Heaven for wine lovers and aficionados of the lazy weekend lunch.
For a fabulous boozy Saturday or Sunday lunch in New England, you can’t beat Merilba Estate. Come for the wine and food, stay for the beautiful gardens, the historic buildings and wonderful views from your dining table.
And the cool climate wine you’ll be sampling? Well, let’s just say you’d better save some space for a box in the car.
Merilba has a rich history as an established pastoral property that has been a mainstay of New England since the mid-1800s. Back then, what is now the cellar door served as a way station for the then-bustling stagecoach industry with space to house 26 horses.
Merilba was purchased in 1982 by John and Annette Cassidy who have since diversified the 30,000-acre property into an extensive pastoral enterprise. They run a South Devon cattle stud as well as commercial cattle, Merino fine wool and prime lambs.
In recent years they have begun breeding Boar goats prized for their meat and, last but a very long way from least, in 1998 commenced wine production.
The Merilba vineyard contains Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s situated at an altitude of 860m above sea level and located on ancient igneous plutonic granite soils, which Merilba claims allows the natural regulation of the vine growth.
The vines are low vigour and low yielding and fruit is allowed to ripen to the optimum level in the cool climate conditions. The combination of altitude, slope, soil and climate interact to give Merilba Estate wines great flavour and complexity.
The aforementioned cellar door – formerly stables then used as a woolshed for a century or more – has been beautifully restored and is a fabulous place to enjoy a glass of wine or four.
The open fireplace will keep you warm as you gaze out the floor to ceiling windows to the gardens and countryside beyond, while the blend of old and new features inside create a welcoming environment that is both homely and luxurious.
Best of all, it is just as inviting in winter as it is in summer, if not more so.
For those who book ahead, lunch is available on weekends and really shouldn’t be missed. The menu changes with the seasons, offering guests a choice of three or four entrees, mains and desserts.
Walk off your lunch by taking a stroll around the gorgeous gardens, where roses are the order of the day. Indeed, Merilba is famous for the beauty of its extensive gardens and the structures contained in it.
These include the ‘Walk of Roses’, a 30m pergola covered in dozens of different varieties of climbing roses, and ‘The Folly’, a copper-roofed rotunda also surrounded by roses.
For those not wishing to drive (did we mention the wine is fantastic?), Merilba Estate can be visited as part of the New England Wine Tour, which departs from Uralla and Armidale respectively.