People can’t help themselves – they see Dominic and Krystina Morris inside their elegant new tasting room on View Street and in they come, to sample and chat.
“We’re really only open on the weekends,” Krystina says.
“But we’ve taken the stance that if we’re here by chance during the week, and someone pops in, then we’re open for them.”
Pondalowie Cellar and Store is the new kid on the View Street block, opening Easter this year in the building which used to house a gun shop, next door to La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre.
With its blond wood and white walls, it’s an invitingly calm space. It’s also a surprising first for Bendigo.
“We’ve given it long thought,” Krystina says.
“We decided to focus entirely on making it a cellar door, not going into food or coffee, just tastings and sales of our own wine.
“However, there is the potential for small functions, like this one for the Bendigo Writers Festival.”
Pondalowie is hosting Reds and Reading, as part of BWF.
With an interest themselves in writing and readings, they are opening up the small function room to the rear of their tasting room.
Art historian Janine Burke, memoir and fiction writer Tony Birch and film expert John Flaus will read from their work, while their audience will be treated to a glass of Pondalowie’s 5-star shiraz.
“It’s a bold move,” Krystina says of the decision to bring their cellar door right into the heart of Bendigo.
“It suits us, to provide this service, to bring what we make to where the customers are.
“We’ve maintained terroir at our vineyards in Bridgewater and also Heathcote, but that old notion that you have to visit, drive up a rickety drive to be greeted by the sheep dog, that’s changing.”
It’s a well-guarded secret by those in the know that Bendigo now has its very own top-notch fortified wine: Pondalowie’s traditional Portuguese-style port variety, made with Tempranillo and Shiraz grapes grown on the couple’s own vineyards (at Heathcote and Bridgewater).
Bendigo’s gain is Portugal’s loss, as the couple more or less commuted to work for many years to the Quinta do Crasto winery in the Douro Valley, where Dominic helped them win International Red Wine of the Year in 1995.
With a couple of young children, the Morrises decided they need to focus on their own Pondalowie (named after the Bay on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, which is where they were when they first committed themselves to creating a winery).
They now produce Shiraz Viognier and Cabernet Malbec from the 10 acre vineyard at Bridgewater on Loddon, and, from the 20-acre property at Heathcote, Shiraz, Cabernet and Viognier, as well as a whole range of Tempranillo wines, a luscious legacy of their Portuguese experience.
“In a winery our size, some might call it excessive,” Krystina says of their desire and ability to create wines across the spectrum of what’s possible for the grapes.
“But it’s unique and that’s why we do it.
“It’s too interesting not to do it.”
Pondalowie Cellar and Store is at 123 View Street Bendigo, and is open weekends from noon to 5pm or by appointment. To book for Reds and Reading (tickets $10), Sunday August 12, 2.30-3.30pm, phone 0439 373 366.