Galleries with a glass of red

Wineries are now as much about palettes as they are about palates, writes Patricia Maunder.

Do you need more than wine to tempt you to the cellar doors of Victoria's wineries? Food has become an increasingly significant allure: from farmers' markets to award-winning restaurants, gourmet offerings can be decisive factors when we are overwhelmed by choice.

In more recent years, art has been added to the sensory delights drawing us to the state's wineries.

Montalto

Of course, it is not all about the bottom line, especially at the handful of wineries that invest significant space and funds into exhibitions, such as the $20,000 annual Montalto Sculpture Prize, which began in 2003.

Mornington Peninsula vineyard Montalto has a cafe, restaurant and a serious sideline in olives (including oils and tapenades, available at the cellar door). However, the sculptures around the property are a dead giveaway that owners John and Wendy Mitchell are also serious about art.

Many sculptures they have bought and past winners of the award are joined for a few months early each year by fresh contenders. The 2009 winners were announced at the exhibition opening on February 15. All entries remain on display until April 26.

Even outside the exhibition period, the property is a fascinating menagerie of sculpture: from the carpark, to the lawn, next to the vines, on a gently sloping hill and scattered in wetlands. These bold, often substantial contemporary works offer inspiration and visual delight - not to mention relief from sticking your nose into yet another tasting glass.

Lindenderry

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While you can easily spend a few hours enjoying the varied pleasures of Montalto, up the road the hushed elegance of Lindenderry is set up for longer visits.

Weddings, corporate events and couples staying for the weekend are the focus but a wine tasting or meal at the restaurant is all you need to admire the view across the vines and original artworks.

Lindenderry's collection of 20 works are scattered around the public areas. These include a large outdoor sculpture by Peter Cole, who mounted a significant solo exhibition at Lindenderry late last year. Such temporary exhibitions are expected to become a regular feature at the property but, in the meantime, the permanent collection is worth a look.

Five Sons Estate

Not far away is the family vineyard Five Sons Estate. Artworks supplied by Mornington's Gallery 1 grace the walls of the big, airy, casual dining room, where shared Mediterranean-style platters are served for weekend lunches.

TarraWarra Estate

At the other end of the winery-meets-art scale is the Yarra Valley's TarraWarra Estate, home of the TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Directly across from the wine bar, cafe and tasting room is Australia's first significant privately funded public art gallery. Opened in 2003, TarraWarra Museum of Art is the gift of collectors Eva and Marc Besen, whose interest in Australian art from the 1950s to the present is reflected in the works on show.

The permanent collection features artists such as Arthur Boyd and Fred Williams, while temporary exhibitions embrace younger generations of artists.

The biennial is not due again until mid-2010 but major temporary exhibitions are presented year-round, such as the recent Mythology And Reality: Contemporary Aboriginal Art From The Gabrielle Pizzi Collection.

TarraWarra's building complex is itself a work of art, designed by architect Allan Powell. The realisation that this place has serious artistic ambitions is clear on the walkway from the carpark: a semi-tunnelled journey in golden stone that draws one in and focuses the mind.

The gallery is a substantial, high-ceilinged oblong. The main sweep of partitioned rooms leads towards a floor-to-ceiling window offering a grand view of vineyard and hills.

The view can also be admired from narrower windows along a corridor that runs the length of the building, overlooking more vines and hills, as well as a small lake.

Yering Station

Another Yarra Valley winery taking art seriously is Yering Station, which presents regular exhibitions in the cellar door and upstairs cafe. A percentage of art sales is donated to the Leukaemia Auxiliary of the Royal Children's Hospital.

Being close to Melbourne and with so much to draw the crowds (including two restaurants, monthly farmers' market, wine tasting and sales and a gourmet food store), Yering is a busy place, especially at weekends.

