Gorgeous Beechworth, set high above the north-east plains of Victoria in a neat little pocket of the Great Dividing Range, nestled within the distant shadow of the Australian Alps. It is one of Australia’s most beautiful wine regions to visit; to spend a few days amongst its mien of history; to breathe in the cool air of the morning; to witness its watercolour-painted skies at dusk; to eat, but, most of all, to taste, to drink its wealth of truly fine wines.
Not nearly enough has been written about the quality of wines grown at Beechworth; their complexity, presence, elegance, finesse and structure. The understated power that’s captured within a glass of sunlit chardonnay or twilight syrah – two of the region’s most prominent grape varieties. Benchmark wines, which precisely transmute the complex topography of the region’s elevated hills and slopes, folds and gullies composed of intrusive granite pushed up into ancient slate and shale, or old sandstone and gravel over clay. Combine this with a cool climate and long diurnal range, and you begin to understand why Beechworth grows some of Australia’s finest wines.
The bustling valleys of the Hunter, Yarra, and Barossa, Beechworth is not. Most of the time, many of Beechworth’s wineries are not open to visitors. However, many will be glad to see you by appointment. Be sure to check the respective website of the producer you wish to see and either email or call ahead to request a visit. These include Castagna, Giaconda, Domenica, and Golden Ball, among others. A few wineries are open to the public on the second Saturday and Sunday of the month between September and June, as part of Beechworth’s Hidden Wineries Touring Trail, which neatly fills up a day and takes in some of the region’s best producers, including Bowman’s Run, Baarmutha, Star Lane, and Haldon Estate. Meanwhile, Amulet, Pennyweight, and Indigo Vineyards have cellar doors which are open seven days a week, so you can call in any time.
Autumn is the best time to visit Beechworth. Not too hot and not too cold. Vintage is all but done for the region’s vignerons – their alluring grapes now slowly transforming into beguiling wines – as the season ignites in celebration with bright colours, shifting from green to gold to orange to red; the intrinsic beauty of Beechworth on full display for all to see.
If you’re coming from Melbourne or Sydney, you can fly in to Albury, however, most people reach Beechworth by car. From Melbourne, drive north on the M31 before heading east at Wangaratta along the C315. If you do, be sure to stop in at Tolpuddle Farm (tolpuddle.com.au) at Tarrawingee for soft, creamy chèvre and baby goat petting during kidding season. From Sydney, hit the Hume and follow it all the way south to Wodonga, until you see the signs showing you the way towards Beechworth.
Beechworth has plenty of places for you to rest and recharge. From the humble and comfy rooms of a hotel or motor inn to the cosiness of a bed and breakfast and self-contained cottage, right up to the luxury of a secluded villa or retreat.
For increased creature comforts, the Fox Gloves (foxgloves.com.au) B&B, on Loch St, is an old Victorian period home of grace and charm, offering big comfy beds, fluffy towels, and hearty country-style breakfasts each day. Nearby, just behind Beechworth’s main street, the Laidlaw Cottage (laidlawcottages.com.au) is an ultra-cosy, self-contained, former miner’s cottage, equipped with a small kitchen, if you’d prefer to cook yourself.
Away from the town’s centre, in nearby Stanley, discover a range of luxury accommodation, including Planetrees Estate (planetrees.com.au) set amongst two hectares of manicured gardens featuring blooming daisies, lush green lawns, and a private natural swimming pool.
On Ford St, in view of the iconic bell tower of the Beechworth Post Office is where your three-day Beechworth wine drive adventure begins. But first, coffee. Local roaster Blynzz Coffee Roasters (blynzzcoffee.com.au) makes a mean cup of joe from quality green beans that they roast themselves, right on premise. Project Forty Nine Café and Deli (projectfortynine.com.au) is across the road and is stocked with many delicious things, like small-scale goods of cheese and meat sourced locally from farmers and friends around the region. They also serve tea and coffee plus scrumptious lunches and a tidy selection of local, national, and international wines, including a few bottles of their very own P49 wine.
From Ford St drive north, turning right on to Albert Rd before sneaking a left onto McConville Ave for a leisurely detour past Lake Sambell Reserve, on your way to Traviarti (traviarti.com). Up at their small vineyard on Red Hill, winemakers Simon Grant and Helen Murray grow 100% nebbiolo, firmly forecasting what they believe is the future star of Beechworth wine. As is the case with many producers in Beechworth, you will need to call ahead to ensure they are home, but don’t let this deter you. Their wines showcase the potential nobility for high-country, cool-climate Italian varietal wines of jubilant yet compelling drinkability.
