HANDS up those who don't know Moorabool Valley or have never been there. And who thought the terrain either side of the Geelong Road and Midland Highway was a flat old plain with no endearing natural features?
Well, early vignerons such as Daryl and Nini Sefton of Idyll Vineyards recognised its value when they planted vines almost 50 years ago. Then Gary Farr came on to the scene — first at Bannockburn, then at Clyde Park and now at By Farr. Even the late Donlevy Fitzpatrick realised its potential when he took over Clyde Park from Farr before selling it to Terry and Sue Jongebloed.
While still a burgeoning wine region, in recent years it's really come into its own with several wineries winning national awards for chardonnay, pinot noir or shiraz.
The Jongebloeds have possibly the best aspect of the Moorabool Valley. While their house is situated on the banks of the Moorabool River, the winery and bistro have a view overlooking the valley. You can follow its deep-cut course through the plain all the way to Corio Bay and Geelong in the distance.
It's an easy 20-minute drive north of Geelong to Clyde Park. On Sundays, you're advised to reserve a table.
A good cook, Sue has turned her hand to producing simple tasting platters using quality local produce and great desserts while Terry (below) has been in charge of creating imaginative toppings for the wood-fired pizzas baked in the oven on the open terrace.
We opt for an antipasto plate ($19) with half the ingredients home-grown — along with Istra smallgoods, marinated artichokes and capsicum and a loaf of home-made bread. Dishes are designed to complement the estate-grown wines.
With the pizza oven fired up, pizzas are an obvious choice. We opt for the three-cheese Trinity with home-grown caramelised leek and a vegetarian one (both $23) — laden with mostly home-grown produce. We linger over an excellent chardonnay, fragrant pinot gris, aromatic pinot noir and a terrific shiraz ($7-$8 a glass) and stay all day.
Clyde Park Bistro and Vineyard, 2490 Midland Highway, Bannockburn, 5281 7274. Bistro open Saturday and Sunday, noon-4pm; cellar door open daily, 11am-5pm. See clydepark.com.au.
Reviewed by Tricia Welsh