Monday, May 30, 2016

Wangaratta & King Valley 2016 - High Country Harvest, Food, Wine, Fun, Sun, Laughs

Disclaimer: I attend both trips courtesy of the Rural City of Wangaratta.

Recently, I got to experience even more than the Rural City of Wangaratta and King Valley has to offer. I'm forever amazed by how good the food and wine in the region is, how beautiful the scenery is, how wonderful the people are, and just the variety of things you can do. I actually went on two different trips but I'll splice them together and group them into some semi cohesive post. As I've mentioned in the past, the region is about a 3 hour drive from Melbourne so may be pushed for a day trip. But you can most definitely do a weekend trip up there (as I did on both occasions) and get to sample a bit that the region has to offer.
Beautiful view from the Chrismont Winery outdoor balcony dining area.

First off, go check out the Visit Wangaratta, Visit King Valley and Visit Glenrowan sites for any info, activities and to gawk at the beautiful things on offer.
Visit Wangaratta Website
Visit Wangaratta Facebook Account
Visit Wangaratta Instagram Account
Visit Wangaratta Twitter Account

Visit King Valley Website
Visit Glenrowan Website

Next up, you can also check out my previous posts on the region, which provide even more ideas for what you can do up there.
Packing Prosecco and Good Food
Cow Mustering, Fly Fishing
Brown Brothers Winery
Pizzini Winery
Politini Winery
Lindenwarrah Hotel
North East Victoria Wineries and Food

Let me start with accommodation, a word I commonly misspell (I also misspell "misspell" as mispell all the time) using only one m and not two. Thank goodness for spell check right? So when I go somewhere, I normally start by seeing what accommodation options are available, booking that and working my way from there. On the last two trips, I stayed at the Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta and Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation. Both places were stunning and I would highly recommend both.

Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta
29‐37 Ryley St
Wangaratta VIC 3677

At the Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta, I actually stayed in the townhouses, which were so beautifully decked out and incredibly comfortable. There was everything you need, including a fully fitted kitchen, comfortable furniture, central heating/cooling and a nice little backyard area to chill. We even blasted music over the iphone speaker and busted out some tunes.

Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation
Gwenda Canty and David Byles
1569 Boggy Creek Road
Myrrhee VIC 3732

At Casa Luna, the accommodations may be a bit smaller, but you get the most amazing view, and the use of the dining/lounge area, outdoor area and I think there may even be a spa for warmer days. Don't quote me on that part. You also get greeted, and get to talk to if you want, Gwenda and David, who have immense knowledge of food and travel. The only thing you may struggle with is wifi, which is patchy and slow, but that may be a good thing for a digital detox. You definitely will struggle with the food...choosing which amazing things you want to eat. You can choose to dine at Casa Luna for dinner and breakfast. I highly recommend you do as Gwenda's cooking is sensational. I've not eaten so well at any B&B before.

So once you've got your accommodation sorted, next you will want to know what to do. Check out some of my other posts above for a tonne of activities, from fly fishing, to cow mustering, to a prosecco horse ride. On this trip I did yet another new thing, meat butchering, followed by sausage making.

Gamze Smokehouse
Felix Gamze
147 Vincent Rd,
Wangaratta 3677 VIC

At Gamze Smokehouse, experienced butcher Felix Gamze makes butchering a whole pig look like child's play. I can tell you it's not as easy as he makes it look. He carved around the shoulder bone of the pig without looking. I hacked away at the meat of the animal. Luckily the parts we ruined were used for sausages, and Felix and his team took care of the prime cuts to ensure they stayed hole. From the ground meat, we got to mix up whatever sausage flavours we wanted (you can bring your own spices) and then had so much fun and laughs making sausages. I can tell you that using the hydraulic machine can be scary as exploding sausages carry some force. People came from far and wide to take the class. Some wanting to learn for themselves, while some were butchers who wanted to improve. Whatever the reason, everyone had fun and bonded over sausage making. Lunch was also a delicious spread of some of the many products that Gamze Smokehouse smoke. A highly recommended fun activity.

Walkabout Apiaries
Greg Whitehead
1531 Snow Road
Milawa VIC 3678

Walkabout Apiaries is your go to place for all things honey. There's lots of different honeys to try and buy, honey mead (honey wine basically) to sip, honey candles to smell and a lot of knowledge to be learned about the art of making honey and the different varieties. Our guide, Greg Whitehead, is helping to take over his father's business and is full of knowledge about how the bees gather the honey and the different processes used to treat the honey. You have to try the raw honey, so full of flavour.

Moyhu Hotel
Melissa and Glen Merkel
18/16 Byrne St
Moyhu VIC 3732

The Moyhu Hotel is the go to place to catch the locals and have a drink or three. We were there for the Village Bonfire event that invited people to gather around a bonfire and try lots of different foods and drinks. It's so beautiful there and I kept thinking it felt like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. I'm sure some of you watch Gilmore Girls right?'s a good place to mix with the locals for some drinks.

