Enjoy a weekend away in one of Victoria’s most historic wine regions, Rutherglen.
As a neophyte traveller to wine regions, you can imagine my excitement as I prepared to spend two days exploring some of the best wine-producing places in Victoria. A three-hour drive took me 300 kilometres from Melbourne to Rutherglen, a beautiful wine region in Northern Victoria that nudges the border to New South Wales.
Boasting more than 150 years of experience in producing one of our favourite tipples, it is a no-brainer that the 19 wineries comprising the Winemakers of Rutherglen are award winners. Especially distinguished for their Muscat, Durif and alternative wine varieties, this seventh generation wine region is a ‘must see’.
So do as I did. Pack your bags and treat yourself to two days of blissful libations and awesome scenery. The days are warm and the nights are cool, so be sure to pack accordingly!
THINGS TO DO:
Sip & Cycle from Lake Moodemere Estate
If you want to enjoy more of the spectacular views around the region, and perhaps burn some of those liquid calories, why not borrow a bicycle from Lake Moodermere Estate and explore the Murray River’s secret trails. Take a picnic basket, stop at a secluded area along the river and enjoy the tranquillity with some cheese and wine. With a mix of country lanes and riverside tracks, your route is your own adventure.
Head back to Lake Moodemere Estate and check out the cellar door. Sixth generation winemakers Michael and Belinda Chambers produce beautiful wines utilising fruit from their Lakeside vineyard. Impressively, the Chambers are also farmers, producing free range prime lamb, wheat and canola. Be sure to ask Belinda about her best lamb recipes and wine pairings.
Before you head off, try your luck at the Great Lake Moodemere Hole in One. If your sobriety is intact and you score a hole in one on the floating green, a prize of $1000 worth of wine will certainly please. Good luck!
12 Moodemere Road, Rutherglen, Victoria
Check out the newly opened Ripe Restaurant at Buller Wines
Ripe Restaurant may be the new kid on the block, but it opened with a bang at Buller Wines. Exuding a rustic yet modern feel, the restaurant has a select but delicious menu using seasonal produce. Think house-made gnocchi with confit duck, locally foraged pine mushrooms and a Stanley chestnut crumb. From the grill, enjoy the 35 day dry aged Rosedale Ruby strip loin. For dessert, the Stanley chestnut panacotta is a winner.
2804 Federation Way, Rutherglen
Have a picnic on the Sunday Creek Bridge at Pfeiffer Wines
Sample some of the best sparkling red wines in the region at scenic Pfeiffer Wines, nestled on the bank of Sunday Creek and adjacent to the iconic century-old Sunday Creek Bridge. Appease your stomach rumbles by grabbing a hamper from the Pickled Sisters Café. Its choice contents include a house baked baguette, Milawa cheese, smoked trout mousse and Gooramadda olives, and sliced mustard rubbed beef with rocket, just to name a few. Your fare’s cherry on top can be a slice of cake and a bottle of table wine of your choice. With beautiful scenery and wildlife, this anabranch of the Murray River is the perfect place to relax.
167 Distillery Road, Wahgunyah, Victoria
Dinner and drinks at Thousand Pound Wine Bar & Store
For a little piece of the city in the heart of the country, Thousand Pound Wine Bar & Store has all the best wines from the region under one roof. Offering dinner and drinks, spoil yourself with the myriad of options available. Head chef Simon Arkless serves up modern, fresh fare including oysters or saganaki as starters, risotto of fennel, or a range of charcoal grilled steaks as mains, to name a few. For dessert, a grilled peach and almond liquor with ice-cream is very appealing, or the cheese and quince selection.
The drinks menu is impressive, boasting some of the best wines from the wineries in the area as well as from around Australia and the rest of the world. The magnificent almost floor to ceiling wine displays these goodies. So grab a seat and enjoy the intimate venue. You might even run into some of the winemakers themselves enjoying the fruits of their labour.
