On grand final weekend, we escaped the football crazy city and went to explore the High Country. We found ourselves in King Valley, Victoria’s own slice of Northern Italy, playing bocce, making gnocchi and drinking Prosecco.
King Valley is a sprawling region, rich in two of the best things in life: cheese and wine. While the town is spread out and you might have to do a bit of driving to get from one venue to the next, the winding roads and picturesque scenery make time in the car an enjoyable part of the experience.
While usually quite a peaceful area, the region comes alive this weekend to celebrate La Dolce Vita, their annual celebration of the sweet life. Grab a tasting glass and spend the day going from winery to winery sampling local produce, meeting the winemakers and learning about the history of this welcoming community.
La Dolce Vita
On the third weekend of November, King Valley hosts its annual La Dolce Vita celebration. It’s the weekend the town pulls out all the stops and arguably the best time to visit. For $95 a shuttle bus will take you from Federation Square to 11 wineries and back home, but we recommend staying at least the night. Make sure you stop by Brown Brothers, Dal Zotto, Chrismont Wines and Pizzini for their gnocchi competition.
Festival wine tasting glasses are $15 each, this can be used at all participating King Valley wineries.
Bocce at Dal Zotto
A glass of Prosecco in one hand a bocce ball in the other, this is the way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Apart from making an excellent Sangiovese, the Dal Zotto’s are known for their bocce pitch. This weekend they’ll be holding their annual bocce tournament, roasting a pig on a spit and making sure everyone is well fed.
Cooking School At Pizzini
With years of experience in kitchens around King Valley, a cookbook under her belt and a patient, caring attitude, Katrina Pizzini is an excellent teacher. She takes most of the classes herself and whilst teaching you how to make light, fluffy gnocchi she also provides a charming insight into the history of the winery and area. Classes are intentionally kept small so everyone can receive one on one coaching.
This Sunday Pizzini hosts their annual gnocchi rolling competition at 2pm.
Snow Road Produce
All-day breakfast and All Press coffee makes Snow Road the closest thing to a Melbourne cafe you’ll find in King Valley. The fit-out is simple and the food fresh and tasty. They also stock more than 90 wines from the northeast’s winemakers and beers from Bridge Road Brewers, so you can pick up a few extra bottles of your favourites before the head home.
Also owned by the Pizzinis, the local pub offers some pretty decent pub food. The menu rotates seasonally and aims to showcase local produce. You’re likely to find most of the town there on a Saturday night.
Perched on a hill overlooking a rather impressive vista, the Bellevue Lodge is a great base. With cowhide rugs and an open fire, it’s everything you want from a country lodge. In summer the barbecue and outdoor dining setting look perfect for long lazy afternoons. With three bedrooms, a full kitchen and welcome hamper on arrival, you could go here with just your significant other, a group of friends or the whole family.
Milawa Cheese Factory
A whole factory dedicated to cheese? The Milawa Cheese Factory is a dream come true for cheese lovers. All cheeses are handmade using traditional methods, without preservatives and using non-animal rennet. We recommend the Ashed Milawa Chévre, perfect with a glass of Prosecco and some crackers.
Established in 1982, Milawa Mustards has a reputation that precedes itself. If you haven’t heard of them before, it’s worth popping in to try one of their 18 homemade flavours.