14 June 2022

Bullet holes, bushrangers, royals and wine: Borambola is steeped in history

| Chris Roe and Chriss Buchan
Join the conversation
Heritage home

The historic homestead at Borambola. Photo: Borambola Wines.

Borambola is a winery with plenty to see and taste and a rich story to tell.

The historic estate is steeped in history from its Wiradjuri heritage to battles with bushrangers and even royal encounters. The wine is good, too.

Proprietors Tim and Naomi McMullen happily take visitors through the heritage buildings and recount stories from the station’s past over a fruity shiraz.

Located just off the Sturt Highway between Wagga and Gundagai, it is also halfway between Sydney and Melbourne.

READ ALSO Never leave a mate behind: the quest for a Light Horse memorial in Wagga

a dog, a man and a woman

Tim and Naomi McMullen. Photo: Borambola Wines.

The striking Borambola homestead is set high on a hill overlooking the estate’s extensive vineyards which border the Murrumbidgee River and Tarcutta Creek.

Tasting rooms in a separate building include a variety of wines from delicate whites to the heavier reds, all labelled after significant events or identities from Borambola.

Tim’s presentation starts with a map showing all 16 wine-growing regions of NSW including the Gundagai wine growing region which houses Borambola.

Eighty-five per cent of Borambola wines come from the estate itself as well as their impressive selection of preserves, nuts and nougat.

They are also looking to expand into the growing Australian spirits market with the soon-to-launch Riverina Gin Distillery.

The historic homestead dates back to 1840 and was built by Sir George Macleay who accompanied Charles Sturt on the 1829 to 1830 expedition.

READ ALSO Forty years between drinks: Wagga’s newest pub was built in 1982

He was gifted the 50,000 acres and the property supported 110 families and the original 30 stand shearing shed.

The original stone homestead remains, however it was replaced with the larger homestead set on higher ground away from potential flooding. The bricks are convict made and some bear thumb imprints.

wine tasting

Borambola Wines tasting room. Photo: Chriss Buchan.

Borambola has had many well-known owners over the years including John Gordon and John Donnelly, Goldsborough Mort, G Simpson, Anthony Brunskill and F Hughes who trained the 1947 Melbourne Cup winner Hiraji.

The property was further subdivided in 1961 and purchased by the McMullen family in 1992.

Basil McMullen and son Tim have built the winery into a successful venture hosting live entertainment, open-air movies and formal functions such as weddings and high teas.

Tim particularly enjoys sharing stories of the property’s colourful past.

“I was lucky to be provided with a story from 95-year-old Nola O’Brien which was a full account of Captain Moonlite’s hold up on the property in 1879,” he says.

“You can still see the indents from the flying shrapnel in the stone walls.”

Having robbed Borambola Andrew George Scott, aka Moonlite, and his gang crossed the river and “bailed up” Wantabadgery station where they had been refused work days earlier.

With 25 hostages and police surrounding the property, a firefight broke out.

Two members of the gang were mortally wounded including Scott’s close friend and lover James Nesbitt who died in his arms.

Constable Edward Webb-Bowen was also shot through the neck and died six days later.

Moonlite was captured and, following a dramatic trial that enthralled the colonies, was hung at Darlinghurst and buried in Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery.

Nesbitt and Webb-Bowen were buried in Gundagai cemetery and in 1995 Moolight’s body was exhumed and reburied alongside Nesbitt according to his dying wish.

A Statue of Webb-Bowen stands in the town of Wantabadgery.

historic portraits of two men

Andrew “Captain Moonlite” Scott and James Nesbitt. Photo: Chris Roe.

In more recent years the winery received a couple of royal visits.

In 1920 Prince Edward, who briefly became King in 1936, was impressed with his visit and wrote a letter to the children while journeying home aboard the ship Renown.

Historic letter

The letter from a prince written in 1920. Photo: Chriss Buchan.

Tim now has the letter describing how he enjoyed his visit and ‘felt it was home’.

Prince Charles also toured the region while in the country for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Tim supplied some wine for the celebrations and Charles is reported to have “loved the wines and the stories” describing it as “double joy”.

As a result, Tim and Naomi labelled their Rose wine “double joy”.

The area’s rich Wiradjuri history is also a feature of the property. Tim has located a welcome tree, a scar tree, and a canoe tree.

The screw caps on his wine bottles bear three stripes signifying an initiation place for young men, which is the meaning of Borambola in Wiradjuri.

The wine labels all have local links like Wishing Well and Bunya Bunya after the trees, Hiraji’s Spell after the 1947 Melbourne cup winner and Hoppy Lager after one of their pet dogs.

For more information on Borambola Wines or to book a visit, head to their website.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.