Exceptional wine has always been a thing in Victoria’s High Country. With six varied wine regions (Rutherglen, King Valley, Beechworth, Glenrowan, Alpine Valleys and Upper Goulburn), the High Country is home to names such as Brown Brothers, Campbells and Pennyweight – viticultural powerhouses in Australia’s food and drink scene. But winemaking here isn’t just about the blockbusters.
The range of wines and wine experiences you can try in the High Country varies as much as its extraordinary geography – particularly in recent years. There are the bold, fruit-driven wines of Rutherglen; the classic Italian styles of the King Valley; and the alternative varieties fostered in the Alpine Valleys and the upper Broken River. In all, there are 96 wineries in the region, with many offering vineyard dining; tours and tastings; and cellar-door experiences.
“It’s such a terrific area,” says Sarah Pilgrim, from Tourism North East. “It’s that combination of the beautiful natural landscape, and the historic towns and villages. There’s so much to do, see, eat and drink.”
We asked Pilgrim to outline four essential wine-led experiences in the region, from the curious, to the truly luxurious.
All Saints Estate Luxury Immersion
All Saints is Rutherglen winemaking royalty. Its 156-year history is encapsulated in its National Trust-listed castle-like property and enormous range of wines.
And the All Saints Estate Luxury Immersion is suitably lavish. Spend two nights at the beautiful French provincial-style tower apartment at Mount Ophir Estate – a spectacular early 20th-century property the winery took possession of in 2017. Other neat touches include luxury transfers in a 1973 Rolls Royce Corniche and a welcome phone call from All Saints owners the Brown family, during which either Nick, Eliza or Angela Brown will chat to you to better tailor certain elements of your stay (including a welcome bottle of wine).
Otherwise, there’s lunch at the winery’s award-winning Terrace Restaurant, a day spent in your gumboots with winemaker Nick blending and bottling your own wine, and dinner in town at Thousand Pound, their wine bar and wine store on Main Street in Rutherglen.
“It’s luxury in the traditional sense, but also in terms of that personalisation,” Pilgrim says. “It’s something that would be perfect for a wedding anniversary, gift or treat.”
The All Saints Estate Luxury Immersion package costs $2900 for two people for two nights. Book here.
Best of Alpine Valleys Escape
Standing in contrast to the sumptuous cellar doors of Rutherglen are the wineries 100 kilometres to the south-east in the Alpine Valleys. Here, old tobacco plantations have given way to a clutch of beautiful vineyards scattered across the foothills of Mount Buffalo.
Rather than big, fruit-driven styles, winemakers here use the area’s cooler weather and varying geography to focus on alternative varieties such as fiano, vermentino and tempranillo.
“There’s an incredible level of collaboration happening here,” Pilgrim says. “They’re quite new as a group of winemakers, so they’re not afraid to work together and share ideas.”
The Best of Alpine Valleys Escape is a fabulous way to spend a couple of days getting to grips with these iconoclastic winemakers and their creations.
The experience includes luxury group accommodation at The Kilnhouses in the shadow of Mount Buffalo; a private wine tasting with winemakers Eleana Anderson (Mayford Wines) and Jo Marsh (Billy Button Wines) at Eleana’s appointment-only venue; a matched gin dinner, tour and tasting at Reed & Co Distillery in Bright; wine and hampers with local products; and vouchers for Billy Button Wines cellar door.
The Best of Alpine Valleys Escape package costs $3900 for two nights for six people. Book here.
Broken River Valley Behind the Wine Tour
This is about as off-the-beaten-track as wine tours get in Victoria’s High Country.
Scattered among the granite foothills of the upper reaches of the meandering Broken River is a bunch of vignerons mostly dealing in single-estate, alternative wines. This is a place of malbec, tempranillo, verdelho and granite-country shiraz – the variable terroir of the region means the wines differ remarkably from one producer to the next.
Very few of these wineries are typically open to the public, but a Behind the Wine tour through the Upper Broken River Valley is a great way to meet the winemakers. You’ll visit Saffron Gramophone Wines, Baddaginnie Run, Swanpool Creek Wines and Kooyonga Creek Winery, with tastings and vineyard inspections at each, plus a stop along the way for lunch (lunch is an additional $12–$25).
“This is just a treat and a raw experience,” Pilgrim says. “You meet the producers in their homes, basically. It’s a fascinating experience for someone who wants to get to know some not-very-well-known brands.”
The Behind the Wine tour is $120 per person Book here.
Dal Zotto Cento Passi (100 footsteps) Experience
Otto Dal Zotto and his family – specifically sons Michael and Christian – planted some of Australia’s first prosecco vines in the King Valley in 1999. Since then the property encompassing the vineyard has blossomed into a destination unto itself.
This experience invites guests join the Dal Zotto family as they guide you around their property in cento passi (100 footsteps). Enjoy a glass of prosecco along the way with Otto, Michael or Christian themselves, and have Elena Dal Zotto take you through her garden to see how essential fresh seasonal produce is brought to life.
Finish up at the in-house Trattoria with a feast of four dishes by chef Nikki Kennedy, featuring produce to complement the wines – prosecco, barbera and nebbiolo and a seasonal fourth wine to match.
The Dal Zotto Cento Passi (100 footsteps) Experience costs $150pp for groups of 4–8. Book here.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism North East. To find out more about these and other High Country wine experiences, visit the Feast High Country website.