We were invited to spend Australia Day weekend in the King Valley with the specific instruction of “bring your bikes”.
The King Valley is a wine region heavily influenced by Italy and the Mediterranean. Many migrant families settled here and established wineries that are still producing well-known Italian wines such as sangiovese, dolcetto and arneis.
The oldest winery in the King Valley is run by the Brown family and was set up in 1889. Now, there are more than 70 families that rely on their vineyards to put food on the table.
Where is it?
The King Valley is located in the northeast of Victoria, about three hours drive from Melbourne and just south of Wangaratta.
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Where to stay
Gentle Annie Camping Reserve is located along the banks of the King River, just off the Wangaratta-Whitfield Road. The river is perfect for swimming, fishing and cooling off on a hot afternoon.
The reserve has both powered and unpowered sites, a toilet and shower block with laundry facilities, and open campfires are allowed, provided that fire restrictions are not in place.
The closest grocery store is the Whitfield General Store, which is 2km south down the road, but if you need lots of supplies, it might be worth driving into Wangaratta, which is a 50km drive north.
Dal Zotto is an Italian, family-run business in their second generation of wine making. The founder, Otto, was born in Valdobbiandene in Italy and grew up in a culture of fine wine and viticulture. After migrating to Australia in 1967, Otto and his wife Elena started of growing tobacco before securing another property in 1987 that was idea for wine-growing. Since then, the winery has expanded to include 8 grape varieties, and Otto’s two sons have joined in on the family business.
The Dal Zotto Cellar Door is a hospitable one – a beautiful room filled with light and overlooking their vines. They had a large selection of wines available for tasting and we didn’t hold back. Here are our tasting notes.
Pucino Prosecco – light, bubbly and soft with pear and citrus flavours.
Arneis – pink grapefruit aromas with a chalky finish.
Pinot Grigio – smelt like pears and had a initial taut response with a crunchy finish.
Rosato – strawberry smells with a fruit taste and a dry finish. perfect as an aperitif.
Sangiovese – gorgeous garnet colour with red fruits, sage and a dry, acidic finish.
Sangiovese Cabernet – medium bodied with fruit flavours, rolled tobacco leaves with a powdery finish.
Cabernet Merlot – the aroma contained black olive, with a crisp entry and a silky finish.
L’Immigrante Contro Shiraz – spicy with a sprinkle of nutmeg but really juicy and an unexpected sweetness.
L’Immigrante Barbera – apparently good with duck, it had a dry finish with robust flavours, but light enough to have with white meat.
Elena – our new love: gold colour with the smell of peaches and cream. It was hesitantly sweet without being sickly and stimulated a succulent sensation on the tongue. Absolutely gorgeous.
Juz had visited this winery a few years earlier to participate in a Petanque tournament in 2008. Since then, they had built a gorgeous new tasting room with luscious chairs and hardwood floors.
Pizzini wines had humble beginnings. In 1955, Roberto, his wife and three children migrated to Australia and met with Roberto’s brother Arnold, who had come to Australia a few years earlier. They started off harvesting potatoes before getting into the tobacco business. In the 1970s, the tobacco industry in Australia changed and signalled the perfect time to start growing grapes. Their first vines were planted in 1978 but the Pizzini label began in 1994 and they now offer a range of both Italian and international wines.
While we didn’t make any purchases here because the dry wine didn’t suit the hot weather, this is a list of wines we tasted with our notes:
Prosecco – light and bubbly with a hint of flowers.
Pinot Grigio – smelt like nashi pears with a lime twist, and a hint of quince.
Riesling – sharp and crisp with nectarine flavours.
Arneis – fresh with citrus flavours and an almond aftertaste.
White Roman – melon flavours with a dry and acidic finish.
Sauvignon Blanc – meh (seriously…)
Rosetta – strawberries with a dry finish.
Sangiovese Shiraz – garnet colour, raspberries and strawberries with a dry and crunchy finish.
Merlot – gorgeous, rich smell with an unexpected spicy and dry flavour. Musky…
Sangiovese – sweet smell with a spicy finish that hinted vanilla.
Shiraz – reminded me of Worcester sauce, smooth finish.
Il Barone – grassy and wild with chalky tannins.
Nebbiolo – garnet colour with a great smell but deceptive taste. Not sure how we felt about this one.
Rubacuort Sangiovese – this wine is $110 a bottle and the name means Heart Robber. Dave loved it. Our notes read: “Hello, good thanks”. That means it was good. As the last wine tasted before lunch, you are going to have to be happy with our vague notes on this one.
Station Creek is a boutique winery and restaurant with a small selection of wines. The most delicious one was the sparkling Shiraz – sweeter than expected, and beautifully refreshing when served chilled.
We lingered at Station Creek for something to eat as we were starting to get a bit wobbly on the bikes. We ordered an open steak sandwich with a side of chips to share.
The chips were great – crisp and golden on the outside with a fluffy centre – and the sandwich looked spectacular with slivers of beef on floured panini bread with caramelised onion and a dollop of horseradish and tomato relish. The bread was beautifully soft and when we bit into it, the steak gave way like butter. The caramelised onion was absolutely delicious and made the sweetness of the relish a little redundant. The horseradish was a nice, uncommon touch. The salad was fresh and lightly dressed in a vinaigrette dressing.
After a long lunch, we got back on the bikes to head to the next location.
Politini is a small winery behind the residential property of Sam Politini, a wonderful man with incredible hands. Seriously, his enormous, weathered hands with bratwurst fingers and dirt-lined nails were awesome …
Sam moved to Australia from Sicily in 1956 with his brother and started off growing tobacco. 30 years later, Sam and his family decided to plant 12 hectares of grapes and the rest of it is history.
We were seriously charmed by this winery. The atmosphere was so welcoming and relaxed. While the selection of wines was smaller than most, the quality was not compromised! Here is a list of the wines we tasted with our notes:
Sauvignon Blanc – crisp and cool with passionfruit and citrus characteristics.
Vermentino – crisp again, and perhaps a bit sweeter than the sauvignon blanc.
Amoroso – gorgeous colour with juicy cherry flavours and a dry finish.
Pink Moscato – lightly fizzy and refreshing with rose and tropical aromas.
Fine Old Muscat – lusciously sweet with sugared strawberries and honey that oozed and lingered on the side of the tongue.
Liquer Tawny – rich with caramel and cherry and blackcurrant syrup.
Other wineries in the region
With five wineries spread throughout Victoria, you’d think that we would have been able to include them in our tour of the King Valley. Unfortunately, while the closest vineyard is in Whitlands, because we were on bikes, the 10km detour would have been tiresome, especially with all the wine tasting.
Founded in 1889, Brown Brothers is a family-based wine label based in Milawa, just south of Wangaratta. They produce has a wide variety of wines, from sparkling moscato, fruity chardonnay and medium-bodied merlot.
Other points of interest
GPS Coordinates: -36.867948, 146.438824
Located on the northern arm of the Alpine National Park, Paradise Falls is a short 30 minute walk from the closest car park. Once you’re there, you’ll know, because you’ll suddenly feel very little.
The water fall is about 30m high and while only a little trickle falls these days, the base of the falls tells a story of an old, rushing river that eroded the stone over years and years.
We loved cycling from cellar door to cellar door and sampling the sweet dessert wines, then sitting in the river and drinking wine at the end of the day. Dave and the boys invented a game that involved riding their bikes into the rocky river, and whoever got the furthest in was the winner.
Trav falling off his bike before we got to the first winery was a spectacular highlight, but overall, the weekend was a delightful adventure. We definitely recommend checking out the Whitfield Wine Region.
Best Australia Day weekend ever!