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Recently, my wife and I had a weekend free in which to plan a short break. After looking at various options we settled on a 2 day road trip in Victoria’s High Country, focused on the King Valley and the Northern Leg of the Great Alpine Road, from Wangaratta to Bright.

victoria high country food drink

Being from Perth, my wife and I are still in the process of discovering what regional Victoria has to offer and are continually impressed by the sheer variety and diversity of options available only a few hours’ drive in every direction from Melbourne. We were completely ignorant about what Victoria’s North West had to offer and were keen to explore and discover.

We headed onto the Hume on Grand Final Day, and about 3.5 hours later, excluding a short stop in Glenrowan (site of bushranger Ned Kelly’s last stand and some “so bad they’re good” Ned Kelly related attractions) we found ourselves in the heart of the King Valley.

The King Valley is a region that is known for its wine production. The cool, even climate, long growing season and deep red clay lends itself to a variety of grape growth. Common types of wine such as chardonnay, riesling and shiraz are grown in the King Valley, but of real interest to me were the Italian varietals not often seen elsewhere in Australia such as sangiovese, nebbiolo, arneis and barbera, which can be traced back to the influx of Italian immigrants to the area post World War II.

 

Wine

There are a lot of small wineries in the King Valley region, far too many to try in one weekend. Here are the ones that my research indicated were worth visiting given our limited time frame.

Dal Zotto Wines

Dal Zotto Wines are best known for their prosecco, which was the first Australian made prosecco when it was originally released. Founder Otto Dal Zotto immigrated to Australia in 1967, and in 1987 opened Dal Zotto wines.

My wife and I tried a variety of wines at the cellar door, with the famous prosecco unsurprisingly being one of the highlights. Others in the range that we were particularly fond of were the Arneis and Sangiovese.

The trattoria is open for lunch and dinner, and contains a small menu focusing on simple Italian food done well. We ordered the antipasto spread and the salumi platter and were not disappointed. Apart from the prawns, which were merely ok, and the prosciutto, which tasted excellent but was sliced thicker than I prefer, everything was excellent, including the excellent service received from the charming Eric.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Dal Zotto Wines
4861 Wangaratta-Whitfield Road
Whitfield
Victoria 3733

Dal Zotto Wines Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Gracebrook Vineyards

The Gracebrook Vineyards cellar door and restaurant is located within a painstakingly restored 110 year-old horse stables building. It’s a beautiful building that’s full of character, and thankfully the wines don’t disappoint.  Owners David and Rhonda Maples offer a variety of wines to visitors including, as you probably expect, the popular white and red varieties as well as a range of not so common Italian varietals. We were particularly fond of their Chardonnay (think bold, Chablis style) and Rosato.

We didn’t eat at the restaurant, but by all accounts the food is very good, using a fresh, local produce to produce a range of home style dishes.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Gracebrook Vineyards
4446 Wangaratta-Whitfield Rd
King Valley
Victoria 3678

Restaurant at Gracebrook Vineyards on Urbanspoon

Sam Miranda Wines

Sam from Sam Miranda Wines is part of the 3rd generation of a family that’s been making wines in Australia since the 1930s. Sam has been making wines on the current site since 1997 and in the same vein as Dal Zotto, focuses on the usual suspects as well as a range of Italian varietals. We tried a selection of wines at the cellar door and we found the reds to be the real standouts. In particular we were impressed by the prosecco and the 2 blends.

We didn’t get the opportunity to eat at Sam Miranda, as we visited just after we’d eaten breakfast. We still took a look at the menu out of curiosity, and the selection of Mediterranean inspired dishes using local, seasonal produce looked very enticing.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Sam Miranda Wines
1019 Snow Road
Oxley
Victoria 3678

Sam Miranda on Urbanspoon

Brown Brothers

As one of the oldest and largest wine makers in Australia, Brown Brothers needs little introduction. Established in 1889 by John Francis Brown, Brown Brothers is still family owned, with the 3rd and 4th generation of Browns running the business. The cellar door is quite large and there’s a lot of historical information and paraphernalia to look at. When it comes to the wines, there is a very large selection that covers a wide spectrum of varietals and you’d be hard pressed not to find at least one wine that tickles your fancy.

There are a few food options available at Brown Brothers – the Epi.Curious café and Patricia’s Table restaurant. I did not eat at either however the constantly changing menu focusing on fresh, seasonal, local ingredients did not look like it would disappoint.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Brown Brothers
244 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road
Milawa
Victoria 3678

The Epicurean Centre on Urbanspoon

Pizzini Wines

I didn’t get a chance to visit Pizzini Wines however by all accounts this family run winery is well worth visiting to sample its range of Italian varietal wines and, in particular, the sangiovese. The food is supposed to be quite good too.

