The Kamberra Wine Company is Australia's newest urban winery, and a sophisticated wine tourism centre in Australia's capital city, Canberra.

Kamberra, a word of the local Koori people meaning Meeting Place is an important and popular attraction in a city of so many other attractions competing for the tourist's attention. Canberra (the city) is blessed to be home to dozens of Australia's most highly regarded (and visited) attractions, such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portraiture Gallery, Questacon (the national science and technology centre), the National Library of Australia, and of course the magnificent federal Parliament House. The Kamberra Wine Company shares in the reflected brightness of all of these august monuments, and adds a little welcome joie de vivre to Australia's bush capital.

The Kamberra Wine Company is unique in several ways: firstly, it is an "urban winery", in that wine production is done in the city, drawing on fruit produced by local and district growers. In that, Kamberra is highly accessible, as the complex is no more than five minutes drive from the centre of the city. Being urban, the Kamberra centre is able to introduce unique Canberra District cool climate wines to a much broader audience than your common rural winery.

The second unique (and delightful) aspect of Kamberra is that the complex includes not just a full, high-tech working winery, but also a beautifully architected restaurant, function, and tasting centre. According to the manager of the centre, the owners (Australia's massive BRL Hardy Group) have invested some ten million Australian dollars in the centre so far, and the sensitive and distinctly Australian architecture of tall vaulted ceilings, acres of corrugated iron, native timbers, and wide lawns presents a calming and restful mood to the visitor and wine enthusiast. What I love about the architecture of Kamberra is that sitting in the tasting area, one feels swathed in tasteful, neutral, natural colours, which actually provides a marvellous counterpoint to the joy of drinking wine.

Kamberra was established in the year 2000, to some cynicism on the part of the locals. How could a huge multinational wine corporation like BRL Hardy possibly build a sensitive wine tourism centre that is inclusive of the broad reach of local growers and producers? was the question asked. I'm delighted to say that Hardy's have delivered on their promise, and that a multinational has been successful in such a bold experiment speaks volumes as to the commitment of the operators to the growth of the entire region.

Kamberra serves their complete range of "Meeting Place" wines, and highlights the best products of some two dozen other important (and often tiny) local district producers, such as Klonakilla, Madew, and Lark Hill. Hardy's is not too big a company to recognise that the small independent producers of the region are the very reason for Kamberra's existence.

The Kamberra centre's large airy tasting area is glassed on one side, with a beautiful vista of the seven hectares of rolling green lawn, and an "infinite" or "disappearing" pond, well stocked with happy ducks and lotus blooms. Entertainment, in the form of a string quartet, playing chamber music, or a jazz combo, entertains visitors most weekends. These musical acts are invariably students studying at the nearby Canberra School of Music, attached to the Australian National University (another example of Hardy's sensitivity to the locals). One may enjoy wines by the taste, by the glass, or by the bottle. Good cheese platters, featuring local cheeses, are available, and of course the excellent MP* restaurant is forty paces away. Service is relaxed and smart, and staff are extremely well trained and usually wine enthusiasts themselves.

In addition to the wine production facility and the tasting rooms, Kamberra features a Cellar Door, an art gallery showcasing local indigenous and western art, and underground caves, with crunchy pebbles underfoot and enormous American oak barrels, in which some wines are aged. One has to ask to be shown the caves, although the request is always happily granted with a quick personal tour.

At the time of writing, the Meeting Place range includes an excellent sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, aged on lees, a straight Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Shiraz (the peppery variety also known as Syrah), and a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend.

Viognier** is expected to join the lineup in vintage 2003 or 2004, and is eagerly anticipated, given local-hero Klonakilla's awesome Shiraz/Viognier creations since 1995.

The Kamberra Wine Company is located on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road, in the northern-Canberra suburb of Lyneham, in the country of Australia. It is open almost every day of the year, and charges no admission fee. All credit cards and EFTPOS are accepted. The cellar door offers all Meeting Place wines, Riedel stemware, wine doodads (including the best waiter's friend I've ever seen), and a very well made and attractive range of clothing with the little five-petalled-flower-with-Australian-Aboriginal-dots logo of the Kamberra Wine Company.

* MP is a cute Canberran joke -- being the political capital of Australia, Canberra is swarming with MPs, or Members of Parliament, for six months of the year. MP also stands for Meeting Place, of course!

** Pronounce viognier as vee-on-yay

Research sources are entirely personal.