn about the wine-making process and can taste a substantial range of the wines on offer. This includes a range of limited release styles exclusively available to Blue Pyrenees’ Single Vineyard Wine Club members.
Cafe Blue is open seven days a week from 11am-5pm, serving lunch in two sittings at midday and 2pm daily.
Bring your own picnic to the Pyrenees and explore the stunning natural environment.
Mount Cole and Mount Buangor are located on the outskirts of Beaufort and are filled with cool glades and evergreen gullies that maintain their cool on summer days. Mount Cole State Forest is scattered with stunning picnic grounds providing enchanting settings for a memorable day out with family and friends.
A local favourite is the Richards Campground, where you can discover hidden secrets in the tranquillity of rocky creeks and waterfalls.
Another favourite is Ben Nevis Picnic Ground, which offers panoramic views of Mount Langi Ghiran and the Grampians. A truly magical location and you may even be lucky enough to see hang gliders launching off the mountain.
Another popular picnic location is Ferntree Falls Picnic Ground in Mount Buangor State Park. Take in the majestic views of towering trees and fern-filled gullies while you enjoy a picnic in nature. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture those stunning Instagram-worthy shots when you are presented with the natural wonders of Ferntree Waterfalls.
Walk off lunch with the 1km Waterfalls Nature Walk. Summer is a glorious time to enjoy a picnic so grab a bottle of Pyrenees wine, a picnic blanket and a hamper from Skinny Sisters Cafe at Beaufort and discover one of the best picnic spots in the Pyrenees.
105 High Street, Avoca
People travel from near and far to Shear Delights Bakery in the Pyrenees town of Avoca just to try a bee sting cake. You’ll swoon over this traditional German treat, which has two layers of yeast cake, a vanilla cream filling and a crunchy yet gooey honey almond topping.
Sam and Jo, the bakery’s owners, say the secret ingredient is the pure honey they get from Stuart Mill.
Also, look out for the excellent pies, pasties and sweet treats.
– Words by Richard Cornish and Kate Davis