Lake George Winery ushers a new verve to the Canberra region

Come for the vineyard but stay for starry sky, rolling hills and ‘paddock to plate’ experiences at the revitalised Lake George Winery. With a brand-new restaurant menu and vintage wines on offer, we were excited to be one of the first few to experience the inception of something brilliant.

Located on the shores of Lake George and a 45-minute drive away from Canberra, the 113-hectare property sees new owners Sarah and Anthony McDougall building on the vineyard’s legacy and adding their own special touch to this iconic Canberra region institution.

“Our vision includes plans to continue to follow organic principles in the vineyard and winery, offer locally sourced produce and support local businesses, provide accommodation as well as experiences along the crest of the Cullerin Range,” said Sarah.

Lake George Winery produces varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir that have achieved a James Halliday 5-star rating. They also produce Rosé, a perfect blush coloured wine with a sweet and dry finish. It would go great with surf and turf we thought.

Our visit to the winery was also to sample segments of the new menu and by pairing our meals with wine we thought would make a good match.

So, into the kitchen we went. Helmed by Chef Matt Morrissey, who talks to us about the upcoming new spring and summer menu: “We place a strong emphasis on the produce grown on the estate as well as local produce like lamb and beef from the surrounding regions.”

“When we create a dish for the menu, we’re not only thinking about the ingredients and how they would work together but also how well it will pair with the selection of wines we have on offer. We also use wine in the cooking process and soon we will be selling our house-made red wine barbeque sauce and fig and Rosé jam.”

Sophisticated casual dining is what the team at Lake George Winery are looking to offer their patrons. Situated 700m above sea level with a north easterly aspect, the winery’s many viticultural advantages set the scene for a dining experience that could fill the heart, body, and soul with peace. Food is the fuel for life, and dining with wine is the modus operandi to light it up.

Our first dish arrives, it’s one from their brunch menu—Field Mushrooms. The aroma of herb butter whets our appetite and we begin with a gentle poke into the perfectly poached egg sitting on a stacked tower of toasted sourdough, grilled mushrooms, greens, beetroot hummus and balsamic glaze.

We take one bite—everything perfectly sitting on our fork, not forgetting the velvety golden yolk dribbling down the mushroom—and immediately think the Rosé is known to go well with breakfast styled food. But wait, we find that the Pinot Gris paired well too.

The Gris takes on a fragrant bouquet aroma with a spread of fruity scents from citrus to stone fruit. The citrus acidity against the creaminess of the dish starts to make an appearance halfway through the palate continuing onto the finish and aftertaste. What a wonderful start!

Time for the entrée. Garlic Roasted Prawns—three words that resonate with seafood lovers. Served with avocado and tomato salsa, lime gel and micro salad, it was made in perfect unison with a nice glass of Rosé. With delicate aromas of raspberry, cherry and rose hip supported by a refreshing palate of red currant, strawberry and spice, this mouth-watering wine was crisp and had a dry finish.

Up next was House Smoked Duck Breast served with roquette, fetta and pine nut salad, roasted baby beetroot and a balsamic glaze. The Pinot Noir and Shiraz went exceptionally well with the sliced duck that sat in the middle of a circular arrangement of fresh emerald arugula.

With the Pinot Noir, the prominent taste of raspberries, rhubarb and blackberry fruit was clearly persistent achieved through the balanced acid and fine earthy tannins. The deep burgundy coloured Shiraz, on the other hand, offered a lovely peppery taste that mimicked the flavours of the salad in some ways. Simply delicious!

We’ve already tasted four wines and thee dishes. Boy, were we in for a treat! Talking to us more about the winery’s take on food and wine, Sarah adds: “Our chefs pride themselves on celebrating and working closely with local artisan suppliers in order to offer a menu which match the taste and textures of our cool climate wines.”

The mains arrive. Pairing wines with salmon can be tricky as it all depends on the method of preparation, but we found that Lake George Winery’s 2018 Rosé and their Crispy Skin Salmon were made for each other. The rich steak-like texture and flakiness of crispy salmon with cauliflower puree, greens and lemon buerre blanc allowed the wine to really shine through.

The peachy-pinkish Rosé is an acquired taste as we’ve been told many times—apart from the fact that it’s the most Instagramable wine to date, it’s also a lovely light and refreshing drink that’s a great accompaniment for afternoons spent at the beach with a basket of seafood, if you ask us!

The Tempranillo made from the noble Spanish grape with is deep dense colour and flavours of fresh black fruits was the one for our Chargrilled Pork Cutlet! A few sips in and our palate was rich with spicy, earthy fruit. Pork is known to work well with numerous red wines but that evening at the winery, we found the sweetness of the caramelised onion mash, chunky apple, roasted baby carrots and apple jus married up excellently with the tartness of the Tempranillo—which brought out the flavour of the dish a little bit more.

Sarah and Anthony bring a wealth of knowledge from managing their Summerhill Road vineyard in Bywong. Yes, you guessed right, you get a double wine whammy with the choice of indulging in some Summerhill Road signature wines at Lake George!

As all dinner ‘musts’ we had dessert and it was a heavenly Mango and Coconut Pannacotta with pistachio crumb, passionfruit coulis and toasted coconut. It wasn’t overly sweet as we had expected it to be and it didn’t feel sinful, if that helps the conscious diner. But what you have to do is pair it with the Summerhill 2016 Wild White—a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc offering a sweet tropical flavour with hints of stone fruit and honey. Oh, there was also a delightful cheese board too!

This year’s Lake George vintage wines, including their popular Rosé will be officially launched on 23 September 2018 in time for the bud burst.

With spring tattooing it’s colours onto the land and its bounty overflowing like a bottle of bubbling joy, we suggest you make your way down to Tulip Top for a spring fest and finish off with brunch or dinner at Lake George Winery for a culinary journey that celebrates the Canberra region.

Lake George Winery is located at Federal Hwy, Lake George NSW 2581. Visit their official website for more information.

Travel and Beyond were guests of Lake George Winery. All opinions are our own.

Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis