Kathleen Quealy got her first glimpse of the Mornington Peninsula in an issue of Vogue, with images of an abundant rolling landscape and serene coastal backdrop, she knew it was the perfect place to lay down the roots of her own winemaking business.
She and husband, Kevin McCarthy, relocated from Sydney in 1988 as young twenty-somethings, with aspirations to experiment with Pinot Gris and other cool climate vines. Fast-forward to 2021, and the pair have brought countless Italian grape varieties to the region, experimented with skin contact techniques, and inspired the next generation of young and bold winemakers.
Located on a north-facing slope in Balnarring, the vineyard features their ‘17 Rows’ of Pinot Noir and Grigio varieties – as well as the aromatic Friulano, the first to be created in Australia – Moscato Giallo, and Sangiovese. The Pobblebonk blend, named after a croaking frog they discovered in one of their plots, is one of the winery’s signature bottles, and combines the best of five complementary varieties.
The couple’s style is edgy and eccentric, and is reflected in the wines they produce. Using Italian-inspired skin contact techniques to embrace the rich colour and tannins of white grapes, Quealy then uses both barrels and terracotta amphora – a technique dating back 6,000 years – for fermentation.
“This process started with the recognition of what white varieties have to offer,” Kathleen says. “It’s about blending different white varieties so they can contribute together.”
The pair also have long-term leases on local vineyards such as Tussie Mussie, Musk Creek, Hester, and Vaughn. All are located on different corners of the Peninsula and yield a variety of results. “With each property, you get a different expression,” says Kathleen. “These wines are very site expressive.”
Quealy Winemakers have also undergone an extensive journey to become completely organic, removing harmful herbicides from their process and implementing sustainable practices. Their vineyard is certified organic, with three other sites using the same methods. Her reasoning is simple – “no one wants to work with poison in agriculture”.
Alongside their beautiful wines, the Cellar Door is based in the heart of the winery and offers a tasteful and authentic experience of local life. As a recent winner of Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Best Cellar Door’ on the Mornington Peninsula, guests are invited to chat with knowledgeable cellar door staff, and try some of their renowned pours. “There’s a lot of warmth, and a lot of information. You’ll always find clues on the winemaking experience,” Kathleen adds.
“It’s hard work leaving this place, there’s a lot that you can lose yourself in – there’s an ability to be immersed in this winery that I think doesn’t always happen”.
The Cellar Door is open 7 days a week, 9 – 5. Made-to-order cheese boards are also available, and the pop-up ‘Rad Boys Pizza’ is occasionally on offer.