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A sommelier’s guide to the best cellar doors in Australia

Wine columnist and sommelier SAMANTHA PAYNE rounds up her favourite cellar door experiences across Australia's best wine regions.
An aerial view of the menu items at Brokenwood Cellar Door in Pokolbin, NSW/

Photo: MJK Creative

MJK Creative

A good cellar door tells you a story of the people who made the wine, in the same way that a good wine tells you a story of the place it was made in. That’s my takeaway from almost a decade working as a wine consultant and travelling sommelier with no fixed restaurant address. Experience counts.

Cellar doors can be spectacles for the senses, such as the striking d’Arenberg Cube in the McLaren Vale. While some are architectural feats that enthral in the vein of Marqués de Riscal in Rioja – one of Frank Gehry avant-garde monuments – others are more traditional and humble, letting the wines and vines do all the talking. In fact, some of my favourite drinking experiences have been in tin sheds as old as the 100-year-old vines they sit amongst. All of the good ones, though, are inviting.

This is by no means a definitive list (otherwise you may never make it home again), but rather, a showcase of places I have loved visiting, experiences I’d recommend, or ones off the beaten track that you may have missed.

Here’s the ultimate sip list to cellar doors in Australia by region.

Hunter Valley wineries and surrounds

Situated in the renovated Pokolbin church on the eastern side of the Hunter Valley is the Usher Tinkler cellar door. The walls are filled with art by renowned Australian artist Craig Waddell whose mix of colours contrasts against the centuries-old timber beams.

No Hunter trip is complete without a stop at Brokenwood Wines, and while it breaks my heart not to be crammed in, elbowing fellow drinkers in the confined space of the original cellar door, the grandeur of the new space is spectacular. My favourite part is how the private tasting rooms overlook the winery and barrel hall so you can watch the action as you taste.

I’ve mentioned before how a good cellar door is inviting. It should also provide a multitude of ways to experience the wines in a way that’s comfortable to you. Lowe Wines in Mudgee has nailed this brief. From their beautiful restaurant that showcases their wines alongside garden-grown produce to the cellar door where there are multiple tasting booths to take you on a vinous journey. Feel like sipping your way at a leisure pace? Then grab a bottle and a picnic pack filled with locally sourced delicacies to sit on one of the many antique benches or grassy areas and while away an afternoon.

The cellar door at Lowe Wines in Mudgee.

Wineries in South Australia

Taylors’ new cellar door in the Clare Valley is a delightfully cosy space, filled not only with light but numerous places to curl up and experience their wines, in a very “choose your own adventure” format. From the private tasting suite that looks out onto the original winery and soon-to-be-planted “education vines” block to see how each grape variety matures over the years to the fireside plush couches, which invite a slower-paced tasting.

Stepping into the cellar door at Seppeltsfield will transport you back in time to the Barossa in 1851 when it was first built. I remember vividly sitting in the Fino private cellar (which sits directly underneath where the Centennial Collection barrels are housed) over a long lunch with numerous bottles of wine remarking on how special this place is. You can also drink in the history through their private tours of the collection and taste 100-year-old fortifieds.

If the apocalypse happens I’m heading directly to the self-sufficient biodynamic farm that is Ngeringa cellar door in the Adelaide Hills. Certified for more than 20 years, they not only grow grapes but also vegetables, fruit and olives. Fill a box with everything you can carry because the wines and the produce are spectacular.

The cellar door room at Taylor’s Winery in the Clare Valley.

Tasmanian wineries

Located in the heart of the Tamar Valley region at Gravelly Beach, on Palawa Land sits the updated Stoney Rise cellar door (the previous one sat at the end of Lou and Joe Holyman’s home). A Tassie hospo favourite, the Stoney Rise wines are spectacular as are the European wines and tipples they import that exhibit the borderless love of wine. The space includes a gleaming freestanding conversation counter, which beckons guests to celebrate and actively engage in the winemaking experience.

Located in north-east Tasmania, the Clover Hill cellar door is a hub for both vinous and architectural lovers. So much so, its grandiose manner might even rival the famed Champagne houses it pays homage to. Loosely based on a clover leaf design, the tasting and entertaining area is positioned to capture the views over the vineyard and out to Bass Strait as you sip on their award-winning sparkling wines.

The cellar door at Stoney Rise Winery in Tasmania

Margaret River wineries

Framed by its 1978 vines, Voyager Estate is remarkable from the minute you turn into the driveway. High standards are sustained throughout the property from the expansive kitchen garden to the multiple tours and cellar door experiences you’re guided through culminating in an incredible sensory experience at its restaurant with 180-degree windows showcasing the entire property.

Dormilona, a cellar door in the heart of Margaret River township is as vibrant and quirky as winemaker Jo Perry is. Filled with life and amphora winemaking vessels, while being conveniently located next to Marg’s ‘locals favourite’ wood-fired bakery (perfect for post-tasting snacks), this charming cellar door is simple on the outside and all heart on the inside.

The cellar door at Voyager Estate winery in Margaret River.

Yarra Valley wineries and surrounds

In the Yarra Valley, the floor-to-ceiling windows that run the length of the Oakridge cellar door make it feel as if you’re drinking in the middle of their vineyards. A textbook architectural case for bringing the “outside in” fortifies the often-cited idea that “great wine is made in the vineyard”.

Some cellar doors remind you that wine is supposed to be fun and Dirty Three Wines in Gippsland is fun to its core. Weekend live music (where you might even see winemaker Marcus pick up his sax and join the band) sets the tone – and soundtrack – to accompany your wine tasting. And just in case you forget where you are, the detailed and beautifully hand-painted map of the region that takes up the whole wall behind the tasting bench will remind you.

The cellar door at Dirty Three Wines, Gippsland

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