A Perfect Day for a Picnic
It was the perfect day for a picnic – a warm, clear Sunday afternoon. It was also the perfect day for a drive, so my husband told me he had an idea and we jumped in the car headed towards Milawa, VIC.
Milawa sits 90 kms past Albury, a little over an hour’s drive southwest. The drive is quiet – straight country roads through dry farmland and sheep paddocks. Then you reach Milawa, what we’d call a “one stoplight town” in the U.S., but perhaps I’ll call a “one roundabout town” here. Despite its size, it’s not long before you see the signs: Cheese Factory, Olive Shop, Brown Brothers’ Winery.
Milawa is, in fact, Australia’s first official gourmet region, established in 1994 and offering a range of epicurean options. Facilities include Milawa Mustards, The Olive Shop, Milawa Cheese Factory, Walkabout Apiaries, and more than five wineries including the well-known Brown Brothers’.
Since we hadn’t planned our afternoon, we stopped wherever whim and our appetites led us. They led us first to Milawa Mustards, where exceptional seeded mustards – made fresh – were there for the tasting. I was excited about the next stop, The Olive Shop; I’d like to consider myself an olive aficionado. When we got there, I knew the shop was made for people like me. While small in size, it was packed with all things olive – dozens of locally-grown table olives, award-winning fresh pressed oils, olive-oil based cosmetic and health products, and a range of specialized accessories (olive spoons, pit containers, and “I Love Olives” merchandise). I would call it the town’s highlight, but next up were stiff competitors – Brown Brothers’ Winery and the cheese factory.
I am no expert on wine, but I’ve always believed the best wine is the wine you enjoy best, and I’ve always enjoyed Brown Brothers’. The cellar door is located on the original property, where members of the Brown family have been making wine since 1889. We sampled down their long list. I like dry whites and Brad likes sweet, so we settled on a bottle of Chenin Blanc, a beautiful blend of the two.
The restaurant next door has a solid reputation, but we decided to pass it up in favor of The Milawa Cheese Factory down the road. All cheeses are made on the premises – an old butter factory – and available for tasting. We sampled some beautiful goat and cow cheeses, but a day of sampling had only made us hungry for more, and we had come here for a picnic. Fortunately, they sold cheese platters and biscuits on site.
So, armed with our cheese platter, biscuits, a bottle of Chenin Blanc, and a jar of local table olives, we found a table behind the factory’s cafe. And, simply put, I couldn’t think of a better—or more gourmet—way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
More information on Milawa, VIC and Australia’s first gourmet region is available online.