Traditionally, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varieties have thrived here, although many winemakers are now growing other types of grapes, including Tempranillo and Sangiovese.
About 30 minutes’ drive from the capital, some excellent wineries, including the Canberra District’s well-known label, Clonakilla, reside on the Yass Plains. Grazing was once the primary agricultural activity in the Murrumbatemen region, but now grapes are changing the landscape, bringing visitors, excellent food and festivals aplenty.
Considered one of the best wineries in the country, Clonakilla produces a number of varieties, including Shiraz, Riesling and Chardonnay, but is probably best known for its outstanding Shiraz Viognier. In 1976 the Kirk family produced the region’s first commercial vintage and their operation has grown since then. In 2013, Gourmet Traveller Wine named Tim Kirk its Winemaker of the Year.
Helm Wines is also a family affair – Ken Helm AM and his wife, Judith, established the vineyard in 1973 and their family are an integral part of the operation. They make a popular German style of Riesling known as Halbtrocken (half dry), which goes well with spicy dishes, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Jeir Creek Wines
Yes, you can taste the Howell family’s creations, from Riesling to Shiraz, at Jeir Creek Wines' picturesque vineyard, but there’s plenty more on offer. Make a booking to go on a winery tour, take part in a Let’s Talk session or Muscat Blending Masterclass or help out by working on the Pinot Noir vines.
Shaw Vineyard Estate
The Shaw family makes a number of wines across a variety of labels. At Shaw's cellar door you can taste its Estate range, which includes Sparkling Cuvee, Semillon Sauvignon, Merlot and a pink Moscato style called Riscato. There are also local olives, chocolates and preserves, as well as hand-painted ceramics from Italy for sale.
One of the younger wineries in the area, Yarrh Wines is near a beautiful stringybark forest and overlooks the Yass River valley. The grapes – Riesling, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese – are grown organically, the winery is built with rammed earth and straw bales and uses passive solar design, and the cellar is built into the hill to create ideal temperature conditions.
Four Winds Vineyard
Jaime and Bill Crowe make eight styles of wine (including a fortified Shiraz) at this 33-acre vineyard. Not only is this a beautiful setting, with the cellar door featuring furniture made from refashioned wine barrels, but these are winemakers with a conscience. Working with two other Canberra District wineries (Collector Wines and Eden Road Wines), they collected four tonnes of Shiraz grapes and made 200 cases of wine. All the funds raised were donated to Canberra’s Companion House, which supports refugees.
In 1998, Wendy O’Dea’s grandmother, May, planted the first vines at this winery on her 89th birthday. Wendy and husband Michael then planted more vines, covering a total of four hectares. Celebrating their 16th vintage in 2016, the pair creates several wines, including Tempranillo and Gamay, which are all grown, made and bottled on the estate. Drop in to taste their wines, or book a personalised tasting and cheese plate with the winemaker.
Such is Greg Gallagher’s breadth of knowledge that he acts as a consultant for 12 wineries in the region as well as making wine for his own label. On top of bottling Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz, Greg produces three types of sparkling wine: Blanc De Blanc, NV Sparkling and Sparkling Merlot.
McKellar Ridge Wines
From their parcels of land at the Point of View Vineyard, Brian and Janet Johnston create small-batch runs of Riesling, Shiraz Viognier, Merlot Cabernet Franc, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend and Rosé. At the cellar door taste the award-winning range, chat to the winemaker and view Janet’s watercolours of landscapes and vineyards.
Wily Trout Wines
At the cellar door, adjacent to the Poachers Pantry Smokehouse Café, sip on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz created by winemakers Nick Spencer and Hamish Young from grapes planted in the late 1990s on the Poachers Pantry property. You can even nibble on the Poachers Pantry smoked goods.
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