The modernist corrugated iron-clad cellar door architecture features sweeping views from its interior floor-to-ceiling glass, with the simplicity of the layout and sleek furnishings only adding to the wonderful feeling of calm. Perched in the rolling hills of Dookie and with around 30km of cropping and grazing land between it and the nearest regional centre, the first thing you’re sure to notice upon arrival is the complete silence. This lack of distraction amplifies the experience of viewing the wide open panorama before you, while at the same time leaves your mind freed up to focus on the remaining set of information put before it: ancient soils, friendly people and top quality wine.
Winemaker and proprietor Richard Tallis is a mighty talented, down-to-earth bloke whose knowledge, understanding and connection to the land is admirable. He explains that grape yields were down this year but the fruit quality was good. And although it was a hot, dry summer, Dookie’s Cambrian-period rich red soils have terrific water holding capacity. ‘It can be deceptive’, he says, ‘we dug a trench this week and just half a metre down we turned up moist soil. The local soil is some of the oldest geology in Victoria, similar to the red of the Mount Camel Range north of Heathcote.’
Across four vineyard blocks, with a total of 60 acres under vine (planted between 1998–2002), the Tallis family grow a wide range of varietals which include shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, merlot, grenache, nebbiolo, viognier, riesling plus the Turkish red varietal boğazkere (the first planting of its kind in Australia) – ‘it means throat strangler’, says Richard – ‘as it’s known for its high density tannins, but the wine we make from it is nowhere near that rough, you’ll love it!’
The Tallis vineyards are a part of a limited group that were replanted in the area after the Victorian government introduced incentive schemes encouraging farmers to plant flax and wheat in the early 1900s.
‘In the 1800s Dookie was one of the biggest wine growing regions in the southern hemisphere’, explains Richard. ’Wine was made, fortified and shipped back to England; that was until a wine glut when vines were replaced with broad acre crops.’
Currently the majority of what you see grown around here is wheat, and canola with its bright yellow flowers is the winter crop – these are the two mainstay crops. Canola is harvested in November so visiting us here from August through to September is the time for the most spectacular displays.’
Intrigued by its name, I begin with a tasting of the Tallis 2017 Boğazkere wine. The fruit from the vines was picked in late March of 2017 and spent 14 months maturing on oak. Its development has continued as the wine has further aged since bottling in 2018. A vibrant ruby red colour, the most enticing mix of soft florals, cherries and rose water aromas burst from the glass, with other more subtle spicy notes following. The palate is fresh and savoury, with firm yet not overpowering tannins. It makes a wonderful match to the lighter-styled expertly curated food platters offered at cellar door. Thankfully the wine proves far gentler than its name suggests – I’m an instant fan.
Tallis’ 2017 Riesling is a class leading wine that features bright lifted aromas of cumquats and melon, coupled with a rich, round mouthfeel that’s layered with mixed citrus, the best of summer’s stone fruit flavours and a deeper buttery, ripe pear element It’s a must-try. In comparison, the just released 2018 Riesling features more simplified honeydew melon aromas; but it’s no less a successful wine, having captured the attention of judges at the 2018 Dookie Show. It was awarded Gold, no doubt due to its fantastic aromatics combined with a clean and attractive acidity.
The winery is also famous for its highly aromatic and wonderfully balanced Viognier. Several vintages were on tasting during my visit, allowing a bottle maturation comparison – which is impressive. As I continue tasting, Richard explains that the 2018 Rosé is a delicately pressed dedicated premium wine (not free run) made from shiraz grapes. It features lifted musk aromas, touched with just a hint of sweetness. Like the riesling, this is complemented by a fresh, very classy acidity that livens the palate.
Tallis Wines cellar door is a great place for lunch with friends and loved ones, or perhaps a smaller bite and wine tasting with a business colleague. A range of dining table styles accommodate intimate two or four seaters, share tables, window benches and other undercover outdoor tables designed for larger groups or sharing. Wines are accompanied with fresh local produce transformed into some of the best grazing platters in the state. These might feature a selection of the outstanding local Milawa and Locheilan cheeses; however it’s the fresh and delicious house dips made fresh daily by chef Heidi Ossenberg and Kirsty Harker, with the genius blending and tasting assistance from cellar door manager Mel Mintern, which makes them shine. In my view, the standout platter at Tallis has to be the Vegan Platter with its baby and snow pea almond dip with coriander, ginger and lime. This is paired with a turmeric hummus dip, fresh seasonal fruit including ripe figs and dates and a colourful display of gluten free beetroot and seeded crackers, beetroot chips and house-pickled onion. The flavours are delicately nuanced, and the freshness of ingredients enhance the pleasure of every bite.
A sweet and highly aromatic side of chickpea, pumpkin, lentils and oven roasted tomato is yet another example of the creative flair in the kitchen – this comprises an accompaniment in a deconstructed winter bruschetta featuring Krueger’s Meats (Shepparton) chorizo, which is mildly hot with a fantastically rich flavour.
There’s also fresh pickled cabbage and pickled onion, house made dukka, and seasonal relishes made by EcoStore – a Shepparton Access project that supports people with intellectual disabilities in growing organic vegetables (at EcoPark) and then processing them into retail food products.
After lunch, work off the excess kilos on Tallis’ Rock Correa Interpretive Walking Track. The track offers some of the the best Dookie hills vantage points from which to enjoy more of those incredibly breathtaking far-as-the-eye-can-see panoramic views. Interpretive signage at eleven points along the way is designed to raise awareness of the Yorta Yorta people as the land’s traditional owners. It also highlights the grassy woodland’s important flora and fauna species and describes early European settlement in this region. The track is open during cellar door hours and is a casual paced 1.5 hour return journey, while a shorter section takes 45 minutes to complete.
Tallis Wines cellar door is open Tuesday to Thursday 11am–4pm and Friday to Sunday from 11am–5pm. It is closed Mondays and on public holidays. Bookings Recommended.
195 Major Plains Road, Dookie, Victoria
Tel 0437 825 547