82 Main Street, Rutherglen, Victoria
Grab a pie from Parker Pies
A family owned business, Parker Pies is not your average neighbourhood pie shop, raved about by Rutherglen locals. Established in 1996 by Fred and Bernadette Parker, fresh and local produce is used to create their award-winning pies. The gourmet pies menu is unique, with tantalising fillings including lamb, beef, chicken, buffalo, kangaroo, emu, venison, crocodile, and prawns. The venue is licensed, so enjoy a cheeky beverage with your meal.
88 Main Street, Rutherglen, Victoria
Dapple in Durifs at Scion Vineyard & Winery
Making a name for itself in Rutherglen, Durif is well-known in the area. Durif is a tight bunched and thin skinned grape -usually picked early- and is primarily grown in Australia, California and Israel. It is largely used as colouring, but fortunately for us, in the last 20 years, winemakers have cottoned onto its potential for a quality dry red.
Poised on rolling hills, Scion Vineyard & Winery may be one of the more youthful wineries in the area, but it definitely gives its elders a run for their money. With a unique location in terms of its soil, slopes and northern position, the impact on the wine is most certainly noticeable. Scion was established in 2002 by Rowly Milhinch, who has winemaking in his genes, thanks to Great-great-great grandfather George Francis Morris, who was the founding father of Morris wines. Rowly makes lighter style Durifs four ways – prolonged style Rosé, dry red, dry red co-fermented with Viognier, and a fortified rosé cheese and chocolate wine. The cellar door at Scion is an award winner and offers a very personal experience for all, even for us wine newbies. Do yourself a favour and try award-winner Scion Durif 2014, a dry red with dark berry notes radiating a punchy vibrancy.
74 Slaughterhouse Road, Rutherglen, Victoria
Enjoy lunch and wine tastings at Jones Winery
As one of the oldest and smallest wineries in Rutherglen, Jones Winery, established in 1860, is distinguished for its alternative white wine varietals. Owners and winemakers Arthur and Mandy Jones are not new to the wine business; they are the current generation of a long history of family involvement in the industry.
The vineyards at Jones Winery contain old quartz, loam and alluvial red clays, giving the grapes and wines a unique flavour. Amazingly, the oldest section of the vineyard is 110 years old, and fermentation is still carried out using 100 year old vats. Be sure to do a tasting at the Cellar Door and try the 2016 Jones Vineyard and Winery Fiano, which is aged in old French oak barrels and is beautifully aromatic, refreshing and crisp, with notes of white peach and nutmeg.
Not only do Jones Winery have an excellent cellar door, but also a beautiful French-inspired restaurant using seasonal produce, perfectly accompanied with wine. The menu is ideal for sharing. To start, I happily enjoyed the seared scallops with corn custard, chorizo and pickled onion. Greedily I tried three different mains: beef with carrot and chick pea puree, forest mushrooms and port-red wine sauce; confit duck Maryland with braised lentils, confit potato, red cabbage and orange salad; pork medallion and apple and ginger puree, boudin noir crumble and green beans are all to die for. I honestly couldn’t choose my favourite! You won’t be disappointed for dessert either. Try the orange and almond mille-feuille with vanilla cream cheese and candied fennel. Your tastebuds will thank you.
Finish on a sweet note with Muscat tasting at Morris Wines
Winners of over 4,000 awards, Morris Wines has entrenched itself within the wine industry. Acclaimed for its fortified wines, a visit to this establishment to sample their delicious Muscats is a must. The Cellar Door is intimate, with low ceilings housing century old storage casks on dirt floors. Winemaker Adam Morris knows his stuff, so pick his brains while you’re there.
In my efforts to gain knowledge worthy of a sommelier, I discovered that the Muscat classification system is used to give an indication of what characteristics to expect from the wine, rather than the quality. Rutherglen Muscat is the entry level, with its youthful grape flavours, freshness and strong aromatics. Rutherglen Classic is on the primary fruit spectrum with its freshness and richness. The Rutherglen Grand is a level up in terms of richness, concentration and age, where the fruit changes to a more raisin flavour. Finally, the Rutherglen rare is the oldest, richest and most concentrated. Regardless, after sampling perhaps a few too many, I am now a Muscat convert.
