Midsumma in Melbourne is always a great time to catch a cheap flight, do the festival thing and get out and see some of the countryside as well.
This year (with the assistance of the lovely people at Tourism Victoria) we decided to do just that, with Victoria’s famous High Country on the agenda.
We stayed at the Hotel Causeway on our first night. Right in the centre of the city on Little Collins Street, it’s one of many boutique hotels that have sprung up in recent years. It’s classy, sophisticated and close to everything. A brilliant suggestion was Oyster Little Bourke for dinner. Grab a cocktail and sit by the window before heading further into the beautifully appointed restaurant. Oysters from around the country are on offer here and our starters were some of the freshest I’ve eaten.
The Milawa Gourmet Region was our destination for day two. Up bright and early for breakfast at the Causeway, we were ferried to the Outgames sports arena to watch the volleyball and badminton before heading off to the train station and our leisurely journey to Wangaratta, a bustling rural city.
After a short taxi ride from Wangaratta, we arrived at Milawa and the grand Lindenwarrah Country House Hotel. Set in lush grounds overlooking acres of vineyards, Lindenwarrah is a blend of sophistication with country-style hospitality. There are 40 large rooms with French doors opening out to verandas, a swimming pool, restaurant, two stylish sitting rooms, outdoor patio and conference facilities upstairs. And to top it all off, it’s just across the road from the Brown Brothers Winery and Epicurean Centre.
We were fortunate enough to experience a Brown Brothers tasting in a private room with about a gazillion bottles on offer. Our knowledgeable hosts took us on a wine-tasting trip to surpass all others. It’s a fascinating few hours and highly recommended. Dinner at Lindenwarrah’s Merlot Restaurant capped off an exceptional day of much learning and merriment.
Day three saw us in the mini-van with Shaun’s Winery Tours all set for more tastings, this time of olives, mustards, cheeses and of course wine.
We visited EV Olive Groves with their countless varieties of olives, oils and soaps for sale. Mustards, chutneys, pickles, salad dressings and a host of other produce were on offer from Anna Bienvenu, Mother Mustard at Milawa Mustards. The Milawa Cheese Factory, Bakery and Restaurant specialises in cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses in addition to freshly baked breads. Taste your way from soft bries to bitey Milawa blues, then wander across the way and sample a few wines from Wood Park or perhaps a chocolate tasting at Milawa Chocolates.
For lunch we were booked into the Sam Miranda winery in King Valley. This visually stunning building, designed by Alex Popov, features a huge light shaft that rises from the centre of the building, flooding the interior with light. Make this winery a definite on your itinerary to this part of the world.
After our lunch we climbed aboard Shaun’s bus for a short haul to Beechworth -” known as the Elegant Dame in these parts. With all the sensibilities of a grand 19th century town, it will remind you of a Jane Austen novel as you look down from the foothills of the Australian Alps onto the wide, tree-lined streets, with their deep granite gutters and shady, century-old verandas.
As the hunger pangs set in, we headed off to the Range restaurant at Myrtleford. The floor-to-ceiling windows run the full length of the room, overlooking the extensive outdoor decking, some well-established trees, and then through to the tobacco fields and on to Mt Buffalo.