Swallow Don’t Spit Chapter 3: A Cape York Reunion in Rutherglen

For those of you who are regular readers of ours, you may be aware that amongst our posts, we’ve written a number of series of stories. One of these, our trip to Cape York, took three chapters which you can read here. Another saga is our continuing exploration of Australian wine regions entitled, with suitably immature humour, Swallow Don’t Spit. If you’re so inclined, you can read Chapters 1 and 2. The current post, in an unlikely stroke of genius, brings these two chronicles together. It describes our visit to Rutherglen, a wine region in Victoria, where we met up with many of the friends we made on our journey to the Tip of the Cape.

A Plan is Hatched

We mentioned in ‘What about Canberra’ that we met up with Geoff and Liz, who live just outside the nation’s capital. We’d become friends with them a few months previously as they also joined our tagalong tour to the tip of Cape York. We discovered that their son and his family lived near Rutherglen Victoria and they visited often. We also realised that some of our other tagalong buddies lived in Albury, a short distance from Rutherglen. As we planned to be in Victoria from November, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to organise a get together.

A couple of weeks later we stayed with Robyn and Mal in Albury and also met up with their neighbours; Bill and Diekske. Everyone seemed interested in the suggestion so we sent an email out to the rest of the group. We ended up with 12 of us from the original 18 being able to make a weekend in early December. As well as those already mentioned; Jo & Steve from Gladstone, Queensland and Tony & Carol from near Melbourne were going to join us.

The Band Gets Back Together

We arrived in Rutherglen after following the Murray River from Corryong which you can read about in ‘Tracking Down the Man from Snowy River’. By the time we got there, the rest of our friends had already arrived and set up camp. We timed it perfectly, however, as Happy Hour was about to start. The campsite owners provided snacks and we found out what our friends had been up to as well as meeting some of the other campers on the site.

The 60 minutes of the official campsite time for happiness simply wasn’t long enough for us. Robyn treated us to one of her famous cheese platters and we carried on chatting and drinking. After a while, we thought that we had better put our tent up as it was starting to get dark. Not a good time to find out that the ground wasn’t the most conducive to tent pegs. Nonetheless, we eventually triumphed, and settled down for the night.

Grape and Grain

The next morning we all organised to meet for lunch at McEvoy Tavern in Eldorado, the smallest bar in Victoria. Prior to this we joined Geoff & Liz and Jo & Steve for a coffee and walk around Beechworth. We’d previously visited this lovely little town as we reported in ‘Taking a Smoko’ and were happy to go back to the honey shop to replenish our stocks. We also stopped again in the Telegraph Museum where we amused by a report about mobile telecommunication from 1901.

After lunch we stopped for a look at The Eldorado Dredge. This amazing machine ploughed through the area dredging up a channel for itself to mine gold. During the dredge’s 18 year working life it dredged 70,664 ounces of gold and 1,383 tons of tin concentrate. It was simply left where it was when it was decommissioned in 1954. It is an imposing machine and well worth a look at if you’re in the area.

The rest of the afternoon was given over to the grape. We joined Liz and Geoff with the women being the tasters and the men driving. Jane is a white wine drinker and they enjoyed a good selection at; Jones’s winery, Campbells, Cofield and All Saints. The latter is an amazing estate modelled on a castle. We also added a few bottles to the wine cellar in OTIS the jeep. It really is an amazing vehicle.

We met up with our other friends back at the campsite and Jo & Steve had surprises for us all. They’d bought Christmas presents to remind us of our Cape York trip. Our present reflected our reputation as destroyers of Australian wildlife and was a road kill recovery pack. We think this reputation is a bit unfair, it was only one wallaby and the poor animal jumped into us, as you can read about in Duct Tape, Zip Ties & WD40. Nonetheless, our fellow travellers find it most amusing that it was the poms who were the ones that this happened to.

It was back to the grain for dinner as we had a lovely meal at The Rutherglen Brewery. Jane & Robyn shared their first ever Espresso Martini. After dinner, a few of us carried on to the pub down the road where there was live music. Dancing may have occurred.

More swallowing and still no spitting

The next morning, most of our friends were packing up to return home. We had another day in Rutherglen and it was Jane’s turn to drive. Andy’s the red wine drinker so that’s where our day was focused. 

Rutherglen has a few more unusual grape varieties than the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon commonly associated with Australian wine. At Warrabilla wines, the standout drop was a reserve Durif. They also produce a Malbec which more often comes from Argentina.

From Warrabilla we continued to Stanton and Killeen where we met the lovely Jenny. We wrote about her in ‘Wheat Silos and Churches’ as she told us about the street art in her home town of Benalla. We left Stanton & Killeen with a bottle of the fortified wine which Rutherglen is most famous for; Tokay. However, Hungary where Tokay originates from has clamped down on other countries using the name. Australian wine producers have therefore agreed on a new name, Topaque. Same wine – different label, a bit like not being able to call sparkling wine champagne unless its from the champagne region, even if the traditional methode champenoise is used to make it.

Visits to Andrew Buller wines and Rutherglen Estate wrapped up a really nice weekend, meeting up with friends and discovering a new wine region. At Andrew Buller we made friends with one of their wine dogs, Angus. Wine dogs are a common phenomenon in wineries and you can buy a book featuring many of them from across Australia.

In addition to the areas of regional Victoria we wrote about in ‘Taking a Smoko’, we’d certainly suggest that you might add Rutherglen to a Victorian itinerary.

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