The Canberra District has more than 35 cellar doors. Better stay awhile.
“What I love about Canberra wineries is that they’re all boutique,” says Laura Jallier, a guide with Van du Vin, which offers a range of wine tours. “A lot of them still operate out of tin sheds.” The district’s cellar doors are the kind where you can have a tasting, a chinwag with the winemaker and a plate of local cheese or charcuterie for under $20. “Around here,” says Jallier, “people are all about the wines, the terroir and connection.”
Image credit: John Gollings
Mount Majura Vineyard
Image credit: Kara Rosenlund
Sitting on one of the finest blocks of soil in the region – some have compared it to Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or – Mount Majura is a Canberra legend and technically the only winery located in the ACT itself rather than the outskirts of NSW. Famous for tempranillo, the cellar door is open daily for tastings.
A peaceful hideaway at the end of a bush road, this tiny cellar door near Murrumbateman is worth the effort to find. There are several experiences to choose from but the pick is the Winemakers’ Tale, a tour that explores the sustainable, low-intervention vision shared by winemaker Fiona Wholohan and farmer Neil McGregor.
A Hunter Valley-based label, Gundog makes plenty of wines using Canberra fruit and serves its range inside a cosy former stables in Gundaroo, about 30 minutes north of the capital’s CBD. Pull up a stool, order the pot pie of the day from next door’s Grazing restaurant and don’t forget to take home a jar of the pinot puttanesca sauce for later.
The Canberra Distillery
Stop everything. These guys make a bright pink liqueur that tastes just like an old-school musk lolly. “Australians love it,” says manager India Brown, laughing. “Americans aren’t so sure.” It’s gimmicky but also wonderfully, playfully nostalgic. You can taste it, along with a range of classic gins, at the distillery’s Mitchell HQ, about 15 minutes from the city centre.
Nick O’Leary is one of the most recognisable names in these parts and now he’s augmented his much-loved riesling and shiraz with a sleek, vine-side restaurant in Wallaroo, about half an hour from Canberra. Chef Matt Fely can transform even a ubiquitous burrata or crudo into something inventive. Perhaps surprisingly for a winery restaurant, cocktails such as the savoury-sweet It’s Go Thyme are a big drawcard, too.
Is there anything more snug on a frosty winter’s day than a wedge of lasagne enjoyed next to a roaring wood fire? That’s what you can expect at this delightful Italian restaurant at Lark Hill Winery on Canberra’s north-eastern outskirts. Visiting in the warmer months? The doors open out to the patio, where you can enjoy views of the vines in full foliage.
Such and Such
The team from adored fine-diner Pilot has opened a rambunctious, joy-filled small-plates eatery in the middle of the city, filled with bright colour and an even brighter welcome. The Sri Lankan-spiced school prawns have become an immediate crowd favourite, while the blue-eye with acqua pazza (“crazy water”) looks demure but packs a wallop.
Woodfired meat stars at this Braddon eatery but the huge – and mainly low-intervention – wine list waves energetically from the wings. Whether you order the pork belly, roast chicken or grilled eggplant, always ask for the exceptional housemade hot sauce on the side.
It may be a bit out of the way from the hustle of the city centre but this Barton hotel makes up for its relative seclusion with views of the spire on top of Parliament House (and as any local will tell you, you’re never more than a 10-minute drive from anything in Canberra). Rooms and suites are sleek and functional, while the lure of the Realm Precinct restaurants, including Lilotang, Louis Dining and the pub-style Ostani Bar, is strong.
Image credit: Lean-timms (Mount Majura Vineyard), Yarrh Wines, The Canberra Distillery