From Beechworth to Bright on the gourmet rail trail

Cycling in some of Victoria's loveliest country with Rail Trail Tours

By M.E. Moore
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Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Riding near Myrtleford

Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Riding near Myrtleford [©M E Moore]

Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Breakfast at Myrtleford butter factory
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Pennyweight wines vineyards
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Riding towards Mount Buffalo
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Historic tobacco kilns near Ovens

 

A weekend is simply not long enough to sample all that the Ovens Valley in North East Victoria has to offer, but a few of us set out on bicycles recently to give it our best shot.

Mostly flat or downhill, the popular ‘Murray to the Mountains’ rail trail from Beechworth to Bright gently traverses some of the state’s best-loved scenery, as well as one of its most acclaimed gourmet regions.

There is no better way to appreciate this splendid route than to ride it – and no better to way to justify starting each day with a delicious breakfast of seasonal local produce!

While it would be easy enough to set out on this adventure by yourself, Damian Cerini’s weekend Rail Trail Tours offer the unbeatable advantage of backup transport, including luggage and purchases made along the way, until late Sunday afternoon, when you and your bike are taken back up the mountain to Beechworth.

We set off with Damian after a leisurely Saturday breakfast in the courtyard of Beechworth Provender. Our first destination, Morris’ Pennyweight Winery, lay a pleasant 20 minutes away. Nestled into the granite plateau, this picturesque vineyard represents the culmination of a long family tradition of wine-making.

The wines, deliciously delicate yet full of wholesome flavour, uniquely combine the influences of granite-derived soils and certified organic/biodynamic principles. Shades of Umbria only a few hours from Melbourne!  The 2010 Pinot Noir is especially notable, and a luscious white muscat (‘Pennyweight Gold’) sold in earthenware jars makes an impressive gift.

An enjoyable downhill spin landed us at the Everton Hotel, a classic country pub with a wide shady verandah and a selection of cold refreshments on tap. A detour on quiet back roads took us first to the multi-award-winning ev Olives where we stocked up on ‘Fruity’ and ‘Robust’ olive oils, then to Milawa, where Brown Brothers provided an informative private tasting.

Always an interesting range of new wines to try here, many of which are not available elsewhere, but the flagship Shiraz-Mondeuse-Cabernet is very hard to beat. The current cellar-door release, the 2006 vintage, is described as having a ‘deep inky colour with rich, concentrated and intense palate’. It was delicious.

By the time we’d made hearty inroads into a mouth-watering platter at the Milawa Cheese Factory, including the exquisitely piquant Ashed Chevre and the creamy soft Milawa Blue, the heat of mid-afternoon was upon us. The sun beat down with fierce intent, and although we were ready for anything, Damian took pity and summoned the mini-bus to get us over Taylor’s Gap.

Thus it was in air-conditioned comfort that we arrived at Gapsted Winery – in good time to further advance our growing appreciation of local wines.

The day finished with a gentle ride into the rural township of Myrtleford, where a new 6-km pathway along the Ovens River leads to a string of picturesque swimming holes. Well worth exploring.

Donner und Blitzen! A great black thunderstorm rolled across the valley early on Sunday and after breakfast we cycled off into a splendidly glistening rain-washed landscape. This was rural Victoria at its glorious best – Mt Buffalo’s mighty granite buttresses tower above fertile river flats dotted with fat hay bales, glossy cattle and neat rows of vines, vegetables and nut trees.

Historic timber and corrugated iron kilns and hop-drying sheds line the route, the former being a relic of the valley’s tobacco-growing days.

We greatly savoured our stops at the Myrtleford Butter Factory, the Bright Berry Farm and Boynton’s Feathertop Winery, but there were many other places we could have enjoyed as well.  If only there were more hours in the day!

Our cheerful driver was waiting for us in Bright, along with his handy mini-bus (by now overflowing with our purchases) and bike trailer. All too soon our wonderful escapade had come to an end.
 

 Rail Trail Tours details:

Standard of ride: easy, maximum 60-80 km over two days, depending on the abilities and preferences of the customers. Note that some sections of the route may involve riding on quiet back roads.

Bikes and helmets: BYO, or hire can be arranged.

Cost: (including 2 nights' accommodation and most meals) $399.

Contact: Damian Cerini on 0407 229 881 or www.railtrailtours.com.au

Bookings essential!
 

The writer travelled as a guest of Rail Trail Tours on 7-9 December 2012

 

Regions

  • North East Victoria (VIC)

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January 15th, 2013
 
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