Victoria – Murray Darling – endless sunshine, vines and more

An Antipodean home to alternative grape varities

By Sam Russell
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Murray Valley wine region

Murray Valley wine region

Murray River
Trentham Estate Winery, Mildura


Unofficially Sunraysia to many, the Murray Darling wine region is Australia’s second-largest. It stretches from the border with South Australia to Balranald and Willow Vale in the east and contributes about a quarter of the national crush. The smaller, cooler and less-dry Swan Hill wine region is found just south of it.

Here are some of their highlights.

Busy vibrant Mildura is at the heart of Sunraysia. Seemingly endless sunshine, the citrus orchards, the vineyards and the widespread Italian community form a serendipitous fusion of hard work, generosity of spirit and good living. This is a marvellous city, splendid as a destination in itself or a stopover on the Sydney-to-Adelaide trail.

Mildura has numerous excellent eateries; reading the morning papers at Hudak’s Bakery and tucking into their buffet breakfast is a sound beginning to the day ahead. Langtree Avenue is the local ‘Eat Street’ and gastronomy flourishes in the environs of the Grand Hotel, close to the railway station and river.

There the talent of Stefano de Pieri (of Gondola on the Murray fame) has set a benchmark with his eponymous Stefano’s Restaurant residing discreetly in the old cellar. There is also the Pizza Café, the café/bakery 27 Deakin, the Williams’ Spanish Bar and Grill and the Slow Food restaurant Seasons. Great food from fresh local produce; excellent wines; high standards of service; and all with reasonable pricing. What more could one want? Well, a visit to some wineries for a start.

Looking for a typical Italian family-owned and operated small winery? The De Blasio Oak Valley Estate is a neat unpretentious cellar door on the edge of the city where one finds estate-grown wines and preservative-free produce including olives, dried fruits, syrups, olive oil, preserves and jams.

Or by way of contrast are you looking for a giant modern high-volume winery processing millions of litres of wine each year? Lindemans Karadoc is a short drive from the city at Red Cliffs. Lindemans call it the nerve-centre of the brand. Viewed from the road it is a vast refinery-like operation but in these times of security guards and understandable corporate caution, the cellar door is all you will see of it first-hand.

Looking for vinous history and atmosphere? Chateau Mildura at Irymple is home to what was Chateau Mildara and long previously the original Chaffey Brothers winery of 1892. Today it is home to Psyche Wines and a small museum of wine artefacts and interesting curiosities. Its owner Lance Milne is a fourth generation local horticulturist who will happily clarify the mystery of their wines’ Smuggler and Steam nomenclatures.

Looking for lunch? Across the river at Trentham Cliffs is the popular cellar door and lunch restaurant Trentham Estate overlooking a Murray lagoon.

Travelling south from Mildura towards Swan Hill, Boundary Bend is home to vast plantations of scrupulously tended almond and olive trees. This venture, formed only in 1998, is said to be one of the world’s top 10 producers of EVOO or extra virgin olive oil. There’s a small sales outlet and the chance to learn about this large, efficient, high-quality and 100 percent locally-owned enterprise.

Andrew Peace Wines at Piangil is another welcoming easy-to-find cellar door – this one complete with picnic tables, lawns, ducks and a lake. Their medal-winning range is reasonably priced. It includes a Sagrantino from their own 10 acres of plantings, claimed to be the largest in Australia. James Halliday rates them a four-star operation.

Approaching Swan Hill at Beverford is the Buller family’s cellar door with regional table wines from Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Mourvèdre fruit as well as (unsurprisingly for this famous five-star Rutherglen firm) a suite of fortifieds ranging from Malmsey (the sweetest of the Madeira wines) to Tokay and Muscat. It’s on the main road so no excuse is needed to stop and explore.

These regions are easy to tour. They offer many reasons to learn about new wineries, varieties and people. They are particularly attractive to southerners suffering from mid-winter blues but they are a year-round pleasure to explore.

Some of my favourite spots …




  • Murray Darling (Wine) (VIC)
  • Swan Hill (VIC)

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August 26th, 2010
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