Roadtrips for Relief: Rutherglen

Published on 19 June 2020

Photo: Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre (credit: Visit Victoria)

Throw a change of clothes in a bag and fire up the car: Victoria is back open for business. The news that we can all travel freely around the state couldn’t be more welcome to regional hospitality operators who have had a summer of bushfires followed by a lockdown, and to the rest of us who are just keen for a change of scenery. This week we’re looking at Rutherglen and surrounds. Richard Cornish has plenty of great reasons to get to know this part of the northeast a little better.

Before you leave:

Many cellar doors now prefer bookings for tastings rather than walk-ins, and others are still fine-tuning their opening hours as they emerge from trade restrictions. Check the website (or, better still, the social media channels) of every establishment listed here for the most up-to-date information on their hours, capacity and bookings policies.

Where to Eat

Jones Winery & Restaurant has snapped up an exceptional talent in Briony Bradford, a Rutherglen native who cooked at Sydney’s Bentley Bar & Restaurant under Brent Savage, and at Hibiscus in London before returning home. With masterful technique and a deep understanding of local produce, she creates dishes such as Riverina duck served as a ballotine with cassoulet, sausage and breadcrumbs, and a chocolate fudge cake with chestnut, quince and hazelnut, an outstanding match for a glass of muscat. 61 Jones Rd, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 8496,

Chocolate tart with corn husk ice-cream at Jones Winery (credit: Richard Cornish)

Out near the Murray at Wahgunyah, the heritage-listed castle and impressive estate at All Saints is also home to Terrace Restaurant. Here Simon Arkless cooks refined dishes that work brilliantly with the estate’s wines, such as pork parfait, onion marmalade and brioche with a glass of the estate merlot. 315 All Saints Rd, Wahgunyah, Vic, (02) 6035 2228,

In a historic store in the heart of town, Taste at Rutherglen serves favourites such as confit duck, gnocchi with pine mushrooms and more. The restaurant is operating with reduced hours for lunch and breakfast, so call ahead or check the website. 121b Main Street, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 9765,

Uphold the great roadtrip tradition of a country bakery pie with a visit to Parker Pies. Made with a shortcrust base and puff pastry tops, these well-priced pastries are filled with everything from wagyu and truffle to classic steak and mushroom. 88 Main St, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 9605,

Parker Pies  (credit: Richard Cornish)

Where to Fill your Esky

When in muscat country, be sure to try everything from big, beautiful, rare examples at Chambers Rosewood Winery, where muscat grapes are blended with wine from the 1890s (Barkly Street, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 8641,, to more nuanced and floral expressions from Scion Vineyard & Estate (74 Slaughterhouse Rd, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 8844,

Durif, Rutherglen’s other specialty, is found at many cellar doors but you’d be crazy not to visit Warrabilla Wines, which makes several examples with lingering tannins and delicate bouquets of mulberry and violet (6152 Murray Valley Hwy, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6035 7242,

The Rutherglen Farmers Market is back, running every second Sunday morning of the month. Head there for excellent Rutherglen Berkshire pork, Louisa Morris Cakes, and malty, viscous stringybark Chiltern Honey. Lions Park, Douglas St, Rutherglen, Vic, 1800 622 871,

Sally Brown and Rowley Milhinch of Scion Wine  (credit: Richard Cornish)

Just 10 minutes’ drive from Rutherglen, try some of the best olive oil in the country plus fragrant little capers that smell like raspberries at Gooramadda Olives(1468 Gooramadda Rd, Gooramadda, (02) 6026 5658, A short drive down Chiltern Road is Earth Care Farm, where you can pick up farmgate goodies such as powerful, punchy garlic or jars of mulberry jam (1462 Chiltern-Howlong Rd, Browns Plains, Vic, (02) 6026 8194,

Where to Picnic

Go to Pickled Sisters Café (Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah, (02) 6033 2377, to pick up a cane picnic basket filled with cheese, antipasto, bread, terrine and cakes, buy a bottle of sparkling shiraz from Cofield Wines(Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah,(02) 6033 3798) next door and make a beeline for The Willows Reserve on the banks of the Murray River to enjoy your haul.

The Willows Reserve  (credit: Richard Cornish)

Where to Drink

Popular with young winemakers, Thousand Pound is a wine bar in town pouring glasses from a deep list favouring small family wineries. Until 22 June, those glasses will have to be accompanied by dinner. Lucky for you, the menu features everything from sobrassada croquettes to swimmer crab risotto. 82 Main St, Rutherglen, Vic, (02) 6032 8179,

Where to Stay

Perched on a rise on the edge of town, La Maison St Arnaud B&B overlooks the river red gum forest of the Murray River and the Victorian Alps beyond. This beautifully restored 1880s home is pet and bike-friendly. Choose from two rooms that come with modern amenities, separate lounges and great breakfast. (Note that the second room will only be occupied by members of the same booking party while COVID-19 restrictions are in place). 16 Hunter St, Rutherglen, Vic, 0413 896 560, From $195 per night.

Where to Ride

Hire a bike from the Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre and ride the nine kilometres to Wahgunyah, where you’ll find the cellar doors of Valhalla, Pfeiffer and Cofield. 57 Main St, Rutherglen, Vic, 1800 622 871,

The Word on the Street

Muscat is no longer that thing your grandparents drink. “Rutherglen muscat is unique in the world,” says Rowley Milhinch, winemaker at Scion.

Milhinch is part of the next generation of winemakers that are exploring new directions for Rutherglen’s traditional varieties, muscat among them.

“Rutherglen muscat shows really diverse style: its breadth and depth of flavour is crazy. It goes from rich, fruity Christmas cake to the new style which is about all freshness, and bright floral and fruity aromas.”

Milhinch says that some of these fresher, younger wines can even be paired with seafood and cheese. What are you waiting for?

Along the Way

Break up the drive with a stop at Benalla, where you can stretch your legs in the Benalla Botanical Gardens or the Rose Garden(both Bridge St, Benalla), which features a 1960s space rocket climbing playground. Or else stop by Benalla Art Gallery (reopening in July) by the Broken River to see the strong collection of Australian art (Bridge St, Benalla, (03) 5760 2619, If you need to refuel, Rustik Café(28 Bridge St, Benalla, (03) 5762 4686, serves breakfast and lunch staples using local eggs, salmon and more, while the North Eastern Hotel(1 Nunn St, Benalla, (03) 5762 7333) does a steady trade in counter meals.

By Richard Cornish