Melbournians are spoilt for choice when it comes to a regional getaway, but surpass the two-hour limit and you will be rewarded with the gastronomic hub of Milawa.
Well-established in the Milawa region is the family-owned Brown Brothers winery, passing down four generations of winemaking knowledge to our nearby King Valley region. You may recall the name from your failsafe picnic Prosecco, or the fruitful Moscato that’s easy on new palates. Brown Brothers is merely a stone’s throw from the small town of Wangaratta, and its family heritage is woven through everything it does.
If you’re interested in discovering the full garden-to-plate experience, Brown Brothers offers a truly magnificent Food and Wine Adventure. Step behind the scenes as Head Chef Bodee Price strolls you through the kitchen gardens, followed by a viticultural history of the Brown Brothers family as you venture through the property with your guide.
Brown Brothers is a pioneer in many areas of wine, both regionally and nation-wide. As a winery, they were the first people to make Noble Riesling and its grapes reflect the oldest botrytis in the country. Make sure to try the Noble Riesling in the tasting room if you’re a fan of sticky wine. Whilst King Valley is an Italian wine region, they were the first to do a Montepulciano and led the way in the ’80s for Tempranillo.
Our journey started on a crisp Sunday morning as we were led down past the kitchen and to uncover the various herbs and plants grown seasonally. In the three years that Bodee has been at Brown Brothers, he has built the chef’s garden up to a level where its seasonal produce inspires the restaurant menu.
A step through the doors of The Barn with our passionate guide, Karen, has us talking through the various roles it has played with the family in its over 160-year history. First a home with just a soil floor, grain storage and most iconically, producing the very first wines of the Brown Brothers label back in 1889 by John Francis Brown. Today, The Barn hosts events and weddings; a fitting location for the family history this barn holds.
After a cool trip down into the cellar to see some incredibly dusty bottles and where all the magic happens, we are ready to start tasting the Brown Brothers suite of wines. Like everything they do, the labels are a tribute to the family. The flagship Patricia collection is named after the family Matriarch Patricia Brown and it certainly lives up to the challenge! The Patricia Chardonnay was one to note and we couldn’t leave without a bottle.
I highly recommend doing a full tasting to enjoy the experience with the incredibly knowledgeable staff. We were in the hands of Kit, who was an exquisite guide through the flight and provided great recommendations that complimented the upcoming wine pairings with our meal – a great choice at the winery as it elevates each dish and ensures you savour every drop.
The Brown Brother’s Slow Lunch is a brilliant way to pay homage to the on-site produce seen a few hours prior. One unexpected, stand-out item was the ‘salt and vinegar old man salt bush’, accompanying an outstanding selection of starters. Don’t be fooled by its garnish appearance; the saltbush may as well have been salt and vinegar chips! It was ‘garnishing’ one of our favourites; raw beef with macadamia miso and caper leaf resting on a puffed tendon and paired beautifully with the 2020 Patricia Chardonnay.
We were led through a delicious and exploratory menu in the on-site restaurant that featured baby octopus, butternut pumpkin, beef cheek (brilliant pairing with the 2017 Patricia Shiraz) and a fragrant Moscato wine lees ice cream. We were also treated to a twist on the after-dinner mint, however we’ll leave that for you to discover for yourself.
Brown Brothers is a wine lover’s destination however if you’re after cheese, venture to the Milawa Cheese Company. Located within Milawa’s culinary region, the Milawa Cheese Company offers tastings, a gift shop, coffee and fresh bread, and you can even build your own picnic and find somewhere to sit. We were delighted to try a range with the standouts being the Milawa Blue and the Milawa King River Gold, also delicious with quince paste.
Milawa is a bit of a trek from Melbourne, but staying the night would give you more opportunity to discover the region. Wangaratta is the perfect spot just 15 minutes from Milawa, and the staff at Quest Wangaratta will happily host you for a night’s stay. Located a short walk from the main strip, the hotel gave us brilliant golden hour views of the cathedral opposite and the staff went over and beyond. Locals favour Old Faithfuls in the evening for a drink and bite to eat and we ventured to Cafe Prevue for a coffee and some tasty granola before our return to the big smoke.
Milawa may be a little further than the standard weekend trip, however the region has so much to offer for food and wine, or you can go walking or bike riding, which makes it worth the journey. Why not make a long weekend out of it?
Looking for another foodie or vino getaway? Check out one of our favourite new upcoming regions, Maitland.