Victoria's Alpine Valleys – gourmet high
By Winsor Dobbin
Mention North-East Victoria to most wine and food lovers and they immediately associate the region with the fortified wines and rich reds of Rutherglen, or the Italian varietals and country chic of the King Valley.
While both those districts are outstanding in their own right, there’s a lot more to discover in Victoria’s High Country – with the Great Alpine Road providing a route map to fine wines and superb restaurants in the bounteous valleys from Mount Beauty to Bright, Myrtleford and on to Beechworth.
There are a range of micro climates here meaning a number of styles of wine are produced.
The name Alpine Valleys accurately conveys the often spectacular and beautiful mountain scenery with which the region has been blessed. The area comprises four river basins or valleys, created by the Ovens, Buffalo, Buckland and Kiewa rivers.
Star wineries include Boynton’s Feathertop, Gapsted, Ringer Reef, Tawonga, Ceccanti, Michelini and Annapurna Estate in the Alpine Valleys, Brown Brothers and Sam Miranda at Milawa and Amulet, Castagna, Sorrenberg, Giaconda, Star Lane, Savaterre and Smiths Vineyard in Beechworth.
Stop 1 – Overnight at Casa Luna
The stylish and elegant Casa Luna at Myrrhee is the ideal base for exploring the King Valley and Milawa. It has just two luxury suites and offers superb country and vineyard views. Host Gwenda Canty was previously a caterer in Melbourne and serves sumptuous three-course dinners (think dishes like osso bucco Milanese, Sicilian spaghetti with eggplant, basil and pecorino (delicious) or local free-range poussin with preserved lemon, fresh mint and pistachio). For breakfast try goat curd and sage omelette or a full English breakfast with sourdough toast. Suites feature cotton sheets, thick towels, flat-screen TVs and all modern luxuries.
1569 Boggy Creek Rd, Myrrhee
Phone (03) 5729 7650
Stop 2 – Wine tasting at Brown Brothers
Brown Brothers of Milawa is among Australia’s oldest established family wineries and their cellar door is known for the huge range of wines available for tasting and the knowledgeable service. Up to 46 different wines are available including a range of lesser known varieties that include pinot grigio (which Brown Brothers have pioneered), graciano, roussanne and tempranillo. Among the new varieties you should try in the atmospheric tasting room are savagnin, vermentino, carmenere and nero d’Avola. The Epicurean Centre, next door, does great lunches.
You must taste: There is something for everyone in the Brown Brothers range, from stellar sparkling wines to sweet Zibibbo. The top-of-the-range wines are labelled Patricia in honour of the family matriarch.
Open: Daily 9am-5pm. Restaurant 11am-4pm
Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa
Phone (03) 5720 5500
Stop 3 – Gourmet shopping in Milawa
Milawa is only a speck on the map, but it is on the gourmet radar because of Brown Brothers, the Lindenwarrah Country House hotel and several artisan food producers. The Milawa Cheese Company is home to a bakery/café and a bistro that’s open for lunch and visitors are welcome to sample a wide selection of Milawa cheeses and other local delicacies from around the region. Milawa Mustards offers a selection of mustards and condiments for tastings and sales, while The Olive Shop, Walkabout Apiaries Honey and EV Olives at nearby Markwood all offer interesting gourmet interludes.
Stop 4 – Wine tasting at Boynton’s Feathertop
Feathertop was formerly known as Boynton's of Bright and was established in 1989 by Kel Boynton and remains a family business. The Terrace restaurant serves lunches from Thursday-Monday during the summer season, or ingredients for DIY deli platters are available daily.
You must taste: The aromatic whites are the stars here. Sample the riesling, sauvignon blanc or pinot gris.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
6619 Great Alpine Road, Porepunkah
Phone (03) 5756 2356
Stop 5 – Lunch at the Butter Factory
Hugely popular with local gourmets, the Myrtleford Butter Factory is a café, restaurant and artisan butter factory that serves Mediterranean-style food made from fresh local ingredients. The on-site store also sells preserves and condiments made on site and a range of local produce. In the restaurant, think dishes like pan-fried Black Range trout fillets with verjuice, dill and butter sauce.
Open: Thurs-Tues from 8am. Dinner Fri-Sat
Great Alpine Road, Myrtleford
Phone (03) 5752 2300
Stop 6 – Wine tasting at Tinkers Hill
If you really want to get away from the hustle and bustle then you won’t do better than the wonderfully isolated and rustic Tinkers Hill, in the Woolshed Valley and surrounded by national park. You can taste the wines of owners John and Rhonda Taylor along with those made by their daughter Kristy Taylor at nearby Cirko V. Local cheese and antipasti platters can be enjoyed here at shaded picnic tables – and the welcome is second to none.
You must taste: The Tinkers Hill Shiraz and the Cirko V Ringmaster Viognier.
84 Sugarloaf Lane, Beechworth
Phone (03) 5728 3327
Stop 7 – Wine tasting at Pennyweight
You won’t find a more quintessentially Australian setting (think gum trees and old wooden sheds) than the Pennyweight cellar door and winery just outside Beechworth. Established by Stephen and Elizabeth Morris in 1982, the winery produces an impressive range of fortified and table wines. Stephen is a descendant of George Morris, who started making wines at Rutherglen 150 years ago.
You must taste: The Pennyweight Gold, a sweet wine, is the signature offering and the muscat is absolutely superb.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
Pennyweight Lane, Beechworth
Phone (03) 5728 1747
Stop 8 – Dinner at The Provenance
The Provenance restaurant evokes a past era with its six-metre ceilings and original arched windows. The food matches the exquisite setting with dishes including braised rabbit, pea and toasted orzo pilaf, or maybe braised Milawa quail with compressed watermelon. Choose from degustation menus with matching wines or an al a carte menu. There’s a splendid choice of regional wines with several offered by the glass. The Provenance is run by acclaimed chef Michael Ryan (ex Range) and his winemaker partner Jeanette Henderson in an old bank building that dates back to the 1860s. Several luxury suites are attached.
Open: Restaurant Wed-Sun 6pm-1pm and for lunch on Sunday
86 Ford St, Beechworth
Phone (03) 5728 1786
Stop 9 – Overnight at 1860 Luxury Accommodation
If you like accommodation with atmosphere this will fit the bill. An 1860s timber slab hut has been artfully converted into wonderfully atmospheric accommodation for two. There’s a supremely comfortable bedroom, fully-equipped kitchen, lounge room with an open fireplace and en suite bathroom boasting a two-person bath. It’s a superb combination of the old and the new in a lovely garden setting.
Surrey Lane, Beechworth
Phone 0408 273 783
- Dinner at the superb Simone’s of Bright, one of the Victoria’s best regional restaurants
- Sampling the boutique beers at the Bright Brewery
- The rustic ambience and country cuisine at Waddingtons of Kergunyah restaurant
- Fresh berries from the farm gate store at Bright Berry Farm
- A visit to the Ceccanti cellar door in the remote Kiewa Valley for affordable wines and antipasti platters
- Coffee at Skafferi at Svarmisk, a unique Swedish-themed café, restaurant, coffee shop and providore at Mount Beauty
- A gourmet stroll around Beechworth stores like Larder, the Beechworth Honey Experience, the Beechworth Bakery and the boutique Bridge Road Brewers
- A tasting at the Tawonga cellar door and winery – located in the owners’ garage.
- Alpine Valleys (VIC)
- Beechworth (VIC)
- King Valley including Milawa (VIC)
- Legends, Wine and High Country (NE Victoria) (VIC)
- Milawa (VIC)
- North East Victoria (VIC)
- Rutherglen (VIC)
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