Long Weekend Vineyard Tour in Canberra

Over the recent Canberra long weekend, we decided to head out across the border to Murrumbateman (in New South Wales, but part of the Canberra wine region) to pay a visit to the cellar door of local producer Clonakilla.

We’ve previously visited a couple of times, primarily to keep tabs on the development of their heralded Shiraz Viognier.

Clonakilla  Vineyard
Outside at Clonakilla / The vineyard

The weather during summer earlier this year was not particularly kind to wine makers in the region and it had an adverse effect on crops and yields.  Clonakilla, by its own standard, were not spared.  Nonetheless, the 2011 Shiraz Viognier was released, and we’ve now stocked the Aussie Wine Guy cellar accordingly.

Barrels
Inside the cellar door

Price Lists  O'Riada
Clonakilla Price List 2012 / The district O’Riada Shiraz

We tasted a range of Clonakilla releases starting with a remarkably memorable Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and ending with the regional Shiraz, the O’Riada.  Most likely due to lower production, the Shiraz Viognier was not available for tasting.

The cellar door was particularly busy and in all the chaos we ended up with a bottle of O’Riada instead of Shiraz Viognier.  We were able to return the next day and the bottle was swapped over, no fuss – many thanks to the folks at Clonakilla for sorting that out.

Our next stop took us pleasantly east along Murrumbateman road towards Lake George.  The countryside has a beautiful serenity to it, framed by a wonderful blue sky, and punctuated every now and then by local wildlife (an echidna crossed the road in front of us) and cattle.

Once we had crossed the Federal highway, we made a line towards the small township of Bungendore.  Our route took us to the local vineyard of Lark Hill, of which we’d become more acquainted at a recent 8-course degustation.

Lark Hill  The Line Up
Lark Hill Cellar Door / Tasting Range

The estate is set back from Bungendore road nestled in the bush.  When we arrived a party had just left the cellar door, so we had a few minutes to look around.  It costs $5 (per patron) to taste the wine, but this is deduced from any purchases one makes after tasting.

Now, in all honesty, if (at bare minimum) you took home one bottle of the “Auslese” dessert Riesling, then you’ve come out well ahead.  We tasted the selection on offer starting with the (non-sweet) Riesling and running through some very interesting performers including a biodynamic wine (the Austrian inspired Grüner Veltliner)..

Biodynamic  Informational  Sweet Riesling
Biodynamic Wine / Disgorgement Defined / The luscious Auslese Sweet Riesling

Afterwards, I had a chat with winemaker Chris Carpenter and he mentioned that they had moved to screw cap closures from 2002 onwards. We lamented the degradation in the quality of cork (which reminded me of our 2009 trip to Portugal and the cork plantations), that had ultimately led them to make the change to screw cap.  There was also mention that they were planning on expanding their biodynamic certification – so keep an eye on Lark Hill wine.

The folks at Lark Hill also have a restaurant which looked quite nice and it can be booked for weddings and other functions.  They evidentially pair their excellent Auslese to fruit desserts (poached pear) at the restaurant, which sounds simply divine.  Their website also has some very useful tips on caring for your wine.

Canberra Region
Map of our journey

Check back with Aussie Wine Guy for more tasting notes from both Clonakilla and Lark Hill.

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