Heading further north along Havelock Rd, it’s a short drive from Traviarti to Haldon Estate (haldonestatewines.com.au). Partners Tracey Richards and Ranald Currie own and run this small winery, which includes a stunning cellar door operating out of an old restored farm shed originally built in the early 1900s. Encounter aromatic whites and reds, such as chardonnay, riesling, nebbiolo, and pinot noir. The wines are estate grown and made with a traditional Old World ethos in mind.
Just around the corner, along Alma Rd is one of Beechworth’s finest. A quiet achiever and contemporary pioneer, Sorrenberg (sorrenberg.com) has forged a reputation for being one of Australia’s great wine estates. Owners Barry and Jan Morey’s gamay has achieved cult status among Aussie wine fans and followers; all lifted sweet berry fruits, lingering spice, with juicy acidity. A visit to Sorrenberg is a special event. Be sure to shore up a visit well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Head back to town and stop in at Eldorado Road Cellar Door Cantina (eldoradoroad.com.au). Winemakers Paul Dahlenburg and Lauretta Schulz offer wine tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am, and you can also refuel with a selection of regional cheese and meat, and olives and almonds. It’s the perfect place to reanimate yourself before dinner at the Empire Hotel (empirehotelbeechworth.com.au), located on Camp St. There’s a well-stocked bar featuring an impressive range of local beer and wine, with a comfy Chesterfield lounge on which you can relax. Later, head downstairs for an intimate dinner beside the fireplace, with outstanding food by accomplished chef Shauna Stockwell.
Before you do anything today, call and book a table at the region’s most distinguished restaurant, Provenance (theprovenance.com.au). Presuming it’s a Saturday on the second weekend of the months between September and June, today is for seeking out those producers concealed along the Hidden Wineries Touring Trail. Pack a picnic, stocking up on supplies from the Beechworth Provender (18 Camp St, Beechworth, (03) 5728 2650), and a bee sting pastry from the world famous Beechworth Bakery (beechworthbakery.com.au), then head west towards Wangaratta.
Along Beechworth-Wangaratta Rd is a cluster of fine wineries all within a 5-10 minute drive of each other. For lovers of light bone-dry rosé, zesty fresh pinot gris, and rich and ripe pepper berry-fruited shiraz begin at Weathercraft Wine (weathercraft.com.au). If your visit happens to fall out of time with the Hidden Wineries weekend, try booking online for a private wine tasting via Weathercraft’s website.
Nearby is Beechworth’s largest winery, Indigo Vineyard (indigovineyard.com.au). Located on a hillside of the Hodgson Creek Valley, you can taste, eat, and shop at the cellar door, and even stay at the large, well-appointed homestead, which makes the perfect base to explore the region’s wineries, starting with Indigo’s own extensive range of wines. With nigh on 19 styles to try, all of which are estate grown from 11 different varieties, you won’t need to work too hard to hone in on a wine or two to love. Seek out the wines from the Secret Village range (especially the chardonnay) named after the brick kiln remains of a secret village which once stood by the dam near the vineyard. Indigo Vineyard also supplies fruit to Beechworth’s largest wine producer, Brokenwood Wines (brokenwood.com.au).
Almost directly opposite Indigo is Serengale Vineyard (serengalebeechworth.com.au), where the winery, a stark silver shed, doubles as a cellar door when the Hidden Wineries Touring Trail is in full swing. Make your way up the sandstone steps to the tasting room, which overlooks a gentle slope lined with rows of vines. Ask for a taste of the Birds on the Hill Chardonnay – it’s a belter.
Staying on the Trail, head back towards town. Keep an eye out for the small sign that reads, ‘Amulet’ (amuletvineyard.com.au). Blink and you’ll miss it. Take your time looking at the gorgeous views of the hilly terrain that’s scored by a vista of golden vines as you sip your way through pioneering examples of slinky sangiovese, black-fruited barbera, and wonderfully bubbly prosecco.
With your picnic in tow, drive north towards Beechworth proper, but take a right onto Diffey Rd. Follow it south until you get to Baarmutha Wines (baarmuthawines.com.au), down by Deadman Creek. Winemaking partners Vinny and Sharon Webb will take you through their boutique winery and barrel room, made from shipping containers buried into the ground, overlooking the Murmungee escarpment. Find a favourite between their chardonnay and shiraz and take your picnic lunch on the grass armed with a glass of your favourite drop.
Assuming you are properly sated by all this brilliant local wine and fresh provisions from your picnic, pack up your things and return to town to be ready in time for your reservation at Provenance. Experience the outstanding yet understated talents of chef Michael Ryan, whose contemporary Australian menu is inspired by the elegant brevity of Japan; brilliant and unassuming in equal measure.
