The historic town of Beechworth was next on the itinerary, and the adorable sweet store and the old-fashioned ice cream parlour were tempting, but as you may have already noticed, I hadn’t stopped eating since I’d arrived. We stayed at the Planetrees Lodge, run by the vivacious and hospitable Genevieve. It was wonderful to have all the comforts of a luxury home in a quiet rural setting, especially with the natural swimming pool and an enviable vegetable garden.
Dinner was in Beechworth at the two-hatted Provenance. A beautifully high-ceilinged dining room and impeccable food by chef Michael Ryan made for a very special dinner indeed. My venison entrée – smoked venison carpaccio on watermelon with pickled rose petals was a delight in texture, temperature and flavour, and was one of the most memorable dishes I’ve had in a long time.
Touring on two wheels and well-deserved pampering
We had breakfast of tea and toast, muesli and fresh-picked fruit with Genevieve. After a quick coffee in Beechworth we headed to Bright, where we set off on electric bikes to tackle part of the Murray to Mountains rail trail in the Great Alpine Valley. Riding an electric bike is like someone is giving you a gentle push as you pedal along.
We had lunch along the trail at Ringer Reef winery, owned by Annie and Bruce Holm. Bruce makes the wine and Annie manages the cellar door, and she made us a beautiful platter of local cheeses, olives, fruit pastes, and house-baked bread while we overlooked the mountains and basked in the sun.
Later we got settled in the Bright Brewery for a welcome post-cycling craft beer. Their Blowhard Pale Ale was my pick. It was then back to wine at Boynton’s Feathertop Winery, where we were staying for the night, right on the vineyard. A wine tasting, spa treatment massage and a platter of fresh produce while the sun set over the mountains were the perfect wind-down after our e-bike adventure. Oh, and wine.
Speaking of wine, the next morning began with a trip down Prosecco Road in the King Valley. First up was a Prosecco tasting at Dal Zotto winery, where brothers Christian and Michael gave me the full range before 11am. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have time for a game of bocce before I had to head a few hundred metres along the road for a masterclass in gnocchi at A Tavola! - the cooking school at Pizzini Wines. Pizzini, like many vineyards of the region, has a special focus on Italian varietals. After perfecting the art of perfect potato dumplings and dousing them in duck ragout, we sat out in the sun overlooking the vineyard with sparkling water and stunning Sangiovese. It was as dreamy as it sounds.
The final meal
I basically had to be rolled back into the car for the trip back to Melbourne to check into the Sheraton and iron a dress and whip out my heels for a fashion show at the Royal Exhibition Buildings near the centre of the city.
I was determined to sneak in one more meal before our early morning flight home and I did, at Coda, another place specialising in modern Asian-fusion plates to share. It's one thing Melbourne definitely does extremely well, and my confit duck leg curry, killer slaw, and amazing spicy green beans didn’t disappoint. One more local craft beer meant I went home very happy.
Melbourne was an absolute overload of delicious eating and drinking. There were lots of laughs and many great people, and unless I move there to marry a chef, I simply can't wait to return.
Read more by Delaney at her blog here: delaneymes.com