When it comes to bringing a bottle to dinner, we’re alllll about a drink that’s unique, locally made and—most importantly—delicious. Which is why muscat has been filing our glasses lately. Half-wine, half-spirit (okay, not quite, it’s a fortified wine if you want to get technical about it), all incredibly moreishly drinkable, we were surprised to find that some of the best muscat in the country is being made by two dudes from completely different backgrounds, right here in Victoria.
So, we spent a weekend in Rutherglen with Nick Brown, head winemaker at All Saints Estate, and Rowly Milhinch, founder of Scion Vineyard & Winery, to find out how this magical drink is made, how it can be served (hint: it works as an aperitif, in a cocktail, as a meat glaze — it goes with pretty much anything), and what’s so special about its heritage.
Following in his family’s footsteps, Nick is a fourth generation winemaker and oversees winemaking at All Saints Estate. After travelling through Europe, where he did everything from working on luxury yachts to pulling pints at a British pub, Nick returned to good old Aus to study wine in Adelaide and has never looked back. Rowly, on the other hand, is a newer addition to the wine trade. Having studied design in Melbourne, he fell in love with the High Country, founded Scion in 2002, and has been winning awards and drinkers’ hearts ever since.
Most of our chat with Nick and Rowly took place in their favourite wine bar, Thousand Pound Wine Bar & Store, in the heart of Rutherglen. Owned by the brother-in-law of one of Luxsmith’s top dogs, Thousand Pound wouldn’t look out of place on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street, however it’s filled with a hell of a lot less pretention, and a bucket-load more boutique wine. Oysters, cheese and a muscat spritz? Hell yes.
Rutherglen itself is one of Victoria’s most prestigious and, more to the point, beautiful wine-filled regions, which is undergoing a huge transformation thanks to a host of innovative thinkers. While The Urban List quizzed the two wine-loving mates about muscat, they also shared their top tips for those looking to visit the area.
First up, if you’re driving out from Melbourne, Rutherglen is an overnight destination rather than a day-trip, especially if you’re planning on sampling some (slash all) of the muscat. Overnight options include the Wicked Villa, a cute converted winery storehouse that overlooks an olive grove and comes kitted out with a stunning spiral staircase and BBQ, and The Tuileries, a development that’s got a pool, fantastic stargazing spots, and both private rooms and villas.
Once you’ve checked in, ditch the car keys and go for a vintage Mercedes for the weekend (no, we’re not kidding), or if you fancy freewheeling through the countryside or pedalling your way across the NSW border, hire a bike from the team at the Rutherglen Wine Experience—a great go-to for winery tours, foodie events and seasonal pop-ups. From then on, it’s all about indulging in epic fresh food, mouth-watering wines and some top-quality banter with the locals.
For the best brunch fare to be found, The Pickled Sisters Café simply can’t be beaten. As well as serving an Eggs Benedict that we’d happily eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the team do a drool-worthy to-go picnic (which you’ll spot in the vid above) and a chocolate brownie that’s like heaven on a plate. Or in a hamper.
To DIY your own picnic, visit Indigo Food Co., which is conveniently in the same building as All Saints Winery and Terrace Restaurant, and keep rich, creamy cheese, biscuits and all the trimmings. As for the hunger pangs in your dessert-loving second stomach, Renaissance Chocolates is our top hidden gem for chocoholics, or head back to Thousand Pound for a special muscat affogato to finish a day’s food and drink discovery… Hey, is that drool I can see on your phone screen?
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! series — the ultimate guide to Victoria’s rural gems. For more ideas about where to wander in Victoria’s High Country, click here.
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