Heathcote Wineries

Right on Bendigo's doorstep lies the wine-growing region of Heathcote, just 50km east of town. Known for its dry red soils, the area is famous for its shiraz as well as Mediterranean-style varietals, and it makes for a lovely day of wine tasting and paddock-to-plate fare. For the region's cellar doors, check out www.heathcotewinegrowers.com.au, www.heathcotewineries.com.au and www.bendigowine.org.au; or pick up a comprehensive map from the Bendigo Visitor Centre, which can arrange winery tours. Beer is also a big attraction, with a number of microbreweries out this way producing craft ales. Most of the following offer accommodation, too, if you want to make a night of it.

Shiraz Republic & Cornella Brewery A 20-minute drive north of Heathcote, this popular winery and microbrewery features a cellar door with pool table and couches. There are also picnic tables overlooking the vines where you can enjoy its estate shiraz, chardonnay and rosé, and it has around 10 of its own beers on tap (tasting paddle $10), along with $10 pizzas.

Merindoc Vintners This third-generation family winemaker offers tastings of its shiraz in a tasteful cellar door on an 800-hectare farm in Tooborac. It also produces a dozen other wines, ranging from riesling and chardonnay to Mediterranean-style reds. The cafe offers a range of produce platters and nibbles to accompany a glass or two.

Sanguine Estate While the estate has had winemakers in the family for over 100 years, these days the focus is New World wines. It's most known for its award-winning shiraz, along with red and white blends. There's no food, so it's all about the tasting.

Tooborac Hotel & Brewery Just south of Heathcote, this ripper of a country pub dates to 1857. The bluestone hotel has an on-site brewery doing the likes of IPAs and pale and summer ales, plus it bakes excellent pies, so you'll face a dilemma between the lamb and shiraz or the beef and ale.

Palling Bros Brewery This tin-shed microbrewery along Heathcote's main drag was opened in 2018 by a local couple. Craft beer, pizza ($17 to $20) and music are what it's all about here. It does a fruity pale ale, a hoppy IPA and a lighter golden ale and lager, plus porter come winter. Check the website for upcoming gigs. It's named after local scallywag Henry Rood Palling, who immigrated here from England in the 1850s.

Balgownie Estate Winery Retreat Not a Heathcote winery, but rather 10km west of Bendigo, this popular estate offers tastings of its seven varieties of shiraz. There's also an upmarket restaurant and luxury glamping overlooking the vines.