By Emma Moylan
September 7, 2020 | 6 minute read
Sam from Clonakilla
Calling all wine lovers — many of you will have visited the Hunter Valley or Barossa in South Australia, but did you know the tranquil countryside around Canberra is home to over 30 wineries within 40 minutes of the city centre? With a focus on producing quality wines and maintaining a boutique atmosphere, the small-scale, artisan nature of the Canberra wine region means it’s a place where you can still meet the actual winemaker when you visit their cellar doors.
There's often the option of taking a winery tour to see where the magic happens and gain a more intimate knowledge of what makes each wine unique. And of course, there's tasting the local creations, often with some great food accompaniments. With so many incredible Canberra wineries, you might be wondering which are the best ones to visit? Here are six of my personal favourites in (or near to) Murrumbateman.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Celebrated as one of the best wineries in Australia, Clonakilla is a small, family winery dedicated to producing distinctive, handcrafted Canberra region wines in limited quantities. Their wines have consistently earned critical acclaim, with Tim Kirk named Gourmet Traveller Wines' Winemaker of the Year in 2013.
The cellar door is stylish and very well run, with a relaxed friendly atmosphere. Crafted from local stone, reclaimed timbers and deconstructed wine barrels, there's a large fireplace, tables and bar to sit at plus an outdoor area. It’s the perfect place to learn the Clonakilla story and to taste what this landscape has to say through the medium of wine. See more on this winery here.
One of the leading wineries in the district, Helm Wines has been given a 5-star rating by wine critic James Halliday. A master of Rieslings, winemaker Ken Helm pioneered growing the Riesling grape in the region. Ken has a wealth of knowledge which he is happy to share with anyone interested and his cellar door is a must-visit for all budding and experienced wine connoisseurs.
The tasting room is located in an historic old school house and is the perfect setting for sampling quality wines and learning about the local history of the area. On our visit, we had wine-industry legend Ken to ourselves while he generously shared his superb wines and extraordinary range of stories and insights. Despite never meeting him before, we left feeling like old friends!
Eden Road produces some of the most exciting contemporary wines from the ancient soils of the Australian Highlands. Set in the high country of the Canberra wine region, this boutique winery has won many prestigious awards. One of their more notable advantages is the pristine natural environment of their vineyards which has quickly gained them a cult following. Situated at the end of a picturesque tree-lined drive, we were greeted with a friendly smile as soon as we arrived.
Although they were busy with other groups, the cellar staff accommodated us and were very generous with both their time and wine. Their range is one of the largest in the region and we tried at least 15 different types which all demonstrated a real sense of place. A must-stop destination for anyone wanting premium wine produced from some of the oldest soil on earth.
A small, hands-on family business, Yarrh Wines uses organic farming principles to craft single-vineyard limited-release wines, including their much-awarded Sangiovese. Nestled on a secluded hilltop, the magnificent views over the Yass River valley from their rammed earth and straw bale architect designed winery make it the perfect place to linger and enjoy some of their cellar-door only reds and whites.
Winemaker Fiona Wholohan is an excellent host and eager to share her in-depth knowledge of the complete lifecycle of their wines and the strong environmental practices employed that result in a consistently high-quality range. An excellent winery to visit—rustic, chic and enticing—we will be back during winter to enjoy the wood fire!
The Gallagher family create award-winning wines on their vineyard from their own grapes as well as fruit harvested from the surrounding districts of southern New South Wales. With over 30 years of experience in premium wine production for some of Australia’s top wineries, Greg Gallagher now makes his own high-quality range. Better still, his wife, Libby, produces some amazing specialty cheeses on site—including Greek Labneh, Camembert and Creamy Blue—which can be enjoyed as part of a tasting plate.
The Black Truffle Labneh was a particular standout, as was the passion of our hosts and their depth of knowledge about wine matching with food. The tasting room is rustic and down-to-earth and was the perfect refuge from the heat on the hot summer’s day when we visited.
Four Winds Vineyard
A popular spot among locals, Four Winds is the perfect place to lose track of time sipping on some of the region’s most delicious wines. With a small range of six cool-climate varieties, the quality of their handpicked grapes means there’s bound to be at least one of their award-winning wines for every palate. Their cellar door also has an extra feature most others don’t — wood-fired pizzas!
The stuff of legend, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in rural Italy as you relax beside the vines feasting on a Potato & Gorgonzola pizza. The pizzas are a good size and we shared a Salami & Black Olive and a couple of glasses of 2016 Shiraz. Cooked to perfection, the pizza was excellent and the Shiraz was a good match.
Murrumbateman Winery—a small-batch winery run by a lovely couple and the true host, Mollie (the dog)—is Canberra’s most dog-friendly wine estate. Mollie is a popular fixture at the boutique winery where she has become so useful at welcoming visitors that her name features on one of the wine labels. Mollie even has a Facebook following, evident in the large number of pooches who attend special doggie events that are held there several times throughout the year.
Humans don’t miss out either, with sharing plates available on the simple but tasty menu and plenty of award-winning wines to try. A relaxed atmosphere with fantastic wines, great food and all enjoyed with your canine best friend—life doesn’t get any better than that!
If you love to sip on a glass of wine every now and then, or find yourself in need of replenishing the entire cellar, grab that someone special (or a group of them) and head out this weekend to sample some of the country's most beautiful wines. The word is out — the Canberra wine district has something for everyone!
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