Elouise and I hosted our first Canberra wine tour this weekend and we were chuffed at the brilliant wines coming out of our patch, not to mention the hospitality! Our dream has been about 10 years in the making, not due to procrastination but due to the fact that we were living just shy of 20,000km north of Canberra in the UK – so pretty good excuse we reckon.
Our first stop on Saturday was Granitevale Estate owned by Greg Birch and Leigh Brennan and it provided the perfect start. Greg strolled out in his jeans and Aussie Rules jumper, greeting us with his warm smile and enthusiasm. Not too far away, Leigh was making sure the final touches were made to the Beef Cheek we were about to enjoy. As quick as we could say `spittoon` we were seated with our nine thirsty friends, ready for a tipple. Greg took us through his selection which included some unique wines including a Sparkling Sauvignon and a Pink Ice dessert wine (grapes picked when frozen). He fielded many questions from our enthusiastic group – one question in particular was about site selection and how did Greg decide where his cattle would graze and where his grapes would be planted. He spoke about the considerations that need to be taken regarding issues around frost, access to water, cool evening breezes and the amount of sunlight which all influence the quality of the fruit and therefore the quality of the wine. He must be doing something right as Granitevale are producing some really cracking wines – the Cab Sav in particular is a favourite at our house.
Following our scrumptious (and very generous!) beef-cheek, we headed five minutes down the road to see Greg Gallagher. I`ve been a champion of his Shiraz for a few years now but with 40 odd years of experience with wine, Greg is no one trick pony. He has spent time working at wineries in France and the Napa Valley and has trained other wine-makers at Charles Sturt Uni. Greg’s wife Libby is a talented cheese maker and our group tucked in while quaffing Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Shiraz. While it`s on my mind, we toasted our first ever tour with Greg`s 2008 Blanc de Blanc which our travellers enjoyed. I still think Greg`s Shiraz is a cracker, just don`t make the same mistake as me and drink it after some full body Barossa Shiraz as you`ll look like a rooky for thinking it will work. Thanks Greg & Libby!
Back on the bus and off to Four Winds Vineyard. By this stage, our group were nicely lubricated and ready to tuck into the wood-fired pizzas. Holy Dooly! If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out. Elle and I visited Four Winds back at Christmas 2013 for Carols by the Barrels. I`m a sucker for Christmas so throw in wine and pizza and I`m a happy, portly little man. Back to Saturday and I thought I`d have to employ a crow-bar to move my crew back to the bus. Pizza, a host of wines, not to mention a couple of tall glasses of local cider added to the great vibe of our day. I would have torn my own arms off for the cold beer on tap Four Winds offer but being the responsible person that I am, I sat there enjoying seeing everybody else enjoying wine and cider and beer but I`m ok with that (bas%$#@!)
Last stop was wine and dessert at Brian and Janet`s Mckellar Ridge. My mother-in-law hand delivered my six month old daughter which put an even bigger smile on our faces. Brian is a former CSIRO legend and Janet comes from a teaching background. We were greeted by some of the warmest and friendliest staff who kindly stamped our Feast passports so we went into the draw for a case of wine. What I find wonderful about Brian and Janet is their meshing of French style wines with our own local terroir. Riesling made in the Alsace style and Shiraz/Viogner in the style of the Rhone Valley. Our Canberra climate is very similar to the northern end of the Rhone in France so it makes sense to adopt these wine making practises but with an Aussie twist. Sitting and chatting to my guests, tucking into yummy dessert and soaking up more wonderful hospitality made for the best finish to our first ever tour.
We are so proud of our first weekend and hope to see you at some stage of our journey.