The winery is owned by John and Wendy Mitchell, whose love of the vineyards they saw on holiday in Europe compelled them to buy and nourish the Montalto vineyard. The winery does a huge range of wines, with their Montalto Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir winning many awards. As well as wine, the famous olive oils are worth a try. The dining at Montalto can range from high end, with the one hatted restaurant, to casual dining in the Piazza cafe, to the super casual and unique dining experience of a fully catered picnic. I saw some groups of people having their picnic and I must say that I was really envious as it looked like so much fun to sit amongst the lawns and plants and enjoy great food.
While my friend Andy and I were wandering around the picnic grounds and admiring the amazing view of the vineyards and setting sun, we also got to look at the stunning pieces of sculptures that are currently on display. Each year, artists can submit their sculptures to the competition and the public can enjoy the works from February to April. The winning sculpture will be permanently displayed at Montalto. My personal favourite is the horse lying on it's back, made of strips of metal. You can just see the horse on the bottom left corner in the photo above.
After admiring all the sculptures, we were seated to our table where the large glass windows meant we got the last rays of the setting sun. Our waitress explained the menu while also suggesting a cuvee to start. When we made our orders, a side of nice warm bread was served with the Montalto olive oil, which was really good.
We started our meal with some entrees. The entree of scallops was excellent, with plump scallops perfectly accompanied by the peas and mushroom foam. The terrine was rich and had good flavour. I loved the pistachio butter that was served with it. Both wine matches went really well and I particularly enjoyed the Rose.
Seared Canadian scallops, petit pois a la francaise, bacon and shiitake foam
Wine match: 2009 Mont Rouge Chardonnay
Terrine of rabbit, shallot compote, pistachio butter and housemade walnut bread
Wine match: 2010 Pennon Hill Rose
For mains, I was definite I wanted the lamb racks when I sighted them on the menu. And boy did they live up to my expectations. The Flinders lamb was some of the best flavoured lamb I have tasted. The meat was also beautifully tender and I loved the jus and pumpkin mash served with it. The duck, which I'm never the biggest fan of as it can taste rather bland, had good flavour. The meat was cooked perfectly but it was the accompanying sauce and puree that really lifted this dish. While there were suggested wine pairings for the dishes, we asked to try the award winning Pinot Noir. The wine was full of complexity and I loved it. I can see why it's won many awards.
Flinders lamb rack, fennel and glazed carrots with coriander jus
Cardamon and honey glazed duck breast, confit leg croquette, pear puree
For dessert, I chose the creme caramel, which I usually love but was a bit hesitant due to the ginger as I'm not a fan of ginger. The final result was a bit mixed for me. While the texture of the creme caramel and great, I found that I didn't like the ginger element, which isn't the restaurant's fault. The lemon verbena added a really nice hint to the dish. The meringue filled with ice cream was really refreshing and I loved the fruit salsa and passionfruit curd served with it. The dessert wines were both very sweet and good in small doses.
Meringue filled with vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet and cinnamon cream with passionfruit custard
Wine match: 2011 Pennon Hill Late Harvest Riesling
Lemon Verbena and ginger scented creme caramel and dolce ice cream
Wine match: 2010 Foxeys Hangout ‘Late Harvest’ Pinot Gris
I can definitely see why Montalto has been awarded a hat in the Good Food Guide. While the menu items may read similar to some other winery restaurants, it's the execution of the dish and small flavour touches here and there that help lift the food to another wonderful level. The service was very friendly on the night and I gauged that other diners were very happy with their service too. The ambiance in the restaurant is very relaxed and happy. I will definitely be coming back to Montalto for future meals as I think the food is great in comparison to metro restaurants, not just for a winery restaurant.
Overall Rating: 16/20, Food executed really well with wonderful wines and views of the vineyard.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.
My guest and I dined complimentary of Montalto Winery.