Cannibal Creek Vineyard a Gippsland Triumph
Cannibal Creek Vineyard (recently featured in Broadsheet) is just an hour East of Melbourne on the fringes of Gippsland and is one of those quiet achievers, in an area (Gippsland) that is on the fringe of emerging "big time" as a food and wine region. The World Loves Melbourne was invited on a famil to experience Cannibal Creek Vineyard and imbibe the delights of Gippsland.
Looking for a cool wine experience that is open 7 days a week? Only just over an hour from the city? Cannibal Creek has plenty to offer. It ticks the boxes of authenticity, excellent wines, great food and a distinctive and delightful setting.
A new cellar door is stunning with great textures and finish - no shortcuts here. We were hosted by the owners Patrick and Kirsten Hardiker who oozed passion for a strongly customer focussed winery experience - these are great hospitality people who make you feel at home with loads of savvy.
French leaning food is offered in the Restaurant which opened quietly a year ago and has been building solid support since Michelin trained Head Chef Philippe Desrettes is in the kitchen - he trained under Pierre Koffman @ Tante Claire. Philippe makes most things himself from scratch, a mark of a great chef.
Cannibal Creek offers one of the best winery restaurant experiences in Victoria. The French inspired chef Philippe Desrettes got our table inspired with Sirloin, Cafe De Paris butter, roast potato and vegetables.
Blue Grenadier, crab claw, citrus & local potato cakes was a dish with flair, perfectly cooked with crispy exterior and soft inside.
Lemon myrtle cured snapper, radish, pickled pumpkin (below) was a dish of finesse and deliciousness, a texture triumph.
Its relaxed at Cannibal Creek, rather than rigidly French in approach, with top chef Philippe exhibiting a slow French technique with a changing menu based around produce sourced in large part from Gippsland neighbours. This technique and approach is complemented by the onsite Kitchen Garden and orchard.
Charcuterie plate (including a free range pork terrine) with pickles and bread, along with Local trio of cheeses with quince paste, pickles and crackers, and Cannibal Creek Bakehouse Bread (supply some city venues) with Tarago olive tapenade. This trio of dishes was spectacular, showcasing stunning local produce.
The range of Cannibal Creek wines is first class from the Cannibal Creek Sparkling Blanc de Blancs 2013, to the Cannibal Creek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Cannibal Creek Chardonnay 2016 (check out the 2017 when it's released - early indications are it's a cracker!), to the Cannibal Creek Pinot Noir 2015 and Cannibal Creek Cabernet Merlot 2015, and more! Cannibal Creek have the double hit of both top food and top wine, and when you experience it all in such fine surroundings, you're on the road to bliss.
Lamb shoulder, celeraic puree, sauteed vegetables, lamb and turnip jus is another delicious rustic dish.
Beetroot, leek and herbs arancini, with a dollop of mayonnaise is a moorish dish.
A highlight is the Ox cheek, creamy mash, green beans, bacon & red wine sauce. Everything you want for a rustic winter dish by the fire (and in any season!).
A crowd favourite was the Snapper, cauliflower puree, braised fennel, olives and lemon beurre blanc. The chef excelled with the cooking of the Snapper with crispy skin and beautiful tender white flesh.
The hits kept coming with Duck leg confit, lima beans, Brussel sprout, chestnut and black pudding sauce. Note the excellent presentation, generous portion sizes and loads of technique, yet leaving the produce as the hero. Everything we would want from a winery food experience.
Free range pork belly, pumpkin, red cabbage, chorizo and fennel sauce is a cracking dish. The chef's talent is also reflected in the quality of the sauces and accompaniments.
Desserts are also on song with Dark chocolate & coffee mousse, raspberry powder, and cacao nibs. The presentation, as well as the taste, was spectacular!
Lemon tart is a favourite of The World Loves Melbourne and we enjoy it done in the true French style. The texture of the tart was perfect with perfect citrus tang and quality pastry!
Who doesn't love a brownie? Walnut and dark chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream was wonderfully decadent.
A French inspired dish of note is the Tarte Tartin, and none better rendition that at Cannibal Creek.
The line up of desserts was stunning at our private table.
All Cannibal Creek wine is grown onsite, picked by hand, made by hand using traditional french oak, all owner-operated and they live onsite. They planted the vines themselves 20 years ago, and they still tend the vines themselves today.
Chess by the fire?
We enjoyed a tour of the vineyards and a relaxed stroll to Cannibal Creek itself. Beautiful country with rolling hills in the distance and the proximity of kangaroos, sheep and cows. For another day, is the challenge of a bush walk up Mt Cannibal (steepish but good views!). A tour of the vineyards with Patrick was fascinating, if not therapeutic in these fabulous surroundings.
A kangaroo or two presented themselves (in the distance) between the rows of vines.
Cannibal Creek have established themselves as a 4-5 star (Halliday) Winery to visit, with strong industry recognition for wines from eg Tyson Stelzer, Halliday, French Australian Chamber of Commerce-Le Concours des vins de Victoria, Winewise etc.) And recent work on soil nourishment is yielding even more promising results. A barrel tasting with Patrick was compelling (especially tasting the incredible new 2017 Chardonnay yet to be released).
A sample of the Liquour wines was a magnificent way to finish our food and wine satiation.
We managed to get Pat and Kristen Hardiker to stop working and hosting us superbly, to pose for a photograph.
With the expansion of Gumbaya Park nearby and other developments, this area of the Gippsland is on the rise. It's easy to access Cannibal Creek by car (only just over an hour from Melbourne) or catch the train to the nearby station. We highly recommend a visit to Cannibal Creek winery!