A DIY escape to Victoria’s High Country is a treat for the senses.
From Melbourne it’s an easy drive to the spectacular valleys and high country of Victoria’s North East. But it is easy to miss the many local producers nestled amongst these verdant hills and river plains.
We have become familiar with Victoria’s High Country due to trips with Treadlie’s sister publication, green magazine. With a little research, a do-it-yourself itinerary can be easily created. A visit can be planned to coincide with one of the many festivals in the North East, or a trip can be created around cooking classes and wine tastings. Then plan out a riding route to suit your group and these lush valleys will reward you.
Our trip was during the High Country Harvest and we mapped a loop along King Valley. Dal Zotto Wines was an ideal spot to start and finish. From this winery in Whitfield we grabbed a caffeine hit at the local General Store and then rode off to Politini Wines in Cheshunt for cannoli making with nonna. I dig a dessert and to be shown first-hand the trick of the cannoli craft was extremely satisfying.
The valley shimmered in the May sunshine so we cycled further upriver to the recently-completed Chrismont winery to sample their delectable range of Italian and classic European varietals. The view was impressive, with sweeping vistas across the valley and nearby hills. We rolled back downstream through rural back lanes amongst towering gums and livestock to the river crossing at Gentle Annie Lane. An antipasto spread at Dal Zotto hit the spot and with plenty of daylight remaining we rode off through their vines for a cheeky prosecco picnic by the fast-flowing King River.
There are many marvellous accommodation options and WillOaks really immerses you in the region, set amongst the paddocks of the King Valley with views to distant Mount Buffalo. We continued our feasting in the evening at Gamze Smokehouse in Milawa. If you relish hearty, country-cooked meals, then this is your nirvana.
On a crisp dawn we rugged up and set off to Porepunkah to further our olive-making skills. From the Rail Trail Café it was an easy ride up the hill to Mt Buffalo Olives. We were in good hands with award-winning producers Colin and Eliza, who diligently explained the importance of salinity, pH levels and the various options for pickling olives. It was then a short ride on to Feathertop Winery for a long, lazy lunch. The restaurant was bustling and the food produced from local fare was exceptional and all complemented by the winery’s famed range of friulano, tempranillo and prosecco.
The plethora of food and wine makers in the region enables a do-it-yourself trip to be as long as you like. There are so many back lanes and tucked-away producers that are best reached by bike. After a few days immersed in these lush valleys with the eucalypt scent and birdsong washing over, the world of deadlines and demanding editors was but a distant memory.
Words: Tom Bodycomb
Pictures: Tamsin O’Neill
This article originally appeared in issue 23 of Treadlie Magazine.