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Weekend Getaway to Rutherglen Wine Region

The World Loves Melbourne was invited on a media trip to Rutherglen; one of Australia's favourite wine regions and a magical place to spend a weekend or holiday. Especially if you're a wine lover or foodie. The upshot of my experience was to start thinking about my next trip; with the region having ticked all my boxes for a fabulous getaway.

Situated in Victorian Murray River country and protected by the Great Dividing Range, Rutherglen boasts more than 150 years of winemaking history and has recently become a seventh-generation wine region. A three-hour drive from Melbourne and four-hour drive from Canberra, Rutherglen is a region unlike any other. Over two days we were able to get a taste and experience the best of the region. Bespoke wine experiences, stunning foodie experiences, a chic wine bar experience, the best of scenery and nature, and top notch accomodation made for a magical two days. 

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 Welcomed on arrival at The Big Wine Bottle! Rutherglen presents itself as a "united front" with winemakers supporting each other; this sense of harmony is tangible and was appreciated. It gives the region leverage vis a vis other regions. 

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The Big Wine Bottle with sweeping views (below).

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Blessed with cool nights, warm days and gloriously long, dry autumns, Rutherglen’s climate offers ideal viticultural conditions for pioneering wine varietals that are uniquely Australian in charm and in spirit. At the heart of Rutherglen is Muscat and Durif – two distinct varietals that represent both the region’s tradition and innovation. Any visit here should imbibe the wonders of these amazing wines.

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 Our first event was Wine Minority (love the cool names for all these events) -hosted by Marc Scalzo (Rutherglen Estates) & Mandy Jones (Jones Winery and Vineyard), two of Rutherglen's famous wine identities. The aim was to unearth a broad range of alternative white wine varietals relatively undiscovered by the Australian palate. We discovered Rutherglen is more than muscat and durifs (as great as they are!). Yes the white wines here were simply stunning. 

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Winemakers of Rutherglen in a picturesque lakeside winery at Lake Moodemere.

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Given the soil and conditions, and even varietals, I was hooked on many of the whites that display a velvety finish rather than a harsh acid hit. These were elegant wines. Marsanne, Fiano and Pinot Grigio were a feature, as was a 2011 Pfeiffer's Chardonnay. Also notable is the reasonable prices of Rutherglen wines across the board compared to some other regions. This really is great value for money for premium wine!

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An amazing event; I was happy already. To be honest I'm not a big white wine drinker but I enjoyed this tasting given the elegance and diversity of the wines.

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A touch of quirk is the golf challenge; win a $1,000 if you score a hole in one from the target in the river. Greg Brown from The Australian pictured here giving it his best shot.

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Revered world-wide for its iconic fortified wines, Rutherglen is home to decadent and multi-faceted Muscats and Topaques. Some of the region’s winestocks date as far back as pre-World War II. With skills and experience handed-down from the seven generations before them, the current breed of Rutherglen winemakers are leaving their mark on Australia’s rich wine heritage by pushing the boundaries in the development of brave, versatile, award-winning table wines, such as playful sparkling reds, aromatic Rhone whites and bold Durifs, a varietal Rutherglen leads the country in and is a joy to discover.

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Lunch at Buller Wines was another highlight on an extensive highlight reel. Ripe Restaurant had only been open for a week, and is an exciting addition to Rutherglen. Some Andersons Durif was a superb pairing for the House made Gnocchi with Goat dish.

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The menu here features top notch produce and dishes at reasonable prices for a touch of class.

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Panacotta with blood plum is a fine dessert.

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The Winemakers of Rutherglen are proud to call their little slice of Australia home. It is a place where they can continue more than a century of unique fortified wine tradition as well as developing modern, contemporary whites and reds. From a terroir resplendent with sun and soil, unearth the spirit of Rutherglen wines. Our next event was again magical; a rare opportunity for the world famous Muscat Classification Tasting at Rutherglen Wines. Hosted by Colin Campbell & Chris Pfeiffer, we tasted a range of famous Rutherglen Muscats from across all four classifications and discover their flavour, complexity, personality and history.

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Chris Pfeiffer gave us an epic download of the history of Rutherglen Muscat and a tasting of the major producers and styles. This was Rutherglen Muscat overdrive!

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Moving through a Muscat tasting featuring 28 wines is not for the faint hearted! Of the selection I fancied the Rare Muscats in row 4 as powerful and rich!

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 Campbells of Rutherglen was the perfect location for the epic Muscat tasting.

