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Published February 6th 2015
The Cheese Factory that has it all
We had some time to spare in between events, and we'd seen signage suggesting that there was a "cheese factory", so popping in was on this afternoon's agenda. Surprise was to become the word of the day, as we were very much surprised by what we had uncovered.
The Milawa Cheese Company was formed in 1988 when the owners took possession of the former Milawa Butter Factory, and set about turning it in to a tourist destination. And what a great job they have done. We arrived shortly after 12 to be greeted by a largely full car park. Perhaps not unusual, but it was certainly unexpected from our perspective. Some eager eyes found us a spot, and off we headed towards the main building before we were stopped in our tracks by choice - what should we see first ?
The Cheese Factory is the centrepiece of the building, and inside is a long delicatessen style serving area containing cheeses, sliced meats and other simple gourmet accompaniments. To the sides of the serving area were tall rows of other local produce jars from the region (olives, honey, dips etc), as well as several different types of dry biscuits, cheese boards and knives. If one wanted, it was possible to create your own picnic hamper or cheese platter, and sit on the lawns and enjoy with a glass of wine.
But to create a platter, one would need to know what cheeses one would want, and hence the small but inviting tasting area. A lovely assistant behind the counter kindly offered us a brochure outlining the mild, medium and strong cheeses available for tasting today, all up a total of 21 cheeses. Now I do like cheese, but I am a long way from being called an expert, so the tasting order as suggested was the way to go, albeit not for all 21 types !
On the day, the Milawa Native Pepper Chevre, the Milawa Brie, the David Brown Select Cheddar and the Aged Blue were all very good, and all became known as favourites.
Once tasting was completed, the sales area further down the row was available for you to purchase any or all types you liked. With pre-packed sizes of around 100g, and prices comparable to city based prices, this was an excellent way to ensure that you got the cheese that best suited your palate.
Continuing down the row to where a gaggle of people had assembled, and there was the large indoor restaurant and outdoor café area. From an ala-carte menu to café style foccaccia's to hot pastries, the eatery seemed to cater for everyone's needs. We chose some focaccias and the obligatory midday coffee, and chose to sit outside to garner some breeze. Both the food and the coffee were prepared locally, were fresh and offered nothing to complain about.
After lunch, we headed to the other side of the building, and spent some time walking through the Walnut Tree Collection of collectables and homewares. A large range of items has been packed in a small area, but there are plenty of gifts for everyone to choose from.
Alongside the main building is two other smaller buildings, the first of which contains the Muse Gallery. This gallery exhibits numerous pieces of fine art in many classifications (paintings, metalwork, glass, wood etc), and all of them with a modest price tag.
The final building available on the day was occupied by Wood Park Wines, a boutique winery who have a cellar door here on the premises that offers glimpses in to their fine Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and full bodied reds.
The Milawa Cheese Factory and associated tourist attractions is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. The Factory is a 10 minute drive from the Hume Highway turnoffs at Wangaratta, and is well worth a day trip itself, or alternatively a slight detour when travelling on the highway for a pleasant break.