Victoria – Rutherglen – eat and drink

Winemaker Jen Pfeiffer's Rutherglen favourites

By Louise Johnson
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Pfeiffer Wines, Rutherglen, Victoria

Pfeiffer Wines, Rutherglen, Victoria

Jen Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer Wines, Rutherglen, Victoria
Pfeiffer Wines, Rutherglen - Shiraz, Gamay and Topaque
Sunday Bridge, Pfeiffer Wines, Rutherglen, Victoria


It was a challenging vintage for Pfeiffer Wines winemaker Jen Pfeiffer, but she is not alone in marking 2009 as an unusual year. Jen says climatic adversity has only heightened her skills as a winemaker.

The Rutherglen winemaker grew up on the Pfeiffer estate and loves the region. She always had a leaning toward sciences and, after studying Science and Law at Melbourne University, went home “for six months to do a vintage, have a break and work out my next move”. She is still there many vintages later.

“I am drawn to both the mental and physical challenges in a small family winery, as well as the combination of both science and art required in the job. I love that I can create something that I am passionate about, but also inspire passion in others at the same time,” she says.

It was a hard year though. “The growing period between September and December in 2009 looked very promising.  We were able to use carry over water for irrigation to improve soil moisture and build strong canopies. January proved to be very hot, peaking with two weeks of temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and then 47 degrees on Black Saturday in early February. 

“Berries literally shrivelled overnight on the vines in certain varieties, causing a rapid increase in sugar levels. We picked our first Muscat on the 25th February at 25 Baumé – a first for Pfeiffer history,” she says.

The weather cooled quickly and took pressure off the harvest and Jen says overall, quality was good, particularly in the red varieties which had good colours and fullness of flavour.

Pfeiffer Wines

The Pfeiffer Winery is an interesting building with different planes and angles, constructured from bricks made from clay on the banks of nearby Sunday Creek. “Beautiful oregon beams adorn the ceiling of the cellar door and were sailed out to Australia as ballast from ships in the mid 1800’s,” says Jen.

One of the distinguishing features of the winery is the renovated century-old historic wooden bridge, which is a favourite spot for visitors to taste wine as well as for picturesque social events. In fact, the winery’s Pfeiffer Pfrolic, a long lunch is held about November each year on Pfeiffer’s Sunday Creek Bridge to celebrate the annual release of the winery’s Gamay.

Pfeiffer has a wide range of wines on offer, but Jen says two she personally finds exciting are the NV Rutherglen Topaque and the NV Classic Rutherglen Topaque. Topaque?

“Topaque is the new name given to famous Tokay wines of the Rutherglen wine region. The wine itself, with all its rich and luscious characters, has not changed at all. So, why change the name? In 2007, under the terms of the Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine, Australia agreed to cease to use certain terms, including Tokay.

Jen says Topaque is delicious. “It has a beautiful golden colour, a luscious texture,  and is often described as drinking liquid sunshine, seriously addictive and yum!”

On Easter Saturday 2009, history was created when the industry's first ever bottle of Topaque was sold, at Pfeiffer Wines. Make sure you taste your piece of history.

Jen’s favourites

"This is simply a must because it is so unique and such a beautiful and idyllic Australian bush setting. If you can’t finish your picnic, the long necked native terrapin in Sunday Creek are always ready to lend a hand."

"This is a concept that involves a progressive picnic – collect your hamper at the wonderful Pickled Sisters and then enjoy a glass of Cofield Sparkling White with the first course. Wander down to beautiful Pfeiffer Wines and enjoy a glass of Pfeiffer White with the second course. Next head to historic Stanton and Killeen for the third course and a full bodied S and K red and finally, finish off with a fourth course and a deliciously decadent fortified wine at fabulous Campbell’s Winery."

"A trip to Rutherglen would not be complete without a visit to all participating members of Muscat of Rutherglen, to try the internationally extolled Muscats and Topaques – luscious intense fortified wines which are the heritage of the Australian Wine Industry."

Jen’s perfect Rutherglen day

"Waking up with the sound of birds singing in the trees around you, from one of the many fantastic B and Bs in the region, before having a leisurely breakfast at Forks and Corks in the main street of Rutherglen.

"A walk up and down the main street of Rutherglen will help burn off breakfast, and provide the opportunity to purchase that special something as a momento of your trip. Passion Flora, The Rutherglen Keg Factory and Hey There Gorgeous are some of my favourite shops in town. At the end of the main street is the Rutherglen Wine Experience, where you can get a quick lesson on the history of the region and its many grape varieties and wine producers. There is also the chance to sample some of the great wines of the region, and meet a local or two who are more than happy to have a chat.

"Soon it's time to get into the Limousine, booked for the day to escort you in luxury to the wineries of your choice for tastings and the chance to meet the winemakers and the families behind the businesses. 

"The perfect spot for lunch is Pfeiffer Wines historic Sunday Creek Bridge – surely one of Australia's most beautiful and tranquil settings. A delicious gourmet picnic hamper full of local produce and accompanied by a lovely bottle of Pfeiffer wine will ensure you won't ever want to leave this magnificent region. Visit between October and April and you will be able to feed the turtles swimming in the creek below. And if you are really lucky (and really quiet), you may even be able to spot a platypus in the wild – a truly rare experience.

"After a very relaxing day of touring and wine tasting, a quiet rest in your B and B before dinner may be required, if not a quiet drink at one of the three pubs in the main street of Rutherglen. 

"Dinner at Beaumonts Restaurant offers some of the best food in the region. Peter and Birgit Weir are terrific hosts, and Peter will cook a marvellous meal, sure to be a fine accompaniment to some fantastic Rutherglen wines.

"The perfect way to end your day is with a glass of Rutherglen Topaque or Rutherglen Muscat – considered the world's richest wines, and Rutherglen's gift to the world. Now your Rutherglen fortification is complete."



  • Legends, Wine and High Country (NE Victoria) (VIC)
  • North East Victoria (VIC)
  • Rutherglen (VIC)

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May 26th, 2009
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