Pizzini Wines
175 King Valley Road
Whitfield
Victoria 3733

Beer

Bridge Road Brewers

Located in Beechworth, Bridge Road Brewers is one of the Australian craft breweries that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. The core range of beers are relatively popular around Melbourne and are always reliable options. On top of this, there are always some interesting special beers and one offs collaborations with other brewers local and international. I like it when a brewery is willing to continue to experiment with their beers even after they become popular and owner Ben Kraus has stuck with his small batch, hand crafted, local ethos.

Food wise, I didn’t have anything to eat as it was late in the afternoon and I had a big dinner planned at The Provenance however the pizzas here are famous and, along with the proper Bavarian-style big pretzels and simple menu focusing on local produce, a part of me was somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t able to eat here. The place had a really good vibe about it. With an indoor and outdoor area plus a playground for children, the whole bar/pizzeria section of the brewery is very family friendly – and there were loads of families about. A good example of a place that ticks all the boxes.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Bridge Road Brewers
50 Ford Street
Beechworth
Victoria 3747

Bridge Road Brewers on Urbanspoon

Bright Brewery

Bright Brewery is located in a great spot in the scenic town of Bright, with views of mountains, parkland and a river available from its spacious outdoor area. In a similar vein to Bridge Road Brewers, there’s a reliable range of core beers on offer along with some more experimental options. A range of pizzas is offered along with a selection of simple gastropub favourites highlighting local produce. The pizza we ate was perhaps too heavy on the tomatoes but was tasty nonetheless with a thin, crispy base.

The outdoor area connects to a big playground and it’s a very family friendly spot.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Bright Brewery
121 Great Alpine Road
Bright
Victoria 3741

Bright Brewery on Urbanspoon

Sweetwater Brewing Company

Time got the best of me and I didn’t get the opportunity to visit the Sweet Water Brewing Company, which is located at the bottom of Mount Bogong and produces a variety of beers using the “sweet water” of the Kiewa river.

Sweet Water Brewing Company
211 Kiewa Valley Highway
Tawonga South
Victoria 3698

Black Dog Brewery

Another brewery which was on my list that I didn’t get the chance to visit was Black Dog which produces a variety of hand crafted traditional ales.

Black Dog Brewery
339 Booth Road
Taminick
Victoria 3675

 

Food

There is a lot of good food to be found in this part of Victoria – beyond the offerings of the wineries and breweries that I’ve discussed there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from.

Provenance

One thing that I was certain of before I planned by trip up to this part of Victoria was that I wanted to have a meal at Provenance. Located in a beautiful 1856 former bank building, chef Michael Ryan’s 2 hatted restaurant serves up a constantly changing menu of contemporary Australian, Japanese influenced dishes with a focus on high quality local, seasonal produce. I had big expectations and these were more than met.

Read my full review here.

DSCF4524

Provenance
86 Ford Street
Beechworth
Victoria 3747

Tani Eat & Drink

Tani Eat & Drink was awarded the award for “Best New Regional Restaurant” in The Age’s Good Food Guide 2014 and awarded its first hat a year later. After eating dinner here it’s easy to see why.

Chef Hamish Nugent worked alongside Michael Ryan at the Provenance and the influence is evident here. The food is contemporary Australian with a focus on high quality local, seasonal produce, but where it differs from the Provenance is that the

Japanese influences are a touch stronger while the overall vibe is more relaxed (in fact, there’s a bar menu to compliment the more formal menu). Co-owner Rachel Reed works the floor and is full of enthusiasm and passion which makes the whole experience even more pleasurable.

Tani Eat & Drink is a real gem in the area and my meal here totally justified not getting back into Melbourne until midnight that night.

Read my full review here.

DSCF4606

Tani Eat & Drink
100 Gavan Street
Bright
Victoria 3741

Beanz of Bright

I wasn’t in Bright in the morning so didn’t get to eat breakfast here but had heard a lot of good things about the breakfast options at Beanz of Bright – the beetroot jam & dukkah and pesto eggs are supposed to be 2 of the go-to dishes.

Beanz Of Bright
103 Gavan Street
Bright
Victoria 3741

Beanz of Bright on Urbanspoon

Whitty Café

A literal minutes’ walk up from Clarice Cottage in King Valley is the Whitty Café. We had breakfast here and, while the food and coffee isn’t going to win any awards, it’s acceptable.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Whitty Cafe
4905 Wangaratta-Whitfield Rd
Whitfield
Victoria 3733

Whitty Cafe on Urbanspoon

Australian Pumpkin Seed Company

The Australian Pumpkin Seed Company is the first and only company in Australia to grow pumpkins for their seeds. Unlike pepitas which are all imported into Australia, and come from pumpkin seed with the husk removed, the pumpkin seeds used here are actually a specific, husk-free variety and are a lot bigger than pepitas. Everything is 100% natural and done on site. Co-owner Sharan was very passionate about the product when explaining it to us.

