The tiny Victorian region with serious appeal

By Daniel Honan

Among the many drawcards of North East Victoria’s historic Beechworth is its growing legion of benchmark-setting winemakers and destination venues.

Beechworth is a High Country rogue of enchanting natural beauty. Amid the world-class wineries, historical Ford Street, old pubs, great cafes and restaurants – not forgetting the local bakery and its pastries – one of the most beautiful aspects of my last visit was the indigo sky at dusk. Each evening, as the sun disappeared behind the western hills of Eldorado, this regional Victorian town enjoyed a dose of sheer natural beauty with that stunning amethyst sky.

Then there’s the region’s wine and food. Much has been written about the quality of wine from Beechworth. Vines were reportedly first planted in 1856, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that wine grapes found their home in the granitic, clay and sandstone soils of this region.

Top Beechworth wineries

Established winegrowing names here include Giaconda, Sorrenberg and Castagna. Their reputation for producing distinctive fine wines is unrivalled across the region, with their elegant chardonnay, gamay and stunning syrah heralded among Australia’s benchmark wines.

None of these wineries have a traditional cellar door and aren’t signposted for would-be visitors, but don’t let that stop you. After a quick search on Google Maps and a little notice, visits and tastings can be arranged by appointment. In fact, there’s a cohort of high-quality, low-key wine producers throughout the region that requires some forward planning if you want to visit. Just don’t expect the bustling valleys of the Hunter, Yarra and Barossa here.

Other producers worth the visit that may require advance notice include Golden Ball, Domenica, Sentio, Vinelea, Vignerons Schmolzer and Brown, and Piano Piano. The likes of Pennyweight, Amulet, Haldon Estate, and Indigo Vineyard, however, are often open for tastings, especially on weekends. The latter supplies the fruit for Brokenwood’s terrific Indigo Chardonnay and Indigo Pinot Noir, which are always highly sought-after releases.

Must-visit Beechworth venues

In town, the Cellar Door Wine Store is the best place to explore the region and beyond from the comfort of a cushioned bench seat and well-worn timber table. Owners Cecily and Peter Bisset, along with their son Lachlan, have curated an enviable collection of local wines, plus a number of other top wines from elsewhere in Australia, as well as New Zealand and Europe. Adventure by the glass, carafe or a whole bottle. Simply pick a bottle off the shelves from their wonderful wall of wine, which extends almost the entire length of the store. My advice is to stop here for a piece of Brillat-Savarin cheese with a glass of A. Rodda Chardonnay. Thank me later.

If you need a break from all the wine, head for beer and pizza at Bridge Road Brewers. A few blistered slices of their mushroom-topped pie with a crafty pint of their refreshing pale ale will have you revitalised in no time.

The town also boasts many outstanding pubs and restaurants. The Empire Hotel has a bar menu that’s great for all-night snacking as you peruse their locally focused list of wines. Otherwise, enjoy a more substantial dinner downstairs at this old colonial pub.

Then there’s Michael Ryan’s two-hatted Provenance restaurant, a must for fans of mindful, exciting fare. Precisely prepared dishes showcase Michael’s deep reverence for Asia, particularly Japan. Even the negroni is crafted out of a refined respect to its Italian provenance. For cool inner-city vibes, head to Project 49 – one of the trendiest cafes in town.

There is so much more to this region’s intrinsic natural beauty, and the breadth and depth of its wine quality and dining options is impressive. Visit and you’ll also discover the old outlaw spirit of this Victorian region endures.

Discover the region’s wines at the Beechworth Vignerons Spring Tasting.