Food and Drinks

Cafe The Prevue
Ali Alexander
66‐68 Faithfull Street
Wangaratta VIC 3677

Cafe the Prevue is the hip and happening place to go for all your breakfast and lunch needs. Perfectly situation along the river, it has a great fitout and excellent food. The owner and host Ali Alexander is also a bundle of fun and laughs (she calls me a funny guy so that already gets her in my good books). Enjoyed various regular dishes off the menu or go for the Scrambled Chilli Eggs like I did, which was so good. The shredded potato fritters though are the bomb, so get onto that.

Buyin Time
Kelly Adamo
21 Muntz St
Wangaratta VIC 3677

Buyin Time is a casual eats place with a super eclectic fitout and menu. You can find all types of things on the menu such as burgers, pizzas, ribs, gravy fries, burritos etc. The decor out in the back courtyard is equally random, but the mood is great out there, with a strong communal vibe.

Sam Miranda
Sam Miranda and Michael White (head chef)
1019 Snow Rd
Oxley VIC 3678

Sam Miranda is a stunning winery that serves up lots of their wines as well as some stunning food with chef Michael White now at the helm. We sat in the courtyard area and the trees swaying with the filtered sunlight gave the most amazing atmosphere. We sampled lots of yummy food such as cured salmon, scallops, oricchetti with duck porcini ragu and smoked trout. For me, the scotch fillet steak with salsa verde and the chocolate tart dessert were the standout. The steak was so juicy and flavoursome and the salted caramel ice cream served with the tart blew my mind, my favourite salted caramel ice cream I've tasted. You can easily spend a whole day here in the relaxing atmosphere so make sure you schedule in enough time.

Chrismont Winery
Arnie and Jo Pizzini
251 Upper King River Road
Cheshunt Victoria 3678

Chrismont Winery is the bees knees of winery. I'd rank it up there with some of my favourites in Melbourne. The fitout is stunning, the staff and owners Arnie and Jo are knowledgeable and friendly (shoutout to my new friend Johnny), the view is sensational and oh my goodness, the food, wow wow wow. Classic recipes are improved upon, with the kitchen headed by my other new friend, Andy Pye. Simple things like roasted and pickled chilli are so delightful, with garlic prawns being so good, terrine, oxtail and my favourite, sardines. Previously I had the sardines grilled and that was fantastic. This time, the sardines were made into little balls, fried and slathered in the most wonderful sauce. That was my highlight savoury dish. Dessert once again was so great, with a amaretto custard, an apple cake and my favourite, the marsala baked cheesecake that Andy refuses to give me the recipe too. Guess I'll just need to go there to eat this.

A big cheers to my fellow travelers I-Hua and Aaron, Cherrie, Brandon and Val who made the last trip so much fun. Here they all are enjoying themselves at Chrismont.

Brown Brothers
Ross Brown and Caroline Brown
239 Milawa Bobinawarrah Road
Milawa VIC 3678

Last up, but by no means least, is the indomitable Brown Brothers. It's the biggest and shiniest jewel in the area, and for good reasons. Brown Brothers know how to delight. From their Epicurean Centre where you can eat some delicious food, to the gardens around the area where you can relax on their famous bean bags, to their barn that housed the perfect High Country Harvest dinner. The barn was decked out so beautifully and felt like I was in a movie. Unfortunately my photos of the food on the night was shocking (I blame all the wines I drank at Chrismont during lunch) so you'll have to read that the food created by head chef Douglas Elder was so full of flavour and delicious. Using local sourced ingredients, there were so many highlights. From teh friend chicken wings with walnut and apple agrodolce, to the chestnut and pumpkin seed macarons, to the stunning pulled goat, which was my favourite of the night. Then we got to eat lots of tasty cakes such as a persimmon cake which I've never had before. It tastes so good. Milawa Cheeses rounded out a great event, with Brown Brothers wines making sure we were lubricated all night. Then as a special treat, our hosts Ross Brown and his daughter Caroline Brown took us into their private cellar, to drink some of their family cellared wines and look at the treasure trove of wines they had down there. What an experience and privilege. You have to make a stop at Brown Brothers when you're in the area. You won't be disappointed.

So as you can see, there are great places to stay in Wangaratta and King Valley, loads of activities to keep you occupied and so much good food and wine that you'll never want to leave. There's always different festivals and events happening all year round so make sure to check out the Visit Wangaratta Website to keep up with all the news. A huge thanks to the amazing Emma and Kylee who helped organise the trips as well as being the best drinking hosts and made the trips so much fun. Now go forth and explore the region.

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