Muscats have many contemporary uses and are actually a perfect cocktail ingredient, even in espresso martinis!
WHERE TO STAY:
Carlyle House is located in the heart of Rutherglen. Originally built around 1986, this traditional bed and breakfast oozes charm and elegance. Each room is named after a different wine (Port, Muscat, Tokay, Durif) and has complimentary local Muscat for those cheeky night caps. The garden suites are surrounded by beautiful florals. Hosts Anthony and Sharyn Holmes welcome you with warm smiles and amazing hospitality, making you feel like a member of the family in a cosy family home.
147 High Street, Rutherglen, Victoria
For those wannabe intrepid campers who still need home comforts, Grapevine Glamping is the place to be. Camp out in decked out luxury tents at Cofield Wines. Not only is there a king size bed, but the tent is fully equipped with board games, magazines, stargazing kit, fishing gear, local maps and guides, and a mini bar. A fully equipped camp kitchen, fire pit and shared bathroom are also on site. Packages include a bottle of Cofield wine on arrival, $50 ‘Cofield cash’ redeemable at Cofield Cellar Door, and a breakfast hamper. Open your tent in the morning and look straight out to the rustic geometrical beauty of the vineyards. Need I say more?
Cofield Wines, Distillery Road, Wahgunyah, Victoria
The Moodemere Lake House
If the idea of a private view of the lake in a charming Lake House appeals to you, do yourself a favour and stay at The Moodemere Lake House. It is the only guesthouse on the estate and is a special place to stay, offering picturesque scenery. Laze on the deck, light the fire pit and enjoy the sounds of wildlife over a glass of vino. If you’re lucky, you may be paid a visit by a platypus or echidna, who are regulars in the area.
12 Moodemere Road, Rutherghlen, Victoria
Bank Street Woodfired Pizza & Garden – Avenel, Victoria
After your boozy weekend, be sure to stop at Bank Street Woodfired Pizza & Garden in Avenel on the way home. The old bank now serves up delicious woodfired pizzas, both classic and with a twist. Try the Scott, with pork and fennel sausage, spinach, smoked scarmoza cheese, fresh chilli, caramalised onion and mozzarella. Or give Michelle’s Magic Mushrooms a go, with sautéed Avenel mushrooms, porcinis, smoked scarmozza and truffle oil. Whether you sit in or grab a takeway, it is the ideal stomach filler.
5 Bank Street, Avenel, Victoria
Rutherglen Winery Walkabout
Running over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (10-11 June), the Rutherglen Winery Walkabout festival is one of the biggest wine festivals in the country and the oldest in Victoria. Since 1974, the festival has provided wine lovers with tastings, tours, entertainment and live music. Be sure to also check out the markets, masterclasses and dinners running throughout the weekend. With more than 17 wineries involved, it gives people a good taste of what the Rutherglen winery region has to offer.
Tastes of Two Regions
Unifying two prominent groups, the Taste of Two Regions brings the Winemakers of Rutherglen and Wines of King Valley together on Sunday 13th August 2017 at Pialligo Estate in Canberra to showcase their fare. Experience a full day of wine and local produce from Rutherglen and King Valley regions. Meet the producers and stock up on some goodies while you’re there.
On Monday 31st October 2017, head to Rutherglen to enjoy Spring Swing. With eight prominent wineries from the region hosting events and tastings, it is a day not to be missed for all you wine lovers out there. So don your best Spring attire and prepare for a day of fun in the sunshine. Enjoy vintage tastings, unique dining events and live music, with a few special prizes to be won throughout the event.
Wineries of Rutherglen
All Saints Estate
Andrew Buller Wines
Chambers Rosewood Winery
John Gehrig Wines
Jones Winery & Vineyard
Lake Moodemere Estate
Mount Prior Vineyard
Scion Vineyard & Winery
Stantion & Killeen Wines
St Leonards Winery