Mitchelton Wines

When you make your way up the long driveway into Mitchelton Wines, it only takes moments to be struck by the large tower that looks out across the vineyards. The driveway cuts through the coincidentally named vineyard, Airstrip, which echoes the airport control-tower aesthetic of the property’s iconic building. It’s a coincidence that makes you smile.

Students of architecture will spend the whole day smiling out here, not just because of the wines and the stunning food, but because of the great Robin Boyd’s recognisable building design. Sadly, Boyd passed away before the completion of the project, but Ted Ashton finished the build and the tower to complete Boyd’s vision.

Wines from this region of Central Victoria are typically powerful and full bodied. Expect lush fruit flavour for days, to go with your architectural smiles and your lunch of seasonal Goulburn River Valley produce from Muse Restaurant.

If a lighter option or cheeky breakfast is your preference, the Ministry of Chocolate Cafe is worth a visit in its own right. Speaking of chocolate, where’s the emoji for drooling? Some of the finest Belgian couverture chocolate is crafted into all kinds of things you’ll want to take home, but will probably just eat on the way.

Piper St Food Co.

One of the best things about touring regional areas is finding random food places that make you smile. Piper St Food Co. is one of those places. It’s a little providore just off Piper St in Kyneton with the kind of local produce your dreamy-eyed Insta-loving self imagines they will find when they visit the country.

Inspired by a picnic in Paris in 1999, owners Damian and Dee have worked hard to give you everything you need for that perfect afternoon in the sun on a blanket somewhere picturesque. They certainly are passionate about their ferments, preserves, curing, and small goods. The quality really shows just how passionate they are.

On top of the produce, you can learn to make all manner of amazingness at their cooking classes and workshops. Picture an afternoon making sausages, a few hours making fresh pasta or fermented foods, or an entire weekend on a whole-pig class where you’ll make cured meats, hams, sausages, and terrines.

One of the coolest things to do from here is take a hamper of small-goods – the house-made terrines and pork pies… oh dear lord, the pork pies. It’s no surprise to learn that people travel here just for the pies.

Definitely make this a quirky insta-worthy lunch option by grabbing a picnic box and a blanket. It’s only an hour or so from the CBD.

 

Source Dining

Returning to this establishment was like coming home to the open arms of beautiful old friends, even after the passage of several years, a change of ownership, and a change of name.

The former Annie Smithers Bistrot of Piper St, Kyneton, is one of those revered country establishments. We found the wonderfully understated dining room just as we left it; the wine list has only improved, and the food from chef and new owner Tim Foster is truly worthy of its Good Food Guide hat.

We had the best hospitality experience here: greeted warmly, waited on with joy and professionalism, given stunning wine suggestions – and all before we’d had any food.

The same ‘Source’ refers to the provenance of the food. It’s definitely a seasonal produce–driven menu. Much of that produce comes from Tim’s garden, planted and grown with love at his home in Sedgewick. The small potager garden at the restaurant serves as a reminder of this, as well as being a practical place to fetch herbs during service. In summer months, long dinners in the garden would be stunning. Everything we ate – risotto, duck, ice-creams – it was all just so goddamn beautiful. Stunning to look at, and delicious in every way. Kyneton is lucky to have a local like this. Go there.

Oneills

Every town needs a long-term food stalwart. It needs a dining experience that stands the test of time, changes of ownership, and shifts in food trends. For over a decade an unassuming house in a corner of the township has been that stalwart for the people of Sale. New owner Elizabeth took the reins about a year ago, and the place has barely missed a beat. Continuity of staff is always a plus, but nonetheless it’s always a big ask to take on a much-loved icon and carry on its success.

For those needing a reliable quick lunch, the short menu in the middle of the day is a no-brainer. Dinner is where it’s really at, though. Complex technical dishes punch piles of Gippsland produce, goodness and flavour into the tastiest of plates. Sadly, the OHO profile visit didn’t coincide with dinner; however, OHO has had the pleasure of  dinner here incognito on other trips, and can confirm all the delicious-looking promise of their stunning Instagram. In fact, it’s worth breaking your road trip for an overnight stay and dinner at Oneills.

One final word to entice you. Cocktails.

