As a long-term Canberra resident for over 30 years, I was genuinely surprised to explore the Hills of Hall Wine Trail on a recent media famil – and mortified it was my first time venturing south off the Barton Highway into this glorious wine region that skirts the Murrumbidgee River. Our merry band of media and friends were chauffeured by the affable Aaron of Valley Limousines, official transport of the Hills of Hall Wine Trail (email [email protected]).
The Hills of Hall comprises five wine destinations: the Capital Wines cellar door in Hall, and four vineyards in nearby Wallaroo – Brindabella Hills, Pankhurst Wines, Surveyors Hill and Wallaroo Wines.
The upcoming Hills of Hall Wine Festival, on the weekend of 2-3 November, is an ideal opportunity to check out this often overlooked wine region that is not only literally on Canberra’s doorstep, it’s also truly special.
Our day trip began at Capital Wines Cellar Door in Hall, where winemaker Andrew McEwin shared his winemaking philosophy and gourmet tastings of matched wine and food. His multiple award-winning The Whip Riesling was paired with a creamy gorgonzola drizzled with local honey and crackers (or hummus, dried apricots and smoked almonds); followed by the Kyeema Shiraz Viognier matched with beef cheeks (or white beans and kale) on bruschetta.
The full epicurean tasting experience comprises four wines expertly matched to four seasonal food tastes for $40 per person; optional dessert course $10. Bookings recommended. Alternatively, visit the cellar door for wine tastings, share a cheese plate and browse artworks on display in the Kyeema Gallery.
13 Gladstone Street, Hall
T: 6230 2022
Boarding the bus, we crossed south over the Barton Highway and within minutes arrived at Surveyor’s Hill Vineyards, home to some of the Canberra District’s older vines which were first planted in the mid-1980s. The inviting cellar door and café offers panoramic views of Surveyors Hill to the north.
On the menu for us was a generous selection of starters, all prepared on site: roast pumpkin hummus, butter bean and rosemary dip, pickled beetroot and carrot salad, pork and veal terrine, braised corned beef, smoked duck breast and freshly baked bread. Our delicious spread was paired with tastings of Viognier Chardonnay Roussane 2016, Cabernet Franc Rosé 2017 and Tinto 2018. Diners can choose from platters, entrees, mains and dessert. Wine tastings are free; wines can be purchased by the glass and bottle.
215 Brooklands Road, Wallaroo
T: 6230 2046
Since buying the property in the mid-1990s, ABC foreign correspondent Philip Williams and former journalist and political staffer Carolyn Jack have created an elegant country house retreat and transformed the 300-acre sheep paddock into productive vineyards. Surrounded by sprawling English style country gardens, it’s easy to see why the gorgeous Georgian-style homestead is popular for weddings, corporate functions and family getaways and as an Airbnb destination.
We were hosted in the elegant dining room, devouring a delectable lunch prepared by celebrated chef and caterer of choice, Stuart Trower, paired with the 2017 Shiraz made by renowned Canberra district winemaker, Nick O’Leary.
Grasp the opportunity to visit Wallaroo Wines for their Doggy Day Out on Saturday 26 October 10am-5pm, and again during the Hills of Hall festival on 2-3 November.
196 Brooklands Road, Wallaroo
T: 6230 2831
Proudly related to famed British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Pankhurst Wines was established by Allan and Christine Pankhurst in 1986 with the first planting of Pinot Noir vines still continuing to produce award-winning wines. Our gracious hostess, Christine, served up tasty cheese platters with condiments, including their divine house-made pinot chutney and tastings of their 2017 Marsanne with stonefruit (apricot) characters, the crisp and light 2018 Arneis with pear flavours and a touch of oak, 2016 Dorothy May Cabernet Sauvignon and the refreshing 2016 Adela Sparkling Merlot – perfect for celebrations. The Pankhurst cellar door features a picturesque picnic area with stunning mountain views.
‘Old Woodgrove’, Woodgrove Close, Wallaroo
T: 6230 2592
Brindabella Hills Winery
Sure, we’ve heard of pairing wine with food – but what about with fudge? Turns out it’s a match made in heaven as we discovered at Brindabella Hills Winery with able assistance from Fudgemental, passionate creator of delectable vegan fudge varieties. With its green apple crispness, the 2018 Riesling was matched with ginger and orange fudge; the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc with macadamia and pear Belgian couverture fudge; 2018 Sweetheart late harvest trio (Riesling, Semillon, Viognier) with mango tango; 2017 Brio Sangiovese with blackberry pomegranate American chocolate fudge; and the 2017 Shiraz with both sour cherry and coconut, and double shot espresso and pear. We also tasted the 2019 Ava Rosé – a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and Grenache, and the 2018 Shiraz Nouveau, before sitting down to a delectable dessert of perfect panna cotta with a proper wobble to it. Light and spacious, the newly renovated café offers foods perfectly matched to Brindabella Hills’ wines. Step onto the back deck for breathtaking river views.
156 Woodgrove Close, Wallaroo
T: 6188 5405
To find out more, find Hills of Hall on Facebook.