Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival

17 Apr

This past Sunday was a spectacular day, and after enjoying the beautiful cars set against the gorgeous backdrop at Auto Italia 2012, we didn’t want to miss the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival, so we hurried onto the Barton Highway and set off towards Murrumbateman.

The Wine Harvest Festival brochure promoted 24 wineries in the region, but strangely local favourite Poachers Pantry (which T2 recently visited) was missing. Of course, with 24 wineries and with only three hours available to us before their advertised closing time (5pm), there was plenty to keep us busy. The most difficult part was choosing exactly which ones we wanted to go to!

Our first choice was one of the most obvious, I think: Shaw Vineyard. Home to the well known Flint in the Vines, we figured it would be a great place to start. On arrival I was truly shocked at the huge amount of cars, and then, people! The restaurant was quite clearly fully booked out, and the lawns were littered with happy picnickers. Undeterred, we stepped around the musicians at the restaurant (it was a classy affair!) and went inside to sample the wines. The cellar door was lined up with people, and the staff – and the cash register! – were tied up: so much so that we weren’t served for some time. Once we were, though, the staff were extremely apologetic and promptly served us our tasters.

Surprisingly, I was really disappointed with the Shaw Vineyard wines. I didn’t take any notes, but the flavours just didn’t sit right with me. Plus, the experience was a bit offputting – as friendly as the staff were, the huge numbers of people was rather daunting. We figured our time was better spent elsewhere.

To that end, we set off just a few kilometres down the road (and the other side of the highway) to Clonakilla wines. I see Clonakilla wines advertised quite prominently in the Canberra bottleos, but hadn’t tried it before. In comparison to Shaw, there was just a car or two in the parking lot and we at first wondered if they were shut. Our fears were unfounded, and we were welcomed into a much cosier little cellar door, with big wine barrels on display. It was here that we made our first purchase following a tasting, taking two bottles of Shiraz ($25 each) and the 2011 Auslese Riesling (a dessert wine heftily priced at $30… but too good to pass up).

On the same road was Dionysus winery, which promised some arvo tunes and a bit of a menu. The location was just perfect, in my opinion. A little cellar door had an outdoor seating area, and Chris Johnson was playing some beautiful tunes on his acoustic guitar. The sun was glinting off the vines and the colours in the sky were sharp. And, you know someone’s good when everyone in the outdoor area has finished eating and drinking, but they’re still all sitting there facing the musician – and even singing along. We enjoyed pies and salad (again heftily priced at $12 each) (though my beef and shiraz pie was very dry, unfortunately), together with a glass of wine. Chris was due to finish by 3pm, but was still playing and promising his ‘last song’ when we left at 3.30pm – much to the delight of the still packed outdoor area. We purchased a bottle of Riesling from here.

After reviewing the Eden Road 2009 shiraz ‘The Seedling’, I was rather keen to head on down to Eden Road wineries. It was a short drive from the other wineries back towards Canberra, and we got there just before 4pm. The drive into the property is akin to the drive into Poachers Pantry, with beautiful trees lining either side of the driveway. It’s also at this time that my camera died, so no more photos. The Eden Road building is a huge rather empty building, with floor to ceiling windows almost all the way across (I’m not surprised – I’d want to fully enjoy such a beautiful property, too!). However, there were still plenty of people. ‘The Seedling’ wasn’t available to sample, but we were straight up offered the full testing menu, with the wines lined up in front of us. While we didn’t want to try the chardonnay (none of us is a fan), we were convinced with the spiel – but it was still disappointing (ie if you really don’t like chardonnay, don’t let them convince you otherwise!). I think this winery probably put in the most effort into explaining exactly where the wines came from (x% from Gundagai, x% from Hilltop region) and the process involved – pretty impressive considering it was late in the day after two full days of festival activity. However, I felt they were more preachy rather than interactive. I commented that I’d enjoyed both the 2010 and 2009 Seedling shiraz, but it felt like they were disappointed when I said that – the wines apparently just come from the wine grape rather than a mixture of percentages from different regions. Regardless, I stood by my unsophisticated palate and purchased two bottles of the 2010 shiraz (a bargain at $15 a bottle) because, frankly, I didn’t really like any of the other wines we tasted.

Tasting the many wines at Eden Road ate quite a bit into our last hour, but I was adamant that we could fit into two more wineries heading back into Canberra. We made it to Gallagher wines which had advertised that we could sample the cheeses, but instead we were offered white chocolate cupcakes! As delicious as they were (and I can confirm they were great because I had quite a few to make sure), I’m not sure how well they worked with the wines.

We left just before 5pm, but I wagered that Surveyor’s Hill winery might let us in if we pulled puppy dog eyes. To my delight, they were still entertaining a large group of people inside (and a handful of people outside) and we were welcomed inside. In The Taratory was recognised by some fellow wine lovers (*waves*!) and the great outside views of Surveyor’s Hill loaned themselves to a friendly vibe inside the rustically decorated cellar door. The dessert wine and the port were gorgeous (yup, we bought a lot of wine that day) and the sharing platters advertised in the menu looked very tempting (though we’d run out of time). We agreed that it was our favourite winery that day – due to its proximity to Canberra and the fact that their wines are not sold elsewhere, we’ll definitely be visiting again.

Six wineries in three hours – not bad!

In sum:
Shaw Vineyard: If you can possibly be too successful, this is the best example
Clonakilla: Lovely winery, but even better in that it’s on the way to Dionysus
Dionysus: Great setting, friendly staff, reasonable prices (wines, not food)
Eden Road: Professional outfit, try The Seedling (even if they don’t recommend it!)
Gallagher: Great views to the Brindabellas, but I’m not in a rush to go back
Surveyor’s Hill: Unassuming, welcoming, great tasting wines (particularly the after-dinner wines) and beautiful views

View at Dionysus Winery

Attendees: T1 and friends

Cost: Tasting is generally free (it was at every winery we went to), but our wallets all took a hit!

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? http://www.canberrawines.com.au/pdfs/2012-Harvest-Festival-Broch.pdf (While it’s all about the festival which is now over, it’s got all the addresses for most of the Canberra region’s wineries in one place!)

Chris Johnson - great singer, great value

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10 Responses to “Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival”

  1. Gary Lum April 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I wish my lover would let me drink wine. It would be so much fun to do these sorts of things.

  2. inthetaratory April 18, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    you do mean liver, not lover, don’t you gary? πŸ˜‰

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