ROAD FOOD AND WINERIES - eating your way around North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Gourmet foods, fine wines await
NO matter if you are driving a motor vehicle, riding a motorcycle or a bicycle, walking, or riding a horse somewhere in Australia’s greatest inland playground, chances are you are going to get hungry and thirsty.
But fear not, as North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina region of New South Wales has all bases covered, with cafes, country pubs and country bakeries, fine dining restaurants, bistros, fish and chips shops, street food, craft beer outlets, and some of the finest wines and winery restaurants in the country – if not the world.
Small villages aside – even then you may be lucky – most towns and, of course, all cities in the region, can offer food and drink for the weary traveller, whether that be a sandwich or pie with a soft drink or coffee, or a three course fine dining meal with an award-winning regional wine.
The Milawa Gourmet Region, for instance, is a culinary adventure waiting to be discovered, either by car, by bike or on foot.
It is in this small but picturesque part of North East Victoria where you can experience awesome food and wine any time of the year and it is an easy area to find and get around.
Centred on the Glenrowan-Myrtleford Road (Snow Road), the Milawa Gourmet Region is Australia’s first proclaimed, ‘gourmet region’.
Since it was proclaimed in 1994, the region has grown into a food and wine lover’s paradise, renowned as the epicentre of the gourmet experience – and what an experience it is.
It is home to Brown Brothers of Milawa, Milawa Bread Co and The Milawa Kitchen, Milawa Mustards, Milawa Cheese Company, Milawa Bakery Cafe, Sam Miranda (pictured above), Christmont, Ciccone, Red Bank, Wood Park and John Gehrig wineries, Hurdle Creek Still, Milawa Vineyard Views, the Milawa Pub, and Blue Ox Berries, to name a few.
This ‘culinary crossroads’, a reference to the cross roads in the heart of Milawa, is home to many family-owned and operated wineries where you can meet the winemakers at their friendly cellar doors or the growers either at their farm gates or produce markets which are held on a regular basis in Milawa and in Moyhu.
The region also encompasses the townships of Tarrawingee, Oxley, Everton, and Whorouly, all of which have some remarkable cafes and pub food.
In a small radius, you will be amazed at what the region has to offer and if you do not want to drive from cellar door to farm gate, or to the various gourmet food stores, you can hire a bike.
The Milawa Gourmet Region is a food lover's paradise, and nobody will go home either hungry or disappointed.
The region overflows with an unsurpassed array of farm-fresh products and great raw ingredients, including olives, mustards, artisan bread, chestnuts, walnuts, cheeses, honey, jams, preserves, vegetables, fruit and, of course, wine.
Leave room in the boot of the car as you are going to need it to carry all your goodies home.
Close by is the King Valley where you could be forgiven for thinking you have been transported to the picturesque hills of Northern Italy, for the vineyards, perched on the fertile slopes that rise above the King River, are home to great wines and their makers.
Prosecco Road is an exciting food and wine trail that includes tasting.
You can also savour rustic Italian cuisine at one of the many winery restaurants attached to these magnificent wineries.
Other wine regions include Glenrowan, the Ovens Valley, the Kiewa Valley, Tumbarumba, and Yerong Creek, with the biggest, and most widely known, being the famous Rutherglen Wine Region.
Winemaking has been a family tradition in Rutherglen since the 1850s and today fourth, fifth and sixth generation winemakers produce outstanding, award-winning wines.
Vines came to Rutherglen along with the Gold Rush of the 1850s and today crisp whites, rich reds and world-famous fortified wines are produced with a unique regional character.
Rutherglen is the unchallenged capital of fortified wines in Australia, with many of its great wines recognised throughout the world.
And to help lovers of craft beer find their way around regional breweries, there is a Regional Beer Trail which takes you from the farming heartland of the Riverina, south to the stomping ground of the Kelly gang in North East Victoria, east along the pristine waters of the Mitta Mitta and Kiewa Rivers, and west following the Murray River.
Most breweries on the trail offer food.
Street food is also taking a stronghold around the region, with Wodonga holding sway in the number of outlets, offering everything from hamburgers to fried chicken, Asian food, and muffins to ice cream.
And if that is not enough, most regional farmers’ markets have food stalls, plus there is any number of farm gate produce stalls where you can buy – via the honesty system – fresh produce straight from the paddock.
Farmers' markets are the perfect place to meet and chat with the growers, producers and makers - and maybe pick up a tip or two.