Central Gippsland Wine Trail

Words Jess Gadd
Images Supplied

Gippsland constitutes a huge part of Victoria, starting just outside Melbourne and stretching all the way to the NSW border. At its heart is Central Gippsland, cradled by the mountainous Great Dividing Range and its lower-lying cousin, the Strzelecki Ranges, and by the Bass Strait. It’s a geographic combination that results in an often complex set of climatic conditions for the local wineries: some areas are ideal for growing shiraz, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, while in other areas chardonnay shines – though of course a number of other varieties grow well here, too.

This means that – no matter what variety you like – you’ll find a winery in this region that fits the bill! Plus there’s the added bonus that Central Gippsland’s proximity to the ocean, and its flourishing dairy industry, deliver big time when it comes to perfect wine accompaniments like locally sourced seafood and cheese.

Here’s our guide to some of Central Gippsland’s top wineries, with tips for a few delightful detours along the way.

Toms Cap 
#twohoursout

If you’re after scenery that takes your breath away, you can’t go past Toms Cap. This venue has it all: vineyard, cellar door, restaurant, function centre and accommodation. The views, function centre and accommodation are especially popular for weddings, private functions and getaways, but Toms Cap is a much-loved locals secret, too – one that’s worth a drive for the range and quality of food and wine (not to mention the warm hospitality).

It’s surrounded by the Strzelecki Ranges, and not far from one of Victoria’s only cool temperate rainforests, the Tarra Bulga National Park. A walk here is a top choice for a hot day – better than air conditioning! Or, if having a beach to yourself sounds heavenly, you can usually find a solitary spot on the nearby Ninety Mile Beach.

Details:
The cellar door is open Thursday to Monday, 10am to 4pm; the restaurant is open for lunch Friday to Sunday (or by prior arrangement).
322 Lays Rd, Willung South

Traralgon Vineyard
#twohoursout

Wines grown on site at Traralgon Vineyard include chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot, sauvignon blanc and moscato. Enjoy them over a meal in the on-site restaurant, or you can buy a bottle to take home (note that tastings are paid, and by appointment only). A popular local wedding and function venue, offering occasional live entertainment, it books out quickly so the hosts recommend you book ahead to avoid disappointment!

Details:
Open for lunch Saturday to Sunday 12pm to 2pm, and dinner Saturday 6pm until late. Bookings essential.
140 Burnets Road Traralgon

Narkoojee
#twohoursout

Narkoojee’s father-and-son team, Harry and Axel Friend, produces cool climate shiraz, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet and chardonnay that the critics rave about. Narkoojee is rated as a five-star winery in the James Halliday Wine Companion, and a tasting will quickly show you why: these wines are sophisticated, graceful and walk the perfect line between complexity and balance. Some of the varieties, such as the pinot noir and merlot, are only small vintages, and sell out quickly.

Details:
Cellar door is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily most of the year; the restaurant opens Thursday to Sunday for lunch, as well as Saturday and some Fridays for dinner – check ahead for times.
220 Francis Road, Glengarry

Glenmaggie Wines
#twoandahalfhoursout

Named for its proximity to man-made Lake Glenmaggie, the water source for central Gippsland’s 130,000-acre Macalister Irrigation District, Glenmaggie Wines is definitely a family affair. You’ll sense this the moment you set foot in the cellar door, because – in that country way – there’s always time for a yarn, and the family are happy to share the story behind the winery and vintage.

Founders Fleur and Tony will explain that Glenmaggie Wines are a product of their climate – the long, slow ripening time resulting in fruit with a lower sugar content and well-developed flavour. The wines are lauded for their ability to complement, rather than overpower, food; and they are well awarded at wine shows.

Nearby Lake Glenmaggie is well worth a visit, too – particularly in times of high rainfall, when the sight of gum trees submerged in water will be a hit with the kids (and possibly the grown-ups, too!).

Details:
Open Sunday and public holidays 11am to 4pm (or by appointment).
439 McLachlands Rd, Tinamba West

Blue Gables Winery
#twoandahalfhoursout

Named for the story-book blue-roofed home nestled on the hillside among the vines, Blue Gables Winery launched its first vintage with a bang in 2009. It has continued to win awards year-on-year for all four of its varieties: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris and shiraz.

