- Head west from Melbourne – 252 kilometres to Halls Gap
Whoever said life is a journey not a destination was clearly not travelling in a sleek new Atlantic grey BMW X1 bound for the Grampians. This is the perfect pairing of wheels and terrain – the kind of mini-break that would get five stars from James Halliday.
Our mission: to scout the region ahead of Australia’s longest-running food and wine festival, culminating in the cork-popping Grampians Grape Escape (April 30 – May 1).
Closing the tailgate, I go to hop into our hot new wheels and find … the husband already ensconced behind the steering wheel. Oh well, at least we won’t have to squabble over the air-conditioning control with separate temperature controls for driver and passenger.
First stop, less than 30 kilometres east of Ararat, is Mount Langi Ghiran, a premier winery that takes its name from the rugged peak climbed by Major Thomas Mitchell on his 1836 Australia Felix expedition.
Italian migrants planted a vineyard and chestnut grove here in 1963. Now the much- awarded Langi shiraz is legendary and the Blanc De Blancs 2012 sparkling chardonnay is perfect with a picnic in the grove.
On the other side of the mountain we find Montara Grampians Wines, owned by the Stapletons and awarded a five-star winery rating in Halliday’s 2016 Wine Companion.
The burst of heat at the start of summer followed by rain has meant harvest is in full swing, weeks ahead of normal.
“We are putting everything in the barrel right now, monitoring it, looking at it. It looks like a science lab from
Breaking Bad down there at the moment,” says Jess Groves, partner of one of the six Stapleton siblings.
We head for Halls Gap, stopping to visit Bunjil’s Shelter near Stawell. Bunjil is the creator of Aboriginal legend and this is the only known rock art depiction of him. The Grampians is home to a staggering 80 per cent of Victoria’s rock art sites, making it a region of major cultural significance as well as great produce and wine.
Harvest Halls Gap more than ticks the boxes as a showcase for the latter, with producers ranging from Greenvale Farm and Simply Tea to Erards charcuterie and Three Troupers Brewery. Carly and Richard Flecknoe have transformed a former backpackers’ hostel. The front cottage is a cafe and provedore and two three-bedroom units look out onto towering buttresses of granite.
Each room has its own character, with funky linen and comfy furnishing. There’s a parade of kangaroos, emus and deer in the paddock opposite for entertainment.
After breakfast, it’s off to Laharum to visit the Mathews family-run Grampians Olive Co.
Greg Mathews says the original owner planted 50,000 trees in the early 1940s to create Australia’s first commercial olive grove. The Mathews took over in 2008.
They also press for other local growers, including neighbours Deirdre and Richard Baum at Laharum Grove, which was ravaged in the January 2014 fires. Fortunately the eponymous Deirdre’s restaurant was saved.
We enjoy a platter with cheeses, chorizo, peppered beetroot, figs, cured salmon, Padron peppers, turkey and leek cabana and heritage tomatoes – with a glass of Montara Lili St Cyr sparkling chardonnay.
It’s been a brilliant adventure but now for the hard part – handing the keys back.
Food & Wine Festival
- A month-long food and wine festival culminating in the 25th annual Grampians Grape Escape weekend.
- From Saturday, April 30 to Sunday, May 1, at Halls Gap Recreation Reserve, corner Grampians and Mount Victory roads, Halls Gap
Harvest Halls Gap
- 2 Heath Street, Halls Gap. 5356 4782
- harvesthg.com.au or email@example.com
- 1603 Winfields Road, Laharum. 0429 136 319
- laharumgrove.com.au or firstname.lastname@example.org
Montara Grampians Wines
- 76 Chalambar Road, Ararat. 5352 3868
Mount Langi Ghiran
- 80 Vine Road, Bayindeen. 5354 3207
Grampians Olive Co
- 376 Olive Plantation Road, Laharum. 5383 8299
BMW X1 xDrive20d
- Price: From $56,500 + on-road costs
- Fuel consumption: 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres combined.
- The engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine. Produces 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Acceleration 7.6 seconds to 100km/h. Low & high output petrol and diesel engines available in the X1 range.
- Boot capacity: 505 litres; 1550 litres with back seats folded.
- 18-inch wheels standard (19-inch wheels standard on X1 x Drive25i)
- Eight-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic
- Automatic open and close tailgate