Grampians food and wine: Victoria's newest destination for foodies

It was a literal honeymoon start. When Carly and Richard Flecknoe opened the Harvest Halls Gap Cafe and Provedore last November, they had been married for a week.

As beginnings go it was fitting, since they had come to Halls Gap to marry together one of Victoria's oldest wine regions with one of its newest food and produce scenes, all in the sandstone shadow of the Grampians.

Grapevines were first planted here 150 years ago, including what is now thought to be the oldest pinot noir vine in the world. More recently, the Grampians have been flavoured with the likes of olives, tea, sheep yoghurt and pork rillettes.

When Carly and Richard first visited the Grampians in April 2014, they were so impressed by the potential of the produce that within 19 months they had given up their corporate careers and opened Harvest.

"A lot of people still don't understand that the Grampians is a wine destination, so I think there's a huge amount of potential here," Carly says.

"I'd say it's at the beginning stages of being able to compete with the likes of the Yarra Valley and King Valley, but here you can combine it with other things as well. You can do your food and wine tour but you can also hike and incorporate other things into your adventure."

Almost everything on the menu and the provedore shelves at Harvest Halls Gap Cafe and Provedore is from the region, creating meals and an accompanying list of "hero salads" that are as local as bare sandstone under your feet. The cafe has also produced a handout map showing the locations of 20 local producers to create a self-guided gourmet journey through the Grampians.

From Halls Gap, it is a 40-kilometre drive to Great Western, where highway signs welcome motorists to the "Wine Village". Famed as the birthplace of sparkling shiraz, it has Seppelt as one of its best-known labels (the cellars and cellar door were slated for closure last year, in a major blow for the town, but that decision has recently been reversed) and is bookended by a pair of contrasting vineyards.

At the northern end of town, Best's Wines is in its 150th year of operation (the first planting was in 1866). It is a place with a history as full-bodied as any of its wines. Its nursery block, planted in the 1860s, continues to produce a bewildering array of grapes. It contains 38 varieties, so randomly planted that even now, seven varieties remain unidentified. A pinot noir vine planted in 1866 is thought to be the oldest in the world, given the blight and destruction of vines through France in the late 19th century.


Inside the cellar door, which sits inside an 1860s stable, tastings are also an experience. A self-guided cellar tour takes visitors deep into history, past century-old barrels and into an underground vat that was only rediscovered in recent years. Bottles as dusty as the Wimmera itself line the cellar walls, with many of the labels unseen for years.

"We've got so many back-vintage wines, we're still finding new ones," says cellar door manager Samantha Ford. From these bottles, Best's now offers back-vintage tastings; tipples such as a 1995 cabernet or a 2003 riesling. Options change weekly, depending on which bottles have been found and opened.

Across town, with a more contemporary feel, is Grampians Estate. Step inside the small Halliday five-star winery, operated by local sheep farmers Tom and Sarah Guthrie, and it is like a provedore of its own. There are shelves of local produce and a fine tasting platter that includes the likes of Mt Zero olives and pate and spiced shiraz jelly made in Great Western. Pair it with Grampians Estate's most popular wine, the sparkling shiraz on which the town has made its name, and you leave pretty certain that there is still sparkle in Great Western.

Newer still is Mountainside Wines. To find this most personal of boutique wineries, you must seek it, huddled at the foot of Mt Cole in Warrak, far from any major roads.

Tastings and platters can be enjoyed at a table among the viognier vines, or on cushions and blankets thrown down anywhere on the property.

About a dozen steps from the cellar door, but totally hidden from it, is the Blue House, once the Warrak post office but now a secluded, self-contained, bed and breakfast.

It is a gorgeously quiet place to stay, so hidden that there is no phone or internet signal and no TV reception. As evening falls and mist settles in the valley, there is just the chatter of cockatoos and the distant bleat of sheep.

It is a rural idyll flavoured with tannins, perfect for a digital detox and a wine influx.




Halls Gap is about a three-hour drive from Melbourne along the Western Highway.


A night at the Blue House at Mountainside Wines beg–ins at $165. In Halls Gap, try the secluded silence of the stylish cabins at DULC. See;

Andrew Bain travelled courtesy of Grampians Tourism.