By Amy Newman Photos Yanni
The wheels on the bus are going around and around again for Elevate Wine Tour founder Ric Warren.
After being parked for more than half of 2020 Ric is thrilled to be back on the road after COVID-19 restrictions lifted and taking clients to some of the best wineries the Mornington Peninsula has to offer. And it’s not any regular bus that he is taking them on with luxury top of mind.
“Having been on many wine tours over the years, I felt that there wasn’t enough emphasis being placed on the standard of transportation,” says Ric who started tours of the region in March 2016 and has since hosted thousands of guests.
“With that in mind, our first van on the road was a Mercedes-Benz equipped with comfortable and spacious seating, free Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and a fridge. As the name suggests, the idea of Elevate was to take touring experiences to the next level, offering a transportation and guiding service that matched the calibre of the venues we were taking guests to.”
The Mornington Peninsula wine region is world class with the wines it produces. Most vineyards are boutique in size and the region is renowned for its minimal intervention approach and sustainability. This means not only production of superior quality wines, but that the environment is being looked after too.
Ric is full of praise for the winemakers of the region that he has built solid working relationships with. “There are so many incredible winemakers and it is wonderful to meet some of them on our travels as they all have a unique story to tell”, says Ric who has worked in the alcohol and beverage industry since he was 18. “One thing they certainly share is an unwavering passion for our region and its diverse terrain.”
In the five years since Elevate was founded, Ric has seen the region prosper.
“The biggest change in recent times has been the significant private investment across the region. New developments such as Point Leo Estate, Jackalope Hotel, RACV Cape Schanck and the Arthurs Seat Eagle have been huge draw cards for our local Mornington Peninsula region resulting in a huge spike in domestic and international visitors,” says Ric.
“What was once a region that saw people flocking down here mainly throughout the summer time, is now an all-year-round destination with some of Australia’s finest restaurants and wine producers showcasing the amazing local produce on offer. Construction of the Mornington Peninsula freeway has also contributed to the influx of people to our region, cutting travel time down from Melbourne and landing them conveniently in the heart of the wine region.”
The diversity of the region has also been incorporated into the tours, so it is not only wine that is on offer.
“The wonderful thing about our region is its abundance of other offerings that complement the wine region. There are small produce stores, fruit picking, breweries, distilleries, cideries, chocolateries and artisan cheesemakers just to name a few. We love to incorporate some of these venues on our tours giving guests a chance to try something different.”
One question he is often asked is how the region compares to the Yarra Valley given both are in proximity to Melbourne and renowned for their cooler climate wines.
“Both Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley share some similarities, being a cool climate and also growing some of the same varieties,” says Ric. “One of the key differences is that the Mornington Peninsula is also a maritime climate. Being surrounded by water provides a beautiful cooling effect which helps regulate the temperature and provide ideal conditions for growing high quality grapes. Having grown up on the Mornington Peninsula, I am a little biased about our local wine region with the amazing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris on offer.”
As for the future, Ric is excited to keep the wheels turning – last year he added a smaller van to cater for couples and groups of up to five – alongside his latest project, the Elevate Wine Store which launched in September 2020.
“Knowing that we were unlikely to conduct any tours for the remainder of the year it was a difficult pill to swallow, so my partner Chantel and I decided to launch an online wine store that meant that lovers of the wine region could still have some of their favourite wines delivered to their doorstep. It was nice to know that we were also able to support the cellar doors.”