This year, we are hoping to get out and visit cellar doors again and the planning has well and truly begun. Typically, we try to report on experiences after we have visited and rate wines and winery experiences, but with 2021 still being very much in the “plans may change” situation, we have decided to make some of our plans public beforehand. For this reason, we won’t have many pictures at first, but will endeavour to add a few after we complete our walkabout.
As critics, we value our anonymity, so will not be disclosing when we plan to visit a wine region, just that plans have been made.
In part 1 of our Destination series we will be looking at Rutherglen in the north of Victoria.
Getting there: The quickest way to Rutherglen from Melbourne is straight up the M31 highway. Without stops, driving takes about 3 hours. Seymour is a good place to stop for a coffee break (funnily enough at the winery just before the town…) or toilet stop. Benalla, Glenrowan and Wangaratta are some of the other larger towns along the way. Our favourite stop is Glenrowan for the history, but that would be a whole other story…
Where to stay: Rutherglen has several motels, but if you plan to visit for a weekend between September and March, book in advance! They are all pretty decent, close to the main amenities in town. At the time of writing, most rooms were priced at $150 to $180 with a number also offering a breakfast option. A number of small, boutique accommodation options also exist, including some which allow you to bring your dog(s)… If you want a more luxurious experience, try Tuileries.
Wineries to not miss: There are more than 15 different cellar doors within a short drive of central Rutherglen, some of which are excellent and others are so good they defy belief. Morris , Chambers Rosewood and All Saints Estate are our top three picks for variety, quality and overall experience. At Morris, our pick is the Muscat. At Chambers we love the Topaque and All Saints produces some very fine red table wines (in addition to their range of fortified wines).
Dark Horse: Warrabilla is a short drive West from Rutherglen and is home to some truly unique red wines. The Durif here is not for the feint hearted and in truly special growing years, a special Parolas label Durif (and Shiraz) is produced. These are matured in new oak and it really shows. You will not find a bigger red wine (in terms of thickness of colour, flavour and alcohol content), possibly anywhere. These are not to everyone’s taste but if you like heavy, big flavoured red wine and don’t have to drive… it is worth a visit.
Useful to know: A lot, but not all, of the fortified winemakers in Rutherglen use a classification system for their fortified wines: Rutherglen (the youngest and least expensive), Classic, Grand, Rare, Museum (bottled to order only at selected cellar doors). The prices rise steadily as you go up the levels but the jump in quality from Classic to Grand is quite enormous in some cases.