8 April 2020
8 April 2020
Prosecco, the eponymous northern Italian sparkling wine, put King Valley on the map in the late 1990s, when winemakers of Italian descent embraced the style.
These days the region is just as famous for the fabulous wines, cheeses and mustards of central tourist hub Milawa, but drive a few kilometres south and you’ll find there’s much more to discover.
Myrrhee Premium Boer Goats
Connie and David Northey ran a cattle farm on their 90-acre King Valley property until the bushfires of 2007 tore through their property. The cows made it out safely, but with no feed or fences left behind the pair decided it was time for a change of direction.
They started again a year later with 35 goats (and one billy) in a process Connie refers to as “trial and error farming”. It worked: they’re now running at full capacity, which means 250 goats on 90 luscious acres where their premium boer goats are free to run, skip and bleat under the watchful protection of two large and fluffy maremma sheepdogs.
Connie and David breed goats for meat, not dairy, although Connie admits she does get attached (which isn’t surprising, she knows each and every one of the herd on a first name basis). There wasn’t much interest in goat meat when they started out, but Connie says that more and more people are willing to give it a try. “Goat is significantly leaner and higher in protein than other red meats. It tastes a lot like lamb, but sweeter and without that fatty film of oil.”
If you’ve never tried it before don’t worry, it’s easy to cook. Douse it in chopped tomatoes, white wine and fresh herbs (try rosemary, oregano and parsley, but whatever you can find in your garden will work), cover it with foil and cook it low and slow for four hours or so.
King Valley Walnuts
Here’s a bit of nut trivia for you: wild deer prove a significant threat to the walnuts of the King Valley. They don’t even eat them, but they do love to scratch themselves on the sturdy branches of the tree, liberating the nuts for local wombats, echidnas and wallabies.
Luckily Carol Kunert and Mike Burston have more than 3000 walnut trees on their Myrrhee farm, so they’ve got a few to spare for the native wildlife. They also own about 300 sheep, although they’re not interested in eating the walnuts.
“Before we moved here most of [Australia’s] walnuts came from California or China,” says Kunert, who relocated from Melbourne to the King Valley with Burston (her husband) in the early 1990s with the aim of establishing a little local competition.
“In the beginning we had to convince people to eat walnuts,” she says. Not anymore – the pair grow 25 tonnes of walnuts every year, which they sell whole, as kernels, and processed into walnut oils, pickles and flour and butter. You can stock up online and at farmers’ markets around Victoria.
“I was on the train to work one day, and I just looked around and thought, ‘I don’t have to do this’,” says David Byles of the lightbulb moment that inspired him to purchase 35 acres of remote land in Myrrhee. This was followed by the construction of four well-appointed bed and breakfast suites, and an adjacent residence that doubles as library, living room and restaurant.
David’s partner in both life and hospitality Gwenda Canty, a former caterer, is the heart of the business, putting her superb cooking skills (and extensive collection of Italian cookbooks) to good use to create personalised three-course menus matched to local King Valley wines.
If the weather’s good you can dine al fresco overlooking Boggy Creek – the waterway that runs through Casa Luna’s bottom paddock – and the produce is all seasonal, as David is a keen gardener. Time your visit for the end of the growing season and if you’re lucky, he’ll send you home with a car boot full of surplus produce.
Red Feet Wines
Newly established King Valley winery Red Feet is a family affair. Siblings Megan (business manager), Damien (winemaker) and Vince Star (cellar hand) started small 10 years ago, buying their 33ha farm and building up a piece at a time until they had enough equipment to start the Red Feet label.These days production is in full swing, and they make a boutique range of sparkling, red and white wines from King Valley grapes. If you pop by their new cellar door they’d be more than happy to give you a tour of their adjacent sangiovese vines, whip up a cheese plate or talk you through their new releases while you look across the valley (the view is incredible).
You might even bump into a few other Stars when you’re there – Megan, Damien and Vince are only three of nine kids, although the others haven’t chosen a life of wine. Perhaps one day they may wish to reconsider.
While you’re in the area: stop for a coffee and a wander at Brookfield Maze. The on-site cafe makes great espresso-style coffee, plus there’s a giant chess set, a bocce court and a 1.1 km hedge maze to explore.
*Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.
By Nola James. She travelled as a guest of Tourism North East.