Then it was off to the famous bridge at Pfeiffers for a Sparkling Speed Dating Event! Hosted by Wendy Killeen (Stanton and Killeen) & Howard Anderson (Anderson Winery) this was another cracker event. Learn the intricacies and technicalities of producing sparkling wine with two of the region’s sparkling experts. This is what we've been looking for; quality sparkling wine featuring amazing sparkling shiraz and durifs, and even a sparkling tempranillo. It was hard to cooose one lover from our speed dating. We were even presented with 2 brackets of sparkling wines; eight top notch wines in total. 

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If you ever get to dine on the Pfeiffer's Bridge consider yourself blessed. Dining with the platypus! Large trees and a winding river are the perfect backdrop.

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Food to pair with premium sparkling wines.

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Bracket number 2! What a batting line up!

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After a day of Rutherglen treasure we imbibed the wine delights of the region as well as seasonal produce at a Wine Party at the hottest bar in town. Thousand Pounds is a revelation. It was as if this bar was transported from South Yarra straight into Rutherglen like a drop in wicket in T20 cricket. 

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Liz Brown the owner (left) was on hand as a hospitable and generous host. Pictured here with Delima from Time Out.

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Local wines are featured (140 wines) with an emphasis on family run wineries.

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Tapas, great company and top notch Rutherglen wines was a recipe for a memorable evening.

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Our media group mixed with local wine identities and locals.

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 Charcuterie and oysters were a hit.

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Then it was off to our fab accomodation. Paringa Grove is an olive grove and farm on the banks of the Murray River within the Rutherglen Wine Region in North East Victoria. Paringa Grove Homestead offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation, catering for those who want the opportunity to explore the abundance of the Rutherglen wine and burgeoning food region while indulging some relax time. I enjoyed my stay there; perfect for a couple with King Bed and well appointed bathroom. 

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Day 2... 

Breakfast in the vineyards of Rutherglen Estates! Day 2 started with a bang as we arrived to find a Middle Eastern style breakfast arrangement on top of a hill in a winery, with fog adding to the mystique. Cushions, a long table, table decor, a fire, a coffee cart, and a large selection of breakfast delights greeted our media group. Simply magical.

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Smashed avo and a Smoked Salmon dish were highlights, not to mention decent coffee.

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A place to imbibe and de-stress.

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I was trying to figure out whether I felt like a Turk or a Roman reclining at this long table...

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Marc Scalzo from Rutherglen Estates took us for a mini tour into the vineyards to talk about all things grapes, harvest and wine.

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Durif Duty at Scion Vineyard and Winery was another outstanding event. Hosted by Rowly Milhinch from Scion & Andrew Sutherland Smith we explored the rare, red grape varietal that flourishes in the Rutherglen soils and climate. With the best of Rutherglen Durif in the middle of the room, we were invited to taste the durifs ourselves and form an opinion. The conclusion was that all of them were stunning but it was fascinating to discover such a diversity in taste, style and nuances between durifs!

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Cheese pairing with Durifs was welcomed. Durif combines wonderfully with some of the fatty meat cuts such as Beef Cheeks.

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 And there was a cute dog, as the Weekly Times journalists discovered.

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A Wine Blending Workshop at Cofield Wines was something every visitor to Rutherglen should engage in! Hosted by Damien Cofield, this was epic. Taste back vintages, current releases, barrel samples and fresh 2017 Shiraz/Durif wines before blending your own bottle to take home and enjoy. Durif is a big and bold style which we like to drink on its own. But in a blending exercise we opted for 80% Shiraz and 20% Durif; which seemed the perfect match. Also fun was designing your own wine label!

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Outdoor dining at Cofield.

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Barrel tasting with Damien.

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A line up of blended wines from our media group. 

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Glamping is a thing at Cofield; with 2 of our group staying in the two large tents on the property.

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Lunch at Jones Winery was a wonderful foodie experience; the number of excellent restaurants and to notch bar in Rutherglen qualifies the region as a premium foodie destination.

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Premium pork and beef produce; what the punters want! Paired with durifs of course!

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Mandy Jones and Damien Cofield survey the scene.

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A highlight was meeting industry icon David Morris of Rutherglen at the Muscat-iers of Rutherglen event. I've been drinking David's durifs for years, not to mention his muscat.

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Hosted by David Morris & Eliza Brown we tasted a selection of table and fortified wines made from Muscat grapes before mixing up a Muscat cocktail. The Muscat Cocktails were delicious!

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Deep among the barrels...

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Liz Brown is an engaging host.

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David Morris gave us a priceless insight into Muscats of Rutherglen.

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A rare Morris of Rutherglen Muscat was the pride and joy. Cocktails (below) were hip and on trend.

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What an epic 2 days! We departed Rutherglen on a high wanting to return to this magical destination! Thanks to the winemakers of Rutherglen, the local tourism, everyone who participated in making our visit so memorable, and to Little Big Marketing for their amazing hosting and extraordinary savvy.