Rutherglen as destination
The wineries – Buildings, bottles and bullshit?!
My partner and I chose Rutherglen, Victoria for a three day getaway. I thought we’d spend it primarily around the town itself along with neighbouring Wahgunyah, because there are plenty of wineries to visit. That was a key part of it. I loved visiting the wineries, not just because of the wine, but because each one around this region seems to have its own personality.
Mt Ophir and All Saints Estate have grandeur. Saint Leonards lets you wander in through a maze of wine barrels to the tasting room at the back. They’re trying to make port and muscat trendy! They’ve packaged it up as “Hip Sip”. It’s a far cry from sign in the city that cries “Sydney may have a beautiful harbour, but Rutherglen has a great port!” True of course, and the area supports fortified wines well. It’s just that port has been a little unfashionable for a while.
A little winery like Chambers on the other hand, is modest and hasn’t changed a lot in the last few decades. They like to keep their prices low and have posted the following sign on their wall:
“You will find all our wines are very reasonably priced. It is company policy to give excellent value for money to our valued clients rather than indulge in fancy buildings, bottles and bullshit”.
The three Chamber’s kelpies gave us a rousing welcome but their barks belie their friendliness.
It doesn’t take long to recognise that the Durif grape and the fortified wine, Muscat are a hallmark of this area’s wines. A comprehensive and expert view about Rutherglen wineries and wines is the best place to go for the specifics.
Yes, there are some fancy buildings and bottles, but it’s the range of winery styles that appeals to me about Rutherglen.
We stayed at The Tuileries, the accommodation arm of Rutherglen Estates. The accommodation was relatively luxurious, the quail terrine with rhubarb textures from the Tuileries restaurant was a sheer delight and the wine tasting room, complete with aboriginal art gallery, was uplifting.
A base for exploration
Looking around is part of the fun. The volunteers at the Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre gave us simple information about local markets, restaurants, wineries and how to find Yeddonba, an aboriginal cultural site on the way to Beechworth. A natural, undulating walking path through rocks, caverns and bushland and suitable sign-posting, gave a good idea of the life aborigines would once have lived here. A well-designed viewing platform allowed an impression of some rock art, well faded, but faithfully reproduced on the signage. I am sure I felt a spiritual presence there.
We wished we’d asked the Visitor Information Centre about how to access Winton Wetlands. The Winton Wetlands looks so substantial on the map, and it is, but it has only a few access points for cars. A hint if you’re visiting. Put Winton Wetlands Hub into your GPS, get a map when you arrive and then look around.
Ironically, when we were there, the Wetlands were dry, not wet!! This phenomenon is apparently natural and allows regeneration. So the striking find for us during the visit was the bespoke artwork.
In Chiltern I liked my visit to Lake View House, a National Trust home where Henry Handel Richardson (the nom de plume of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) had lived. I’d just been reading The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, reflecting not only the author but the novel!
Yackandandah and Beechworth
Beechworth is a vibrant town, supposedly rejuvenated some years ago when the Beechworth Bakery opened its doors. Not a place I would choose to eat at personally. Locals told me they think of it as the local Macca’s. A fast food outlet where the service is slow. There are many more places to eat and the Beechworth Brewery gives you a little something to go with it. Retail is a big thing in Beechworth. Beechworth Honey has an incredible variety of beautiful honeys with different textures and natural flavours. Yackandandah is sleepier and more faded than Beechworth. The locals seem keen on cars, and car parts.