TUESDAY APRIL 19 POREPUNKAH
Usual morning routine for dog and me. It was so pleasant sitting outside with my breakfast and coffee, looking at the brilliant tree display, that I wasn’t worried how late John slept.
We set out to visit the Milawa area, home to lots of food and wine-related establishments.
It meant driving some sixty kms, each way, but that was a pleasure with the weather and scenery as it was.
Pleasant driving through the Ovens River valley
Amongst the information that I’d liberated from the visitor centre in Bright was a promo leaflet that listed lots of cheese and wine outlets, and showed their locations on mud map type diagrams.
Milawa Cheeses was an appealing sounding place to start today’s explorations, so I attempted to direct John there. We overshot the road leading there, it seemed, despite my best navigational efforts. Did a U-ey. Thought I’d read the map wrongly. But then realized that, somehow, the maps were like mirror images. What they showed as being on the left of the road was actually on the right. Milawa Cheeses was not on the Oxley side of Milawa, as the map indicated. Totally confusing.
We eventually found the place, up its side road. It was a bigger establishment than I’d expected and was doing a roaring lunch service. Diners were eating on a covered outdoor area, screened from the driveway by lush, hanging grapevines, now turning deep red. It was really lovely. I was so busy admiring the place that I didn’t think to take a photo, for which I kicked myself later.
The lunch menu looked interesting. Most items featured their cheeses, in some form. There were several unusual pizza offerings too. The place was also a bakery, with bread and items like pies. As we’d started out rather late, it was lunch time already and John would have eaten lunch there, had they stocked a meat and vegie pastie, instead of purely a vegie one. The man had his heart set on a “proper” pastie for lunch. I bought a vegetarian focaccia, anyway, to take away for my lunch. Got to get the sort of things I like when I can!
We sampled a range of their cheeses and bought several yummy wedges, including a beautifully runny Brie. John indulged his taste with a piece of their blue cheese; he would be eating that alone. It smelled out the Bus fridge for the rest of the trip, until it was all consumed. Like old shoes – powerful stuff!
He also bought a couple of goats milk cheeses – not to my taste, either. We bought a little cooler bag, with ice, to carry it all in – an extra $10.
Since it was already looking like tonight’s dinner would be cheeses, I bought some suitably artisan looking bread from the bakery section.
Proceeded on to Milawa township, looking for the bakery there. It was next to a shop selling olive products, amongst other tourist-geared items. Sampled some local olive oils and bought one very flavoursome one – destined for bread dipping. Yum. Also bought a vacuum pack of assorted local olives, ranging from tiny green ones through to plump kalamata ones.
Alas for John, the bakery too only had vegie pasties, so he bought a pepper pie. We sat out in the car park, eating our lunches. I found there was a bit too much olive paste on my focaccia, otherwise it was really enjoyable.
Cruised slowly past the little Milawa Caravan Park and decided it would be adequate for an overnighter, if we want to make a quick “food” raid at some time in the future. It would certainly be convenient.
Our next, and final, stop was at the iconic Brown Brothers Wines, with its beautiful grounds and interesting old buildings. We had not intended originally to come here, but since it is so much a part of the development of Milawa as a gourmet centre, it seemed somehow wrong to miss it.
The first Brown’s vineyard and winery dates from the 1880’s.
Historic machinery display at Brown Brothers Winery
We sampled some of their wide range of wines and, of course, ended up buying half a dozen bottles, even though I had a sneaking suspicion that our local supermarket would match, or even better, the cellar door prices here. John liked their Moscato Rose and included three of those. I chose the Tempranillo Graciano.
It is really interesting to note how many new varieties of grape/wine have come out of this region in recent years – due to its migrant heritage and wine making tradition. Browns have been well involved with this, but not the only winemakers to work at broadening the Australian palate.
Grounds at Brown Brothers
It was time to go back to camp, before we dented the plastic even more.
I did notice that, over the road from Brown Brothers, was a pleasant looking 24 hour RV park, for self contained vehicles. What a great idea. I bet it promotes sampling and purchases. There were a few motorhomes parked there, too, and it was still quite early in the afternoon.
As we drove back, talked about the decline of the tobacco growing industry that used to dominate the Ovens Valley. It was ten years since tobacco growing ceased, with government buy out of growing quotas in 2006. The signs of decline had probably been there for a couple of decades, in part due to the rise of anti-smoking sentiment. There was decreased government support for the industry and encouragement of research into alternative products for the region. In the end it became a familiar story in the Australian context: the overseas companies still making cigarettes preferred to use cheaper tobacco from other places.
Victorian Alps in the distance
The many corrugated iron drying sheds that occur all along the valley are a reminder of the tobacco industry days.
We saw some farms growing hops, on tall trellises. Now, I don’t think the product made from hops is going to decrease in demand any time soon!
Couey, who had spent most of the Milawa trip in the car, was rewarded with a walk along the riverside track, and a play in the river.
Tea was good crusty bread, olive oil and cheeses. Sooo delicious…. With it we drank a bottle of Devils Creek merlot that we’d bought on Sunday from a display in the park office. That was made by Michelini Wines at Myrtleford, who we’d never heard of. After sampling the product, we promised ourselves to visit there before we left the district.
April 12, 2023 at 10:39 pm
That ‘free’ camp at Brown Brothers is a great idea. We had a quiet night there a few years back. Though we were sleeping off a long lunch in the sun at Brown Brothers. Along with a box of wine it wasn’t such a cheap night, but certainly memorable!
April 13, 2023 at 6:04 am
It is very difficult to go to Milawa and not over-indulge in one way or another…