Rutherglen in a day, a weekend, a week

Lake Moodemere. Photo: Emma Byrnes

Lake Moodemere. Photo: Emma Byrnes

The connection between Rutherglen, in Victoria’s north-east, and the grape is strong. Boasting some of the oldest wineries in the country, by the 1890s the area produced more than a third of Australia’s vino, mostly for export.

And, while the discovery of gold produced many of the historic buildings that still stand today, it’s wine that has kept many of Rutherglen’s family businesses going (some in their fifth generation). It’s an easy three-hour drive up the Hume Highway from Melbourne, rewarded by excellent food, outstanding wine and history.

A day

All Saints vineyard. Photo: Emma Byrnes

All Saints vineyard. Photo: Emma Byrnes

With 19 wineries to choose from, each no more than 15 minutes from town, the big question is, who drives? Start with lunch at the one-hatted All Saints Estate Terrace Restaurant, with chef Simon Arkless (The Elbow Room, Comme, The Prince) behind the burners. On your way home, drop into the Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre to sample their comprehensive collection of the region’s offerings.

A weekend

Thousand Pound. Photo: Emma Byrnes

Thousand Pound. Photo: Emma Byrnes

On weekends it pays to book at Thousand Pound for smart food and drinks and Taste Restaurant for its relaxed menu and outdoor/courtyard setting at Rutherglen Brewery. Plot your winery tour at Tuileries, which has its own restaurant, a cellar door (Rutherglen Estates) and art gallery. Begin at Morris Wines, where you’ll be able to sample grippy Durifs and fortified wines. Drop into Scion Artisan Wine and try a Viognier-softened Durif mix. Or take a short trip to Ripe at Buller Wines for lunch.

A week

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Tipples behind the cellar door at historic Pfeiffer Wines, above; lunch at Ripe at Buller Wines, below. Photos: Emma Byrnes

Tipples behind the cellar door at historic Pfeiffer Wines, above; lunch at Ripe at Buller Wines, below. Photos: Emma Byrnes

Choose from more than 30 budget motels, pub rooms, B&B options and caravan parks around town. One of the newest is the self-contained cottages at disused winery Mount Ophir, run by All Saints Estate via Airbnb. Spend a week at these places but try adding a few more such as Chambers Rosewood Winery, Pfeiffer Wines and Jones Winery & Vineyard, which has a restaurant. Hire bikes from the visitor information centre and pedal to the historic Gold Battery or take a self-guided tour through town, which includes great pubs – our favourite was the Victoria Hotel. For day trips, fish for Murray cod on Lake Moodemere, indigenous cave art at Yeddonba (past Chiltern) and more food and history (including Ned Kelly’s holding cell) at Beechworth.

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