Like the city it surrounds, the national capital’s fruitful wine region is full of contrasts and enthusiasts should set aside several days to fully explore its vineyards. Here, Tristan Lutze shares his top tips on how to spend a long weekend in Canberra, from the wineries to visit to the best hotels and restaurants to book.
PM | Ease into the cool-climate wines that the area is known for at biodynamic Lark Hill Winery, less than three hours from Sydney and only 30 minutes outside Canberra. Kick things off with an aromatic, light-bodied sangiovese that’s begging to be paired with a hearty meal. Good thing it’s only a moment’s amble up the gravel path to a seat at D&K Kitchen, where seasonal dishes adorned with vineyard-grown herbs can be enjoyed in full view of the grapevines. Settle back with a tipple made only metres away and keep an eye out for alpine-inspired dishes by Swiss-born chef Daniel Hiltbrunner on the specials menu.
Work off the späetzle with a self-guided stroll up the vine-lined hill at nearby Mount Majura Vineyard before a comparative tasting of three of the region’s best bottles of tempranillo.
Then it’s an easy 15-minute drive into the city to your sleek digs at the moody Midnight Hotel. Celebrate your arrival with a cocktail and some live music at the ground-level Midnight Bar. Just beyond the lobby is buzzy Braddon and many of Canberra’s most exciting bars and best eateries, such as newcomer Inka, where Japanese and Peruvian cuisines meet in a Nikkei-inspired parade of nigiri, crisp empañadas and more, matched with great local drops.
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AM | A breakfast of locally cured bacon and house-smoked salmon at Midnight’s restaurant fortifies you for a big day of wine sipping, as will a wander in the surrounding streets, transformed by day into a hub of cafés, bakeries and boutiques selling ceramics and designer clothing. After checking out of the hotel, stop for a coffee at Daughters at Hall (5 Victoria Street; 02 6230 2457) in the historic village of Hall on your way to Murrambateman – the epicentre of this winemaking region and home to more than a dozen wineries. Book ahead for a midday tasting at Tallagandra Hill, only 30 minutes from Braddon, and sample a selection of its unpretentious wines while you clean up the generous charcuterie and cheese platter to tunes from the vintage jukebox.
PM | Check in at Abode Murrumbateman, a short walk from the fortnightly farmers’ market. Grab a bike from the modern-country hotel reception (complimentary with some packages). It’s just a short pedal to Clonakilla Wines, the area’s most celebrated producer, for a taste of its renowned shiraz viognier, one of Australia’s top red wines.
Back on your bike, traverse the gentle hills to Shaw Wines. Its slick new cellar door is an inviting place to rest your legs and sample a light European-style cabernet sauvignon or a floral, Canberra-style shiraz. Join the wine club and you’ll have access to a private tasting room and a few 15-year-old vintages or head next door for dinner at Olleyville, where the comprehensive menu features everything from woodfired pizza to slow-cooked lamb shoulder.
AM | Forgo breakfast so you can squeeze in a tasting at Helm Wines. Local legend Ken Helm pours samples of his Germanic rieslings – including a classic half-dry variety – and award-winning cab savs in a heritage-listed 1888 schoolhouse.
As you begin the journey home, stop in at Gundog Estate’s carbon-neutral cellar door in Gundaroo to try its wild-fermented Indomitus range. Tuck into hand-rolled potato tortellini with almond ricotta or a crisp slab of pork belly cooked up at Grazing, the renowned fine-diner next door.
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