North-east Victoria’s High Country is known for its fertile landscape, which cultivates some of the best produce in the state. It’s also resulted in a thriving food and drink scene that grows in leaps and bounds every year – from off-the-radar bakeries, wineries, breweries and distilleries, to producers of cheese, honey, olives, nuts, fruits, berries and more.
That bounty has long drawn people to gorge on, while also exploring the region’s undulating mountains and valleys, spectacular lakes, and the villages, towns and abundant walking and cycling paths that connect them. All that and more will be the focus of the Feast High Country Festival, running from May 3 to 19 in delicious celebration of the region’s wares. As well as high-profile names like Scott Pickett, who on May 4 will join forces with chef Simon Arkless at his The Terrace restaurant for a lunch with paired wines, a host of local producers will come together to demonstrate their passions.
Whether you’re travelling by bike or horseback, car or caravan, here are the events worth your time.
Grand Opening Dinner, Brown Brothers, Milawa
A robust range of local produce is the centrepiece of this five-course feast, which will be matched with local wines in the historic barn where the Brown family made their very first wines 130 years ago. There’s also an optional shuttle bus from nearby Wangaratta, so you can safely indulge in a few glasses.
Friday May 3, 6.30pm to 10.30pm at the Brown Brothers Milawa Vineyard. Tickets are $147.70.
Fermentation Degustation, Bridge Road Brewers, Beechworth
As reliable as Bridge Road Brewers’ regular slate of beers are, their experimental side project Mayday Hills – a range of farmhouse beers incorporating offbeat ingredients such as strawberry jam, green tea, rhubarb and fruit – is well worth tasting. Fermented in traditional wooden tanks, the Mayday Hills beers will anchor this special four-course dinner celebrating fermentation in all its forms. In addition to beer, expect locally produced wine, gin, cheese, sauerkraut, and sourdough. Some of the producers will be on hand to chat about their process.
Friday May 10, 7pm to 10pm at Bridge Road Brewers. Tickets are $126.60.
Tweed Ride, Rutherglen
This event is exactly what it sounds like: a group bike ride encouraging participants to dress in their finest old-school threads, like three-piece suits and vintage dresses. The route – 20 kilometres through gentle countryside – includes strategic stops for wine at The Wicked Virgin winery, lunch and wine at Stanton & Killeen and afternoon tea (plus, um, wine) at Chambers Winery. Fortified wines will be the focus, making for a cosy fit with the vintage vibe and autumn weather. Bikes BYO – penny-farthing optional.
Saturday May 4, 10am to 5pm, starting at Rutherglen Visitor Information Centre. Tickets are $131.88.
Twilight Apple Pick and Pie, Black Barn Farm, Stanley
Nestled at a higher elevation nine kilometres from Beechworth, Stanley is most famous for its orchards, which yield everything from pears to chestnuts to pick-your-own berries and cherries. Black Barn Farm – an organic, fifth-generation-owned orchard – will showcase its apples in all their versatile brightness at this evening harvest bonanza. There’ll be apple picking and a pie-making lesson from Eric Bittner of Wangaratta’s Cafe Derailleur, and warm apple cider and apple cider doughnuts will be served. It’s like a direct shot of autumn for your tastebuds.
Wednesday May 8, 4.30pm to 7pm at Black Barn Farm. Tickets are $31.65.
Patrizia’s Harvest Forage, Bright
Local culinary legend, hatted chef and champion of seasonal produce, Patrizia Simone will share insights from a lifetime spent cooking Italian food (starting with her Italian chef mum). At this workshop, Simone will show participants how to forage for produce at local farms – including a hunt for wild produce – before putting those ingredients to use in five different dishes. Enjoy the food at lunch with wine, and take home the recipes to wow your next dinner party guests.
Various dates, starting at 10am at Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School. Tickets are $189.90.
The Feast High Country Festival boasts a huge schedule of workshops, classes and dining and drinking opportunities. Here are five more to keep an eye on:
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism North East.