Rod Micallef - Zonzo Estate

Rod, tell us a bit about yourself and how you became the creator of Zonzo Estate?

Before starting my career in the restaurant industry, I was a tradesman working as an electrician. I was always passionate about hospitality, cooking and creating recipes. I would’ve loved to be on MasterChef back in the day!

In the early 2000s I put the tools down and started working in restaurants, specifically at a restaurant in Abbotsford called Elounge. I started at Zonzo Estate in 2007 working at our restaurant and have been nearly operating for 18 years. The evolution of Zonzo is a great story. As we started here as tenants running the restaurant with lunch and dinner services alongside weddings. In 2015 the surrounding property become available, and I decided to purchase it and create the winery. I’ve always had a dream of creating a beautiful country setting style restaurant, where families could come for a great bite to eat. I feel I’ve created this for all our customers and vendors who come through our doors!

How did you get into the winery business?

I had already been operating the restaurant onsite and I only fully got into the business when I purchased the winery back in 2015. The vineyard already had existing vines, which helped us create and grow our wine brand Zonzo Estate Wines. Further on, we’ve now added new vines and divided the winery in blocks according to their grapes and season.

What’s something that not many people would know about running a winery?

Running a winery is probably a dream for many, I often hear people saying if they win the lottery they’d buy a winery. But one thing I imagine not many people know is that running a winery is a lot of time, work and effort. It is relentless and being in Melbourne means that winter comes around quite quickly, so you’ve always got to be prepped and ready for the grapes coming in for the next season.

What are your signature wines and how did they come to be?

The Yarra Valley region is known for its signature wines that are Pinot and Chardonnay. At Zonzo Estate we’ve planted new vines to adapt to the region whilst bringing in that Italian flare that comes along with Zonzo. These include Pecorino, Fiano, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera. We try to be quite experimental with this and it has worked quite well for us due to the current climate.



What can we expect for Zonzo Estate in 2024? 

We’ve got some really exciting projects upcoming this year, one of them being our brand new product called Cicchio which is a world first pistachio spritz. It looks and tastes amazing, we’re super excited to get that out to the market! We’ll continue to grow our existing range and driving it to as many stores as possible focusing on our iconic Zoncello. This is our house-made ready to drink limoncello spritz which has been a crowd favourite during the spring/summertime. In terms of the winery, we’ve just planted 90,000 new vines that plan to yield in the next 5 years, we can’t wait to see them grow and flourish.

What does a day in the life look like for you?

My day usually starts quite early in the morning. I tend to get the kids ready for school and shoot off to the farm to have a look on what’s happening for the day.  I then begin my day the restaurant, making sure everything is ready for our lunch service or any day-time weddings and overall see that everything is under control. I also like to head into the office most mornings to do any important admin before stepping foot into the winery. It does vary day-to-day depending on what’s on.



We know you love to ride your motorbike, but what else do you like to get up to in your free time?

I don’t get a lot of free time with running Zonzo but when I do, I spend my time with my family. But I do have a hobby of motorbikes so every so often I love to ride my Ducati’s whenever I get a spare moment.

What would be your ideal clothing style and go-to outfit?

I have such a varied role at Zonzo from farm, restaurant to office, so my style varies day-to-day. If I’m on the farm I’ll be in shorts, boots, t-shirt and akubra during summer to keep away the sunburn. For meetings and social life, I prefer something classic and simple that’s not over the top. This would be something that’s well-fitting and nice.

One pair of Wild Rhino’s you’ve been loving?

Scotland, I find the boots to be a great all-rounder. I can wear them in the farm at work or easily throw them on when I jump on my motorbike.




Early-bird or Night-owl? Both, my days start early and finish late

Knock off drink of choice? In summer it’s a Zoncello Spritz and in Winter a glass of San Martino

Favourite food? Pizza - We have a Carbonara Pizza here with egg yolk butter, Grana Padano and fior di latte, it’s beautiful!

Red or white wine? Red

Introvert or Extrovert? Work - extrovert, social - introvert


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