Spotlight on Sunbury

By Brendan Black

31 Oct, 2023

Sunbury is one of Victoria's oldest wine regions; it's also one of the least well-known. Wine writer Brendan Black highlights the producers that should be on your radar.

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Despite being on suburban Melbourne’s doorstep, Sunbury is one of the least-known wine regions in Victoria. Yet it also happens to be one of the state’s oldest, with a history of winemaking stretching back to the 1860s. Sunbury wineries today offer a mix of old-world charm and modern luxury – and some incredibly good wines.

While shiraz and chardonnay are still very much the focus, other common grape varieties like viognier and cabernet sauvignon are also popular. However, an exciting array of alternative varieties are now appearing – such as fiano, montepulciano and sangiovese – unlocking new possibilities for winemakers and wine lovers alike.

Craiglee vineyardWhile Sunbury is rightfully known for its chardonnay and shiraz, varietals like fiano, viognier, montepulciano, sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon are becoming increasingly popular.

Lakey Farm

John Lakey’s father established their Sunbury farm in the 1950s, having been a soldier-settler, running cattle as their main produce. It wasn’t until the 1980s that vines were planted and winemaking was undertaken by John, who had gained experience at Tarrawarra, Rochford and Virgin Hills, as well as in Coonawarra and Burgundy. Today, meat is still the main focus, although the wines, with their rustic feel, are another great reason to seek out their products. While the property doesn’t have a cellar door, John can be found regularly at farmers’ markets in Alphington and Coburg, and his wares can easily be purchased online; the 2017 Blue Devil Sparkling Rosé and 2021 Viognier-Semillon are particular standouts.

Witchmount Estate

A popular function centre on the eastern outskirts of Melton, Witchmount Estate is also a producer of some stunningly good wines. Coming from a background specialising in sparkling wines, winemaker Laura Sparrow has proved a deft hand with all styles, as there’s an impressive collection, from bubbles through to sweet and everything in between. While the function centre is geared more towards restaurant fare, which is exceptional, the cellar door offers a delicious selection of pizzas that pair really well with the estate’s wines, such as the 2019 Estate Shiraz or the 2021 Estate Sparkling Shiraz; if you can grab it, the 2013 Museum Release Shiraz is in a glorious spot right now.

Pat and Dianne CarmodyPat and Dianne Carmody.

Marnong Estate

Set upon a windswept hill on the outskirts of Mickleham, the 480ha Marnong Estate underwent redevelopment in 2018 to become an ultra-stylish affair, but with lots of substance. Marnong features several eateries, for varying budgets: upmarket Italian is the focus in the superb La Vètta; relaxed eating abounds at Cucina 3064; and Caffé Vista offers pies and other goodies which can be enjoyed on the lawn whilst overlooking the beautiful valley. The wines are a mix of uncomplicated and pleasant right up to rich and delectable – the 2022 Estate Fiano and 2022 Montepulciano being obvious highlights. Hunter Valley winemaker Alex Beckett has recently signed on to become their new chief winemaker.


No discussion of the Sunbury wine region is complete without mentioning Craiglee. Run by Pat and Dianne Carmody, the site is home to a stunning mid-18th-century bluestone winery, built right into the cliff face, where grapes were grown and wines were made up until the 1920s. Vines were replanted in 1976 by Pat and, over the following decades, his wines have since attracted many devotees. Throughout all of them is a distinct freshness – in particular the chardonnay – leading to them often appearing younger than the vintage label might suggest. The 2019 Shiraz is showing brilliantly, a rich, lush and full-bodied wine with long length that will age beautifully, and the 2019 Cabernet is brightly fruited, juicy and delicious.

Image credit: Craiglee.