Today, take Stanley Rd and head east. In less than 15 minutes you will have driven to an elevation of approximately 800 metres and arrived at the old gold rush town of Stanley, on the outskirts of the Beechworth wine region. Here, an emerging set of winemakers – most notably Vignerons Schmölzer and Brown (vsandb.com.au) – are making their presence felt by producing fresh, elegant, acid-driven wines from chardonnay, pinot noir, and shiraz, among others. Don’t chance your arm and send an email before you go. You may find Tessa or Jeremy are somewhere around to show you about their nascent Thorley vineyard.
Hidden around the bend from The Stanley Pub, Black Barn Farm (blackbarnfarm.com.au) is a gorgeous orchard, nursery and educational space that grows over 50 varieties of apples, plus a thousand or so other plant species, including stone fruits, pomegranates, pears, figs, berries and olives, across some 9 hectares of peaceful tree-lined farmland. The Showers family regularly host open farm days and workshops, which encourage learning about biologically mindful farming and homesteading, and include events where you can pick your own apples.
Four minutes away from Black Barn Farm, out along Six Mile Rd, you’ll discover what happens to apples when they’re transformed into local apple cider vinegar. Michel Renoux of Maison Renoux (maisonrenoux.com.au) grows his own apples and turns them into wonderfully pure apple cider vinegars, one of which is made from caramelised apples with a touch of fennel seeds and star anise.
Take time for lunch at The Stanley Pub (stanleypub.com.au) before heading back to town, stopping by Star Lane Winery (starlanewinery.com.au) on the way to take in their magnificent vine lined views and taste their outstanding nebbiolo. Once you’re back in town, dash over to the Cellar Door Wine Store (beechworthwines.com) for pre-dinner drinks, and to taste any wines you may have missed throughout your three-day sojourn in Beechworth.
Dinner tonight is at The Ox and Hound Bistro (oxandhound.com.au), which is not too far from the many accommodation options in town, which means no more driving. And it also means you can carry on enjoying and discovering many more magnificent Beechworth wines well into the night.
2016 Amulet Barbera, A$32
An array of blackcurrant, violet, and earthy herbs on the nose, followed by big, blackberry flavours, some aniseed, bright acidity, and sound tannins, each precisely defined.
2017 Baarmutha Shiraz, A$38
Bright power and presence emanates from classic peppery black and blue fruits; currant, mulberry and blood plum. Stunning fruit set within a subtle frame of chocolatey oak, firm textures and puckering tannins.
2019 Brokenwood Rosato, A$30
Flavours of strawberry and watermelon matched to hints of savoury herbal spice, mouth-watering juiciness and diaphanous tannins encouraging sip after sip after sip.
2015 Castagna La Chiave, A$75
From one of the most arresting, captivating, and definitive winemakers in Beechworth. Beguiling, herbal sweet red fruits; cherry, tomato, and sweet roasted capsicum; thyme and dried roses. Sangiovese arranged with lucid acidity, and dusty tannins. Gorgeous.
2017 Company Wine Nebbiolo, A$60
A bright, lithe, cherry red number. Pretty red fruits and aniseed up front contrast the swift, savouriness of crushed herbs and the faint meatiness of a butcher shop. Textually slinky with velvety tannins.
2017 Eldorado Road Chardonnay, A$37
A fine introduction to the fresh and elegant expression that is Beechworth chardonnay. Crisp yellow, limy, saline scented, sweet tropical fruit. Slinky, steely, high toned and bright.
2016 Haldon Estate Shiraz, A$39
A pleasant play of expectations on the nose. Not so much a firework of bright and bursting Beechworth black fruit, rather more subdued, more savoury, more reminiscent of the Hunter or, indeed, the Rhône.
2016 Indigo Vineyard Secret Village Chardonnay, A$50
Makes no secret about its high class refreshment factor. Lemon flint and honeysuckle, soft and supple, deftly lashed by a lick of old oak. Vibrant and elegant.
2017 Sentiō Pinot Noir, A$40
Savoury, earthy and herbal first, then sweet, red fruits of dark cherry, raspberry and crunchy pomegranate acids next. Graceful tannins, super supple, subtle even, airy and barely there. Pinot forte.
2017 Star Lane Winery Nebbiolo, A$65
If you’ve never tasted nebbiolo before, begin here. Fine red berries, fig, black plum and charred roses. Moisture-sapping tannins swell and surge upon a satin frame, bright with racing acidity.
2018 Traviarti Rosso, A$30
This juicy blend of nebbiolo and barbera, with a splash of cabernet smells like baked cherry pie and brambles, balanced by delicate pepper and a stemmy spiciness.
2016 Warner Vineyard Roussanne-Marsanne, A$30
Showcases Beechworth’s ability for compelling complexity outside of the two hero varieties. Potent tropical fruit perfumes, a lick of ginger, lemonade citrus, and sweet stewed pears – a nuttiness, too. Demands food.