Sunday lunch: Watchbox Winery, Indigo Valley

CATTLE duffers and wild dogs were once seen from a hut near Watchbox Winery in the Rutherglen wine region of Victoria.

That was in the early 1800s when stockmen from the Eldorado Run grazed cattle in the Indigo and Black Dog Creek valleys and had a "watchman" keep an eye on who did what.

So when Alan and Lisa Clark wanted a name for their winery after planting vines in 1997, "watchbox" seemed a great choice.

Today, partners Shelley Wait and Tyson Knight run the Watchbox Cafe and cellar door, which opened in 2002, while the Clarks concentrate on winemaking.

It's the perfect place for a long, lazy lunch under the shade of blossoming almond trees, complete with tranquil rural vistas.

You can also dine in the rustic woolshed-inspired building, which has views through the french doors of gumtrees and rolling hills.

The uncomplicated menu features gourmet wood-fired pizzas, with tasty toppings that change fortnightly.

We start with bruschetta ($8), while others nearby nibble on a gourmet cheese platter, which includes local offerings ($20).

Greek lamb pizza arrives, with tender lamb strips marinated in a lemony oil with mozzarella cheese, olives, feta, fresh cherry tomatoes and shredded baby spinach ($17).

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The mango pickled chicken Pizza ($17) — stir-fried chicken marinated in mango pickle and coconut milk with a mango salsa and sour cream — is also a great choice.

Watchbox Wines can be bought by the glass (from $5) or the bottle. We taste-test the sauvignon blanc ($5) and can't resist the Indigo Gold ($7) with our desserts — a home-made lemon meringue cheesecake ($6) and sticky date pudding ($6).

It's great for families, with an inside play area and grassed grounds where a serious cricket match is being played. A five-year-old smashes the ball across the paddock, then throws down his bat as his pizza arrives.

Reviewed by Sue Wallace, who was hosted by the Winemakers of Rutherglen.

Watchbox Winery, 1155 Indigo Creek Road, Indigo Valley; phone 02 6026 9299 or see watchboxwines.com.au.

Open Wednesday to Friday 10am to 4pm, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10am to 5pm. Wood-fired pizzas are available Friday to Sunday.

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