The wines are made by industry stalwarts Mal Stewart and Alastair Butt, and offered at a cellar door featuring a killer view over the green pastures of the Macalister Irrigation District. The cellar door also serves wood-fired pizzas, antipasto platters, and cheese platters featuring local, award-winning Maffra Cheese Company. There’s often live entertainment, too, and in colder weather you can warm your toes before a roaring fire.

Blue Gables, as well as some of the other local wineries, like Glenmaggie Wines and Avon Ridge Vineyard, is located close to the popular Gippsland Plains Rail Trail.

Details:
Open public holidays, Friday to Saturday 11am to 9pm (bookings essential), and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
100 Lanigan Road, Maffra West Upper

Avon Ridge Vineyard
#twoandahalfhoursout

Drop by Avon Ridge on a Sunday and you might catch the Sunday Sippers afternoon, featuring live music and lunch and drink specials. You might be able to score a little home-grown produce at the Produce Swap table. You’ll certainly be able to enjoy some award-winning wines, and breakfast or lunch with a menu that celebrates the diversity and quality of local produce. You will also certainly have a chance to bask in the beautiful views of the Avon River Valley (with or without a wine in hand, that’s up to you!).

Grapes grown here include cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The fruit is deep with varietal flavour and elegance, courtesy of the cool local climate. As a bonus, Avon Ridge makes a range of ciders, too!  

Open Wednesday to Sunday, but do check ahead before visiting, because the winery sometimes closes for functions and weddings.

Details:
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday
446 Maffra – Stratford Road, Maffra

Mt Moornapa
#threehoursout

Mt Moornapa is well off the beaten track, tucked away in artsy Briagolong. The winery itself is a unique building – it’s tall: an attempt to retain lower temperatures during the hotter months. There are plenty of other design features aimed at reducing energy consumption, too – for example, the vats are elevated to reduce energy use during production periods. Even the vines were planted with energy efficiency and reduced water-consumption in mind.

At the cellar door varieties on offer include chardonnay, traminer, pinot noir, riesling and merlot: all grown on site. There’s also a picnic area with barbecue facilities that visitors are welcome to enjoy.

Details:
Open weekends and public holidays, 10am to 4pm.
741 Briagolong Stockdale Rd, Stockdale

Tinamba Hotel
#twoandahalfhoursout

If you have a lust for local produce, the Tinamba Hotel will deliver: with honey from one of the owner’s family farm, herbs and veggies grown on site, and local producers and winemakers featuring prominently on the menu. You can choose from the relaxed atmosphere of the public bar, or a more refined dining experience in the restaurant – the same kitchen supplies both, and the food is outstanding. This picturesque, romantic venue even scored a mention in The Good Food Guide (2018).

The town of Tinamba celebrates the region’s bounty with a popular annual food and wine festival (April). And while we’re talking diary dates, the annual Marlay Point Overnight Yacht Race (March) makes quite a spectacle as it departs from Lake Wellington just outside the nearby township of Sale. It’s well worth timing your visit to coincide with either – or both – of these events.

Details:
Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunda and dinner Wednesday to Saturday
4-6 Tinamba Seaton Rd, Tinamba

 

ACCOMODATION OPTIONS
Toms Cap Vineyard
Mansi on Raymond
Abington Farm B&B
The Matador
Frog Gully Cottages 

The Criterion Hotel

It takes fortitude of a wardrobe-changing kind to take on a crumbling old building destined for demolition, and turn it into a hub for the community. That’s exactly what Ferg and Andrew have given the people of Sale in Central Gippsland – a pub to be proud of. It came as the result of a passion for heritage; ably guided by Heritage Victoria, they have turned a wreck that had barely survived since it was built in 1865 into the kind of local establishment where you’ll want to spend hours with your mates.

The hospitality side of things is looked after by Ferg Horan, a former chef at places like the Tinamba Hotel, amongst others. His team is turning Gippsland produce info the kind of pub food that brings a smile to your face. Nothing too wanky, just beautiful flavourful dishes that actually make you smile when they arrive. Yes, there’s a parma for those who are on that quest for the perfect one, but the steak is amazing too. It should be – Gippsland is beef country.

