Canberra Region Wine Harvest Festival 2013

17 Apr

It’s another gorgeous April day in Canberra, and we’re on the road heading north to Murrumbateman for the Canberra Region Wine Harvest Festival. I haven’t told long suffering (chauffeur) Boyfriend yet that I think we can fit in five wineries in four hours, but that’s the goal.

Part of the strategy – okay, the whole strategy – is to start with the furthest winery and work back towards Canberra. The festival map tells me the furthest winery is Yarrh Wines, and so we lock it in (and it’s not actually that far).

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We arrive to some simply stunning grounds, live music and a great building with significant wood panelling trim.

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Part of the vast outdoor area - live music in the corner, and doors to the kitchen and wine tasting thrown open

Part of the vast outdoor area – live music in the corner, and doors to the kitchen and wine tasting thrown open

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It’s busy – and it could be because they’re serving food. We enjoy the wine tasting – particulalrly the 2011 pinot noir and the 2011 late harvest sauvignon blanc.

The beautiful long bar is made from jarrah and ash

The beautiful long bar is made from jarrah and ash

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The way they’re running the food is impeccable. ‘Tickets’ are bought at the bar, and then we take the tickets to the kitchen with our order. There’s just a few mains available but they’re appetising (chicken, lamb or mushroom stuffed vine leaves), and for $25 a serve they come with a glass of wine our our choice. Boyfriend orders the chicken and I something off the mains menu (labne served with rose for $10), and they’ve served straight away.

Labne with delicious rose

Labne with delicious rose (nice big glass!)

Chicken

Chicken

The lunch is delicious, although I’m concerned that we’re already behind our strict schedule. But, we’re not done yet. The festival map has mentioned Yarrh wines has grape stomping and, well, I want to get my.. feet dirty?

They’ve set up a half barrel further into the winery, and the instructions are pretty simple: take off our shoes, wash our feet (!), hop into the barrel and start stomping.

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Boyfriend's turn

Boyfriend’s turn

Boyfriend did a good job stomping his grapes, so I get a few more bunches

Boyfriend did a good job stomping his grapes, so I get a few more bunches

If I look like I'm having fun, it's because I am :)

If I look like I’m having fun, it’s because I am 🙂

Stomping grapes is surprisingly effective. By the time I hop in, there’s a lot of liquid, and it doesn’t take much for the grapes to be sufficiently stomped.

Unfortunately we have to head off! Our next stop is the famous Helm Wines, just down the road from Yarrh. Ken and Judith Helm started the winery in the 1970s, and two walls inside the old school house (Toual Public School) cellar door are lined with photos of Helm Wines in various fabulous locations around the world. We could spend a long time looking at them!

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Helm is known for its riesling, and varieties of it. We love the 2011 classic dry riesling, but it’s also a wine which is a little closer in our price range. Helm rarely does dessert wines, but in 2012 it produced a gorgeous botrytis. Ken’s a lovely host, sharing interesting facts about anything and everything, and plenty of German. Again, it’s hard to leave!

Ken Helm in the Toual School House cellar door at Helm Wines

Ken Helm in the Toual School House cellar door at Helm Wines

Next stop is Four Winds Vineyard. I’m really excited about this, because it’s their very first day open as a cellar door. Four Winds have been a mainstay at the Capital Regions Farmers Market (and I often purchase their well-priced riesling), and it’s a great opportunity to go out and see something which seems to have been in the making for a long time.

Four Winds is on the road past another popular winery, Clonakilla. We’re not really paying attention and manage to drive a little bit too far, but quickly work out where the winery is. It doesn’t disappoint.

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The building is light and airy, with high ceilings and plenty of glass letting the light stream in. It’s also absolutely packed, but it’s so big that there’s plenty of space for people to stand around and not feel crowded in.

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Our hosts do a great job of making us feel welcome and attended to. I expand my tastes a bit and particularly enjoy the Shiraz, 2012 rose and the dessert riesling. Yum!

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I've been told the bar will be upgraded!

I’ve been told the bar will be upgraded!

Boyfriend also enjoys a well-made coffee and brownie, before we dash off to our next location, which is…

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… Jeir Creek! Jeir Creek did a pretty fine job of introducing me to Canberra wineries, with their delicious and well priced riesling. We arrive just as other patrons head off on a winery tour, but we’re there to taste the wines. This time, we enjoy the sparkling shiraz (Boyfriend’s on a bit of a craze) and the Cabernet Rose.

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We don’t stay there as long as we like because we still have a fifth winery to do! Barton Estate has been on my mind, and it’s got a few streamers up. It’s ‘often’ open on Saturdays and Sundays, which translates as not all the time, but you can tell if they’ve got the paraphernalia out the front. Their cellar door is set in a huge woolshed.

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The husband and wife hosts are relaxed, genuine and generous with their time and wisdom, and have a good sense of humour.

Some of their wines are named after family members: the Riley riesling, the Georgia Shiraz, and the Elva late picked riesling. We like and purchase the Elva 2008, Georgia 2006 and the 2003 Cabernet Merlot. Barton Estate also has the only Petit Verdot in the Canberra region.

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At one point, things take a bit of a surreal turn when a huge zucchini emerges.

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It’s a monster!

It’s a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere here, even though people keep turning up even when things should be closing at 5. As our last winery, this suits us just fine.

Full range of Barton Estate wines

Full range of Barton Estate wines

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Date: Saturday, 6 April (also held on Sunday, 7 April)

Cost: Free to visit wineries, and various costs for wines, ranging from $18ish to $35+

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Visit the Canberra Wines page (and all links to the Canberra wineries above take you to their home pages). I also attended the festival (including different wineries) in 2012.

 

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19 Responses to “Canberra Region Wine Harvest Festival 2013”

  1. Gary Lum April 18, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Great post T1 and nice photos 🙂

    • inthetaratory April 18, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Thanks Gaz 🙂 food featured in this post!

      • Alan Kerlin April 24, 2013 at 12:26 am #

        I saw the pic of the legs “above the fold” and thought “geez Tara you’ve let yourself go…” Glad you clarified that those hairy things belonged to boyfriend! 🙂

  2. Bells April 19, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I so wish we’d gone to this. Next year. But yes ere are die great wineries locally – ill never forget the weekend we decided to go local (we always seem to visit wineries far from home) and discovered some places that have become firm favourites. Affleck’s and Lark Hill spring to mind. Often I buy that Riesling at the markets too. It’s become almost a Saturday ritual!
    Ps love the pic of you stomping grapes!

    • inthetaratory April 19, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      It really is great to travel less than 30 minutes and have a whole range of wineries to choose from. Plenty more festivals this year, I’m sure. What are some of your favourite wineries from further away?

      • Helen April 19, 2013 at 9:12 am #

        we had our honeymoon in the Hunter and loved lots of the smaller places but most of our favourite wineries are in and around Rutherglen. We’ve been there many times and love especially places like Pfeiffer, Pizzini and Chrismont. Pizzini shows up on menus around Canberra sometimes – it’s lovely!

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