The great Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Had he lived today, you’d think he was talking about Montalto, an expansive culinary experience on the Mornington Peninsula.
Montalto combines a vineyard, olive grove, restaurant, sculpture trail and expansive kitchen garden to offer its visitors a moment out of the ordinary. The property shares its creative, life-affirming experiences through its award-winning wines, its hatted restaurant and delicious produce.
John and Wendy Mitchell are the smiling faces welcoming you to their property. Their path to Montalto started in the 1980s when they were living in the UK and spent summers in the south of France admiring the vineyards along the Mediterranean coast. It was here, over lazy afternoons and glasses of rosé, that the dream of planting a few vines back on their property in Mornington was first born. When they returned home years later, John took the first step to make this a reality, studying viticulture at the University of Melbourne.
Before they planted their own vines, John and Wendy discovered the established vineyard and luscious landscape of the Montalto site. They immediately fell in love, and over the next few years, worked to bring this slightly altered dream into being. In 2002, Montalto threw open its gates.
You can taste the full Montalto range at the Cellar Door, where Head Winemaker, Simon Black – who brings experience with classic French vintages in Burgundy – and Cellar Door Manager, Justin Crow, are on hand to explain the intricacies of each drop.
When your palate is exhausted, it’s time for lunch. The entire team at Montalto follows the ‘estate to plate’ philosophy: if they can grow it and use it on-site, they will. Therefore, an abundance of produce is grown in the enormous kitchen garden and orchard. The dining room looks over the vines, sculptures and olive grove, meaning you’ll be able to see just where everything has come from with each bite. If it’s not available on-site, the kitchen team sources as much as possible locally, preferencing sustainable and ethical production methods.
After renovations in 2017, the linen tablecloths disappeared and Montalto’s restaurant took on a new life under the careful supervision of a new head chef, Gerard Phelan. Boasting stints at Rockpool, Atlantic, The Lakehouse and Moor Please, Gerard dedicates his cooking to simplicity. He says, ‘it sounds clichéd, but if we pull a carrot out of the ground at work, whatever we do to it, it has to remain a carrot.’
This philosophy has allowed Gerard to let the Montalto gardens really shine through a new menu that celebrates fresh, seasonal produce. The exciting addition of an Asado Grill means that fire is set to be a big focus and Gerard is hoping that this chapter of the hatted restaurant will be more vegetable-driven, though locally sourced fish, meats and fowl will still be scattered throughout the menu.