You can tell Spring is nearly here: it’s in the surprisingly sunburned cheeks and chapped lips resulting from lazy afternoon walks, the odd whiff of jasmine over the neighbour’s fence and the budding of flirtatious blossom upon dormant trees. You can ALSO tell that the seasons are turning when you’re invited to a Vintner’s Feast in the Yarra Valley at Dominique Portet Winery.
Speeding along the freeway towards the winery in Coldstream, the warm winter sunshine fell in shafts across the rolling hills as I passed from Lilydale into Yarra Valley proper before arriving at the picturesque Dominique Portet Winery. Set on a softly undulating hill, this single-storey, understated venue feels deeply European – a true representation of the Portet family – 10th generation winemakers from Bordeaux now based in Melbourne.
The Vintner’s Feast was an opportunity not only to learn more about the Portet’s family craft, but to enjoy a spread of rustic traditional French fare courtesy of Philippe Mouchel – accompanied by a variety of beautiful Dominique Portet wines. The day started well – not only with the sunlight and appetite-enhancing country air, but with a dainty glass of Brut Rose NV and smoked chicken gougeres upon arrival. Mon Dieu!
The Portet Winery – surrounded by lavender and most beautiful in the Winter light.
After enjoying the company of fellow foodies and writers in the sun, we made our way to the Cellar Door which served as our dining room – replete with beautiful, earthy floristry pieces, plenty of vino and some charcuterie to impress. Cornichon and terrine? Mais oui.
The piece de resistance were giant-sized Philippe Mouchel cassoulets – rich with grainy beans, duck and sausage – accompanied by a robust Dominique Portet Heathcote Shiraz and a brief talk by the pater of the Dominique Portet winery, Dominique himself. A sanguine, man with a quick smile and a generous spirit, he notes of his Australian winery: ‘Here I found wines with a fragrance and structure reminiscent of the wines of Bordeaux. The Yarra has a charm and a beauty that engulfs you, and its wines are worldly.’
After lunch came cheese – oh the cheeseboard! dear reader, I ate my way through its creaminess and took not a photo, my apologies – and then a little Petanque and patisserie in the slowly-setting sun with new friends.
Before being kindly invited along to Dominique Portet by Q Strategies for the Vintner’s Feast, I’d never heard of this winery. I was also a little concerned that the French food would be too rich for my palette: but by day’s end, my belly was full of simple, delicious and uncomplicated Philippe Mouchel fare – my heart warmed by the Portet family’s hospitality and wines – and I felt like I’d truly been back to Europe, if only for an hour or two.
Learn more about the Dominique Portet Winery here.