Poacher’s Way: Local Food and Wine Provide a Winter Escape
There are times when my only reason to buy something is to give my money to someplace other than Woolies.
For those not ‘in the know,’ Woolies is Australia’s megalithic supermarket – the supermarket than owns or affects all other supermarkets. However, the local food movement is huge in Australia, and many areas have begun to market themselves around their gourmet options.
Poacher’s Way in Canberra’s north is one such region. The touring route stretches from Bowning to Yass, through Bungendore, Gundaroo and Collector and features cellar doors, dining options, craft and gift shops, country B&Bs, and even a spa.
The drive itself is a welcome respite from the work, Woolies, and Winter of everyday life.
There are more than 30 wineries throughout Poacher’s Way, so it would take a weekend or more just to visit those. And, since the theme is relaxation, it’s best to go with the flow.
We began at Poacher’s Pantry, north of Hall. The old grazing property is now a country smokehouse. It’s always fascinating to me how many rural properties in Australia have been transformed into these charming cafes, often in the most unexpected places. Take a turn down an old farm road and you’re bound to find one.
Its meats are available for purchase in either the “pantry” or the restaurant next door. They’re so popular that they’re used by Qantas in its first and business class, and served in gourmet restaurants throughout Australia. We tried the sampling platter for lunch, enjoying rare treats such as mountain pepper smoked lamb, ham and lamb prosciutto, and smoked garlic chicken. It was delicious, and bookings are recommended as the restaurant was full. We picked up smoked souvenirs and headed on our way.
Slightly further north, we drove through the small town of Murrumbateman, saving that for another day, and turned east towards Gundaroo.
The first winery we stopped at was Jeir Creek, where their family-run cellar door and crisp dessert wines hit the spot. Continuing east, our next stop was the famous Clonakilla Winery. A two-times finalist for Australian Winemaker of the Year, Clonakilla is considered one of Australia’s leading small wineries. The wines (and the prices) match, but their muscat was so beautiful, we would have paid almost any price for it (and did). Unfortunately, their award-winning Shiraz Viognier wasn’t available for tasting, which only means we’ll have to make another trip.
The next winery Murrumbateman Road led us to was Yass Valley Wines. They had beautiful white wines, but the cold weather had us in the mood for something heartier, and we moved on. We found something warmer at Tallagandra Hill down the road, where they also served fresh-brewed coffee. We also picked up a couple bottles of red and enjoyed the warmth and conversation in their refurbished cellar door.
I wasn’t sure how I’d enjoy a day of wine tasting in the winter, but there was something heartening about blowing in to a cosy cellar door and warming up with a golden muscat. So much so, in fact, that with more than 30 left to visit, we’ll have to do it again.
With the many wineries, shops, and cafes along Poacher’s Way, it’s worth at least one leisurely day, if not a weekend. It truly is an escape into country warmth and out of the ‘Woolies’ of everyday life in Canberra’s winter.
For more information, suggested itineraries, and accommodation options, see the official Poacher’s Way website.