The Canberra Wine & Food Club – unique!!

3.51pm, Thursday 28th May, Ainslie Avenue, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Afternoon folks, it’s a sunny day here in the nation’s capital, but it’s still icy cold! We’ll be off to the ‘Sirens’ restaurant out in Gungalhin – on the outskirts of Canberra – this evening, to do our first ever Yalumba dinner with them, so I’ve got a bit of time to catch you up on one of the best annual events on our Rare & Fine release calendar. And that would be the Canberra Wine & Food Club lunch.

The Canberra Wine & Food Club is one of those fabulous stories that sit out there in the Australian suburbs, and every now and then you get lucky enough to stumble across one of them. Like the day about 12 years ago when our Yalumba sales man for Canberra, the ACT, and all the country through to Bega and Batemans Bay – David Shaw – suggested we take our new release top wines around to these keen Canberra wine interested folk that had their own ‘clubhouse’ and would cook a lunch up for as at the same time. Sounded like a good idea at the time – little did we realise that we were being let into a great co operative world where like minded people get together and enjoy wine and food on a regular basis……and we’ve caught up with them for a lunch just about every year since. But not just any lunch folks!

The Canberra Wine and Food Club started back in 1953, and was pretty much a group of blokes who sought out good wine direct from wineries – by the barrel – and had get togethers to bottle it off and sell it to mates – under a special licence! – then they started making a picnic of it with home cooked food. Then, they decided it would be a sart move to build a cellar to store their wine, and why not put a clubhouse on top of it with a dining room, bar and kitchen – and they’d be set! And that’s exactly what they did. Approached the Department of the Interior back in the day, outlined what they wanted to do, and got the green light. And instead of taking up a block of land in the city – too flat – the CWFC founding group found a top block of land, on a slope so that a cellar was possible, and the current Clubhouse at 13 Fitzroy Terrace, Forrest eventually went up. Not without a stack of working bee days to dig the cellar, set the floorboards, and actually build the place. Let alone later developments to carpet the dining room, improve the lighting, and upgrade the kitchen. And that, in a nutshell is how the whole thing started. And we’re lucky enough to be associated closely with the club today, and it’s a very big red wine letter day for us when the date is set for the annual Yalumba Rare & Fine Lunch at the CWFC. 

These days our Yalumba man in Canberra is Mick Riddle, and this year Mick and I wanted to make it all a bit special – last year we featured the 2010 Signature Cab Shiraz, yes, the one that I was thrilled to bits to be asked to sign! – so this year we thought it might be nice to do morning tea before the lunch. We would chase down some super muffins and cupcakes and the club members could bring along their Signature to be ‘signed again’ – which a lot of folks have been keen to do. So that’s exactly how the plan for yesterday came together. 

One minor setback though, before we even got going….the fire alarm at the hotel where I was staying went off at 4.06am, so I probably looked a bit ordinary around the edges heading off to the bakery and on to the bottle signing! 


Yep!! And it was jolly chilly in the cellar! But hang on, I’m getting ahead of the story. We made arrangements from the winery last week with excellent local Canberra bakers ‘210 Degrees’ (at the Hughes shops) for cupcakes and muffins, and Mick and I went over to collect them – and have brekky. Should’ve tried their bacon and cheese pie, but I knew it would end up on my clean shirt, so went for the ham and cheese croissant. If you live in Canberra – you should definitely drop by.

Hmmmmm…….what goodies could be in those boxes? And that’s a very neat sales set up in the car Mick!

Delivered safely downstairs – without any sampling I might add! – to the CWFC cellar for the Signature signing morning tea….left to right….choc chip muffins, chocolate sponge chocolate cupcakes, red velvet sponge vanilla iced cupcakes, and raspberry & white chocolate muffins. Yes, they tasted as good as they looked!

OK – just got the call from the boys, and I’ll be collected in 10 minutes to go across to Sirens (Gungalhin) for tonight’s Rare & Fine dinner, so I’ll finish this when I get back tonight.

See ya for now 


This is the cellar folks – our home based Cooperage  barrel head that we sent over for the 50th Anniversary of the Club – and it’s now fitted out with racking to babysit the substantial (and quite historical)  Club wine collection. This was the natural choice for morning tea and the bottle signing… 

And we saw some very interesting things come out of the woodwork! The absolutely sensational 1996  Signature – that would be the one with James Wark’s signature on the back label, financial supremo from not too many years ago, and Yalumba Company Secretary in fact. This wine is one of THE best vintages of Signature ever sealed, and it was a privilege to add the good karma Irish quote “May the most that you hope for….be the least that you get” to it.


