ACT – Canberra – capital clues

Wine and food touring around the nation's capital

By Winsor Dobbin
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Helm Wines, Murrumbateman

Helm Wines, Murrumbateman

Grazing at the Royal Hotel, Gundaroo
Tim Kirk,  winemaker at Clonakilla
Lerida Estate, Lake George, near Canberra
Mallee Gum Cottage, Gundaroo

 

Canberra is often overlooked, but it has plenty to offer lovers of fine wine and food with around 140 vineyards and a surprising 40-plus wineries within a short drive of the national capital.

Many of the wineries are small family owned operations but they also include some heavy hitters in the likes of Clonakilla, where Tim Kirk pioneered the shiraz viognier blend, and Helm, where Ken Helm has been producing some of Australia’s best rieslings for over three decades.

The range in temperature, vineyard elevations and soil types mean the several different sub-regions – from Lake George to Murrumbateman – produce a wide range of styles.

Among the most respected producers are Lerida Estate, Capital Wines, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Yarrh, Lark Hill, Collector, Pialligo Estate and Mount Majura. The Poacher’s Way trail takes in many of the region’s highlights.

 

Stop 1 – Wine tasting at Lerida Estate

The first winery as you drive in from Sydney, this Glenn Murcutt-designed cellar door, winery and café is 45 kilometres north of Canberra and was established by Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine in 1997. It overlooks vineyards and the often dry Lake George and is home to a range of award-winning wines. There is a picnic and BBQ area and visitors are welcome to use the petanque court. Café Lerida, open only on weekends and public holidays, offers a menu that changes weekly, featuring dishes like smoked lamb sausages with creamy potato mash and roasted red pepper relish; lamb shanks or pie of the day.

You must taste: Lerida Estate 2008 Botrytis Pinot Gris has been a huge success on the show circuit, while Lerida has enjoyed consistent success with its pinot noirs.

Open: Daily 10am-5pm. Café Lerida open weekends and public holidays from 10am
Federal Highway, Lake George
Phone (02) 6295 6640

 

Stop 2 – Brunch at Podfood

Sit on the deck of a lovely 1930s cottage looking over the gardens of the Pialligo plant farm and enjoy the fresh seasonal food at this restaurant-cum-café and cooking school where the menu changes every day. It is a lovely relaxed spot from which to choose from brunch dishes like scrambled eggs topped with smoked salmon and spinach or lunch options including Szechuan peppered squid with a caramelised pear and rocket salad.

You must taste: The wine list includes local offerings like Gallagher Blanc de Blancs 2006 bubbly and Ellenvale The Scissorgrinder Shiraz.

Open: Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-4pm, Saturday 8.30am-4pm
12 Beltana Road, Canberra
Phone (02) 6257 3388

 

Stop 3 – Wine tasting at Mount Majura

Just 10 minutes from Canberra city centre you’ll find vines and a cellar door where you can taste Frank van de Loo’s excellent wines. Mount Majura is probably best known for aromatic whites, particularly riesling and pinot gris, but also makes a range of interesting reds, including wines made from Spanish varieties tempranillo and graciano.

You must taste: The Canberra District riesling and pinot gris are both excellent.

Open: Thursday-Monday and public holidays 10am-5pm
Majura Road, Majura
Phone (02) 6262 3070

 

Stop 4 – Wine tasting and lunch at Shaw Vineyard Estate

Shaw Vineyard Estate is one of the most modern cellar door operations in the region, having only opened in 2005, and its wines have built a formidable reputation. You can taste the wines while browsing through a collection of hand-painted ceramics, or splash out on a bottle of balsamic vinegar imported from Italy. The restaurant recently changed hands and is now known as Flint in the Vines – run by Grant Kells and Jai Dawson and serving fresh regional produce, utilising a wood-fired oven and grill.

You must taste: Reds are the standouts here, so make sure to try the shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz/cabernet blend – along with some sweeter whites.

Open: Cellar door Wed-Sun 10am-5pm. Restaurant: For breakfast at weekends, lunch Wednesday-Sunday and dinner Wednesday to Saturday 
34 Isabel Drive, Murrumbateman
Phone: Cellar door (02) 6227 5827, Restaurant (02) 6227 5144

 

Stop 5 – Wine Tasting at Clonakilla

Tim Kirk is regarded as one of Australia’s best, and most innovative, winemakers and Clonakilla is a small, family winery dedicated to making distinctive, handcrafted wines, specialising in the varieties of the Northern Rhone .The rustic cellar door offers a quintessentially Australian experience.

You must taste: The Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is an Australian benchmark but make sure to also try the O’Raida Shiraz and the two viogniers.

Open: Daily 10am-5pm
Crisps Lane, Murrumbateman
Phone (02) 6227 5877

 

Stop 6 – Wine Tasting at Helm Wines

The colourful and opinionated Ken Helm is a Canberra district pioneer who has been making wines since 1973. He produces some of the very best rieslings in Australia at his tiny Murrumbateman winery, which is a must for any visit to the region. Cellar door tastings are conducted in an atmospheric old school house that was once used for Temperance League meetings.

You must taste: The 2009 Helm Classic Dry Riesling and the Helm 2009 Premium Riesling are the stars, but don’t miss out on Ken’s elegant cabernets.

Open: Thursday-Monday 10am-5pm
Butts Road, Murrumbateman
Phone (02) 6227 5953

 

Stop 7 – Dinner at Grazing

Set in the historic Royal Hotel – built in 1865 – Grazing has rapidly established itself as a local dining icon. Chef Tom Moore and his team create bright, flavourful, unfussy dishes served by attentive young staff. Think choices like confit of duck leg cassoulet-style, served on bacon and garlic-braised white beans with truffled cauliflower puree and herbed breadcrumbs or Kangaroo marinated with garlic and herbs, served on a caramelised onion and beetroot tart. Mains are all $30 or under, making them great value.

You must taste: The excellent wine list consists entirely of local offerings, including several from Mark and Jennie Mooney’s Capital Wines, whose 2009 The Whip Riesling and The Ambassador 2007 Tempranillo are excellent, along with wines from the couple’s Kyeema Vineyard.

Open: Thursday-Saturday for dinner and Friday-Sunday and public holidays for lunch
Cnr Cork and Harp Streets, Gundaroo
Phone (02) 6236 8777

 

Stop 8 – Overnight at Mallee Gum Cottage

This traditional-style bed and breakfast at Gundaroo (within walking distance of Grazing and the excellent pizzas at Cork Street Gallery Café) offers country-style rooms, dotted with antiques and old photos, cosy and relaxed but modern well-equipped bathrooms. Cooked breakfasts are a speciality.

Open: Daily
3 Rosamel Street, Gundaroo
Phone (02) 6236 8366

 

Don't miss:

 

Regions

  • Canberra (ACT)
  • Capital Country ACT (ACT)
  • Canberra Region (NSW)
  • Capital Country NSW (NSW)

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