DIY Canberra Winery Tour

As part of my birthday weekend treat my partner was kind enough to offer to be my chauffeur on a wine-tasting tour of the local Canberra wineries – something I had never done before but was very keen to try. Despite living on the Mornington Peninsula for 8 years which is another gorgeous area of Australia with some beautiful wineries, I had never ever been on a wine tasting tour. So I was a little bit nervous because I had no idea what the protocol was!

We’d grabbed a pamphlet which had a wealth of information including this map which made planning our route extremely easy. It also had a great table showing the wines each winery produced and the days they were open along with a blurb about each winery. The pdf of the pamphlet is linked on the website and I’ve seen this pamphlet at all the major tourist attractions around Canberra (we’d gotten ours at the botanical gardens) so keep your eye out for it.

We spent 4 hours on the road and managed to squeeze in 6 wineries. Our route ended up being:

  1. Pankhurst Winery – on recommendation
  2. Gallagher Wines & Cheese – we’d stumbled across this on google/trip advisor
  3. Granitevale Estate – on recommendation
  4. Clonakilla – because it’s one of the more famous in the region
  5. Dionysus Winery – on a whim, we had time to fit another in and this was chosen
  6. Tallagandra Hill – on recommendation

I’m definitely not much of a wine connoisseur although I do enjoy my reds, however for me this was more about the experience as a whole so keep that in mind with everything I say!

Pankhurst Winery was a great place to start. We were welcomed into their cellar door, instantly offered a tasting and opted to taste the four red wines on offer. While we tasted we had the joy of meeting the farm dog (a very cute Jack Russel) and nice chat with the co-owner and she shared lots of interesting facts about the winery with us. I especially enjoyed the Pinot Noir here. Would recommend.

Stop number 2, Gallagher Wines & Cheese was another enjoyable stop (with the added benefit of cheeses to sample with the wines!). We felt very comfortable, tried some more reds and had a great conversation with a worker from the winery. My favourite here was the Merlot. Would recommend.

Granitevale Estate was just down the road and continued the friendly atmosphere (and a fire!) with a great chat to the owner about footy. They’re currently in the process of renovating, creating a cafe space. While there were only two reds for us to try, the Shiraz won my heart and we ended up purchasing a bottle. After having to go for a wander to get signal for the card we were happily off on our way to the next stop. Would recommend.

I was excited for the next place, Clonakilla, because I was intrigued to taste this highly rated wine. Unfortunately the atmosphere of this winery was very lacking. Although the tasting area was very nice and we were able to taste the reds, the lady serving us was on her phone the whole time and barely interacted with us – we definitely weren’t made to feel like we were worth her time. I also didn’t really enjoy any of the wines we tried. Wouldn’t recommend.

Because there was no conversation and we weren’t really enjoying ourselves, our visit to Clonakilla didn’t last long which meant I added another winery to our list on the spur of the moment which turned out to be quite serendipitous. Dionysus Winery was the highlight of our day on many levels. We felt incredibly welcome by Wendy, loved browsing through the winery dogs book and all the reds were delicious – it was hard for us to choose which to buy! We’ve already decided we definitely need to revisit this winery and will probably purchase the cheese platter to taste the wine with next time (I think that option was $8). Would definitely recommend!

Last stop. Tallagandra Hill. Unfortunately this was another uncomfortable experience for us (and we’re thankful this wasn’t our first stop as it may have put us off the whole experience!). Admittedly it was towards the end of the day (just after 4pm) so they were in the process of packing up and cleaning up however it almost felt hostile in there. We requested to taste their reds and the four options were described and then we were asked which we would like to taste (where other places would happily begin serving all options). We tasted three of their wines all up (I tried two and my partner tried one) and noticed down the bottom of their wine list it specified only genuine tasters with intent to purchase wine were allowed tastings while others would be charged $5 per person. No conversation attempts were made. We left without being charged (we didn’t really give them an option) although I did quite enjoy the first wine I tried, would have probably purchased in a different atmosphere. Wouldn’t recommend.

Overall we had a great afternoon, and I’m happy I now feel confident visiting wineries. Simple as rocking up and asking to taste. We did opt to buy wines along the road however we did not encounter any compulsory fees so we count it on the list of our favourite free things to do in and around Canberra.