THE delicious aroma of Nanna Jones's steaming chicken pie greets us as we arrive at the cafe at Jones Winery and Vineyard, near Rutherglen, on a bleak winter's day. We thaw out beside the blazing wood-fire heater in the heritage-listed barn — dating to the 1860s — that is now home to the cellar door and the new cafe.
Rutherglen winemaker Mandy Jones is living her dream, opening a cafe that serves simple, tasty dishes you could find in any French bistro.
She once tossed up whether to become a chef and completed a cordon bleu cooking course in Paris but decided winemaking was her greatest love.
For a decade, Jones was the winemaker at Chateau Carsin in the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux and travelled between Bordeaux and the Rutherglen winery she runs with her brother, Arthur.
"As much as I love winemaking, I always wanted to open a small French-style cafe with just a limited menu — but I couldn't resist including our grandmother's chicken pie," she says.
Chef Kate Akrap, who worked with Cath Claringbold at Mecca Bah in Southbank and with Peter Weir at Beaumont's Cafe in Rutherglen, is in charge of the kitchen and loves cooking with fresh, seasonal produce.
We order pork rillettes — delicious shredded, slow-cooked, free-range pork served with pickled crabapples ($17) and pear and parsnip soup ($12) with home-made bread.
We can't resist Nanna Jones's open chicken pie served with glazed dutch carrots ($20) and a classic duck confit ($26) with herb-dressed green beans. A bottle of 2009 Durif ($28) is the perfect accompaniment.
For dessert, we share the signature baked fig cheesecake ($9) with a glass of Apero ($7).
As for that chicken pie — it may not be French but Nanna Jones would be proud.
Jones Cafe at Jones Winery and Vineyard Cellar Door, 61 Jones Road, Rutherglen, (02) 6032 8496. Open for lunch Thursday to Sunday and public holidays. See joneswinery.com. To stay: nearby options include The Glen Bakery (phone 0447 441 796), Tuileries (see tuileriesrutherglen.com.au), Ready Cottage B&B (see readycottage.com.au).
Reviewed by Sue Wallace, who was hosted by North East Victoria Tourism.