Sprawled across the lush Cullerin Range, Lerida Estate sits high enough that you can nearly see the cows grazing lazily across the dry expanse of Lake George. Swathes of grapevines grow down the hill in uniform folds and it is a charming walk up to the winery.
Back in March 2017, the new team at Lerida decided to share the tranquillity by keeping their cellar door and restaurant open 364 days of the year.
“We have such a beautiful view and people are travelling past us on the highway every day, so we thought ‘why not let them pop in and grab a coffee or a glass of wine?'”
And so, the business grew.
“We have employed a head chef and a couple of extra chefs,” says Mel, Lerida’s operations manager.
“At Lerida, we are not pretentious. We want people to come and enjoy the friends and family that they come with, to enjoy the food, the wine and the views.”
Lerida’s space hosts three separate dining vistas.
Looking out over the vines and across the Cullerin Range, the rustic Tuscan-like outdoor courtyard features misting tubes that keep diners cool on a summer afternoon. When the weather is fine, the courtyard hosts live music on the weekend and the outdoor bar serves up wine tasting.
Step inside to an air-conditioned café space with wine barrels set up for wine tasting, and window seating looking out to stunning views.
The barrel room is the winery’s restaurant, providing function space and facilities for weddings and corporate events. Catering, of course, is available (and is a highlight).
Against the backdrop of the vineyards, weddings at Lerida are stunning. Strings of delicate fairy lights crisscross the barrel room, lowering the high ceiling and creating a rustic ambience.
Lerida values strong community connections. As part of their partnership with Tuggeranong Arts Centre, they host an art exhibition space, regularly displaying work by different artists.
Lerida’s café also stocks a luxurious selection of locally made products including candles from Mojo Candles in the Southern Highlands which collects and recycles Lerida’s wine bottles. They cut the bottles down into candle containers with cleverly themed cork lids. With scents such as French Pear, Watermelon, Frosted Berries, these candles boast an impressive 50-hour burn time.
Realising that not everyone wants to have alcohol at a winery, Lerida also stocks non-alcoholic wine from Altina, run by a Canberra-based couple.
Even Lerida’s coffee is local. They brew ‘Hometown’, a blend from Canberra-based coffee roasters, Cosmorex.
The chefs work to a varied, seasonal menu.
“We enjoy matching wine with our food and where we can, we utilise our wine as an ingredient in our dishes,” Mel says.
“We serve our lunch menu from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. Outside those hours, there are still cakes, sweets, plus cheese and charcuterie platters. In the morning come and have cake and coffee, stay for lunch, then in the afternoon, have some cheese and wine. We try to offer something for everyone. We have vegan and vegetarian, gluten-free.
“We have it all here. It is scenic, come and do wine tasting, food, make a day of it!”
For our lunch, we feast on several small plates. The pan-fried prawn and chorizo on baby spinach with balsamic is a generous and rustic salad. The prawns are huge and flavoursome, delicious and filling.
Buttermilk marinated salt and pepper squid come out with a rich lemony aioli, a simple, yummy dish.
It’s a big call, but I will make it: this pork belly has to be the best we have had, not just in Canberra but anywhere! How can it be so crispy without being chewy, with the flesh still so tender? It is worth the drive out to Lerida for the pork belly alone!
Our dishes are paired with fresh, crisp Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir Rosé, which is strawberries and cream on the nose, with a fresh, dry finish.
Before we leave, we walk off our lunch with a stroll through the vineyard, drinking in those views and the rows of leafy vines.
Lerida Estate is located at 87 The Vineyards Rd, Collector, and is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week.