At the end of a windy gravel road, hidden beneath the canopy of towering gum trees in Gippsland’s Willung South, you will find Carrajung Estate.

Carrajung Estate, a rural Gippsland escape.

For the past 30 years, Carrajung Estate, the 40-hectare property surrounded by the forests of the Strzelecki Ranges and a stone’s throw away from Ninety Mile Beach and Tarra Bulga National Park, has been known to both locals and travellers from near and far as Tom’s Cap Winery.

As the new year began, former owners Ann and Graham Morris, the pair holding a highly regarded reputation for their three decades of impeccable service, concluded their time had come, handing the reins to new owners Ivy Huang and Rebeka Morgan.

“When we started [Tom’s Cap Winery, now Carrajung Estate], we had 100 acres of blackberries and bracken, so we’ve cleared, planted, built, landscaped, done absolutely everything ourselves over that period of time and of course, we had the restaurant and accommodation,” Mrs Morris said.

“As much as we loved it, it was very tiring, obviously, after 30 years; we’re not getting any younger.”

Mrs and Mr Morris were intent on passing on their business, part of their heart and soul, to someone who shared their values and love for the property after three decades, tens of thousands of hours, and hard work.

“It was imperative,” Mrs Morris said.

“We had a lot of people come through the place, most of them we weren’t happy with, and we actually made a mental and emotional decision not to sell to certain people.

“We really wanted someone that loved it; that was super important to us.”

Business partners Ivy Huang and Rebeka Morgan fulfilled Ann and Graham Morris’ wishes.

“They had been out a few times, and there was one day they came, three of them, Ivy, her husband, Adrian and Rebeka, came for lunch, and I took them for a walk around the place; they had a bit of a look, and you could just tell they were really, really happy with it,” Mrs Morris said.

“Amongst themselves, Ivy, Adrian, Rebeka and her husband John actually make a really good team.

“I think they are great; I think they will do a really good job.”

Ms Huang and Ms Morgan, hailing from the state’s capital, Melbourne, fell in love with Carrajung Estate, quickly fostering an ambitious vision to create a one-of-a-kind travel destination in the heart of Gippsland.

“We were drawn to this beautiful vineyard because of its stunning views, its gorgeous wines, and the incredible potential it holds,” Ms Huang said.

“We saw an opportunity to create a new business adventure, one that would allow us to create a dream lifestyle for our respective families, share our love of wine and food with others and to build something truly special in this interesting part of Victoria.”

Ms Huang and Ms Morgan, together with their husbands, took on Tom’s Cap Winery in February and began making changes to fulfil their vision, starting with the name.

“Since taking over in February, we have worked tirelessly to transform Carrajung Estate into a fun destination for everyone – families, groups and couples,” Ms Huang said.

“We invested our initial efforts in renovating the restaurant and finding an award-winning chef because we knew this was something important to the community and to Ann and Graham.

“We have also started renovating some of the cottages on site to create a one-of-a-kind country escape and ensure that every guest has an unforgettable experience.

“You will also see our new Carrajung Estate range of wines when you visit us in the Restaurant & Cellar Door, which we are so excited about.”

The dual-family operation wasted no time launching Carrajung Estate, opening the restaurant doors just two months after taking over from Ann and Graham Morris on Friday, March 31.

While Ms Huang and Ms Morgan are new to the area, making a tree change to operate their newly owned business, the pair are steadfast in their commitment to supporting local.

“At Carrajung Estate, we have a strong focus on all things local, from our produce to our wine,” Ms Huang said.

“We believe that supporting local farmers and producers is not only important for the economy but also essential for creating a unique and authentic dining experience that truly reflects the flavours of the region.

“Gippsland has long been known as the ‘food bowl’ of Victoria, and we are here to celebrate and showcase that, and of course, lower food miles is better for the planet too.”

Patrick Haney is the man behind the kitchen door, responsible for the dishes that blend traditional techniques with contemporary twists and global influences.

A master of his craft with more than 20 years of culinary experience, Mr Haney has honed his skills across a collection of USA and Australia’s much-loved kitchens, including Sydney’s Opera Bar and Cruise Bar’s Dinner in the Sky and, most recently, The Growers in Shoalhaven.

“Pat is unlike any chef that I have ever met; he is thoughtful and considerate with everything he does in and outside of the kitchen,” Ms Huang said.

“He thinks about where the food should come from; he drives out to meet our farmers and suppliers; he cares deeply about minimising wastage, what things we can grow here in the kitchen garden.

“He’s even into beekeeping.

“He’s quite special.

“And, of course, his food sets itself apart with his dedication to highlighting local ingredients in new and innovative ways.

“We are really lucky; he’s a real gem.”

Chef Haney is continually experimenting with new ingredients and techniques to produce distinctive dishes that celebrate the flavour of the region.

“One of our current favourite dishes include the Gippsland Wild Venison, served with black garlic mash, local mushrooms and jus,” Ms Huang said.

“It is so flavourful and soft; it melts in your mouth.”

Construction is underway at Carrajung Estate, with Ms Huang and Ms Morgan enthusiastic about what is in store over the coming year.

“Guests can expect to see all the cottages fully refurbished with sustainability upgrades that minimise our footprint,” Ms Huang said.

“Our restaurant will continue to innovate with our ever-changing seasonal menu made with local ingredients, as well as a range of exciting events and activities that will showcase the best of what this region has to offer.”

For Ms Huang and Ms Morgan, Carrajung Estate is more than just a place that serves delicious food and great wine. Carrajung Estate is an experience.

“We want our guests to feel like they are part of something special and constantly evolving,” Ms Huang said.

“We aim to provide a homely spot that is relaxed, welcoming, and immersive, where families and friends can come and create memories together and celebrate special moments.”

It is no easy task for Ann and Graham Morris to let go of 30 years, three decades of memories and hard work, but knowing that living up to the former owner’s expectations and standards is at the forefront of Ms Huang and Ms Morgan’s operations is a welcomed comfort.

“It’s great, and we are both really happy to help because it’s so important that it all flows through really nicely,” Ms Morris said.

“You always have teething problems, and you’ll always have the odd little hiccup, but if you can sort it from a client’s point of view and you’re respectful to everyone, they’re going to really enjoy it.

“People are going out to have a really nice day, so you treat them nicely, and you’re friendly, and you give them a little bit of time, and that’s not always easy when you’re really busy, but you’ve got to be able to talk and run at the same time.

“So it’s nice that they constantly ask [for advice], and I am very, very happy to help.”

The former Tom’s Cap Winery owners were among the guests who dined at the Currajung Estate restaurant during the first week of operation, relaying positive feedback about their experience.

“We had a really nice day,” Ms Morris said.

“Lunch was great, we had a group of family and a friend of ours, and it was nice; they were really busy.”

For Ivy Huang and Rebeka Morgan, the ultimate dream for Carrajung Estate is to create a world-class destination that showcases the best Gippsland has to offer.

“We want to create an experience that is not just about the food and wine but also about the natural beauty of the region, the history and culture of the area, and the warmth and hospitality of the people who call this place home,” Ms Huang said.

“We are incredibly excited about what the future holds for Carrajung Estate, and we invite everyone to come and see what we are creating and join us on the journey as it unfolds.

“We also invite local growers and farmers to reach out if they have great produce we might be able to showcase in our restaurant.”

For more information about Carrajung Estate, visit their website: https://carrajung.com.au/