Spend a weekend in Rutherglen, home of fine fortified wines.
Jeni Port takes us on a tour of Rutherglen, a history-steeped region in Victoria’s far northeast.
In spring, take your lead from the canola fields brilliant in colour that line your route into Rutherglen. Just follow the yellow line. Outside canola season, let the wild, bushranger country terrain be your guide.
This is Ned Kelly country. This is also wine country. Generations of wine families have tended the land developing signature wines celebrated the world over. None more so than the luxuriously sweet muscat and topaque fortifieds. Nowhere on earth can you access such richly concentrated tastebud-arousing flavours like these.
In table wines, old vine durif and shiraz – the region’s most planted and celebrated reds – bring a combination of power and elegance to the glass. The big three Rhône Valley white grapes – marsanne, viognier, roussanne – lap up the Rutherglen warmth.
Your HQ for the next 48 hours is the township of Rutherglen. Get to know it.
First, some refreshment. Head to Valentine’s Bakehouse on Main Street for a coffee and pastry while you get the lie of the land with maps from the nearby tourism office. Accommodation choices are many. Wine lovers opt for the Jones Tiny House at Jones Vineyard and Winery on the edge of vines and close to some of the best local wine and food (including Jones cellar door!). Too tiny? Seek out the beautifully renovated Rutherglen Convent, which boasts some of the best views of Rutherglen’s spectacular sunsets. This summer, a brewery opens on site.
Seek out the beautifully renovated Rutherglen Convent which boasts some of the best views of Rutherglen’s spectacular sunsets. This summer, a brewery opens on site.
Your wine adventure starts just down the road at Campbells, home to Bobbie Burns Shiraz and a host of stunning fortifieds. Tastings are free, and back vintages are often available, but the highlight of any visit is a vertical muscat tasting where you can blend your own muscat. Stay for a vineyard platter and a glass of wine on the lawns. For something a little more substantial, make your way to Bonnie Restaurant at All Saints Estate, which is open most days of the week for lunch. The pizzas are highly recommended.
Time for a tasting with a difference. How about an olive and muscat pairing? Gooramadda Olives grows 11 varieties of olives and while tastings of olives and extra virgin olive oil are available, possibly more enticing for wine enthusiasts is the olive-muscat matching exercise with Morris Wines Classic muscat.
A change of wine pace? You asked for it, head back towards Rutherglen and Scion. Owner/winemaker Rowly Milhinch brings an alternative look to regional styles including semi-sweet fortifieds like After Dark Durif and an unusual vintage muscat among a host of creative – yes, creative in a good sense – non-mainstream wines. Indulgence awaits. Not only is grace. bar + eatery on Rutherglen’s Main Street the place for local wines and beer – it boasts 10-plus independent Victorian brews – but Matthieu and Erica Miller also oversee an imaginative menu. Try the muscat gin sour cocktail and leave room for the chocolate and stout pudding. ☞