New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published May 10th 2017
Scones, pizza & fine dining amongst the vines
The Canberra Wine District is conveniently located close to the city, with 33 wineries situated within 35 minutes of Canberra's CBD. The wine district is spread out over 60 kilometres of countryside, however if you start driving north in the direction of Hall and then follow the signs to the Wine District, you will find yourself with the most options in the one area. As you drive along the Barton Highway there are signs at every street corner, sending you down country roads to tucked away Cellar Doors and boutique wineries. Along the way if your stomach starts to grumble, it helps to know where you can have something delicious to eat - perhaps with a paired wine (or two!). Many places are only open on the weekends, so check with their websites before you visit.
One of the most popular places to eat is Poachers Pantry, at the entrance to the wine district at Hall. As well as wines to taste, there is also a Smoke House where you can buy quality smoked meats made on site or enjoy them at their award-winning Smokehouse Restaurant. The menu at this farmhouse restaurant includes fresh produce from their garden and their own smoked meats, presented as fresh contemporary Australian cuisine. See here for details and here for a Google map for directions.
Australian cuisine & country sophistication at Poachers Pantry. Image: Original photos supplied from Poachers Pantry Facebook
Another surprising eatery in the middle of the countryside is Robyn Rowe Chocolates, located less than 10 minutes from Poachers Pantry above. This small chocolatier is the perfect place to stop for morning or afternoon tea, to break up the wine tasting with something sweet. When you drive in, the small cafe and chocolate display room will entice you in, with a range of beautifully hand-crafted chocolates made on site. As well as their 26 chocolates to choose from, their menu includes real hot chocolate, coffee, tea and cold drinks. Sit inside to stay warm in winter or relax outside under the umbrellas and enjoy the country views. See here for details and here for a Google map for directions. For a full article on Robyn Rowe Chocolates, see here.
Back on the main Barton Highway, you will find the historic Murrumbateman Winery, which is one of the oldest wineries in the district. Step inside their rustic Cellar Door and taste a range of wines and then sit by the fireplace with a cheese or olive plate, or tuck into home-made scones with jam and cream. If you provide 24 hours notice, they can also supply a generous sharing plate with cold meats and savoury options. See here for details and here for a Google map for directions.
Just short drive away is also Four Winds Vineyard, where you will find cars lined up in their car park on weekends for wine tasting and woodfired pizzas (between 12pm - 3pm). This is a popular venue in the wine region for families and all ages to relax in the sun, or under their "hay barn" dining area. Sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or beer, with a choice of 3 wood-fired pizzas. See here for details and here for a Google map for directions. For a full article on Four Winds Vineyard, see here.
The historic and rustic Murrumbateman Winery. Image: Photos supplied from Murrumbateman Winery Facebook
If you would like to break up the wine tasting for awhile and visit a historical town from the 1800s, then take a 20 minute drive east from Four Winds Vineyard to the historical town of Gundaroo. Here you can find Grazing at Gundaroo fine dining restaurant, Cork Street Cafe and the Gundaroo Colonial Inn pub, which has been operating since 1872. See here for a Google map for directions. For a full article on the historical town of Gundaroo, see here.
Grazing at Gundaroo restaurant, inside the old Royal Hotel
As the Canberra Wine District is so extensive, it also includes wineries further east by the ancient Lake George, on the Federal Highway to Sydney. Although this ancient lake rarely fills with water, its grassy plateau is an unusual and spectacular sight for travellers as they drive down the highway. Sitting on a hill above the ancient lake is Lerida Estate Winery, with a Cellar Door and Cafe. This scenic cafe is only open on weekends and has a delicious breakfast and lunch menu to enjoy looking out to the view. On most Sunday afternoons, they also have live jazz and music. See here for details and here for a Google map for directions. For a full article on Cafe Lerida, see here.
Only a short drive down the road is Lake George Winery and Westering Restaurant, for a fine dining experience amongst the grape vines. As this venue is a popular wedding venue, it is advisable to book ahead - see here for details.
Further south and on the way back to Canberra, also stop in at Contentious Character Vineyard, Winery, Cellar Door and Kitchen for a wood fired pizza, beetroot risotto, slow roasted pork shoulder or cheese platter from their menu, paired with a riesling or pinot. They have a generous verandah in which to sit back and take in the view. See here for details and here for a Google Map for directions.
The Canberra Wine District may not be as well-known as the Barossa Valley in the south, or the Hunter Valley in the north, however it has a lot to offer the wine enthusiast. Half the fun is driving through the wine district following the paper map (provided at each venue) and picking wineries that appeal to you. If you don't have a designated driver, then why not book into a wine tour and let someone else do the driving. Then you can relax on a winery verandah and simply enjoy the Canberra Wine District, in style.
Relaxation with a view at Contentious Character. Image: Original photos supplied from Contentious Character Facebook