Just a few hours drive from Melbourne is a little country town with good wine, good food all in a beautiful landscape. I feel like I’ve stumbled across one of Victoria’s best kept secrets after being invited to spend a weekend away in Rutherglen.
I’ve been to the High Country before and loved my time in Bright, Beechworth and the King Valley but for some reason nearby Rutherglen was not on my radar. What a mistake to overlook this stunning part of the world with such a rich history. Here are my tips on where to eat and drink on a trip to Rutherglen:
Pickled Sisters Cafe
The Pickled Sisters is run by a husband and wife team rather than sisters and the emphasis here is on showcasing the best of the local produce at this relaxed cafe which adjoins the Cofield cellar door. We feasted on the vineyard platter ($45 for two – although this could easily feed four) which features a chunky Milawa chicken terrine, smooth and savoury muscat and chicken liver pate, folds of smoked trout, local olives and spicy salami alongside the Pickled Sister’s excellent house baked bread. This is a must visit for a casual lunch and then you can wander over to the Cofield Wines cellar door for a tasting.
Details: Pickled Sisters, Distillery Road, Wahgunyah (Ph 02 6033 2377)
This small family run vineyard specialises in sparkling wines and also does a great Durif under the watchful eye of winemaker Damien Cofield. The must try here is the sparkling shiraz. It’s a great balance and between savoury and sweet and I loved it so much I bought a bottle to take home with me.
Details: Cofield Wines, Distillery Road, Wahgunyah (Ph 02 6033 3798)
Tuileries Restaurant and Rutherglen Estate wines
Handily located at the Tuleries hotel where I stayed in Rutherglen, the Tuileries Restaurant is a serious step above typical hotel dining. It’s a serious restaurant in its own right showcasing the region’s local produce and Rutherglen Estate’s own wines. The dining room is a neutral space with well spaced tables decked out in linen looking out onto the twinkling fairylights strung in the courtyard. Menu highlights include the chilli and garlic prawn tails which are slightly charred and served alongside gnocchi doused in a creamy sauce ($22.50) and the braised lamb shoulder ($36.50) which is slow cooked until it falls apart and served with sweet heirloom carrots.
There’s a suggested wine pairing for each dish but the best value is to pay a set fee and you can sample as many of the Rutherglen Estate wines as you want from a tasting table. Quite a few patrons were taking advantage of this tasting option which gave the restaurant quite a party atmosphere on our visit. It’s also worth popping in to the Rutherglen Estate tasting rooms separately to try some of the extensive range of wines on offer. My favourites include the Shelley’s Block Viognier which is beautifully toasty.
Details: Tulieres, 13 Drummond street, Rutherglen (Ph 02 6032 9033)
The Campbells are fifth generation winemakers and the beautiful cellar door just outside of Rutherglen looks out over rows of vines. The wines are fantastic including the iconic Bobbie Burns shiraz which gives a nod to the Campbell’s Scottish heritage. It’s a medium bodied wine not overwhelming in flavour or tannins and extremely drinkable. You can order cheese and charcuterie plates here to accompany your tasting or to picnic with outside.
Details: Campbell Wines, 4603 Murray Valley Highway, Rutherglen (Ph 6033 6000)
All Saints Terrace Restaurant
The standout meal of my trip to Rutherglen was an amazing lunch at All Saints Restaurant. The restaurant is cleverly designed as part of the hillside at the All Saints winery and on a sunny day it’s like you are dining outdoors with beautiful views out over the vines and lake.
Service is spot on and our waitress was great with recommendations and making sure we were never wanting for anything. The food is fresh and modern showcasing chef Simon Arkless’ skills while not being too fussy. Take the large rabbit ravioli teamed with rich black pudding and a fried quails egg. It’s an impressive dish and visually spectacular but the flavours are all there and working together.
The dish I’m still dreaming about is the Tasmanian trumpeter which was perfectly cooked to showcase the delicate fish topped with crispy skin and then served with a white wine sauce dotted with clams and crumbled spicy chorizo. Wine pairings are suggested with every dish and I can recommend the crisp and elegant All Saints Pinot Grigio. All Saints Terrace is a destination restaurant where the sensational food lives up to the setting.
Details: All Saints Terrace Restaurant, 315 All Saints Road, Wahgunyah (Ph 02 6035 2222)
Thousand Pound Wine Bar
The Brown siblings who own All Saints aren’t content to run an amazing winery and restaurant and so have opened up a wine bar in Rutherglen’s main street called Thousand Pound. It’s a contemporary and sophisticated space but still cosy drawing on the heritage of the building. The Browns have created their own dream bar which is reflected in clever touches like hooks for handbags along the bar (why doesn’t every bar have this?) and an emphasis on one of their favourite drinks, gin. I stuck to exploring the extensive range of local wines on offer along with a fabulous cheese and charcuterie platter. Thousand Pound also offers a range of “canned food” via MoVida such as Spanish sardines.
Details: Thousand Pound, 82 Main Street, Rutherglen
Charming Pfeiffer wines looks out over Sunday creek and it’s worth a wander down to the bridge to check out the beautiful view. I’ve been a fan for Pfeiffer wines for a while, first discovering them while living in the United Kingdom and can recommend the light and savoury 2015 Pfeiffer Gamay. For something different check out Pfeiffer’s “apera” bar featuring different fortified wines including the Pfeiffer Seriously Nutty. It’s also worth mentioning that Pfeiffer is very child friendly with a great playhouse for kids and if you ask nicely you can get some turtle food to feed the turtles which live under the bridge.
Details: Pfeiffer Wines, 167 Distillery Road, Wahgunyah (Ph 02 6033 2805)
Lake Moodemere Estate
Tiny Lake Moodemere Estate produces some lovely wines and the muscat with its sticky flavour of dates and caramel will have you swooning. For a bit of fun there is a golf hole in one competition out over the lake. Only one person has ever won the prize ($1000 worth of Lake Moodemere Wines) on a bucks weekend up from Melbourne. Apparently they drank it all that day!
Details: Lake Moodemere Estate,12 Moodemere Road, Rutherglen (Ph 02 6032 9449)
St Leonards Winery
St Leonards is the second winery from the over achieving Brown family and the place has a relaxed feel to it set in some old farm sheds looking out over the Murray river. It’s a beautiful place to spend some time on a sunny day with a cheese platter next to the vines. I’m a big fan of the St Leonards sparkling and also enjoyed the refreshing and fruity Marsanne.
Details: St Leonards, 201 St Leonards Road, Wahgunyah (02 6035 2222)
Gourmet Getaway Tips
- Rutherglen is three hours drive from Melbourne.
- We stayed at Tulieries. Details coming in another post.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of the Winemakers of Rutherglen.