As one of the leaders in modern wine production, Australia is known for its dynamic wine scene. Offering everything from cold climate whites to heady sun-soaked reds, these elegant wines are favoured the world over.
While we stand as heavy lifters in the international wine export space, our own appreciation of a nice drop remains strong. From wine growing areas like the Yarra Valley and across to the Margaret River there is plenty to love about Australian wine. Closer to home, and close to the heart, our nation’s capital boasts some of the most acclaimed wines on the market.
Though the Canberra wine district may be small, it certainly is mighty. With over forty wonderful wineries producing over 150 wines there is plenty to choose from. Our raw natural landscape presents the best of both cold and warm climate wines, to satisfy most palates.
With plenty to taste, see and do, Canberra’s most loved cellar doors are less than an hours drive out of the capital. If you are visiting or seeking new ways to explore your own back yard look no further. Here is our pick of the best cellar doors in Canberra.
What makes a great cellar door?
Great wineries are known for more than their acclaimed wine. They fuse sommelier sass with culinary creativity to present and overarching cultural experience tied to the soil, sun, and seasons. Here is what we think separates the regions finest wineries from the rest:
- Passionate hosts. There is much to be said for passion in the world of wine making. From nurturing the vines to the intricacies of production, wine making is an age old artform. The best cellar doors play to this strength, equipping their cellars with the most passionate hosts. Be it the wine makers themselves, their families or employees, passionate hosts can transform the tasting experience altogether.
- Special experiences. More than a place to simply sample stock, the best cellar doors today are destinations in their own right. Paying homage to their surrounds, they offer a truly immersive vineyard experience. From a dance through each vintage to most loved and new blends, these tasting experiences showcase the best of the best. And, for the ultimate wine experience, look for cellar doors that extend this toward food-paired tastings. Be it a charcuterie board, picnic basket, light lunch, or degustation dinner these special experiences have it all.
- Insider insight. What really sets any cellar experience apart is the level of knowledge expressed by the hosts. This insight could include winery history, the winemaking process, along with regional wine culture and the wine itself. Importantly, experienced hosts know how to tailor each cellar visit providing insights appropriate to the group and their interests.
- Point of difference. Great cellar doors offer the entire tourism experience, and do so in a way that is unique to their brand. While the wine produced does much of this already, it’s the extra bells and whistles that things up a notch. Think along the lines of the landscape, architecture and history, the blend of food and wine, and even art. Some cellar doors lengthen a stay offering accommodation, event spaces and more.
- Cellar exclusives. For many, a big drawcard when visiting a cellar door is the unrivalled access it provides to a winemakers produce. Whether this means sourcing a favoured vintage or sampling cellar door exclusives, these small gestures have a big impact. Some cellar doors also offer incentivised offers, free shipping, and invitations to join their wine club.
The best cellar doors in Canberra
Riotact’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Planted in 1997 in pursuit of the perfect pinot noir, stands one of the Canberra region’s most acclaimed wine makers, Lerida Estate. Nestled at the cold climate intersection of the Cullerin Range and Lake George, the vineyards low yielding vines are artfully transformed into their award-winning wines.
Dedicated to making distinctive, world class wines, Lerida Estate have curated a selection of vines that best represent the unique natural properties of their site. From Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier, along with the jewel in their crown – Pinot Noir, Lerida Estate has a spectacular combination of vines.
Perfectly poised amongst the linear vines is their winery, a beautiful Glenn Murcutt designed architectural masterpiece. Accommodating the flow of the wine making process itself, the winery captures each stage from crushing to fermentation, barrel storage, and ultimately cellar operations.
This stunning site is also home to the winery’s visitor experience, providing a warm and welcoming central location that makes the most of the stunning surrounds. This multifaceted space features the estates cellar door, the perfect place to shop or sip and enjoy a guided tasting or two.
With a cosy outdoor courtyard and a roaring indoor fire, Lerida Estate can be visited and enjoyed all year round. The winery's Café Lerida boasts modern Australian fare, and some wonderful accompaniments to their wines. Open 10am to 5pm seven days a week, it is the perfect place to pop in for a visit or stay a while.
