Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, Fowles Wine in the Strathbogie Ranges, has just gone through a facelift. A newly renovated cellar door modelled on the quintessential Aussie shed and using upcycled materials has opened with everything from the design through to the menu capturing the essence of the Australian landscape, yet with a modern edge.
Keeping in with the Fowles way of doing things, this new project has been something of a family affair with the interior styling designed and executed by Jay Phillips, long-term partner to Matt’s brother Jim.
Disused objects from around Victorian farms that would otherwise have ended up in landfill have been incorporated to achieve a stunning result. For instance, a 90-year-old rusty fence has been used to create 36 rolled fencing-wire light features in the Wine Shed function space, while disused old hard wood droppers, piled up under the shade of the gums beside the vines, have been repurposed as restaurant tables.
The cellar door features a new tasting bar where guests can enjoy a view of the Strathbogie Ranges while exploring the extensive range of Fowles Wine. A glass hall connects to the tasting bar, featuring floor to ceiling windows and booth seating that looks out onto the courtyard and kid’s playground.
The kitchen is spearheaded by head chef Adele Aitken, with an emphasis on farm and game meats and ingredients from the local region; the same region that fruit for Fowles’ wine is sourced. The menu centres around wholesome produce and dishes that reflect the authentic country style of the region, from light salads, cheese and charcuterie right through to comforting larger plates.
We loved tasting our way through the menu. To start a range of antipasti whet our appetites. Think marinated Avenal mushrooms, crispy cauliflower croquettes with blue cheese yoghurt, slow roasted tomatoes with goats cheese and beautiful pork, chicken and pistachio terrine. Everything was prepared with great care and tasted wonderful.
For mains the confit duck leg was beautiful. The perfectly cooked confit duck was accompanied by a smokey eggplant puree, potato galette, braised fennel and radicchio.
The eye fillet steak was another crowd pleaser. Displaying a mastery in the manner the steak was cooked, the inch thick cut of eye fillet steak was cooked perfectly from end to end. A light searing ensured that the steak was lined with a thin crisp layer packed with caramelised beef flavour. We loved the accompaniments of garlic and herb potatoes and caramelised onion herb butter.
If you have a sweet tooth, then this is your sort of place. Whatever you do, make sure you try one of their decadent desserts. The quince and frangipani tart served with Gundowring vanilla ice cream was simply delightful, featuring buttery melt in your mouth pastry. We adored the Vanilla bean pannacotta with passionfruit curd, berries and biscotti. A texturally perfect rendition, the pannacotta was silky smooth. Just barely holding its shape, it was quivering on the plate.
From the drinks side of things, the wines were (as expected) the star of the show. Being located in the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges; an area blessed with the perfect combination of granitic soil and a cool climate – Fowles Wine possesses the ideal conditions for producing wine with character and elegance. We could not resist indulging in a bottle of The Exception 2017 Merlot. Vibrant with a deep red and purple hue, we loved this rich wine that boasted ripe plum and fruit cake characteristics and lovely oak tannins. It went particularly well with the dish of seared eye fillet with garlic and herb potatoes.
If you can’t bear the thought of leaving without your own little stash of Fowles hospitality, the new site also includes a Farm Store showcasing premium pre-packaged meals and local produce including Fowles Wine’s own range of Small Batch products.
Location: 1175 Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel
Phone: (03) 5796 2150