Sitting under an umbrella on the century-old Sunday Creek Bridge on a clear late summer afternoon at Pfeiffer Wines in Wahgunyah would have to be one of the great Australian pleasures.
While I savour the light summer fruit flavours of Pfeiffer's lightly chilled, aromatic and refreshing gamay under a mottled green and brown pine tree canopy, the cicadas begin singing for the evening and a few of the resident colony of terrapins raise their slender heads and dark eyes inquisitively from the creek below.
In the background lies the red brick and corrugated iron-roofed winery where senior winemaker Chris Pfeiffer and his family have been creating some of Rutherglen's more elegant wines for nearly 30 years.
It's a real family affair, with Chris nominating his wife Robyn as "chief cook and bottle washer” and their daughter Jen (a former Young Winemaker of the Year) working as a winemaker having inherited her father's passion for dessert and fortified wines.
Pfeiffer acknowledges the gamay is popular but it's the winery's fortifieds that are extolled around the world. Interestingly, in a region synonymous with fortified wine, he says only seven wineries really take these more labour intensive wines seriously.
"Once you really get a taste for fortified wines though, you quickly develop a passion for them,” Pfeiffer says.
He says the Rutherglen and surrounding area is one of the more fascinating wine regions in Australia because there are so many microclimates within a short distance of each other. Less than an hour away you're rising into the Victorian Alps, while the Rutherglen region is a flat, predominantly dry expanse of land.
While the fortifieds tend to garner most of the plaudits, Pfeiffer's range of table wines such as the gamay, pinot noir and recently introduced durif are all enormously popular. More popular still is sitting outside in the winery grounds sampling the fruits of your time in the winery. The winery provides platters of local cheese or larger hampers filled with the best of local produce for those keen on settling in.
Four times a year, Pfeiffer hosts a seasonal farmers' market where visitors can sample the local producers' fare, ranging from wine to honey, cheese, almonds and more.
For Pfeiffer, who arrived with his young family in 1984, it's a truly special place.
"Sitting on the river it's just so pretty all year round. Spring is a beautiful time of year but so is autumn as the leaves of north-eastern Victoria change colour and float to the ground," he says.
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