I got to know Jess on a very (very) long road trip from Canberra to Echuca. We were heading to a mutual friend's wedding and the hours flew by as we talked-non-stop the entire journey. We established a number of key facts. One - Jess was from Adelaide and had grown up with three incredible wine growing areas at her doorstop. Two - we both enjoy wine (although Jess knows a great deal more about it than I do). Three - Jess was a bit concerned about her first winter in Canberra.
As a Canberra local, the answer seemed clear. What better way to spend the next six months than by introducing Jess to the Canberra Wine District. When I got home I unearthed my copy of the Canberra District Wine Region Map (you can download it here) - there were 35 wineries on the map.
The Canberra District Wine Region Challenge was born. 35 wineries, six months, two women. What's not to love?
We embarked on the challenge last weekend and headed out on Majura Road to kick off at the Mount Majura Vineyard. It's quite a beautiful spot, set in a valley with the vines arcing out up the undulations of the hills behind its cafe/tasting room. It also looks out on Canberra's truffle farm, which I visited last year.
Unlike the vast majority of Canberra's owner-operated cellar doors, Mount Majura takes a slightly different approach to its wine tastings. You arrive to a pre-set table with a clipboard providing you tasting notes on their range of wines and a table mat with circles telling you where to pop your glass to indicate which of the whites (and then the reds) that you you wish to taste. The friendly staff are quite happy to let you taste the full range if you wish - and we did.
The structure of the tasting makes it a relatively formal affair and left us wishing the owner might wander over, pull out a seat and tell us just a little bit more about the place and the wines. But the upside was that we were left to our own devices to take our time and talk openly about the wines we were tasting.
They also offer some lovely tasting plates. The one we ordered offered samples of local produce and worked terrifically with the wines we were sipping along the way. They also have a cheese platter available - and all very reasonable at $15 a platter.
Jess and I found that, despite showing us a very interesting range of whites and reds, we both bought the very reasonable priced white blend at $16 a bottle. It was easy to drink and at that price, perfect for a wind-down glass of vino when you struggle home and settle on the couch. I enjoyed the sparkling white but I like my sparkling very dry with fine bubbles. Jess was less enamoured and, to be honest, when I cracked it open for Sunday night dinner with Mum, it was less spectacular than I remembered. Still eminently drinkable and it held it's bubbles very well over the next couple of days as I enjoyed the leftovers.
All in all, a lovely way to spend an afternoon with your friends. Especially when it's raining and miserable outside!