MEJ Masthead

Canberra Wine Region Tastings: Barton Estate

Elouise Calabria

Canberra wines just seem to get better and better and while most aficionados would have heard of Clonakilla or Helm, there are plenty of other wineries in the district producing top notch tipples . Over the next few months, I’ll work my way through our local cellar doors (what a hassle!) and hopefully you’ll discover some new and wonderful wines.

Barton Estate

Cellar doors come in all shapes and sizes and part of the joy of exploring a wine region, apart from the copious amounts of wine of course, is the colourful and charming assortment of growers, winemakers and cellar door staff we get to meet.

I love visiting Barton Estate for its simplicity and honesty. There is no glossy tasting room at this cellar door but owners Julie Chitty and Bob Furbank are so welcoming, knowledgeable and down to earth that this place just oozes warmth. The wines are pretty tasty too!

Bob and Julie both have a background in plant biology and as a result, they grow a few grape varieties not seen often in Canberra such as Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Julie says that for her producing wine is “where art meets science and one of those rare careers where you can watch your passion grow into a product which sells itself, if you are good at your job!”

Julie was kind enough to give me the inside scoop on running a vineyard and cellar door and offered a few tips regarding what to drink over the next few months.

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Elouise: What’s happening in the vineyard right now?

“Budburst, definitely. It’s a beautiful time of the year in the vineyard. Vines are similar to deciduous trees where they lose all their leaves in Autumn and lie dormant over the Winter.”

Then comes Spring, and with the warmer temperatures the dormant buds burst into life creating a sea of pale green leaves.  Spring is a really important time for us to get ourselves set up early for the growing season with a program designed to maximise the health of the vines while minimising the use of chemicals; we use a lot of seaweed fertiliser from now on and carefully watch the weather! (Author’s note: A late frost can be devastating during budburst as it can damage and even destroy whole crops of grapes).”

What’s your favourite part of running a vineyard/winery?

“There are a few: observing/admiring the vineyard every time I drive past it, whatever time of the year. Being in the country again (I grew up on a farm in WA) and having my kids grow up in the fresh air. I love that they take some interest in our endeavours – they are 9 and 13 and they each have their own specific interests in various aspects of the business.

“I also enjoy managing many facets of a vertically integrated business ie from growing the very best grapes to exploring the science of winemaking to enjoying the energy of sales and meeting people at the cellar door.”

What’s your least favourite?

“Managing those many challenging facets of a vertically integrated business ie from viticulture (the vagaries of the weather which plague all farmers) to winemaking (making sure we maintain super premium wine quality year in and out) to sales on those “challenging” days! Also not getting out into the vineyard enough because I am stuck in the office dealing with the apparently necessary and escalating paper work.”

If you weren’t running the vineyard/winery, what would be your dream job?

“Can’t remember! Bob dreams of drinking coffee leisurely by the sea as he reads the paper on a Sunday morning… but I say ‘we’ve been there, done that!'”

Which wine were you happiest with from the 2015 vintage?

“We have only bottled the whites and Rose- the reds are still developing beautifully in barrel.  We believe that our first ever Shiraz Viognier blend is shaping up to be fantastic. We are so happy with our Riley’s Riesling – it is bursting with intense citrus characters and the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend is crisp and clean. Our unusual Rose blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc we think is just exquisite with a bouquet of perfumed rose petals and a strawberry and musk palate.”

What’s your ideal food/wine match for Christmas?

“From our wines, definitely start with a glass of our sparkling 2013 Blanc de Blancs- perfect for pre-meal drinks, fresh natural oysters or smoked salmon nibble things.

“Our dessert wine drinks nicely with Christmas pudding, and what we are really anticipating is our first Sparkling red which we think will be the perfect match for Turkey, but sadly that won’t be until next Christmas. In the meantime I think we would settle for a glass of the 2012 Sangiovese.”

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As well as running the 20 acre vineyard, Bob and Julie also manage sheep, chase after their two children and look after a very energetic Dalmatian. The cellar door is wonderfully busy and I highly recommend a visit and a chat to Bob and Julie who are as generous with their time as they are with their wine!

Here’s a couple of reviews of Barton Estate wines to get you in the mood…

2015 Riley’s Riesling

This wine has a good balance of fruit and acidity and was recognised with a bronze medal at the Cool Climate Wine Show. I found lychee, pear and kaffir lime leaf on the nose, I love a good limey Riesling so this was a good start.

The first sip was pretty intense with big bold citrus flavours on the palate but it settled down with a swirl of the glass and the introduction of oxygen (an important step in wine tasting).

This is a lovely wine with plenty of length and at 11.5% alcohol, there is no need not to enjoy a second glass of two. Named after Bob and Julie’s 13-year-old son Riley, they also produce a wine called Georgia Shiraz (after 9-year-old Georgia) and you can quite often find the kids battling it out for sales at the cellar door!

2012 Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is one of the five grape varieties commonly used in classic Bordeaux wines. It’s a late maturing variety and as such can be difficult to ripen, especially in a cool climate.

Barton Estate are the only (at least to my knowledge!) vineyard in the Canberra Region to grow this variety and they certainly do it justice. On appearance, it could be mistaken for Pinot as it’s quite opaque in colour.

The nose is subtle with a hint of nutmeg and cherry. On the palate this wine is spicy and savoury which is what I love about cool climate wines, much more interesting than a simple fruit driven wine.

This wine has a lot going on and with soft tannins and a clean finish I think this wine would pair well with a number of dishes including roast chicken or a seafood risotto.

Previous review: Long Rail Gully Winery.

Feature image of ‘Sunset over vineyard‘ via Shutterstock.


Elouise Calabria

Elouise Calabria grew up on a vineyard in Griffith and, together with her husband Scott, recently begun Vines & Wines - a wine appreciation and tours business. You can contact Elouise at [email protected] or check out the website at More about the Author