Dusk Masthead

An edible weekend in Rutherglen

Beatrice Smith

As Bridget Jones would attest, there’s nothing better than a “full blown mini-break”.

Here in Australia, where there are slightly less castles-turned-hotels and lakes with rowboats, it’s all about the foodie mini-break, and I am a devotee like no other.

Minibreak!

HerCanberra are the first to stand up for Canberra’s restaurant scene, however, there’s nothing quite like discovering food and wine on holiday. Even years later, the taste of a holiday favourite can transport you far away.

You may remember a little while ago we published an article recommending Canberrans consider Rutherglen as the perfect end of summer destination. I can now say from personal experience that the region’s charms extend beyond the warmer months.

After a generous invite from Tourism North East to explore the region, we arrived in Rutherglen on a Friday night, just as the sun was setting over the quaint main street. The drive is an easy four hours from Canberra, so we left around 1pm to arrive in time for dinner.

Our accommodation turned out to be a gorgeous heritage listed B&B that used to be the Doctor’s house and practice – Carlyle House. Carlyle House is run by the warm and welcoming Anthony and Sharyn Holmes who showed us to our suite – the decadent Tokay room.

Carlyle House

Carlyle House

With a generous sitting room, bedroom and ensuite in lovely dove blue, it was the perfect room for a romantic foodie weekend away.

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The Tokay Room

Our first stop after unpacking and freshening up was literally a two minute walk away along the main street at Thousand Pound Wine Bar.

Thousand Pound is exactly what you would want your neighbourhood wine bar to be. A big room that almost feels like a wine cellar, with bottles from every vineyard in the region along one wall (as well as some particular amazing selections from around Australia and the world) with rustic furniture, minimalist decoration and a really warm atmosphere.

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Owner Eliza Brown greeted us upon arrival, serving us a glass of one of the best reds I’ve ever had from behind the bar. Turns out it’s a Cabernet Franc from nearby St.Leonards Vineyard which Eliza runs with her siblings Nick and Angela. The Brown siblings also run All Saints Estate, but more about that later.

A delicious Cabernet Franc might seem odd to wine enthusiasts, as Eliza explained that Cabernet Franc is usually mixed with other grape varietals to make more common blends, but the Franc was one of the many unique (and delicious) regional specialities we were to taste that weekend.

For a little pre-dinner nibble, we chose from a selection of MoVida’s ‘Spanish things in tins’, which turned out to be amazing baby calamari, served with fresh bread, pickled chillis and garlic and local olive oil.

Eliza says she started Thousand Pound with her husband, Melbourne restauranteur Denis Lucey, after they realised their region lacked a place where visitors could taste wine from every vineyard.

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Before we left for our dinner reservation, Eliza introduced us to her brother Nick – chief winemaker at All Saints – who just happened to be enjoying a cold after-work glass of wine with friends behind us. I got the feeling you could run into anyone at Thousand Pound, from the chic Melbourne wine enthusiasts up the bar from us to the vintners themselves.

Our dinner reservation was just down the main street at Taste at Rutherglen, a chameleon of a restaurant that does a roaring brunch trade by day and morphs into a fine dining degustation restaurant by night. Classically French trained Chef Gavin Swalwell and partner Fiona Myers have created a space that is both comfortable and chic. Due to the expansive floor space of the restaurant, the atmosphere was perfect for a romantic dinner but I also saw large tables celebrating birthdays in separate rooms and alcoves.

We went for the tasting menu with matching wines, which was a sumptuous eight courses of dishes like Seared Tasmanian scallops with champagne creamed leeks and Yarra Valley salmon roe and House made gnocchi with shaved truffle pecorino, Wooragee mushrooms and peas.

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Taste at Rutherglen is also home to the Rutherglen Brewery, which I’m saving for my next visit.

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We were up early the next day in anticipation for the main event of our trip, The Tweed Ride! If you haven’t heard of it before, picture 100 or so people dressed in their finest vintage and tweed, riding across the countryside on push bikes from one vineyard to another. Sounds like heaven? Then you better get yourself there in 2017.

After a light breakfast on the terrace at Carlyle House, we met the rest of The Tweed Ride at the Rutherglen Visitors Centre at 10am and I spent the next few minutes having a really good sticky beak at what everyone else was wearing. From head-to-toe vintage to matching outfits, vintage frocks and riding gear, no one had shied away from dressing up.

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There was also a fantastic assortment of bikes, from elegant vintage affairs to Phineaus the pug’s very own bike trailer!

Image via @phineaspug

Image via @phineaspug

We were given bikes from Cycle Station Albury which were nifty little Bromptons – the Rolls Royce of folding bikes. This may sound like an oxymoron but trust me, they were super comfortable and very speedy.

So off we set off along the famous ‘rail trail’ to Wicked Virgin, a boutique winery and olive grove where breakfast awaited.

Image via Instagram @georgie_james_photo

Image via Instagram @georgie_james_photo

Here in the morning sun, we feasted on homemade scones, vegetable frittata and, of course, some delicious Wicked Virgin olive oil and Calico sparkling shiraz.

