Smoked duck and pinot noir at Poacher’s Pantry
By Katrina Holden
A recent visit to the Canberra Wine District revealed what a beautiful region it is and the exciting cool-climate wine styles that are being made there.
Longer established producers such as Helm Wines and Clonakilla have long been regarded for their winemaking excellence. Today though, it’s exciting to see newer producers also gain their place in the sun – wineries such as Eden Road, Collector Wines, Nick O’Leary, Mount Majura, Capital Wines and Lark Hill – gaining deserved recognition for their riesling, chardonnay, shiraz, pinot noir, tempranillo and gruner veltliner wine styles.
Italian ceramics at the Shaw Vineyard Estate cellar door
As a region to visit, it’s rather straightforward to navigate ones way around and the vineyards are also a comfortable and close drive from the Canberra CBD – meaning if you’re in the capital to take in a show, festival or visit one of the national galleries or museums, then you really have no excuse to not squeeze in some wine-sipping time at local cellar doors. It would be rude not to!
There’s a number of great dining spots too to complete the experience. The ‘Flint in the Vines’ restaurant at Shaw Vineyard Estate is a cosy spot – overlooking the vineyards and with a relaxed atmosphere. You can also enjoy a tasting at cellar door with the Shaw family, trying their award winning cabernet or riesling. They also have the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere of authentic Italian ceramics for sale.
Poacher’s Pantry is a beautiful, romantic and rustic venue to dine - founded by Susan and Robert Bruce and now run by their children Katie Crook and Will Bruce. Susan Bruce, with English heritage, had been a stockbroker and businesswoman in Sydney. Her and her husband Bruce came across the farm where Poacher’s is located and wanted to make it work as a business. Susan’s brother, a chef, over for a visit from England, noted there were no smoked meats available for chefs. So in 1991, Susan and Bruce started up Poacher’s Pantry specialising in smoked meats for the trade. After a challenging start – where their biggest customer was Ansett, daughter Katie said mum learned, “not to put all her eggs in one basket” and so the business expanded to eventually include the restaurant. With sprawling grounds and garden sculptures, the site is a popular spot for weddings.
Poacher’s Pantry also sell a range of wines under their Wily Trout label – with the wines made under contract by award-winning winemaker at Eden Road, Nick Spencer.
Sculptures in the gardens at Poacher’s Pantry
Meanwhile Grazing restaurant at Capital Wines has been running now for ten years and boasts the first urban cellar door licence in the state. The enterprising Jennie Mooney and husband Mark brought the historic Royal Hotel Gundaroo site in 2003, where the Grazing restaurant now trades, in 2003, overseeing six months of restorations. The award-winning Grazing is run by chef Kurt Neumann and his wife Tanya, who serve dishes with thoughtful and stunning aesthetic appeal. There are lots of Capital Wines to try (including their merlot for which they’ve built a strong following) whilst either dining at Grazing or at the cellar door itself – there’s also a more casual café located on site which Jennie and Mark run.
Fine food can be found at Grazing at Capital Wines
Over at Lark Hill, you’ll find the stylish and lively Sue Carpenter and husband Dave who founded their winery in 1978. The former mathematicians have worked hard to build their certified organic vineyard and winery – and son Chris is also now involved in the business. With a restaurant that overlooks a magical view from the deck, you can try their fresh and lively wines including the wine they are perhaps best known for – Gruner Veltliner – an Austrian variety that is said to be one of the world’s most versatile food-pairing wines.
Me with Dave (left) and Chris Carpenter in front of the Gruner Veltliner vines at Lark Hill
Lerida Estate also has a homely and cosy café where you can kick back and take in the sweeping views. Owned and established by husband and wife team Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine in 1997, the pair have a commitment to developing the finest pinot noir possible. Indeed their flagship pinot noir, the Josephine, is named after Anne herself – Josephine being her first name. The winery also plays host to a number of events and festivals throughout the year and with Anne being a mad-keen baker, the cakes are so worth a nibble for any self-respecting sweet tooth.
Newly opened cellar door at Four Winds Vineyard is also worth a visit – with a wood-fired pizza oven, room for the kids to run wild and sustainable design elements, it’s a relaxing spot to try winemakers Bill and Jaime Crowe’s riesling and sangiovese (among others) – and they whip up a pretty decent coffee too. In November, they were awarded winners of the Visitor Experience Award at the Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards.
Also worth the visit for its wines Mount Majura, where you can try their 100 per cent Estate made wines by Frank van de Loo - go for the Silurian Sparkling, riesling, TSG, shiraz or the wine on which they’ve built a firm reputation, their tempranillo.
For more information or to plan your visit, head to Canberra District Wine.
For a full gallery of images from my visit too, view the album here.