44 Paringa Rd, Red Hill South
03 5989 2669
Having a ‘wine epiphany’ has become something of a cliché, but for Lindsay McCall, this moment led to the establishment of an award-winning winery on the picture-perfect Mornington Peninsula.
The wine he tasted was a 1980 Seville Estate Shiraz, which he ordered in a restaurant one night in 1983. Until that moment, he hadn’t realised that Victoria could produce a wine of such calibre.
In 1984 Lindsay, a geography teacher at the time, bought an old north-facing orchard. A year later, after clearing it, he began planting the 10-acre property with vines. He sought advice on planting shiraz in the region, but was told by a local vigneron that it wouldn’t ripen in the cool maritime climate of the Peninsula. Not to be deterred, he planted it in the warmest spot.
Those early years of winemaking on the Peninsula were a time of trial and effort. Back in the 1980s no one really knew which grape varieties would succeed. Whilst not the first to plant a vineyard in the region, Lindsay could be counted as one of the pioneers, joined by other notable names such as Nat White, Brian Stonier and ‘Bails’ Myer. Thanks to their contribution and perseverance, the Mornington Peninsula is now one of the top wine regions in Australia.
The early years at Paringa were tough. In fact the first 20 years were. The first vintage was in 1987, and Lindsay had high hopes. He went out and bought an old milk vat to press the one tonne of grapes he had forecast. It was a big shock when the tonne shrank to a mere 140 kilograms. Ever resourceful, Lindsay dusted down an old fish tank that was stashed in the garage. This proved to be more than adequate for his first crush, and although the wine didn’t win any awards, it was enjoyed by family and friends.
The first commercial vintage at Paringa was a year later. The fish tank went back into the garage to gather dust, and out came the milk vat. With the three tonnes of fruit he picked, Lindsay made around 200 dozen bottles, and vintage 1988 was officially on the market.
The vintages that followed had to be organised around his teaching career. Picking would be scheduled for weekends, and Lindsay was often up all night pressing grapes. His hands would be stained purple from the juice, so he would scrub them with bleach to make himself presentable for the school the next day. It wasn’t until 1996 that he was finally able to give up his day job and become a full-time winemaker.
His first award was at the Yarra Valley Wine show where he took out gold for his 1990 Shiraz. Over the following years, numerous awards followed. In 2007 the teacher who had no formal training in wine was awarded the Best Winery in Australia in the James Halliday Wine Companion. Lindsay likens it to being chosen as captain of the Australian cricket team.
As the business grew, Lindsay was able to pursue another vision: to create a restaurant that would make Paringa a food and wine destination.
He didn’t want to open a cafe, but a venue that would serve high quality food that could match his wines. This restaurant opened in 1999.
In 2013 Lindsay hired Head Chef, Julian Hills, whose hard work and culinary vision resulted in the restaurant being awarded a chef’s hat within a year, and every year since. It was also awarded Best Restaurant in a Winery in Australia at the Savour Awards in 2014.
The menu is a celebration of locally sourced, seasonal produce. In order to reduce waste, Julian works with whole fish and animals, rather than individual cuts. The beef is generally sourced from Gippsland, the pork from the Western Plains of Victoria and the seafood is local. Julian loves foraging for ingredients in the region. In autumn, wild mushrooms such as pineys and slippery jacks are on the menu, and throughout the year he adds wild sea herbs, such as pig face, samphire, sea parsley and sea mustard which he gathers on the local shores.
The restaurant overlooks the undulating slopes of the vineyard, where the Toulouse geese roam. As they’re not on the menu, maybe try the Aylesbury duck instead. Pair it with a glass of Paringa Estate Pinot Noir, and its one of those matches made in heaven. But then, that’s Paringa Estate for you.