DemosNews: Enjoying the culinary and quaffing pleasures of rural northeastern Victoria, Australia
Enjoying the culinary and quaffing pleasures of rural northeastern Victoria, Australia
By: robyn maxwell

The region of Victoria to the north and north-east of Melbourne, lying south of the Murray River border and the adjoining state of New South Wales, is easily accessible in two hours on a dual carriage, clearly sign-posted highway. However, plan to overnight or stay some days because the local wines and food are one of the region’s main attractions. If you are approaching from the north, a diversion into north Albury to Butts’ Butchers on the old main road will find you the best smoked trout in this part of Australia.

Coming from Melbourne, however, a twenty kilometer deviation off the highway near Avenel brings you to Chateau Tahbilk, a beautiful century-old winery with extensive underground cellars that are still in use. One of the “must try” wines is their marsanne, a white variety, famous in the Rhone, that takes on a magnificent honeyed character after a few years bottle age. A new restaurant cantilevers over a billabong filled with bird life among the meandering anabranches of the Goulburn River.

Just south of the large provincial city of Wangaratta, you turn right to reach the nearby Milawa area dominated by the large family-owned Brown Brothers Winery which produces excellent table wines using a bewildering range of grape varieties. The local Milawa Mustards produces an amazing range of spiced mustards and pickled olives – taste before you buy – and don’t miss the nearby Milawa Cheese Factory to test an excellent range of soft and hard cheeses, or try an informal meal at the attached restaurant and bakery. The output of the vineyards and wineries in the adjacent King Valley such as Pizzini’s and Chrismont are predominantly Italian in flavor with unusual grape varieties (for Australia) including barbero, nebbiolo, sangiovese, arneis and mezzamino.

Further east along a minor highway that passes through farms and bush-land typical of the northeast, lies the town of Bright, buzzing with campers and holiday makers throughout the summer vacation period and a launching place and evening retreat for winter skiing in the nearby Victorian alps. However, the town is at its most attractive and accessible in spring and autumn. One excellent reason to visit Bright at any time of the year is Simone’s Restaurant where chef Patrizia and maitre de George (now joined by their son) serve up the very best of local produce in Umbrian style.
Also in the northeast is the historic old gold-mining town of Beechworth, once infamous for raids by marauding gangs of bushrangers. There are many fine old buildings worth a visit, including the huge stone jail now being converted into a luxury accommodation complex. There are several wineries and vineyards in the immediate Beechworth area. Best to stay a night at one of the local motels or B&Bs as there are also good restaurants in town – both formal and casual – that combine local produce and international style. The best include Wardens in an old revamped pub, the Bank in, yes, an historic converted bank, the Green Shed in a small refurbished shop or warehouse, and Gigi’s, especially for its excellent breakfast.

The Rutherglen area lies to the north, 30 kilometers off the highway not far north-west of Wangaratta, and is renowned as one of Australia’s oldest and best wine-producing districts. Many of the Rutherglen wineries and vineyards have enormous charm – and some have tried their best to avoid the excessive red tape bureaucratic rules and regulations requiring antiseptic tasting facilities for visitors. There are twenty-odd wineries and vineyards in the immediate area, all offering tastings and several with adjacent picnic facilities. Most wineries produce a wide range of red and white table wines – but the specialty of this region is dessert wines – muscats, tokays and ports. Make sure that you visit Chambers Winery where the dessert wines are among the greatest anywhere in the world and their liqueur muscat and tokay are like liquid gold! Other notable wineries are Bullers, Campbells, and Stanton & Killeens. Restaurants worth visiting include Beaumont’s Café and the Tuileries in an old converted distillery, both in the historic town of Rutherglen, and Pickled Sisters at Cofields vineyard just outside the nearby small town of Wahgunyah. Scribblers Cafe in Wangaratta, now just off the highway, is a great spot for breakfast or brunch en route between the eastern and western regions of north-east Victoria.

© 2024 robyn maxwell of DemosNews

October 12, 2007 at 7:25pm
DemosRating: 4.92
Hits: 1996

Genre: Away (Regions)
Type: Creative
Tags: Australian, wineries

HermioneSG   My mouth is watering. Few really good Australian wines make ...
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