There are a range of cold pressed seeds to snack on, pumpkin seed oil and even pumpkin seed dukkah and meal made from the “waste” that results from the cold press process. We were particularly interested in the pumpkin seed meal as, due to my wife’s nut allergy, she cannot eat a variety of desserts that contain almond meal. Stay tuned for the results of our experiments in and upcoming post.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Australian Pumpkin Seed Company
5061 Great Alpine Rd
Ovens
Victoria 3738

Milawa Cheese Company

One of many food producers in the so called “Milawa Gourmet Region” which covers Milawa and Oxley, the Milawa Cheese Company has been producing Australian farmhouse cheeses inspired by European methods since it was founded by former city dwellers David and Anne Brown in 1988.

Soft and washed rind cheeses are the specialties here. We tried all of the cheese and there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. We were particularly fond of the.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

There’s also a café and bakery on site which serves honest food using locally sourced ingredients and produce.

Milawa Cheese Company
17 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd (Factory Lane)
Milawa
Victoria 3678

Milawa Cheese Company on Urbanspoon

Milawa Mustards

Milawa Mustards offers 18 types of mustard. The mustard seeds are grown in Milawa and the mustards are grown on site. The mustards range from sweet to spicy, with my favourite being the “Hot Honey” which had just the right balance of sweet and chilli.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Milawa Mustards
1597 Glenrowan-Myrtleford Road
Milawa
Victoria 3678

EV Olives

My wife and I are big olive fans and are not shy when it comes to using olive oil in our cooking. EV Olives produces both and there was a range of plain and flavoured olive oils and olives to try. We enjoyed everything that we tried and were particularly fond of the chilli and garlic olives and the heavily awarded *stronger* extra virgin olive oil which had a buttery mouth feel and an intense olive flavour to it. A lighter olive oil is available for those who aren’t fans of the “strong” olive taste.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

EV Olives
203 Everton Road
Markwood
Victoria 3678

Myrltleford Butter Factory

The Myrtleford Butter Factory is housed in an original red brick butter factory which dates back to the early 1900s. The butter is hand churned and available for tasting. The quality is apparent when you try it – I often purchase the salted version to have on sourdough toast in the morning – the butter is so tasty that it’s the only thing that’s needed on the toast. We used the buttermilk that we purchased here when creating our Buttermilk & Sriracha Fried Chicken Recipe.

You can watch the butter being churned through the viewing windows and weekly tours are also run.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Myrtleford Butter Factory
15 Myrtle Street
Myrtleford
Victoria 3737

Bright Chocolate

Bright Chocolate’s intentions are known from the moment you look at the logo and see the words “Bean to Bar”. Director and head chocolate maker, Simeon Crawley was inspired by the craft chocolate movement (e.g. Mast Brothers) that he saw emerging in the USA and decided to try the same thing in Australia. The focus is on ethically sourced single origin cacao beans, with the entire process “from bean to bar” occurring on site in a beautifully restored brick stables building.

We tried samples of all of the single origin bars and were impressed with the differences in the flavours of each, and how well they reflected what was stated on the tasting notes. The individual “bright fancies” were also very tasty – the salted caramel chocolate is a must try.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Bright Chocolate
8/3 Riverside Ave
Bright
Victoria 3741

Farm Produce

One of the many things that I really love about driving around rural Victoria is the vast array of produce available to purchase direct from the farm. Victoria’s High Country is no exception and there are a lot of places to stop and pick up some local produce, many of which operate on an honour system – take what you want and put your money in the jar. It’s heartening to see that people respect this and don’t abuse it.

victoria high country food drink

 

Accommodation

Clarice-Jean Cottage

We stayed at Clarice cottage, which was booked through Dal Zotto and we were more than happy with the accommodation. The cottage is 2 bed x 2 bath with an outdoor area and a spacious open plan kitchen/living area.

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

victoria high country food drink

Clarice-Jean Cottage
1 Bakery Lane
Whitfield
Victoria 3733

Jessie’s Creek Cottage

This was one of the accommodation options that we had heard was quite good. There were no rooms available when we called but by all accounts it’s worth putting on to your list of potential options if you’re going to stay in the area.

Jessie’s Creek Cottage
6187 Mansfield Whitfield Rd
Whitfield
Victoria 3733

Driving through Victoria’s High Country was full of pleasant surprises. There’s more than enough in this region to satisfy visitors for more than just the 2 days that I had up here and I know for a fact that I’ll be driving up again to explore some more in the future. Have you visited before? Do you have any tips of your own for would be visitors? Feel free to leave your comments below.

4 Comments

  1. Faye
    2 August, 2015 at 7:12 PM

    Fantastic review on everything in the area that we live in. And there is so much more.. Well done!!!

    • 3 August, 2015 at 4:23 PM

      It’s an amazing part of the country. I definitely want to do some more exploring.

  2. 30 January, 2015 at 12:51 AM

    Hey thanks so much for the blog post! Gonna try out Bright Brewey and Bridge Road Brewers when we’re in the area in 2 weeks! Great photos too 🙂 Have a good weekend!

    • 30 January, 2015 at 6:28 AM

      Nice one. Have a great time!