Five Minutes with Nathan McDowell, Food and Wine Tours by Van Du Vin
Who is Nathan McDowell? I am the founder and owner of Van Du Vin, which offers luxury private wine and food tours in the Canberra region. Each tour is tailored to your group and your wine taste.
Best recent dining experience: The food, the wine and the views at the Brindabella Hills winery are truly special. My partner Corey and I have the very difficult task of testing all the wineries we visit on our tours. Drinking good wine and eating delicious food is difficult but important research. The seasonal menu put together by Sweet Pea Catering makes a great day trip to the winery just outside the ACT border. Confit duck leg is my choice among starters and barramundi for the main course, associated with the cellar’s unique white, Marsanne.
Most embarrassing pantry item: I’m not sure I’m embarrassed about anything in my pantry. You must own it. I am proud of my large collection of dark chocolate bars. What could be better on the couch with a glass of cool climate shiraz than dark chocolate?
Essential ingredient: This is a difficult question. I’m currently obsessed with Gallagher Wines Homemade Zucchini Pickles. Also, black pepper and Frank’s RedHot sauce. Apply to everything. Liberally.
Next big thing: It might sound basic, but is there anything better than a bunch of small plates to share in a restaurant with friends? Places like Raku in town, Rizla in Braddon, XO in Narrabundah, and Lambshed’s in Yarralumla are our kind of vibe. I love that you can do it all or just have a light meal. Choose your own adventure. Start with a cocktail. Switch to a red wine. Rules? What rules? Another round of croquettes!
Favorite place for breakfast in ACT: Breakfast isn’t really my thing. Especially since skipping breakfast has become known as intermittent fasting and quite fashionable. Saying that, the sweet potato pancake with smoked ham, scrambled eggs, dukkah, toasted almonds, and arugula at Maple + Clove in Barton is a great time. And their range of healthy smoothies takes away any sins you may have accidentally participated in the night before.
My culinary secret in Canberra: The best burger in Canberra is the Kingston Hotel Chicken Burger. Order online. Pick-up from the car park drive. Apply on the face.
For wine, Canberra Wine & Spirit Merchants in town have the best range of local wines. It’s so easy to grab a nice bottle of the region on the way home from the office.
The greatest culinary influence: Probably traveling, especially in Spain. The way of life, the food, the wine. My life goal is to be a very relaxed retiree in Spain, eating my bodyweight in Iberico Jamon. I would also say that I am constantly learning and inspired by the people of the wine industry in Canberra. They had a tough job losing the 2020 vintage to the smell of smoke and COVID, but they’re still just as passionate about what they do as ever.
Favorite cookbook: Google.
Who I admire on Canberra’s food and wine scene: We don’t like playing favoritesâ¦ but I will. Marina and John from McKellar Ridge Wines in Murrumbateman are doing amazing things. They are only a few years into their wine career, but they make my favorite reds in the region. Their Shiraz Viognier is a very nice drop.
Fiona and Neil at Yarrh Wines, also in Murrumbateman, not only produce beautiful and delicate cool climate wines, but the way they transformed and improved their wine tasting offerings after last year’s COVID lockdown has been inspiring. . It is now one of our customers’ favorite stopovers.
On the menu this week: In winter in Canberra, it must be truffles. As part of the truffle hunt and tasting lunch at The Truffle Farm, they teach you how to get the most out of truffles, including how to make truffle eggs and truffle butter.
Where I go next: We were thinking of a short Sunday trip to the Grazing at Gundaroo restaurant. Super cozy and a warm winter menu.
Death Row Meal: It must be French, creamy and bloody. Add wine.
My COVID-19 response: We have had ups and downs. In some ways, COVID has been a bit of a blessing as it has meant more locals are exploring the beautiful wine region in their own backyards. Our clients love our tours because it is a day tailored to their taste in wine, where they can sit and relax and make all the decisions for themselves. A day to relax has been crucial in these crazy times.
The cellars were the real heroes, adapting to the new rules so quickly. I hope the seated wine tastings continue after COVID. It feels more relaxed and special than the old wine tasting format, crammed around a bar.
My very simple recipe advice: Home delivery.
Vin Du Vin offers three wine tasting packages, from a half-day experience to a full-day luxury food and wine tour with a multi-course restaurant lunch and premium tasting experiences. All luxury transportation, tasting fees, and lunch are included. Book here.