The cellar door's wine focus is at the centre of a beautiful old heritage building, so it is not difficult to wander around the walls and admire the art on show - if you don't mind the hubbub from the small army of wine-tasters behind you. The cafe is small, so you may find yourself intruding on fellow diners when trying to see what is on the walls. However, even on busy days, there is plenty of room to enjoy the many sculptures set in the landscaped gardens. These works are past winners of the winery's major annual arts event, the Yering Station Sculpture Exhibition and Awards, held each spring since 2001.

Even outside spring's extravaganza there is plenty on show. A highlight is Bill Ogilvie's Henry Moore-like dame, reclining in the pond that has been incorporated into the design of the architecturally significant new building.

Rochford

Apart from its wine, Rochford is best known for outdoor concerts. However, it also acts as the Melbourne representative for Sydney art dealer Etching House, which supplies limited-edition prints and etchings by some of Australia's best-known artists, such as Brett Whiteley and Michael Leunig. It is affordable big-name art, so if you come for a wine tasting, you may end up having lunch and buying a Sidney Nolan.

These big-name works are presented rather busily on a single wall at the entrance to the restaurant but head upstairs to the gallery for a more focused artistic experience.

Also look for Rochford's outdoor sculptures.

Evelyn County Estate

Still in the Yarra Valley, Evelyn County Estate hosts a new exhibition each month in its restaurant. Between the furniture and fellow diners it can be difficult to appreciate what is on display, so consider timing your visit to coincide with the meet-the-artist event on the first Thursday of each month (5pm-7pm). Complimentary drinks and canapes are on offer. Bookings are essential.

Next door is one to keep an eye on: Swipers Gully. This restaurant and vineyard, operated by Eltham College for students' practical experience, only sells its wine by mail order. However, the necessary licence to operate a cellar door is imminent and sales are expected to begin on the premises mid-year.

This will be just in time for Masterworks in the Vineyard, a biennial exhibition of local artists working in various disciplines. Opening on October 16, Masterworks will run for a fortnight.

It will be part of an ongoing program of temporary exhibitions.

Scion

Further afield, new Rutherglen winery Scion has set aside half its cellar-door space to exhibitions on a six-monthly rotation.

The brainchild of Roland Milhinch, an artist who operates Scion with his mother, Jan, the gallery space features his own beautifulphotographs of trees. This exhibition will run until midyear.

Baileys of Glenrowan

Another high-country winery with artistic leanings is Baileys of Glenrowan, established in 1866. Its Bundarra Gallery has seasonal exhibitions by local artists, as well as a permanent display of heritage photographs of the winery.

Stefano's cellar door, bar and Gallery 25

Stefano's, the wine label of acclaimed Mildura chef and restaurateur Stefano de Pieri, is made using grapes gathered from the region and South Australia, where the final product is manufactured. So don't go looking for Stefano's winery - though just around the corner from his restaurant you will find his cellar door, bar and Gallery 25.

The gallery is an artist-run space managed by Stefano's team with La Trobe Universityand presents a new exhibition every four to six weeks. It is one of the first commercial galleries in Mildura., so offers a brush with contemporary art in the area.

FAST FACTS

Mornington Peninsula

Montalto, 33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, see montalto.com.au.

Lindenderry, 142 Arthurs Seat Road, Red Hill, see lindenderry.com.au.

Five Sons Estate, 85 Harrisons Road, Dromana, see fivesonsestate.com.au.

Yarra Valley

TarraWarra Estate-Museum of Art, 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen, see twma.com.au.

Yering Station, 38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen, see yering.com.

Evelyn County Estate, 55 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Kangaroo Ground, see evelyncountyestate.com.au.

Rochford Wines, corner of Maroondah Highway and Hill Road, Coldstream, see rochfordwines.com.

Further north

Scion, 74 Slaughterhouse Road, Rutherglen, see scionvineyard.com.

Baileys of Glenrowan, Taminick Gap Road, Glenrowan, see baileysofglenrowan.com.au.

Stefano's cellar door, bar and Gallery 25, 25 Deakin Avenue, Mildura, see stefano.com.au.

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