Beechworth – A little cycling, a little wine tasting and a lot of food

Just got back from spending 4 days in Beechworth VIC and while the experience is fresh I wanted to add my 2 cents worth. In short if you enjoy cycling AND wine, Beechworth is a great destination. However if you don’t enjoy cycling and only love your wine, then Beechworth is only a good destination. This is not reflective of the wines but the fact most of the worthwhile wineries do not have proper cellar doors.You’ll need to be super organise and make pre-arrangements/appointments with before arriving. Lastly if you enjoy neither and only your food, then I’ll say maybe pick someplace else. There was only 2 places that had the WOW FACTOR. Hope the summaries below help.

Beechworth Region / Terror / Style (at least for the major/worthwhile vineyards I visited)

  • More old world style
  • Complex
  • Earthy with mineral tones (particularly Giaconda of which I was later told has vines grown on granite). Very different to the big bold new world style of Barossa.
  • Less fruit driven
  • Region is famous for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz

Must visit wineries

  1. Giaconda – Iconic for their Warner Vineyard shiraz and Chardonnay. Has a cult following. Met Rick the wine maker and tried straight from the barrel his upcoming release of 2009 shiraz and chardonnay, and 2008 nebbiolo.  Only later did we realised that we were lucky to get an appointment with Rick.  Highly recommended – The chardonnay. Very different to the ones I have tried. Complex with an earthy/mineral taste. The Shiraz. This is one of the most fragrant wines I have smelt.
  2. Castagna -Produces some of the most sumptuous reds. Met Julian who gave me some tastings from the barrel of the upcoming shiraz, shiraz vognier and sangiovese. I later found out that there Chardonnays should be fantastic however unfortunately did not get to try.
  3. Savaterre – Famous for the Pinots and Chardonnay. I’ve have a pinot sitting in my wine fridge for 4-5 years now, since my pinot phase. Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of meeting Keppel as he was stuck in floods somewhere and could not make it home on time.
  4. Golden Ball – Has good shiraz and a bordeaux blend they call “gallice”. I was lucky enough to meet James and tried their merlot from the barrel. One of the best Merlots I’ve had. Unfortunately James uses it as a blend for their Gallice. Gives you an indication of the quality that goes into the Gallice.
  5. Star lane – Before visiting Brett at Star Lane, I was not into Merlots. It’s one of those wines you start on and then get bored with as your palette improves. Brett’s Merlot is one of the best I’ve tried and has proven me wrong. Merlot is not boring, just most of the merlot’s produced are unfortunately boring. I preferred his Merlot to the Shiraz. First time I ever.
  6. Battley – Great Durif and Shiraz. Bolder in style than the rest of the wineries. Probably because it is on lower grounds and hence the grapes ripen sooner.

Food and TO DO Highlights

  1. Lunch at Boynton Winery Feathertop cafe – A unexpected find while cycling the Murray Rail Trail from Myrtleford to Bright. Definitely had the WOW FACTOR. A great place to stop with FANTASTIC food and sceneries of the mountain. The chef plays with textures and combines elements that were made for each other. Japanese influences can be seen. See pic below.

      Green Tea Banana Cake

  2. Dinner at Warden Food and Wine – Good wine list though the wines are significantly marked up compared to the other restaurants. Makes up with service and food quality. Once again another WOW restaurant with fantastic dessert. See pic below:

      Dark chocolate semifreddo, caramelised banana's and salted caramel fudge

  3. Bouchon Cafe @ Beechworth – The best quiche / tart I have tried.
  4. Murray to Mountains trail – A definite highlight. You ride on the old railway route that has been converted to a bicycle track. It’s dirt/gravel/paved. We did the Myrtleford to Bright trail and it’s great. Scenic, flat with some shade from the sun. You are able to hire a bike a Myrtleford. $25/day
  5. Bridge Road Brewery – Highlight was the Chevaliers Biere De Garde. Did the 8 tasting shots however nothing really stood out besides the Biere De Garde and maybe the porters dark beer. Was not able to try the Chevaliers Dunkel.
  6. Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre – Was ok. Good however no wow factor. A hint is to sign up to the Epicurean club at the cellar door before heading to lunch. Joining is free and it gives you subscription to their magazine and a free bubbly for you and your guest when you have lunch at the epicurean centre. The mag is a good read if you are into your gourmet food.

Accomodation

Albertine Beechworth – Highly recommended. Owen and Judy’s hospitality was great. Went above and beyond. Eg. table settings changes everyday, hot breakfast made to order with loads of homemade condiments to go with your yogurt/cereal, unlimited bottled water supply, fruits or tea, lovely garden, great country look and feel with years of lovely knic-nacs collected over the years.

Disappointments

  1. Don’t bother with Provenance. Food is below average. eg. Pork belly did not have crispy skin, pinot was not served in a pinot glass and was too warm.
  2. Disappointing service at GiGi and food is also mediocre. Ordered a Heathcote Sangiovese. Received a Heathcote Shiraz. There was an apology or offer to change the wine. Even though we did like the Shiraz it did not compliment our food.
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