A pommy foodie (yes there is such a thing !) living in Melbourne, enjoying the best ESD on the planet - Eating, Sleeping & Drinking'.
Published July 10th 2012
Take the Hume Highway and an easy two and a half hour drive north from Melbourne gets you to the King Valley. For lovers of the country, delicious food and great wine, this is a must do trip.
Sam Miranda winery sits at the entrance to 'The Valley'. Coming from the respected and established Miranda wine making family from Griffith in New South Wales, Sam was tempted to the King Valley in 1991 and has established a reputation as one of the finest producers in the region. For admirers of architecture this is a real treat, a modern yet warm and inviting cellar door seems to sum up this winery.
As you drive through the King Valley in Victoria's High Country, you could be forgiven for thinking you have been transported to the lush green hills of northern Italy. The area has a long and diverse history that included a huge tobacco growing industry until the 1980s.
Flanked by the Victorian Alps, the scenery is breathtaking and the vineyards that hug the fertile slopes are home to some exceptional wines and their makers. I have long admired the winemakers of this country; theirs is an all consuming life - farmer, labourer, marketer, host and business manager. The King Valley artisans sum up what epitomizes this special breed of people. Just shake the scarred and calloused hand of any self respecting winemaker and you can start to appreciate the life these people lead to bring to our tables some of the finest wines in the world.
On recommendation, my wife and I had booked to stay at the Chrismont winery located to the Southern end of the Valley. Famous for its Mediterranean and classic style wines, Chrismont is a spectacular winery commanding awe inspiring views across the valley and surrounding hills. The proprietors Jo and Arnie proved to be the perfect hosts making us feel like returning friends rather than 'Valley new comers'. The guest house nestled in the grounds of Chrismont was just out of this world. The four bedroom bungalow is beautifully furnished and equipped with everything to make you feel at home from home. The fridge was stocked with locally produced meats, cheeses and breads, and with a huge deck and BBQ you can choose to soak up the 360 degree views, watch the kangaroos play in the vines or hand feed the magpies at your kitchen door.
Having watched the most amazing electrical storm roll through the hills we ventured out on a 5 minute drive to the Mountain View Hotel in Whitfield. Completely refurbished and reopened in 2010 by Carlo and Sal Pizzini, the head chef Bryan Alley is quickly putting this hotel on the 'must do' list. Escaping a stormy night the roaring log fire was so welcoming, as were the staff and locals who peppered the bar. For me it was a juicy 300g steak and hand cut chips with the house special Chimichurri sauce. My good lady had the Cassoulette which was loaded with pork belly, sausage and duck. Both dishes were superb, and with a unique local wine and beer list it didn't disappoint.
The Valley is home to some of the most respected vineyards in the country such as Del Zotto and Pizzini, both are a must for the serious cellar door junkie, but for me one of the greatest draws to the Valley is its wealth of smaller independent wine makers. All in the name of research we visited each and every one! Give your taste buds an early Christmas and make time for some great wines at Avalon, Politini, Paul Biggio and Gracebrook.
If you want to plan ahead, the regions winemaking families celebrate their annual Spring festival, 'La Dolce Vita' over the weekend of 17-18 November 2012. For further details on the region and forthcoming events visit the following sites: Wines of the King Valley and King Valley.
For me the highlight of this particular trip was our trip to the King River Estate. Located to the Northern end of the Valley, the winery was established in 1990 by Trevor Knaggs and his father who planted the first vines. Trevor's enthusiasm is infectious and rightly proud of what he is trying to achieve. Trevor was kind enough to give us a rare glimpse into his world, taking time to show us around the winery and even tasting of some of his produce in the making. What really makes King River different is Trevor's commitment to biodynamic practices producing high quality wines naturally, using wild yeasts and a natural fermentation process. While making wine in this traditional manner, Trevor has his eye firmly set to the future and is in the process of extending the kitchens and building an exciting dining area that will command views over the beautiful vines and flanking hills. With accommodation also available, visit, stay and enjoy.