Mitchell Harris opens city cellar door in Ballarat

Craig Mitchell (left) and John Harris of Mitchell Harris Wines. (Photo: Mitchell Harris Wines)

It’s so great to see small winemakers using their initiative and creating new ways to sell wine and engage wine drinkers. Winemaker John Harris has opened a city cellar door in Ballarat for his wine company Mitchell Harris. It was a bold move as Ballarat has never exactly been a hotspot for wine and food activity. But it’s working well: the locals are filling the place regularly and hosting events there, and John tells me he sells around 85% of his wine through the premises, an old brick and bluestone factory building in Doveton Street.

The wine bar cum cellar door serves good food daily and the bar has an impressive wine list, with many local wines and curiosities, extending to rare high-end imports.

The building, which at various times housed a canvas factory and an electric motor factory, has three levels including a spacious cellar. The cavernous ground-floor back area has been fitted with a commercial kitchen and can be used for hosting corporate events, product launches and receptions.

The wine bar cum cellar door serves good food daily and the bar has an impressive wine list, with many local wines and curiosities, extending to rare high-end imports. John is in charge of the list and he says the main criterion is that he’d like to drink it himself. It won the maximum 3-glass rating (as a wine bar) in Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards in 2016 and 2017.

John is a former Domaine Chandon winemaker and his first wine, when he decided to go his own way, was a méthode traditionelle vintage sparkling named Sabre, which he likes to open the old fashioned way (with a sabre, naturally) to entertain guests. John’s wife and brother-in-law are the Mitchell part of Mitchell Harris.

They don’t own any vines but purchase grapes from vineyards in the Pyrenees, Macedon, Henty and Ballarat regions. The Sabre is a four-year-old Pyrenees-Macedon blend. John has recently fallen in with a tiny 1-acre chardonnay and pinot noir vineyard at 500 metres altitude between Ballarat and Creswick named Wightwick, from which he’s making sparkling wine and still pinot noir and chardonnay. I enjoyed a glass of the 2017 Wightwick Pinot Noir with a steaming bowl of Spanish soup with chorizo and black pudding at lunch on a Monday. My companions enjoyed dips with flatbread and crudités, twice-cooked pork belly, and polenta chips with capsicum aioli. The coffee is excellent, too.

Mitchell Harris Wines

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