THE ONE ADULT-FRIENDLY WINERY
You can't help but feel the history when you step through the door at Jones Winery. There have been grapes growing on the farm here since 1860. The shed now used as a cellar door is barely more modern than that (it's been done up now, of course, with a restaurant serving French cuisine and a lovely area for tastings). Mandy Jones, the winemaker, has spent much of her life in the Bordeaux region, and you'll see that influence in her shiraz, durif and Marsanne wines, among many others. This is the perfect place for a long lunch of cassoulet, tarte tatin and the like, while you imbibe with something delicious.
THE ONE FAMILY-FRIENDLY WINERY
Few wineries can stake a claim as being properly family-friendly – mostly it's up to parents to distract their kids while they try to sample the local drops. However, Pfeiffer Wines has thought this through. There's a whole kids' play area here, complete with sandpit and cubby house. There's a pond with turtles to feed. And if that's still not enough, the staff can do up a "tasting paddle" of cordials for the kids to sip while you try Pfeiffer's excellent range of fortified wines. This is one of the original makers of Rutherglen tawny and muscat, and a tasting of the full flight here is highly recommended.
THE ONE HOTEL
Tuileries at De Bortoli is the best of both worlds: you're staying on a winery, but you're also in town; you have a cellar door on site, but you're also walking distance from shops and cafes. The property sits at the western end of Main Street, Rutherglen's main drag, in what used to be the Rutherglen Estates headquarters, though the property was bought by De Bortoli in 2018. As well as the cellar door and restaurant, De Bortoli has 12 "Vineyard Rooms", comfortable abodes overlooking the vines, and several two-bedroom apartments closer to the main building, which are ideal for families who need room to spread out. Rooms from $199 per night.
THE ONE BIKE RIDE
Flat, scenic Rutherglen is an ideal place to explore by bike, particularly given enthusiasts can harness part of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail that runs through the area. In Rutherglen it's all about "Pedal to Produce", which means a gentle cycle on back roads and trails to visit multiple wineries and local providores, with plenty of time to enjoy each one. Serious road cyclists, meanwhile, can tackle the 98-kilometre King of the Hill ride. Bikes are available for hire in town.
THE ONE PUB
Rutherglen may have wineries and meandering bike paths and a few fancy restaurants, but at its heart it's a friendly country town. In such a place you expect to find a great, character-filled local pub, and that's the niche filled by the Star Hotel. Food here is provided by the chefs at next-door Eastern Palace, a local Chinese institution, who supplement their menus with a few pub favourites. The beer is cold, the welcome is warm, and the pace is relaxed. Can't go wrong.
THE ONE RESTAURANT
Here's the flipside to the country town experience: Thousand Pound, the city-style wine bar that rounds out the Rutherglen offering. The brainchild of local Eliza Brown, Thousand Pound is a Melbourne-style venue on Main Street, a place to come for inventive, inspiring cuisine, and without doubt the best wine list in town. Chef Simon Arkless is doing the likes of roast bone marrow with parsley, shallot and caper salad, which can be paired with wines from Rutherglen, or greater Victoria, or the world.
THE ONE TAKEAWAY JOINT
"Australia's Greatest Pie Shop" – it's a bold move to stick that on your front door. You have to be pretty confident you can back it up with some good pastries. And to be fair to Parker Pies, on Main Street, they can. This not-so-humble store has been around for 25 years, churning out gourmet pies and picking up a swag of awards. Is it really Australia's greatest pie shop? It's up there.
THE ONE DOWNTOWN CELLAR DOOR
Here's a wine-tasting experience that's a little different. To begin with, the James & Co Wines cellar door is on Main Street, not on a vineyard. It also offers tastings not just of its own wines, but of some of the best drops from around the world. Check out the "Old World and New World" tasting, where winemaker Ricky James pits his local sangiovese creations against wines from Champagne, Provence and Brunello. Throw in some olives, charcuterie and cheese, and you have yourself one fine afternoon.
THE ONE RIVER
The banks of the mighty Murray are just a 10-minute drive from Rutherglen, meaning you have a host of river-bound activities at your fingertips. Choose to go fishing and try to bag a Murray cod; take a walk on one of several pathways that hug the riverbank; have a picnic; even go water-skiing. The town of Wahgunyah makes the perfect base for exploration.
ONE MORE THING…
Just in case Rutherglen's suite of wineries isn't enough to slake your thirst, the town is just a half-hour drive from Beechworth, which is fast becoming one of Australia's most respected regions. Call in for a visit at Weathercraft, Pennyweight, Savaterre, Haldon Estate and more.
Ben Groundwater travelled with assistance from Tourism North East.