There are many things that I love about Canberra, including its proximity to major cities, beaches, the bushland, picturesque mountains and gorgeous landscapes. Within 20 mins your can find yourself in New South Wales and within several hours you can even find yourself in Victoria.
Eat Canberra was invited to the Tastes of Rutherglen Food & Wine Festival in March so we hit the road and sampled some of the delicious food and wine on offer at some of the many amazing wineries in the region. It’s Aussie Wine Month this month so we thought that now would be the perfect time to share our experience with you.
Now I have to admit, I actually had no idea that in less than four hours you can find yourself in one of Victoria’s best wine regions, Rutherglen. We were only able to stay for two nights because we had to fly to Hamilton Island early on the Sunday morning. So we drove down on a Friday morning and it was still a great trip. It’s close enough that you can go for two nights and be satisfied, but three nights would be ideal. The festival is held on one of Canberra’s long weekends so it’s a perfect long weekend away.
After a quick trip on the road we found ourselves at the Rutherglen Visitor Centre where we picked up our admission tickets, shuttle bus tickets and regional bus tickets. When you pick up your tickets you are also given a wine glass each with a wine glass bag (so handy) that you take with you to sample the wines at each of the wineries you visit throughout the festival.
With our tickets and wine glasses in hand ready for the progressive feast that would showcase the region’s best produce and wine, we decided to check out the quaint town of Rutherglen. Most of the shop fronts on the main street of Rutherglen have retained the same look they had a century ago. We checked out the old-fashioned lolly shop then stopped in at the Victoria Hotel to cool down with a cold beer. There’s also some beautiful walking and riding tracks near the old railway line and a big wine bottle that you can easily walk to from the town centre.
Before checking in at our accommodation in Wodonga we had dinner at the trendy Thousand Pound Wine Bar. You can sit out the front on the little stools, pull up a seat at the bar, sit on one of the long tables in the main dining space or if you’re lucky, like we were, you can sit in the hidden lane area. We sipped on All Saints Estate red wine and started with some tasty house made croquettes. The menu is small but satisfying and Thousand Pound are known for their steaks that are grilled over charcoal, served with fries, salad and your choice of either Montpellier butter, red wine sauce or rosemary, anchovy and lemon butter. I went with the popular hanger steak and Mr Eat Canberra chose the Petite Tender – 200grm Rangers Valley, NSW, Black Angus, 270 day grain fed, MBS 3+.
After dinner we drove to our gorgeous Art Deco B&B in Wodonga and were warmly welcomed by our hosts Julie and Ron who instantly made us feel at home. There are two guest rooms and the entire front section of the house is for guests. The owners live in the back section and the kitchen is shared but the doors can be closed so it’s very private. Ron and Julie are so passionate about art deco and have worked hard to restore their beautiful home. Julie had made overnight oats and there was a large selection of fresh fruit, yoghurt, toast, donuts and lots more available for breakfast. They also have a pod coffee machine! We stayed in the beautiful Flamingo Room that was large and very comfortable.
The regional bus can pick you up from various locations, including Wodonga, so if you don’t want to stay in Rutherglen you don’t have to. However there is lots of accommodation available in Rutherglen but just make sure you book early.
We got up on Saturday morning, had our breakfast at the B&B and set off to taste Rutherglen! We arrived at the Visitors Centre (where the shuttle buses leave from) just after 10:30am so we caught the next bus at 11am. There are three bus routes that each have 6-7 stops at different wineries. Having only one day to fit in as many wineries as we could, we decided to try and go on two different routes and stop at 2-3 wineries on each route. If you stay for the entire two days then you would have enough time to stop at each of the wineries on the three routes. The buses are scheduled to leave every 30mins from each winery and it’s a fantastic way to get around to each of the wineries without having to drive. If some of the wineries are too busy then you can stay on the bus and get off at the next stop. It’s really up to you how you plan your day!
Each of the wineries offer a dish or two with a matching wine and they also have wine tastings available. There are lots of sparkling reds and Muscat available in the region so make sure you try some!
Of course, we chose the wineries according to the food they were serving. Some of them do sell out of food towards the end of the day so I would highly recommend stopping at the wineries you want to eat at first.
The last buses return to the Visitor Centre between 4-5pm and the regional bus that goes to surrounding areas leaves at 5pm. However the celebration of wine and food doesn’t stop there! In the evenings there are lots of special events to choose from. You can dine in the vineyards under the stars, attend dinners matched with wines or go along to festival-style events with live music, food and drinks on the lawns that the whole family can enjoy.
We stopped in at Buller Wines for A Night On the Red where hundreds of people of all ages had gathered on camping chairs and picnic blankets enjoying food and drink while listening to the live band.
If you’re a food and wine lover then add the Tastes of Rutherglen Food &Wine Festival to your list! If you can’t wait until the next festival then plan your own weekend away and go there for the weekend to explore the region with family and friends. The wineries are close enough that you could plan a few stops with you designated driver on hand and enjoy the best produce and wine that the region has to offer.
Eat Canberra was a guest at the Art Deco B&B in Wodonga and received complimentary tickets to the Tastes of Rutherglen Food & Wine Festival. The festival will be held on 10th and 11th March 2018. See the website for more information.