“I’m off to the Pyrenees for the weekend” I told my friend Madds. “You’re going to France for the weekend!” he said. Like Madds many people don’t know that Victoria has its own Pyrenees region about two and a half hours north of Melbourne. Like the French mountains that it is named for the Pyrenees in Victoria is the home of good food and wine so I jumped at an invitation from the local tourist board to check the area out.
Mount Langi Ghiran
With my food and wine loving sister in tow our first stop in the region was the Mount Langi Ghiran winery on the outskirts of Ararat. The winery is located in the most spectacular setting at the foot of the Mount Langi Ghiran and the vines here date back from the 1870’s. In the modern tasting room Mount Langi’s viticulturist Damien talked us through the range which is known for its spicy shirazs and crisp rieslings. We fell in love with the seriously smooth Cliff Edge Shiraz ($30) and Mount Langi’s dessert wine a honey like Cliff Edge Cane Cut Reisling ($22). Mount Langi also does great cheese platters if you are feeling peckish.
|The spectacular setting at Mount Langhi Ghiran and the cheese platter|
The Vines Café
Right in Ararat’s main street The Vines is a bustling local spot and in winter the open fire is a definite bonus. A big bowl of zucchini soup ($12) with a wodge of cheesy bread made a pretty satisfying and hearty lunch. The homemade pies are also recommended, the chicken and leek pie ($14) had crisp, puffy pastry and was filled with big juicy pieces of chicken.
Details: The Vines Cafe, 74 Barkly Street Ararat Victoria, Australia (Ph 03 5352 1744)
Damage: Reasonable. Lunch for two came to $30
|Zucchini soup at The Vines|
In the pretty little town of Great Western, Bests Winery is really interesting to visit from a historical point of view as the winery has been going since 1866. Tastings are conducted in the atmospheric old stables and I really enjoyed the 2011 Young Vine Pinot Meunier ($22). The best (!) part about Bests though was exploring the underground cellars with lots of old wine barrels and dusty bottles of wine.
Details: Bests Winery, 111 Best’s Road, Great Western, Victoria 3374 (Ph 03 5356 2250)
Damage: Tastings are free
|Wine tasting in the old stables at Bests Wines and the cobweb coated bottles in the cellar|
Grampians Regional Wine Tours
We visited Mt Langhi Giran and Bests Wines independently on the Saturday but on Sunday we jumped in a car with Colin Driscoll of Grampians Regional Wine Tours to gain some local knowledge on the region. In the space of a day we managed to visit five different wineries: Taltarni, Peerick, Summerfield Wines, Blue Pyrenees and Mount Avoca.
|Tasting at Taltarni|
Although we could have visited all these wineries independently the benefit of having Colin there was being able to explore some smaller lesser known wineries like the tiny Peerick winery which is run out of a garage by winemaker Chris Jessup with a sign that says “if tasting area unattended please toot”. The 2005 Shiraz Viognier ($25) was certainly worth tooting for with its length and spiciness. We also loved the family run Summerfield winery which has a deli that stocks local and international produce like Pyengana cheddar from Tasmania and local olives. Summerfield offers a winemakers cheese platters for $25 and there are free tastings at the cellar door including Summerfield’s big, smooth and spicy 2010 Reserve Shiraz ($50).
|Wine and gourmet provisions at Summerfield Winery|
Details: Grampians Regional Wine Tours, 139 Golf Links Rd, Ararat VIC 3377 (Ph 0488 761 500)
Damage: Pricey. A half day’s tour is $125 per person if you have two or three people.
|Lunch at the Blue Pyrenees winery – Chicken foccacia|
As soon as I clocked the wood fire in the corner and proudly Pyrenees only wine list I knew I was going to like Hotel Avoca. Owners Ian and Al have renovated the pub and turned it into a real food and wine destination. Ian was really knowledgeable about the wine list and recommended a great bottle of smooth Dog Rock grenache. The food on offer at Hotel Avoca is the more honest pub grub than fine dining with a focus on home made fare and local produce. To start, chorizo croquettes were sensational. Crisp and crunchy they oozed cheeze with the added flavour of the smoky chorizo.
|Chorizo croquetees at Hotel Avoca|
Ian recommended the parma as “the best parma in Australia” which is a big call but Hotel Avoca’s parma did deliver with a really tender chicken breast topped with rich homemade napoli sauce, folds of ham and a layer of cheese. The pie of the day was a rich beef and red wine number topped with a golden disc of puffed pastry. Dessert of chocolate fondant pudding was a bit undercooked as it was more liquid than pudding but eating molten chocolate is really not a hardship so I didn’t complain. If you are eating at Hotel Avoca get in early, we ate at about 7.30pm (dinner is served from 6pm) and by that time a few of the specials we wanted to try were sold out.
|Now that’s a parma at the Hotel Avoca|
Details: Hotel Avoca, 115 High Street, Avoca (03) 5465 3018
Damage: Reasonable. Our meal for two with one bottle of wine came to $102.
|Inside the Eco-Luxe – the lounge area and bath tub|
Gourmet Travel Tips
- The Pyrenees region is a two and a half hour drive from Melbourne.
- The area is great for bush walking, wine tasting, bike riding or just admiring the scenery.
- We stayed at Mount Avoca Eco-Luxe which is set in the vineyard and olive grove at Mount Avoca winery. Three self-contained lodges built from eco friendly materials and using passive heating and cooling are available for couples or larger groups to stay (the Horatio lodge that we stayed at sleeps four). There’s a BBQ so you could cook up dinner yourself and limited breakfast provisions are left for the morning. We appreciated the quirky book and DVD collection and the bottle of Mount Avoca sparkling shiraz left in the fridge for us.
Details: Mount Avoca Eco- Luxe, Moates Lane, Avoca, Victoria, Australia (Ph 03 5465 3282)
Damage: Pricey. The lodges cost from $290 a night for a one night stay.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Grampians Tourism.
Until the end of August Grampians Tourism is running the Grampians Rewards Program which includes the Pyrenees region. To participate you just pop into a local Visitor Information Centre to collect an instant voucher to redeem during your stay.