CATEGORY FOOD AND WINE FEATURE HEADLINE Golden Tastes SUBHEAD Wine and food lovers sample Bendigo’s best. COPY-DATE August 2002 WORD COUNT 1095 HEADLINE: Golden Tastes TEASER: Wine and food lovers sample Bendigo’s best. BODYCOPY: As the light of early evening fades from gold to pink on old sandstone buildings and you settle into a long conversation over a glass of local red and an exquisite plate of antipasto, you could easily be somewhere in Europe. But it’s not Europe, it’s Bendigo, an easy two hour drive from Melbourne. Extravagant heritage buildings form impressive streetscapes, restaurants nestle in century-old gardens; art galleries and musical events abound. Combined with fresh, local produce and the region’s full bodied reds, Bendigo is one of Victoria’s best kept secrets for fine food and wine. SUBHEAD: Liquid Gold BODYCOPY: Bendigo enjoys mild weather and a classic Mediterranean climate. Like France and Italy, the climate coupled with deep, rich soils makes the region perfect for viticulture. The region’s winemaking industry is a legacy of its goldrush heritage. Gold was discovered in Bendigo in 1851 and tens of thousands of people came to the region to seek their fortune. With the European miners came their love of wine and knowledge of winemaking. Vines were quickly planted and by the 1870s the wines of the region had gained an international reputation. Tasting a Bendigo Hermitage at the 1873 Vienna Exhibition judges breathlessly exclaimed, ‘No colonial wine could be that good!’ The Phylloxera virus put an end to the Bendigo wine industry in the 1890’s; old winery ruins scattered throughout the district and some faded photographs are melancholy reminders of the industry’s past. In the last two decades vines have been replanted, once again producing rich, full bodied reds. SUBHEAD: Meet the Winemakers BODYCOPY: You can sample some of the much sought after Bendigo and Heathcote wines in three different tours: The Loddon Valley, the Granite Slopes and the Campaspe Valley. The vineyards are usually small and family run; typically visitors are able to taste wine while discussing its creation with the winemakers themselves. In the Loddon Valley to Bendigo’s north-west, Balgownie Estate has spearheaded the rejuvenation of Bendigo’s wine industry. The wines are 100 per cent estate grown and are best drunk between 5 and ten years after cellaring. Tasting at Balgownies’ cellar door has an added bonus – their wine museum is part of the experience, with historic wine making equipment and a history of the district on display. Meanwhile the intense, robust wines of Loddon’s smaller vineyards have developed a solid reputation. Water Wheel’s shiraz regularly sells out. At Passing Clouds the vines are all rain dependent and produce small, intensely flavoured berries. At Connor Park the New Release Weekend (held the week before the Melbourne Cup) has become extremely popular and combines wine tasting with gourmet food and live music. Sandhurst Ridge, Kangderaar and Blanche Barkly are other wineries to look out for. The Granite Slopes found to Bendigo’s immediate south and in the picturesque Harcourt Valley produce wines with an intense fruit character. Blackjack’s cabernet, shiraz and pinot have all been very well received and are noted for their rich colour and generous flavour. At Chateau Leamon, wine lovers have to move quickly, the Reserve Shiraz sells out within a week of its release. Mandurang Valley, Langanook and Harcourt Valley wines are other highlights of this tour. To Bendigo’s east you’ll find the unique cambrian soil of the Campaspe Valley and Heathcote region, one of the finest shiraz producing areas in Australia. The region, its winemakers and wines have become icons in the industry. Author Max Allen wrote the combination of soils and climate was almost perfect for producing ‘intense, powerful but restrained red wines’. US wine critic Robert Parker Jnr caused a stampede for Wild Duck Creek’s ‘Duck Muck’ when he gave it a near perfect score in his wine journal ‘Advocate’. If you are planning a visit to any of these wineries it is a good idea to phone ahead to confirm cellar door opening hours and wine availability. Bendigo’s Visitor Information Centre on Pall Mall can assist you with this. SUBHEAD: A Perfect Match BODYCOPY: As is often the case, Bendigo’s regional cuisine is an almost perfect match for its wines. Greystanes Manor’s private dining room has become very popular with food and wine clubs with chef Randall Blakemore sourcing locally farmed game such as venison, squab and rabbit to enhance the flavours of the region’s wine. Housed in two converted heritage buildings and offering delightful alfresco dining in its open air piazza is Ristorante Bazzani. Earning one chef’s hat in the 2002 Age Good Food Guide, its inventive, modern menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the region’s fresh, local produce. Chef Brendan Tuddenham takes real delight in discovering and using local products, whether it be organic spring lamb, hand-fed yabbies or locally farmed figs. For less formal dining, try one of Bendigo’s trendy sidewalk cafes, which take full advantage of the area’s mild climate. Woodfired pizzas are particularly popular with locals. For something a little different, try the Match’s cajun chicken caesar or Jo Joes’ gourmet lamb and fetta topped pizzas. Coffee connoisseurs won’t be disappointed. Tony and Cathy Ciancio run the Green Olive and take great pride in bringing their Italian heritage to Bendigo. The Green Olive’s coffees have consistently been proclaimed ‘Bendigo’s Best Coffee’ and their deli stocks a whole range of local produce, including the region’s award winning olive oil. SUBHEAD: Straight From the Source BODYCOPY If you would like to find the raw product for yourself, Bendigo and its surrounding districts will yield many treasures. You can often buy direct from the orchards and farms of the area and depending on the season, you may find fresh picked apples or pears at Harcourt, free-range eggs at Marong, live yabbies at Heathcote as well as a whole range of country-style jams and preserves at the roadside stalls and small country stores that dot the area. In Bendigo try Gannawarra Meats, a newly opened butcher which stocks premium grain fed lamb, previously only available wholesale to Melbourne restaurants. For fresh picked fruit and vegetables direct from the grower you can try Gravel Hill Gardens which is open on Wednesday. The food and wine is just the start. Restored miners’ cottages, federation houses and grand manors provide some of the best boutique accommodation in Victoria. Annual festivals such as the Gospel Music Festival and Heritage Uncorked are set against a backdrop of lavish Victorian streetscapes and century-old gardens. It’s an experience you can literally taste.
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