Picturesque Rutherglen, in the heart of north-east Victoria, is a small town with a global reputation for its fortified wines. Go there to sample some of the region’s great wines and delicious local produce, and savour the scenic countryside.
In addition to being the traditional home of Australia’s great port styles, muscats and topaques, Rutherglen and neighbouring Wahgunyah are also gaining attention for the quality of their table wines.
Rutherglen is about 300 kilometres from Melbourne about 20 wineries in all, with several branching out stylistically into alternative grape varieties. The Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre has a display on the town’s rich history, and offers local tourism information.
The region is home to some of the most picturesque camping, fishing, cycling, swimming and boating locations in Australia. One of the more interesting ways of exploring is the Wahgunyah to Rutherglen extension of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, enabling cyclists to ride the sealed path from the banks of the Murray to historic Rutherglen. The nine-kilometre trail travels through the heart of the wine region.
Best hotels in Rutherglen
La Maison St Arnaud
There’s no shortage of tourist accommodation in town, including great high-end Bed & Breakfasts such La Maison St Arnaud. This pet-friendly establishment gives its guest a boutique B&B experience like no other.
Among the most central accommodation options is this long-time favourite luxury hotel next to the Rutherglen Estates cellar door. With an onsite restaurant, tennis court, swimming pool and free Wi-Fi, it’s hugely popular. Be sure to book in advance.
Wine Village Motor Inn
For an upmarket motel experience, this place has plenty of fans among locals and visitors alike.
Rutherglen Country Cottages
The cosy Rutherglen Country Cottages offer comfortable and central self-contained B&B accommodation.
Moodemere Lake House
A good choice for those looking for a genuine country experience is this beautiful accommodation set within Lake Moodemere Estate. The broad deck and living area provide views across Lake Moodemere (think lazily watching pelicans and the occasional platypus), while the bedroom faces out toward the vineyard.
Mount Ophir Estate
For somewhere a little offbeat, consider here, where The Tower accommodation offers air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi. This estate lives by the philosophy that we need to be gentle on the environment and look after the earth, and it shows when staying there.
Rutherglen Caravan & Tourist Park
For those on a budget, there are several camping options. This is a small but a highly recommended option on the shores of Lake King, which is just a two-minute walk from the town centre.
Best restaurants in Rutherglen
Rutherglen is a close-knit community, and there’s a history of hospitality handed down from generation to generation. As a rule of thumb it’s best to lunch at one of the vineyard restaurants or cafés, and to have dinner in town at one of the several eating establishments on Main Street.
Terrace Restaurant at All Saints Estate
Located within All Saints Estate, this restaurant is where British-born chef Simon Arkless has built a formidable reputation. The rather grand space is arguably the best eatery in north-east Victoria, and has wines from All Saints and St Leonards available by the glass.
Jones Winery Restaurant
This delightful French-style country kitchen approaches food with a ‘no waste’ ideology, selecting only seasonal and local products from people the head chef, Briony Bradford, knows personally. This place pushes boundaries with its diverse flavours and unique dishes.
The Pickled Sisters Café
Adjacent to the Cofield Wines cellar door. This is a favourite of local winemakers, who like to share its outstanding platters of local produce.
A relative newcomer with a big following, this wine bar is the brainchild of Melbourne restaurateur Denis Lucey and the Brown family from All Saints Estate and St Leonards Vineyard. It’s housed in an original Victorian storefront in the centre of town.
With its own onsite brewery, this place is a bustling spot serving contemporary Australian dishes and a wide selection of wines and craft beer.
Ripe at Buller Wines
This exceptional restaurant within Buller Wines offers local flavours in a pleasant setting overlooking Buller Wines’ 100-year-old Calliope Vineyard.
One of most elegant local spot to dine, this establishment has a great selection of both local produce and wine. A more country-oriented kitchen, its own garden provides a large seasonal selection of herbs and vegetables.
Rutherglen Farmers Market
To sample local gourmet goods, try the local Rutherglen Farmers Market, which brings into town a vast range of everything you might need to whip up your own delectable dishes. The markets are held on the second Sunday of each month.
Right on the main drag, this family-owned pie shop is hugely popular. In the heart of Victoria’s oldest wine region, this pastry shop uses fresh local ingredients in everything it makes, and has won more than 200 awards.
Best bars & cafés in Rutherglen
Wine is very much the raison d’être of Rutherglen. The vinous history here dates to the 1850s gold rush.
Chambers Rosewood Vineyards
Established in 1858, this family-owned establishment is the oldest winery in the region. Stephen Chambers is the sixth generation in his family to make wine at Rosewood.
Down a long driveway surrounded by vineyards, this winery is a small family-run establishment. The winery was established in 1859 and his since won more than 4000 awards for its outstanding wines. To keep the history of the cellar door alive, views of century-old storage casts and dirt floors are all part of the winemaking experience.
Now run by the fourth and fifth generations of the Campbell family, this winery was established in 1870. Traces of treacle, butterscotch and oak emanate from these wines. Many of them decades-old, maturing in casks or giant oak barrels.
Pfeiffer Wines Rutherglen
At Pfeiffer Wines you can enjoy a glass of wine on the Sunday Creek Bridge while gazing down at lazy turtles below. It produces many wines of elegance, including crisp whites, full-bodied reds and internationally extolled muscats and topaques.
All Saints Estate
Established in 1864, this heritage-listed estate is run by the fourth generation of the Brown family. Tastings are conducted in an atmospheric old chateau.
Now owned by local couple Gerald and Mary Judd, the facilities and wines here are fast being returned to their past glory.
This boutique operation uses natural vineyard practices, traditional winemaking techniques and have produce diverse wine varietals including marsanne, grenache and shiraz.
Pickers Café & Collectables
Based upon the owners love of homecooked food and collectables, this is a fantastic place to stop by for breakfast, light lunch and afternoon tea.
More foodie-inspired getaways can be found in Daylesford, Beechworth and Healesville.