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 the nearest wineries are only 30 minutes away.
Discover the historic grounds of National Trust listed Mount Mitchell Estate (circa 1838) with horticulturalist, educator and property owner Kate Tol in an immersive full-day tour and gardening experience. Catering for the day is provided by the Country Women’s Association, so get ready for quality scones to keep up your green thumb energy.
Mrs Baker’s Still House is a a female-led micro-distillery making award winning gins and liqueurs in the tiny hamlet of Glenpatrick. Originally trained as a botanist and with grass-roots in the wine industry, Jane Baker brings a unique horticultural lens to Mrs Baker’s blends.
On selected dates this summer, join the ‘Botanist’s Journey to Gin’ masterclass to experiment with up to 15 different botanicals as you blend-up a bottle of your own signature gin. The farmhouse kitchen is an inspiring setting to harness your inner scientist, and use an assortment of test tubes and beakers to craft your own unique blend.
As this is a working farm, if you are stopping by on a weekend for guided tastings or cellar door sales, make sure you call ahead to let Jane know you’re coming.
With sweeping views of the Pyrenees Ranges, Wayward features a newly renovated cellar door and restaurant with a focus on local produce and an emphasis on cooking with fire. Led by the team behind Renard and Ragazzone, Wayward is a must-visit destination for weddings, events, long lunches or a weekend away.
While away the afternoon with a wood fired pizza on the deck, with breathtaking views of the vines and surrounding ranges.
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.
Relax in a beanbag on the lawn or seated at the tables on the veranda for outdoor live music on Sundays from 12pm-3pm. Indulge in a ploughman’s platter of locally-produced cheeses, meats and breads, or the delectable Taltarni wine and cheese pairing. If you have a sweet tooth, there’s even chocolate and wine tastings.
With an airy beer garden and different performers performing each Sunday, Waubra’s Springs Hotel is a great place for some Sunday afternoon drinks in the Pyrenees. The newly opened hotel has already developed a reputation for serving up sensational pub fare. The classic parma is the centrepiece of the menu but we love the pork spare ribs with corn on the cobb, coleslaw and sweet potato chips.
Summerfield Winery offer wine flights, woodfired pizzas, poolish sourdough breads and freshly-baked pastry products, both savoury and sweet. If pizza isn’t your thing, they have a deli stocking local and international produce such as smoked meats, cheeses, jams, chutney, relish, olives, olive oil and nuts.
Their passion for food has evolved into growing their own pork and lamb which is sold through the winery’s restaurant and deli.
Located 30 minutes’ drive from Ballarat, Eastern Peake produces an award winning range of minimal intervention wines under Eastern Peake and LATTA Vino labels.
Wine flights and produce boards are also available at the cellar door Tuesday – Saturday (11am – 3pm); bookings recommended.
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. There’s also live music on the 4th Sunday of each month from 1pm-4pm.
Ballarat is a convenient gateway to the region and has a diverse range of accommodation options, from tiny homes to luxury heritage boutiques. You’ll also find unique stays in the Pyrenees, often family-owned and operated, that embrace the region’s warm hospitality and stunning rural landscapes.
The sprawling Mount Mitchell Estate includes three fully-furnished accommodation options. Mount Mitchell Cottage and Mitchell House are located on the estate near Lexton, while The Abode property is located just five minutes from Moonambel (30 minutes from Mount Mitchell Estate).
The four-star Eco-Luxe at Mount Avoca offers self-contained lodges nestled amongst picturesque organic vineyard and olive groves. The stay includes continental breakfast, a welcome bottle of wine and complimentary use of mountain bikes.
Just beyond Avoca, hike up into the bushland behind Peerick Winery to one of three off-grid Unyoked cabins. Each cabin has undisrupted views of the vineyards and rolling hills below.
If a deep bubble bath is more your style, try the evocative The Glut Farm. This luxury farm stay can accommodate up to seven people, with an outdoor woodfire oven for the ultimate pizza night. It is a great base for explore the hiking trails of nearby Mt Cole or just spend your weekend on the couch with some local wines.
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.
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 top spot 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.
Ferntree Falls Picnic Ground in Mount Buangor State Park is a popular picnic location. 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.
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
Two days up your sleeve? Check out this self-drive Pyrenees itinerary from Ballarat.