26 April, 2010

Wining and dining: Gapsted and Gracebrook

Gapsted Wines: 3897 Great Alpine Rd, Gapsted (nr Myrtleford); 03 5751 1992
Gracebrook: 4446 Wangaratta-Whitfield Rd, King Valley; (03) 5729 3562

Wineries are blessed destinations. Grapes have the happy fortune to grow well in valleys made fertile by ancient rivers and soils, factors that tend to lend themselves to particularly picturesque landscapes. The soil that determines the terroir is usually also handy for raising other delectable crops, and where's there are crops, there's likely to be cattle, and hence smallgoods.

Fortunately, many a savvy winery owner has put all the factors together to offer passers-by a lot more than free samples of their vinous product. There are few better ways to dine than al fresco, overlooking the orderly rows of vines, with a choice of produce sourced from places you're likely to pass on your way to that evening's accommodation.

Even better if you can sneak in a tasting after you've ordered, to make the most informed choice of all as to what will accompany your meal.

Gapsted Wines, near Myrtleford, has to be one of the most pleasing examples of this combination of outlook, food and wine. Its vines roll down to the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, and it would be a surly cyclist who wouldn't point their handlebars up the drive to see what's on offer.

What they'll find is a stunning view that takes in Gapsted's crop; rolling, livestock-dotted fields, and the impressive ruggedness of Mt Buffalo. The day we ensconced ourselves upon the deck was near perfect: unseasonably warm weather gave us sun to bask in while we took in the range of autumn colours on display.

Gapsted has one of the longest tasting lists I've ever seen. The vineyard operates as the Victorian Alps Winery, and sells almost half a dozen brands, including Gapsted, Tobacco Road and Coldstone. Their list of produced wines runs to two pages, and all are available to sample. Despite the breadth on offer, cellar door staff are knowledgable about the wines, and affable to boot. The wines are also available by the glass with lunch, with many of the entry-level brands for $5 a glass.

The menu is succinct, but a celebration of the surrounding area. Three local tasting platters are available, focusing on antipasto, cheese, a daily selection of dips, or trout three ways.

The first of these presents as an admirable array:Eggplant, sun-drieds, roast caps, zucchini, mushroom, a whole artichoke heart, salami, mortadella and the briefest sprinkling of some Milawa cheese, all served with bread and crostini.

Main dishes ran to the heartier end of the scale, such as this deliciously seared pork cutlet, served on a bed of ratatouille.Pick a sunny day, and settle in to sup wine - by the glass or sample - and nibble.

Earlier in the trip we'd passed through the King Valley, later than the usual lunch serving time, and hence with a limited number of places still plating up food. One of those places was Gracebook Vineyard, a couple of ks north of Whitfield. They keep the kitchen open throughout the afternoon and, again, offer a bucolic outlook and a range of well-priced bottles to sample.

Our food choices suited the mood perfectly. Firstly, a homemade gnocchi with mushroom sauce. The pliant gnocchi clung to the rich, but not overpowering sauce, touched with a hint of truffle. The rocket provided the perfect bite to foil the earthy flavours of potato and mushroom.

The perfectly roasted pumpkin salad hosted Milawa goats cheese from up the road and a ubiquitous use of local nut, in this case walnut. The dressing - presumably with a local oil - was divine.

Also recommended: Boyntons (or Feathertop Wines) near Porepunkah. In autumn, their cellar door affords a breathtaking view of many-hued trees, backlit by the hills. Visitors can dine a la carte, or select from their deli range and picnic on the lawn.


  1. Great post! Very well written and love the pics. I wish I could head off to a winery tomorrow for lunch instead of going to work.

  2. It sure is something to be savoured! Boyntons were setting up for a long-table lunch event when we were there - outdoors, amongst the trees, on a sunny afternoon...sounded blissful.