Nagambie, Victoria: Producers and Produce Stores

By Michael Harden
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Regional fare, North East Victoria

Regional fare, North East Victoria

While there is plenty of great fruit, vegetables, nuts, olives, eggs, honey, herbs, beef and lamb produced around Nagambie and the nearby Strathbogie Ranges, the farm gate experience in this neck of the woods is still fairly limited. There is no map listing the places that sell their produce from their sheds as there are in other regions so it is a matter of keeping your eyes peeled and talking to the locals. You may not be able to buy much direct from local producers but there are ways around that.

Local woman Di Mc Donald grows some of the sweetest, reddest, juiciest rhubarb you will ever taste on a plot of land at the Tahbilk Estate winery. Di also grows a few raspberries but mainly concentrates on growing her heirloom rhubarb using organic farming methods. The rhubarb seems to love her for it and it deservedly receives rave reviews from everybody who has tasted it. Some Nagambie locals even go so far as to claim that Di “has put rhubarb back on the map”. Despite the raves, it is often easier to buy a bunch of Di’s rhubarb at one of the Farmer’s Markets in Melbourne than it is to source it locally. Luckily there are couple of fairly new produce stores – the Goulburn Terrace Cellar Door in Nagambie and the Ruffy Produce Store in Ruffy – that stock small amounts of local produce and often include Di’s rhubarb in the mix. Arrive at the right time and you might get lucky.

Another product finding its way into an increasing number of the region’s shops is Strathbogie Beef. David and Libby Hamilton run the Bellagreen Cattle farm and Stud in the Strathbogie Ranges and have recently begun producing a small range of products from their grass fed stock. The range includes prime cuts of steak, beautifully flavoured beef sausages, kabana, mince and finely sliced smoked eye fillet, all of which are meticulously labelled and numbered so that the meat can be traced back to the very paddock from where it once grazed. If you can’t find it locally, Strathbogie Beef can be ordered over the internet.

Avenal is a good place to head for a taste of the local stuff. While the small local butcher is a decent source of local beef and lamb, the real food event here is Suzi McKay’s sprawling and eccentric Harvest Home. The dining room menu at this unique pub/guesthouse teems with local produce but if you want to get your hands on some of Suzi’s ingredients, there is a small produce market held in the sheltered ramshackle garden on the second Sunday of every month. Seek out Brian Bowring and Jessica Bateman who grow a fantastic range of vegetables for the Harvest Home kitchen and always have a small stall under a tree at the produce market. During summer there could be up to seven varieties of tomato available while at other times there is a brilliant range of garlic, pumpkins, leeks, broccoli, carrots and broad beans.

Cheese lovers should take the very pretty back road out of Nagambie and wind their way north to the Longleat Cellar door in Murchison. The 30-year-old Longleat vineyard is now home to Murchison Wines, made by Guido Vazzoler and Vazzoler Cheese, hand made by Sandra Vazzoler. Inspired by the small cheese makers in Italy’s north, Sandra makes a small range of cheese from local cow’s milk that includes a white mould, marinated fetta, subtly tangy blue vein and two-year-old cheddar. A vine-covered pergola at the cellar door is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the quiet over a tasting plate of these delicately delicious hand made cheeses and a glass or two of Guido’s nicely restrained shiraz.

The Nagambie area’s warm climate has attracted a number of olive growers who are beginning to produce some very promising olive oil. Keep an eye out for Nagambie Gold, produced by Susie Moscovitch and her husband Leon. Though now a city dweller Susie grew up in Nagambie and has planted 1200 olive trees on land that has been in her family for three generations. The impressive peppery, hazelnut flavours of their unfiltered oil seems to point to the region’s great olive oil potential.

There is great produce in the Nagambie region. Its food and wine frontier status simply means you have to try a little harder to find it.

Five Great Local Products

  • Strathbogie Beef Sausages

  • Alpi ‘Ruffy Blend’ Organic Tea

  • Purbrick & Crawford Raspberry Jam

  • Adrian & Valda Martin’s cherries

  • Vazzoler Cheese Two-Year-Old Cheddar


© Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

Regions

  • Nagambie Lakes (VIC)

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