I had been meaning to go to the grape growing King Valley in the alpine region of Victoria for many years, in particular after I learnt that a lot of Italian grape varietals were grown there and many Italian style wines produced with great success. My husband and I went there a few weekends ago to find a lush green landscape, with vines just starting to bud after the wet winter.
Although I had read about it, I was quite unprepared for how beautiful it was. As soon as I arrived, even before the car had stopped, I wanted to return. Clearly this was a good sign!
There are a large number of wineries there. In fact it is known as Prosecco Road. Many wineries have Italian names such as Pizzini, Dal Zotto, Bettio, Francesco, Ciccone, Bergamin and grow Italian grapes including Prosecco, Arneis, Savagnin, Prosecco, Moscato, Barbera, Sangiovese just to name a few. You won’t just find Chardonnay and Shiraz there!
We stayed in a house owned by the Pizzini family in the tiny town of Whitfield and enjoyed a fabulous meal at the pub. Unfortunately there was also a Hen’s night and a Buck’s night in the restaurant on the Friday night when we were there. The waiter was terribly apologetic after a chorus of “skoll, skoll” (followed by the bride-to-be drinking a vast quantity of alcohol). We all breathed a sigh of relief when they left. The meal though was lovely and I believe the only place to eat right in the town centre (though there are many wineries with restaurants). The next day when we were visiting wineries, the cellar door staff all knew about what had happened at the Whitfield pub the previous night – word clearly gets around quickly in the tiny town and the valley!
Visiting wineries is hugely enjoyable, especially when you are not the designated driver. I fell in love with the wines at Chrismont and promptly joined their wine club. My favorite wines were the La Zona range of Petit Manseng, the Marzemino Frizzante, the Rosato Mezzanotte and the Fragolino. I bought a case of wine and look forward to receiving the next dozen in time for Christmas. When we were visiting Pizzini, there was a cooking class running which you could see through the window peering in from the tasting room. Katrina Pizzini invited me in to have a look at what they were doing which looked to be lots of fun.
We had lunch at Gracebrook Vineyards, which boasts a farm with goats, geese, pigs and roosters, that were more than happy to pose for my photos. Mark had a delicious risotto with asparagus, lemon and mint there, which I have been trying to replicate (with only moderate success).
Whitfield, the small township in the King Valley is about a 2 hour drive from Melbourne and not far from the town of Wangaratta. I highly recommend a visit soon to enjoy their fantastic wine and great country hospitality as well as some pretty spectacular views from the surrounding hills.