Our next stop was downhill and through town to the Rutherglen Fairway to where three long tables stood ready for a long, long lunch.

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Ring toss, noughts and crosses and even some vintage golf kept us entertained until the food was served Pickled Sisters. Lunch was a french-inspired sharing affair, with huge plates of roast potatoes, poached salmon, baked camembert and salads paired with wines like James and Co Sangiovese Cabernet and Morris Wine‘s Durif.

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Our final stop, after a few rounds of golf to see if anyone could hit a hole in one (spoiler alert: they couldn’t), we headed up the Fairway and over the hill to Scion Winery as the sun began to sink into the horizon.

On arrival, a harvest feast lay before us, encompassing every cheese variety imaginable as well as nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and most importantly, our final wine for the day – Scion Rowly’s Muscat, straight from the barrel.

After a leisurely ride back to the Visitor’s Centre we said goodbye to our new friends and our Bromptons (and Phineaus) and walked slowly back up the main street to Carlyle House.

After a quick nap (don’t judge me), we got ready for dinner at the Terrace Restaurant at All Saints Estate.

The entrance to All Saints Estate

The entrance to All Saints Estate

Our meeting of Eliza and Nick the night before had only increased the anticipation I had felt upon Googling ‘All Saints Estate’ before my trip and seeing the castle for the first time.

Yes, the castle.

AllSaints via their FB

Built in 1864 by Scottish engineers, the extensive property is now owned by Eliza and Nick’s family and is a hive of activity. The hatted Terrace restaurant is just one of the facets of All Saints, which includes Indigo Food Co., a ‘fine provincial produce’ shop, a cellar door and the capacity to host events like weddings, which Nick informed us is booked well into 2018.

After being picked up from Carlyle House by the effervescent Julia in Terrace’s complimentary chauffeur service, we arrived through a tree lined avenue to Terrace Restaurant.

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I have no qualms in saying that the three course meal that followed was one of the best of my life.

After a entree of beautifully soft handmade rabbit ravioli with black pudding, quail egg and pureed parsnip, there came what can only be described as the Ryan Gosling of main courses. A beautiful cut of local Angus beef laid on a bed of red wine sauce and creamy parsnip with perfectly roasted fondant potatoes, a zingy pop of salad and a generous serve of garlic confit.

The meal encompassed everything delicious about paddock-to-plate methodology and was a testament to the talents of chef Simon Arkless.

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The meal finished (too soon) with a gorgeously rich hot chocolate fondant with pear poached in muscat and homemade caramel ice cream. As Julia collected us from Terrace for the drive home (an absolutely fantastic option that allowed us to enjoy the wines paired with the meal) I vowed to return the next day to see the grounds in full effect.

The next day was Sunday, however, and that called for a heart Sunday brunch. After farewelling Sharyn and Anthony at Carlyle House, out we drove through the vines to Wahgunyah to have breakfast at Pickled Sisters, the same cafe that had catered the Tweed Ride the day before.

After a gorgeous bunch of ‘Blue Ox’ blueberry French Toast with mascarpone (and a small shop through their curated selection of candles, tableware and homemade preserves) we headed just down the road to Pfeiffer Wines, where we found Sales and Marketing Manager Kylie Barton out on their famous bridge, looking for the resident platypus.

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The bridge has a stunning view of Lake Moodemere and becomes packed on the infamous Winery Walkabout weekend in early June when young visitors flock to the property to sample Pfeiffer’s expansive selection of wines.

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Indeed, Pfeiffer has almost every varietal under the sun being created in their vineyard. Coming from a healthy appreciation of Canberra region wines, it was almost startling to see everything from Australian sparkling to topaque to Shiraz to Riesling at the same cellar door. Kylie informed us that Pfeiffer is one of the only wineries in Australia to be able to produce such a range.

After a generous tasting of almost all of Pfeiffer’s offerings, we set off with a glossy six pack…of more wine.

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Before we headed home though, I knew I had to see the gardens of All Saints in the daylight. I wasn’t disappointed.

AllSaints_via their FB

We finished off our stay in Rutherglen with an Indigo Food Co. antipasto platter (with some extra cheese for good measure) on the lawns of All Saints, overlooking the vineyard in the autumn sun. It was the perfect meal to summarise my first trip to the region – delicious, decadent, and with an amazing view.

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If you’d like to visit Rutherglen, you can find out more here: www.rutherglenvic.com and here: www.tourismnortheast.com.au.

The Tweed Ride is held in mid-May and the Winery Walkabout is held in early June. All restaurants and cafes mentioned are open through winter and all wineries have cellar doors most days of the week.

Want to get a taste of Rutherglen right here in Canberra? Pop along to Taste of Two Regions at Pialligo Estate on 28 August!

The author stayed as a guest of North East Tourism Victoria and the Rutherglen Wine Experience. 

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people – sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies.

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