James Arthur shared this glowing review on Google, “A wonderful venue, with a view of lake George. The staff are knowledgeable and passionate about their wines. The food was very nice, quality cured meat on the cheese board.”
With its roots embedded deep in the ancient rocks and red soil, Mount Majura Vineyard are a quiet achiever specialising in Tempranillo and Riesling. This small scale winery run by winemaker Frank Van de Loo, is all about the expression of place.
Founded in 1988 off the back of a geology map, Mount Majura Vineyard has flourished into one of the most popular wineries in the region. Their cellar door is open daily from 10am to 5pm with a choice of two tasting options and accompanying small bites.
Kerbray shared this review on Google, “Some great selections of wine, lovely venue, and very friendly and helpful staff. It was very busy when we went, but they still found a table for us outside undercover. The food looked delicious too and you can order all of their wines online afterwards if needed!”
Surrounded by their rocky namesake, Brindabella Hills are nationally applauded boutique winemakers known for their Chardonnay and Shiraz. With over seventeen vintages under their belts they well established production extends to a range of whites, reds, and dessert wines.
The Brindabella Hills cellar door is open for sales and tastings from 10am to 5pm weekends, and for sales only weekdays. Their lovely onsite restaurant offers refined dining both in and outdoors.
Beth Raven had this to say on Google, “Been here a few times now and can honestly say it’s been perfect every time. The food is simply delicious and perfect with the wine parings. Can never leave here without a full belly and a case of wine under each arm….”
Family owned and operated Shaw Wines create world class cold climate wines crafted in their Murrumbateman vineyard. Most widely recognised for their Estate label, wines include Sparking Cuvee, Rose, Riesling, Merlot and Shiraz.
Their bold architecturally designed winery and cellar door are open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm. Offering seated tastings and a selection of flights for individuals through to groups of eight, they are certainly worth a visit.
As Rachel Keith said on Google, “Shaw is a great vineyard - a beautiful tasting room and a lovely selection of high-quality wines. The staff are wonderful and knowledgeable and will talk you through the different wines. I also recommend the platters. The view of the alpacas while wine tasting is just the cherry on top.”
Established in 1973 by winemakers Ken and Judith Helm, Helm Wines specialises in the production of award-winning Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon amongst many others.
Located in Murrumbateman, their cellar door stands pride of place in the 1888 Toual Public School House, a National Trust listed building and the inspiration for their label. Their wines can be tasted and enjoyed in their cellar door, open Friday to Monday from 10am to 4pm.
Matthew Rowland shared this sentiment on Google, “A hidden Gem between Sydney and the ACT, drop in to see a snapshot of times gone bye, and taste regional wine that will blow your mind, and expand your pallet. We were tipped to drop past and this will forever be on our places to visit whenever we are road tripping down south.”
Keen to explore more? Check out the best wineries and the best wine tours that Canberra has to offer. And, for other short break ideas check out our article on the best day trips from Canberra.
Your experience with cellar doors in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the cellar doors listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bookings required for cellar door visits?
To ensure a personalised and enjoyable visit at the time of your choosing it is always recommended to book ahead for all cellar door tastings and experiences. This is particularly true of weekends and busy holiday periods.
How long is the average wine tasting?
The average tasting can last between thirty to forty five minutes dependant on the cellar door. More structured wine tastings can last up to an hour, and those paired with dining can extend to two and a half hours plus. As each cellar door has their own spin on things it is worth checking on time frames before booking.
What etiquette should be observed at a wine tasting?
While wine tasting in Australia is generally a more relaxed affair there are a few things to keep in mind. First, allow the host to serve the wine whilst listening to any information provided. Then when holding a glass, do so by the stem or the base only. Finally, it’s as simple as look, swirl, smell, and then taste. Remember to sip responsibly and consider the use of a spittoon if needed.
What is a spittoon and why is it used?
A spittoon is a special container in which excess wine can be spit into during a tasting. The use of a spittoon is a great option for those wishing to sample a series of wines or limit alcohol absorption.
Are children welcome at a cellar door?
Many vineyards and their respective wineries welcome guests both young and young at heart. When accompanied by their parents, children are generally welcome at most cellar doors. That said, some establishments, tasting experiences, and flights are more suited to adults only. If in doubt, a quick call with the cellar door can help.