Yarra Valley gets the lion’s share of luxury-wine-escape attention, but keep driving north and you’ll discover a lesser known, but equally charming, wine-producing valley.
The King Valley, just over three hours drive from Melbourne, is widely known as the home of Australian prosecco. The region boasts an impressive roster of wineries – Brown Brothers, Politini and Chrismont, among them – but I’ve been invited to enjoy the spoils of prosecco pioneers Dal Zotto Wines.
Winding along the Maroondah Highway in my glossy blue Honda CRV – I follow the curvy mountain roads leading into what was once Victoria’s tobacco heartland.
Later, sitting outside the Dal Zotto cellar door and trattoria with winemaker Michael Dal Zotto and his brand-manager brother Christian – Pucino Prosecco NV in hand and picture-perfect hills in the background – I hear of the winery’s evolution from a humble vineyard in the mid-1980s to a thriving 21st-century business.
Grapes imported from septuagenarian patriarch Otto Dal Zotto’s former Italian home of Veneto produced Dal Zotto’s first prosecco release in 2004.
“Our volumes were so small we had to limit the amount of bottles people could buy to three. Now it’s a three-box minimum buy,” Michael says.
As we talk, an Insta-worthy charcuterie board featuring supple duck, crispy polenta chips and a moreish chocolate tart offers a taste of what’s on offer at the trattoria inside. It’s brilliantly enhanced by the refreshing bubbles and a selection of Dal Zotto’s other drops, such as the sublime barbera.
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The winery’s miner’s-style cottage No. 1 Bakery Lane – a short walk from the cellar door – is a peaceful retreat before a night-time feast at the trattoria. My mushroom pizza with stracciatella, truffle oil and caramelised onion is a standout.
Next morning, the trattoria prepares a picnic pack for a drive to take in stunning vistas of Lake William Hovell. Prosecco and rosato pair perfectly with the cheese, antipasti and salumi. A visit to King Valley is incomplete without a drive to Powers Lookout for gorgeous views of the valley.
At a dinner among the vines that night, I’m lucky to spend more time with the Dal Zottos. Looking around the table at three generations, it’s clear their talk of tradition isn’t marketing spin. “We’re all about family tradition and innovation,” Otto says.