IT'S an easy 90-minute drive from Melbourne to Nagambie along the Hume Highway where a few kilometres' drive through an avenue of mulberry trees leads to historic Tahbilk winery.
In a dramatic ironbark, stone and corrugated-iron building with a large deck overlooking restored wetlands, the Tahbilk Cafe is the place to fortify yourself before a stroll through the wildlife reserve, taking a 45-minute cruise through the wetland or retiring to the tasting room of the 1860s cellars.
Ask for a table on the deck under market umbrellas, which shelter diners from the sun and rain. You can sample Tahbilk and Dalfarras wines at the tasting counter before choosing what you might drink with your lunch.
The menu is simple, wholesome and family-friendly, with grazing plates and cheese plates that make the most of local produce. There are dips to share, a soup of the day, casual meals for "big and little kids" and fare such as trout almandine, a vegetable moussaka and a Mediterranean-sounding fig, three-cheese and walnut tart.
My husband opts for the popular pie of the day — tender yearling steak with shiraz under a light puffed pastry ($17), while I try the french onion soup, filled with potato dumplings, lamb noisettes and blue cheese croutons (pictured). There are wine suggestions for each dish, so I choose a 2010 Tahbilk Marsanne ($7.50 a glass, $23.95 a bottle).
We share a generous slice of apple and rhubarb crumble with stewed rhubarb and cream sides ($9.95) and a coffee.
You can join the Tahbilk Wine Club and get a decent discount off all wine — either by the glass or bottle.
Reviewed by Tricia Welsh, who was hosted by Tourism Victoria.
Tahbilk Cafe, 254 O'Neils Road, Tahbilk, via Nagambie, 5794 2555. Open Mon-Fri, 11am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-4.30pm. See tahbilk.com.au. Melway 610 M3. To stay: nearby options include The Jetty Apartments (thejetty.com.au), Comfort Inn & Suites Nagambie Lakes (choicehotels.com.au), Blackwood Park Country House (mitchelton.com.au).