When you think about wine regions in Australia, your mind is likely to wander off to some of the big, well-known regions of Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney. But have you heard of the treasures of the Cool Climate Capital?
Although it may not be as well-known as some of the more prominent Australian wine regions, the Canberra region has long been loved by wine lovers and critics for its award-winning cool climate wines, ranging from Shiraz and Pinot Noir to Riesling and Chardonnay.
These vineyards are at elevations of 300 to 800 metres, resulting in a continental climate of warm summer days which transform into cool nights and cold winters – perfect for Riesling and Shiraz.
Artisan winemaking at its best
Although celebrated by critics and wine connoisseurs, the wineries of Queanbeyan-Palerang have been a rather well-kept secret among visitors to the region. Nestled on the hills of Wamboin, Bywong and Nerriga, these vineyards showcase premium cool climate wines which reflect the terroir of this unique region.
Located just a short, 30-minute drive from Canberra are the wineries of Wamboin and Bywong, all offering one-of-a-kind experiences to oenophiles old and new. These hidden gems give visitors a chance to explore exciting flavours and aromas of artisan wines while enjoying a delicious, high-quality meal designed to pair perfectly with the wines on offer. If you pay a visit to their cellar doors for a tasting, you’re also likely to be welcomed by the winemakers themselves, who are more than happy to share their knowledge and passion about all things wine.
Expert’s guide to wine in Queanbeyan-Palerang
Norton Road Wines
344 Norton Road, Wamboin, Australia, 2620
- Varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Merlot, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rose
- Cuisine: American, Barbecue, Cajun Creole, Classic Australian
- Live Music
- Parking, Coach Parking
- Accessible, Non-smoking
Norton Road Wines is a new family owned venture specialising in growing and making small batch cool climate wines that reflect the terroir of their region. They are working with local viticulturists and winemakers in preparation for the 2019 vintage.
The Norton Road vineyard at Wamboin is a small four acre parcel of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Riesling first planted in the 1990s by the Davies family (the former Shepherd’s Run). The vineyard is currently being rejuvenated along with new plantings of Cabernet Franc.
The winery showcases cool climate wines from across the local Canberra District wine region, along with a selection of beers, ciders and spirits.
Biggie’s Barbecue, the vineyard restaurant, is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays (11.30am to 9pm), and Sundays for brunch, and can be booked for private functions any day. The menu is heavily influenced by American Barbecue and the menu offers drink pairings and weekly food and beverage specials, including happy hours from 5pm – 7pm on Fridays.
810 Norton Road, Wamboin, Australia, 2620
- Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz
- Cuisine: Italian, Modern Australian
- WiFi, Live Music
- Parking, Coach Parking
- Accessible, Non-smoking
Contentious Character is a contemporary vineyard estate with winery, cellar door, kitchen, and event facilities, in the hills of Wamboin, 15 minutes from Canberra Airport.
Experience a taste of the entire Canberra region in one location, with wines from the Founders Museum Collection of old world style vintages. These aged wines have matured exceptionally well with cellaring and now present a mellow complexity, way beyond their value. They are complemented by recent vintages, under the Contentious Character brand, that brings a fresh new world twist to the old world styles.
Look across the vineyard and surrounding countryside while the kitchen serves up a fresh, local sharing menu, paired to the wines, for special times with family and friends.
Lark Hill Winery
Joe Rocks Road, 521 Bungendore Road, Bungendore, Australia, 2621
- Varieties: Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Fledgling, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Shiraz Viognier, Auslese Riesling, Methode Champenoise, Methode Champenoise Rosé, Methode Champenoise Burgundy
- Cuisine: Regional and seasonal
The biodynamic winery of Lark Hill seeks to replace conventional methods with natural alternatives. Lark Hill wines are made without inputs, manipulation or chemical adjustment, meaning each wine becomes a true realisation of “terroir” – the sense of time & place. They are unique to their vintage and vineyard – and each wine becomes a marker of a time and place in our own lives.
Enjoy a long lunch on the deck as you enjoy a glass of their wine and look out over the vineyard. The Lark Hill menu changes regularly as they focus on regional, seasonal produce, much of which is grown biodynamically. Make the most of the food and wine matching and don’t forget to try the Gruner Veltliner, which was planted in 2005, adding a 4th variety to this high altitude site, and a new variety to the Australian market.
Sapling Yard Wines
- Varieties: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Shiraz Viognier
- Available online and from a selection of stockists and Bungendore Southern Harvest Farmers Market
- Sapling Yard Wines pop-up Cellar Door at Provisions Deli & Grocery, every Saturday at 12pm-5.30pm (until April 24)
Sapling Yard wines are handcrafted using grapes sourced from our boutique vineyard in Braidwood together with the finest quality fruit carefully selected from premium vineyards in Murrumbateman and Tumbarumba regions.
Located at Charley’s Forest 25km north of Braidwood, and at 650 metres above sea level, the property captures breathtaking views of the Budawang Range. Sapling Yard Creek flows across the vineyard, which as the name suggests, is heavily populated with Eucalypt saplings.
Grown in these inspiring cool climate surroundings, Sapling Yard produces wines of great flavour and elegance which reflect the natural beauty of the land.
- Varieties: Sparking Shiraz, Chardonnay, Shiraz Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz
- Available from Braidwood Farmers Market
This beautiful vineyard is surrounded by forest, high up in the Durran Durra ranges ten minutes from town along the historic Old Wool Road. The combination of altitude (700m), four distinct seasons, and varied soil types ensures unique wines of distinct character.
Visit the Braidwood Farmers Market to get a taste of Braidwood Estate’s premium wines.
- Varieties: Shiraz, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay-Pinot Noir
- Available from Corang Estate’s online shop, local Farmers’ Markets and events, and a selection of local hotels, venues and bottle shops
The essence of Corang Estate is about celebrating the unique wine flavours and cool climate styles of the NSW Southern Tablelands. The vineyard’s regional selection showcases fine examples of the wines the area has to offer, which in time will be complemented by Corang Estate’s own estate-grown Shiraz and Tempranillo.
The award-winning Corang Estate is borne of a love of nature and the outdoors, combined with a passion for great wine. Nestled in the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range at an altitude of 600-700 metres, Corang Estate is an idyllic mountain bushland setting in the Southern Tablelands of NSW. The stony soils and climatic conditions match those of many of the world’s great wine growing regions. Set on 120 acres and bordered by the Corang River, Corang Estate encapsulates tranquillity, fresh air and natural beauty.
Ready to start tasting?
If all this talk about wine has your mouth feeling a bit dry, hop in the car and take our recommended half-day winery exploration tour to some of the amazing wineries listed above and meet the makers of some of the best Riesling and Shiraz around. Some of the vineyards also have a strong presence at the local markets, so keep an eye out if you’re visiting the Bungendore or Braidwood Farmers’ Markets, as you may be able to go home with a case of premium cool-climate wine. However, if your taste buds are tingling with too much excitement already, head out to one of the local bottle shops or hotels to get your fix of a sparkling white that pairs perfectly with sunny, hot spring afternoons.