THE quaint cafe at Jones Winery & Vineyard in Rutherglen is one of my favourite places to dine in country Victoria.
I think it’s the combination of a charming setting, with the casual but elegant eatery set in an old farm building that doubles as the estate’s cellar door and barrel room, and a thoughtful menu featuring dishes that complement the destination’s bucolic appeal mixing to hit just the right note.
Siblings Mandy Jones and Arthur Jones are the force behind this Rutherglen address – he looks after the land and tends the vines, she makes the wine and talks to visitors that venture into the cellar door – with the duo’s family working this plot in Victoria’s north since a relative purchased the property in 1927.
Mandy and Arthur have been custodians of the land since 1998, buying the block from their uncle Les who inherited the property when his father died in 1979, and rely on a mixture of family secrets and modern ideas to make wine.
The rustic building housing the cafe and cellar door is a heritage-listed structure made from handmade bricks, and the dining area is furnished with classic tables and chairs that would sit comfortably in the formal room of a well-to-do farmer’s homestead.
The decor is classic Australian but the food boasts a French flair, with chef Kate Akrap – she worked at Meccabar and Beaumonts before relocating to this celebrated wine region – combining local ingredients with the style of traditional dishes expected on a Parisian menu.
My travelling companion and I, not starving after eating a big breakfast but keen to dine at Jones before setting out on the three-hour motor back to Melbourne, ordered a selection of starters to share with the driver enjoying a homemade lemonade and the passenger savouring an estate white.
One dish was the country spiced pork sausage with roast capsicum, Parisian dumplings, baked apples and winter greens with another plate featuring the leak, walnut and Milawa blue cheese tart served with creamed spinach spiced with nutmeg.
And there was just enough time before we hit the road to request a treat from the dessert menu with the toffee date cake a sweet note to conclude the meal.