10.46pm, same day, back at the hotel from the Sirens (Gungalhin) dinner

OK, where were we? Back at the Canberra Wine & Food Club – yesterday – our morning tea went tremendously well. For two hours folks came in with their bottles of Signature, had freshly brewed coffee – thanks Graham (current Cellarmaster at the Club) – with their muffins and cupcakes…..and just took the time to catch up. Very civilised morning had by all!

“Hey Phil, make sure you drink this with someone you really like”

Then it was time for our lunch – Jansz and canapés downstairs in the bar…. 

Well done on the zucchini pancakes gals!


Meanwhile….in the kitchen, it’s a collaborative volunteer kitchen crew preparing lunch. That’s the way it all works at the CWFC



First course? Albert Caton’s (ex Club Cellarmaster forever!) Pumpkin & Prawn soup with just a bit of chilli paste, fish stock and shelled prawns! Spot on with the Roussanne and Eden Valley Viognier


I didn’t get any more photos – the excellent lamb casserole with glaze components that absolutely set off the lush fruits of the 2012 Signature, and the Garden Gully dried fruits and cheese plates with the Botrytis Viognier – I got caught up answering questions around the tables – very good problem to have. It was a very happy room folks ……late into the afternoon.

In fact, we covered a lot of ground. We did wine tech talk, cork and stelvin closure updates, new developments in our vineyards, new vineyards of old vines that we now have access to and are bottling as individual ‘Distinguished Sites’ wines, and even travel tips for London to New Orleans! This event had everything!

So thanks a million to the Canberra Wine and food Club – we love your work!! and we’ll see you same time, same place with another top wine set – next year.

OK – lights out, because we’ve got a big day tomorrow. We’re driving to Wagga Wagga, NSW to catch up with our friends at the Riverine Club. See ya when it’s Friday, and we’re in New South Wales

5 responses to “The Canberra Wine & Food Club – unique!!

  1. Reblogged this on CBRfoodie and commented:
    Great yarn on the Canberra Wine and Food Club.

  2. Thanks – when I get together with the CFWC folks, it’s one of my favourite days of the year. It’s the good stuff!

  3. Philip Bewley

    What a great event it was, with Jane in fine form showing some fabulous wines. The signing was a bonus! thanks again Jane.

  4. Hi everybody.Just stumbled on your story which brought back many happy if ancient memories.I missed being a founder member of CFWC by a matter of perhaps 18 months.I was then a very junior RAF airman at Fairburn on exchange with the RAAF,on what was the successor to the RAAF Queen’s flight,and for some reason was appointed on arrival Wines Officer.Nobody drank wine in those days so I was immediately engaged on missionary work.At that time,sherry was very popular and my connections were of help in flying huge quantities from Griffiths. I may also have had a hand in organising the first dinner at the Fairburn Mess and cooked by a member whose name sadly I forget:he was head chef at Parliament House.I recall that much effort was put into getting hold of Maurice O’Shea’s
    barrels.I spent much of Sunday bottling wine for sale in the Mess,at,I recall,one shilling and ninepence a bottle.There were those who thought this expensive when beer at the bar was either a zac or a
    trey.Happy days.My very best wishes to you all.I’ve added a return to my bucket list.
    Brian Earle
    Group Captain RAF.Rtd.

    • Sorry BP, I’ve been off the air, and just read your posts this morning in Dublin. I’m actually a paid up country member of the Canberra Food and Wine Club, and no word of a lie – that Rare and Fine new Yalumba whiz bang releases lunch that we do midweek once each year… one of the highlights of my role. Folks collaborate on putting the menu together, serving it, and cleaning it up. It’s a proper common interest community…..and such a treat to present to. Mind you, the pressure is on each time we turn up – we know the wines are solid, and the lunch is going to be down home and convivial……but I have to come up with new stories! No using the same old material here! Which is nice, because as I travel, when I stumble across something really cool – foodie or wine wise – it goes into the CFWC file. I have a top yarn about travelling the New Mexico Chili Cheeseburger trail for two days last year for this year’s CFWC lunch – for Wednesday 25th May 2016.
      Which brings me to my next question…..where in the world are you? Australia or the UK? I’d like to ask you along to the CFWC lunch as my guest if you’re in Australia…..and if it’s the UK…..I’m out of Dublin for two weeks across Scotland and England day after tomorrow, and we have several events going on, and would love to have you along.
      Cheers for now, and thanks a million for sharing your history with the club.

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