An easy drive from Sydney, the cellar doors of Canberra offer ample incentive for even the most reluctant wine tourist. From big red lovers to crisp delicate white lovers and everything in between. Add to that some great food and local produce and you have the ingredients for a great day out.
Driving from Sydney or, taking the Federal Highway rather than the Barton Highway from Yass, one of the first cellar doors to visit is Lerida Estate, right there on the banks of Lake George. Stunning views, live music on the weekends and wines of conviction will get you in the mood to explore further. And a little further on and almost as scenic, is Lark Hill producers of the first home grown Gruner Veltliner released in Australia as well as an Auslese styled Riesling. While there, make sure you also taste the Pinot Noir and Sangiovese.
If you did not succumb to the lure of lunch on the verandah at Lark Hill, it is time to get to Shaw Estate near Murrumbateman. This is the place to indulge in lunch at Flint in the Vines with a glass of fine bubbly Sparkling Cuvee, a soft fruity Cabernet or one of their other warm reds from this Estate. And to pick up some of Robyn Rowe’s chocolates – for ‘sharing’ later on, of course.
After lunch, it is a good opportunity to get across to Helm to taste Cabernet and some of the region’s award winning Riesling made by pioneer Ken Helm who has strived to put both Canberra and Riesling on the international map. Incidentally, this is one of the first wineries to visit if you enter the region from the Barton Highway from Yass. You cannot leave Murrumbateman until you have stopped at Clonakilla who produce one of Australia’s benchmark Shiraz Viognier. If you like Viognier, you will probably leave with some in your car. It is just as difficult to resist their Shirazs as well.
If you have decided to head into Canberra via Murrumbateman, you have a couple of options. You could drop into Poacher’s Pantry to taste their Wily Trout wines and sample their cured meats and other local goodies. If it is a Sunday then first stop by McKellar Ridge. Poacher’s Pantry also do lunch over the weekend but best book ahead.
You could head out to Gundaroo, taste what is on offer at Capital Wines and stay for dinner at the superb restaurant Grazing. Their Kyeema Vineyard range is particularly good. The cellar door is beside the restaurant which is housed in the historic ‘The Royal Hotel’, a landmark pub for the region with its iconic verandahs and rust red roof.
Alternatively, you could head back to the Federal Highway and get to Mount Majura Vineyard just before you hit the outskirts of the newest Canberra shopping district near the airport. This producer really should be ‘a must visit’ on your list. If you don’t get to it on the way into Canberra, make sure that you visit it on your way out.
Mount Majura have wines that have elegance at their heart and they produce wines from grapes that are unusual to find elsewhere in the region. Their Tempranillo is one of Australia’s most interesting and they also have a Touriga and a straight Graciano that are both pretty wines.
As a wine region, Canberra is relatively compact and is easy to navigate. Nearly every cellar door has a splendid view to offer and it is quite hard to tear yourself away from some of them. Whichever road you come in from, the region lends itself to a circuit. You might just want to take that ‘road less travelled’ home so you don’t not have to miss out.