The hotel has some stunning accommodation as well, for those on the way somewhere.

All pubs should be a collection point, a place for people to meet, unwind, and put aside the cares of the day over a pint of the finest. The fact that the kitchen turns out some damn fine food is the best of bonuses.

Tarra-Bulga National Park

Like a still pocket of temperate loveliness, the Tarra-Bulga National Park occupies a quiet parcel of old growth forest in South Gippsland. Much of the forest has been the subject of forestry activities for decades, so this ancient patch of myrtle beech, mountain ash, and tree ferns exists as one of the best examples of cool temperate rainforest remaining in the Strzlecki Ranges, and one of only four remaining in Victoria.

The Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge spans a spectacular gully, through the rainforest canopy, affording a truly unique view into the tops of the green ferns below. It’s a chance to slow down and contemplate the meaning of life. No need to Insta this moment, as your phone won’t work here. Put it away and just soak it in.

There is a 30-minute walking loop from the visitor centre on to the suspension bridge and back around. It’s pram friendly, though not dog friendly.

Listen for the lyrebird’s imitations of other wildlife as you walk – you may even be lucky enough to spot one.

Gippsland Art Gallery

Regional art galleries are a thing – seriously important works of art are held and exhibited in significant galleries in regional areas. Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale is a breathtaking renovation of a 1960s brutalist building, housing important works of art from not only the region but also internationally. There are pieces you might have seen at MoNA in Hobart, MoMA in New York or the NGV, sitting comfortably and meaningfully with works by artists who’ve made Gippsland their life’s passion and focus.

For example, until the end of January 2019 the Cameron Robbins work ‘Solar Loggerheads’ is ticking away, drawing its frantic lines on glass in spasms, then erasing them in rhythmic movements like an inevitable opposing dance of creation against destruction.

The gallery also celebrates regional artists who have made a significant impact on the art world, such as Annemieke Mein. The Sale-based textile artist has had a long career and is deservingly described by the gallery as a ‘global phenomenon’.

Take the time to wander slowly through the gallery – entry is free, and the coffee in the port-side window is good.

Toorongo Falls

Toorongo Falls Reserve is a bushland area of wet forest containing two spectacular waterfalls. It’s a moderate to easy 2.2km walk in a dog-friendly park up a bush trail to several vantage points below and over the falls; the full distance is an enjoyable circuit taking in both the Toorongo Falls and the Amphitheatre Falls.

Dawn or dusk is the best time to go if you want to spot any wildlife. If you’re light on your feet you could see brush-tailed possums, echidnas, gliders and wallabies. It’s a haven for birds, too.

Keen photographers will want to pack a tripod. Getting that perfect cotton-like water in motion will take a slow shutter and a timer or remote release. There are also bush camping spots available on a no-booking, first-come first-served basis.

The drive into the falls park takes you along the Toorongo River valley floor. It’s a green haven following the river, like something out of The Lord of the Rings – complete with ponies. It’s a spectacular entree to an enjoyable immersion in the forest.

Payten and Jones

The Yarra Valley’s rock and roll bad boys have gone and opened up a cellar door. Best mates Behn Payten and and Troy Jones have never done things the conventional way. The cellar door is just as likely to have a food truck parked out front as it is to be sporting some new graffiti artwork on the side walls. Don’t be fooled by the deliberately urban vibe, though. These wines are sophisticated. Behn is happy to have a play with skin contact, whole-bunch, and SO2-free, but the range cleverly spans the gamut from fine elegant chardonnays to beautifully weighted savoury pinot noir, to outright ball-tearing funky shiraz. Look for the gorilla if you’re into the latter.

This is no picturesque vineyard-side cellar door. You’re in the heart of Healesville, across the road from the Four Pillars gin distillery, in a sharp fit-out with picnic tables out back for sitting and drinking a glass or three of the good stuff with whatever offerings the food trucks have on the weekends. The OHO trip coincided with a damn tasty BBQ from The Cypriot Grill – a caravan resplendent in yellow livery turning out awesome accompaniments to Behn and Troy’s booze. So far three significant pieces of graffiti art adorn the walls, and are in themselves worthy of a drop-by.