Tucked away in the pretty foothills of North East Victoria's High Country, Valente by the Vines, near two historic gold mining towns, is just five minutes to Yackandandah and 20 minutes to Beechworth. Twenty years ago, Dean and Julie Valente moved to the 7.5-hectare property where Dean resurrected a neglected vineyard. He now produces syrah, riesling and rose varietals and Petillant Natural, a natural sparkling wine, at the onsite micro-winery. Valente's beautiful garden has many English trees including European horse chestnuts and Australian natives including grevilleas, wattles and acacia, all bird magnets.
Yackandandah, known as Yack by the locals, is a 40-minute drive from Albury Airport serviced by flights from Sydney and Melbourne. It's a three-hour drive from Melbourne.
The architecturally designed self-contained studio inspired by the tobacco kilns of nearby Myrtleford is perfect for a relaxed, rustic country fix. It's a no-fuss bolthole with corrugated iron exterior and limed pine interior with a soaring ceiling. The open plan includes a kitchenette and narrow timber dining table. The comfortable Danish couch with cushions and throws is ideal for an afternoon of reading, particularly with the wood heater and a stack of timber. There are two orchards and terraced vines on the property's hillside.
Climb the narrow spiral staircase to the cosy mezzanine bedroom with queen bed and cross-breeze windows. The heavens open during our stay and we watch a spectacular lightning show. The bathroom is downstairs with a spacious shower. My favourite spot is the wooden deck that's carpeted in petals from a paulownia tree and from where we spot the resident koala snoozing in the trees.
We order ahead from Wodonga's Andiamo Street Kitchen and Pinchos Catering (pinchosandiamo.com.au) and dine on tasty lasagne and a decadent tiramisu, with a complimentary bottle of Valente Wine. Breakfast supplies include home-made muesli, local bread and condiments. Picnic baskets and antipasti can also be ordered. Stop at Yackandandah's historic Star Hotel built in 1863 and known for Southern US-style food and great coffee from the hotel's Laneway Cafe. Meanwhile at the tiny Happy Baker artisan baker, Michael Quealy, who did his apprenticeship at 52, makes swoon-worthy sourdough, almond croissants and pastries.
Yackandandah is a country town with character. It has quaint original shop fronts and granite gutters. It's known for its antiques, art and music - the Yackandandah Folk Festival is held in March. Art lovers will enjoy the Charles Sluga Gallery and internationally renowned potter John Dermer is staging his 44th exhibition at his Kirby Road studio until December 5, 2021. Leigh and Bree Attwood at Backwoods Distilling Co produce great gins and whisky and Jamie Heritage of Yack Creek Distillery makes spirits with the botanics from his orchard. There are lots of pretty walks along the former gold-rich creeks and gorge. Cyclists are well catered for with trails and mountain bike tracks.
A delightful country retreat in which to awake to birdsong and perfume from the much-loved garden.
From $280 a night, including breakfast treats and complimentary Valente Wine. A two-night minimum. Pet friendly.
Valente by the Vines, 373 Yackandandah Road, Yackandandah. 0400 829 069. See valentewines.com.au
The pitter patter of rain on the corrugated iron roof and wine tasting with Dean on the deck.
The spiral staircase to the loft isn't for everyone but there's an exterior standard staircase from the bedroom to the garden.
Sue Wallace stayed as a guest of North East Victoria.