Let's get crafty
If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that …
Montalto on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is home to one of Victoria’s largest and oldest kitchen gardens, thriving since 2002.
There’s something very special about witnessing the chef forage in the garden in preparation for lunch. When your meal is served, the fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers pop with colour on your plate, their vibrancy and flavours reflecting the love and care with which they’re grown and tended, right here on the Estate.
“The philosophy of the estate is a vertical integration from garden to kitchen and it’s all about heirloom vegetable varieties,” says Fraser Mackenzie, Sales and Marketing Manager at Montalto.
“Just as we grow our own grapes for the creation of our wines, we also pride ourselves on sustainable horticultural practices that allow us to grow our own produce, including vegetables, edible flowers and beehives.”
The gardens were originally designed by renowned landscape architect Andrew Laidlaw, best known for his work at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. A trusted friend of the Mitchell family, Andrew helped Wendy design and plan the original Piazza gardens in 2002, now affectionately known as Wendy’s Garden.
Today, three acres of gardens provide an abundance of produce throughout the year for The Restaurant at Montalto.
“This month, we’re excited to be harvesting kales, last of the broccoli, last of the cauliflower, leeks, last of the radicchio, rainbow chard, carrots, radish, turnips, beetroot, broad bean tips, broad beans, salad mix, mustard greens, citrus, peas and snow peas,” says Produce Manager, Julie Bennett.
Julie is a passionate gardener who loves nothing more than to nurture a tiny seed through its life to harvest and to provide heirloom varieties of produce for Montalto’s chefs, who truly understand and appreciate the work involved in tending to these flourishing gardens.
“I have an unwavering love for being in nature every single day and I’ve been fortunate to undertake some in-depth training including courses in organic farming, regenerative agriculture, bio-intensive growing, viticulture and most recently an intensive permaculture design certificate,” says Julie.
2021 marks the start of a new era in the Montalto estate gardens: the arrival of animals as part of a commitment to sustainability and permaculture.
Three cheeky sheep live a grand life on Pennon Hill, keeping the grass down and gobbling up any windfall fruit. Around 40 Isa Brown chickens roam the orchards enjoying a delicious diet of estate-grown fruits, vegetables and seeds whilst providing Montalto’s kitchens with an endless supply of the very freshest eggs. Both add to the soil quality and diversity also.
The team at Montalto hope to add a couple of goats to the fold soon, to keep noxious weeds (like blackberries) at bay whilst maintaining the wetlands and their surrounds.
Surrounded by vineyards, gardens and adorable fauna, it’s easy to see why Julie believes she’s scored the dream job.
“I truly couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to live and work,” she says.
Montalto’s Estate to Plate experience is perfect for guests who want to explore the gardens. This immersive adventure includes a stroll with one of the team through the expansive kitchen gardens and a seated tasting in the Alto room, with panoramic views overlooking Montalto’s Red Hill vineyards. Next, experience Montalto’s estate to plate philosophy in action, with a stunning 5-course tasting experience with award winning wines. After lunch, continue your exploration of the property, with a self-guided tour of the estate’s natural wetlands, olive grove and extensive permanent sculpture exhibition.