What Would They Know? Rod Micallef of Zonzo Estate

by | Venue Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Nestled in the heart of the Yarra Valley, Zonzo Estate provides all the key ingredients that help to create an unforgettable wedding. First of all, it’s a winery with three stunning ceremony locations to choose from. It also has breathtaking views over the vineyards and the valley, creating the perfect backdrop for wedding photos. For the reception, an abundance of heartwarming food is offered through a shared dining experience. And the cherry on top? Passionate and enthusiastic staff members are on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly and deliver the day of your dreams.

Zonzo is so incredible that it’s won the ABIA award for Restaurant Reception (Vic) every year since 2011. This is even more impressive considering that it’s only been hosting weddings since 2009. Intrigued to find out more about what makes Zonzo so popular and respected, we spoke with owner Rod Micallef. Warning: all the menu talk will have your mouth watering!


Where is Zonzo Estate
?

Zonzo Estate is located in the heart of the Yarra Valley. Situated in the small country town of Yarra Glen! It is a gorgeous 230-acre property that stretches from Healesville-Yarra Glen road all the way back to the Yarra river.

Image by John Laurie

What does the word ‘Zonzo’ mean – and is this a subtle link to its heritage?
The term Zonzo originates from Italy, meaning to wander about and to stroll around, describing our ethos perfectly! We have always valued the rituals of life that brings people together and to wander with us means to feel time slow down, to spend time with loved ones, all whilst enjoying casalinga style food and wine from our vineyard… and the panoramic views!


How did Zonzo Estate start and when did you start holding weddings?
Establishing Zonzo in 2007, I always had a passion for food. I started off in a tiny pizzeria in Abbotsford and with much persistence ended up being successful. I fell in love with the idea of offering a city dining experience in the countryside. The Yarra Valley was a natural pick to expand the business. This beautiful old milking shed was the perfect setting to bring a life-long dream to reality. We started hosting weddings in 2009 and with 10 years’ experience in the industry, we have found what works best in delivering a memorable celebration for each of our couples.

Image by Glass Slipper Photography

What do you think sets Zonzo apart from other wedding venues?
Our relaxed approach! Also, our passion for food and wine. We have adopted a menu based on traditional Italian customs and offer a feast styled reception, with all food being served down the centre of long tables. We introduced shared tables to the Yarra Valley and the concept of the classic Italian feast menu. We believe this brings together both family and friends, and creates a family-orientated atmosphere that integrates well with our clients wine

What spaces are available for a wedding ceremony?
We have three beautiful ceremony locations onsite and love creating the perfect backdrop for each couple and their guests. Our ceremony options include our lush lawns that overlook the rolling hills and vineyards, the rustic setting of the Barrel Room amongst oak barrels or the architecturally striking Cappella. There is definitely a certain fulfilment in watching two souls come together as they marry in one of our spaces!

Image by Glass Slipper Photography

Tell us more about the Cappella…
The Cappella is possibly the most unique as it is a modern take on an Australian chapel and is the ideal space for a couple searching for a something more contemporary. Its sleek black panels stand out amongst the surrounding greenery and inside fills with a dream of natural light. Large windows allow you to overlook beautiful pastures and breathtaking views. You can fit 90 guests sitting but have the capacity for 140 guests both sitting and standing to witness their loved ones tie the knot!

Image by This Day Forward

Are couples able to be married outside – are there any areas you particularly recommend?
Yes! We have our lawn ceremony option that has the gorgeous views of the Yarra Valley. The rolling hills create an unforgettable backdrop and the styling options are endless! All options are great in their own way, but I personally love the Cappella, I haven’t seen anything like it.


Do you have a team of wedding professionals on hand to assist the couple?
We offer full coordination on the day and our wedding coordinators are there from start to finish and are dedicated to guide couples through the entire journey of your wedding. From initial booking to the big day, they ensure everything runs smoothly.


Do you still see bridal décor ideas that surprise and delight you – even after being a part of so many weddings?

We love seeing new and old décor ideas and bringing each couple’s vision to life. No two weddings are ever the same and you can really see each couple’s personality through their styling.

Image by Sarah Godenzi

Are the couple able to bring in their preferred vendors if they wish and are you able to suggest vendors if needed?
We have our recommended suppliers list of vendors who we love and trust. However, couples are more than welcome to source their preferred vendors.


The team has restored 45 acres of mature vineyards. Were the vineyards part of the history of the Estate? What Zonzo wine varieties do you offer?
In 2015, I acquired the surrounding property to rename the precinct, Zonzo Estate, utilising the rich offerings of the 45 acres of vines to produce our first vintage. April 2016 saw us proudly launch our Reserve range. The release consisted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Later introducing our Sauvignon Blanc, Rosè, Moscato, Prosecco and Pinot Grigio to the collection. As well as two perfectly brewed craft beers, a Lager and Pale Ale, all created to complement our menu!

Image by John Laurie

Do you offer wine and food matching advice?
The team run a one-on-one wine tasting with our couples prior to their wedding day to match food and wine together.


How would you describe your menu? Are there any favourite dishes that are asked for time and again?

The menu is designed to serve authentic, Italian, casalinga style dishes which are placed down the centre of long tables for everyone to share and enjoy. You cannot go wrong with a good wood-fired pizza! The Radicchio is one my all-time favourite.

Images by John Laurie

With the Yarra Valley and Melbourne being well known for its produce, do you try to source locally grown and made produce wherever possible?
We love supporting small business therefore we purchase a lot of produce from local suppliers where possible. We also grow a lot of our own herbs and citrus on-site.

Why do you prefer the shared dining experience?

We believe food is best when shared! It brings family and friends together for any occasion.


If bridal couples want their wedding reception/meal outside are you able to set tables up outside for a night under the stars?
We like to keep the reception inside as Victorian weather is so unpredictable.


With your venue being so popular, how far out from their wedding date should a couple plan to book Zonzo?
On average, couples are engaged for 18 months, therefore we recommend booking as soon as possible as popular dates always book up well in advance.

Image by Shot from the Heart

What lights up your day when working at Zonzo Estate?
There is something always happening here, we are ever-growing and a passionate tight-knit team! We love working with wedding couples to bring their dream day to reality, it is truly magical to see it come to life.


Thank you Rod for sharing Zonzo’s story with us! What a warm and inviting venue and experience you have created for couples and their guests. Want to find out more? Check out the Zonzo Estate website for all the details on their weddings.


Headshot courtesy of Zonzo Estate

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