They say ‘it’s not about the destination, its all about the journey’ – I have never really understood this quote. Isn’t the whole point of going somewhere to enjoy being there? It took me 28 years but now I finally understand exactly what this quote is all about.
How did I figure this out I hear you ask?
It all happened about 300 km north of Melbourne. It was over a weekend full of wine, food, new friends, and cycling the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. Although this sounds like a combination that might end in disaster, what we experienced with Tour De Vines was nothing short of outstanding.
After a quick 3-hour drive from Melbourne. We meet our lovely guide at the Armour Motor Inn. It was Octoberfest weekend and the town of Beechworth was buzzing. We quickly checked in and headed off to our room where we received our welcoming packages with information about the weekend ahead.
We quickly freshened up and headed into town to meet the rest of our tour group, that was already at the Bridge Road Brewery enjoying the great selection of in-house craft beers.
We introduced ourselves and got talking about our past cycling experiences, shared our love of food & wine and got to know each other.
Our local guide gave us an in-depth rundown of our itinerary for the next 2 days before we indulged in the fantastic gourmet pizza. After a couple more drinks we headed back for a good nights rest before our cycling adventure along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
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We were too excited to sleep, so we woke early Saturday morning. Our guide had mentioned there was a great short walk around Lake Sambell which was just over the road from our accommodation. We were up early enough to watch the sunrise over the lake and mountain in the distance.
We met the rest of the group for breakfast at Project 49 around 8:30 am. Project 49 is a cafe/deli/wine bar offering a mouth-watering selection of handcrafted goods from small-scale producers around the area. We loaded up on a healthy dose of carbs & caffeine. I would highly recommend the granola bowl, its an Instagrammers dream and the perfect way to get fueled up for the day.
We then headed down to the old Beechworth jail where we got fitted with our bikes and helmets. After one final brief of the day’s route & activities, we were off to our first winery.
We headed off down the Beechworth – Everton Rail Trail. The first cellar door was a short 15-minute downhill ride into the trail.
We arrived at the Pennyweight Winery door just on opening. We were all eager to sample their wine and learn about their range of certified bio-dynamic wines. It was very interesting to learn all about how Stephen and Elizabeth produce their wine without any irrigation or chemicals. They even hand-pick all the grapes at harvest time!
We are usually hand-to-heart red wine drinkers, however, the Pennyweight Riesling was one of the early highlights.
It was a beautiful spring morning and the whole group was in good spirits after the first stop. As we rode off down the trail we were delighted to learn that of the 43kms we had in front of us, 20km was downhill, 16km was flat and only 7km was uphill (this was welcome news to Brittnay, as she hadn’t ridden much before).
The second stop of the day was at Gapstead Winery. This was a spot that I was very excited about. I am a big fan of the Tobacco Road 2017 Sangiovese and wanted to learn more about the range of wines Gapstead is famous for.
When we arrived at Gapstead we were met by gorgeous views over the vines and surrounding mountains. It was the perfect spot to relax and take in the views while waiting for our lunch.
We started off by having a group tasting of Tobacco Road NV Processco, Gapstead Saperavi and the Gapsted 2017 Petit Manseng. Our second wine highlight of the trip was the Processco. It might have been the 30 odd km that we had just ridden in the sun, or it might have been the combination of great views, great weather and bubbles that made the first sip of the stop so amazing!
Shortly after the tasting our lunch platters where bought out. The impressive platters were filled with local cheese, olives, a selection of charcuterie, warm garlic focaccia and salad. We enjoyed the wonderful food & basked in the sun, before heading in for one last wine tasting. Following that, we jumped back on our bikes and headed towards Myrtleford.
The Ride from Gapstead into Myrtleford was flat and easy-going. Our guide pointed out local points of interest and facts about the area. I was surprised to learn the crops we were cycling past were actually hops that was used in the beer at Bridge Road Brewers Brewery.
Upon arriving in Myrtleford we where all in good spirits. We checked into our hotel and found our bags were already placed in the rooms by the Tour De Vines team. Our guide advised us that the evening would be a free evening to explore the town and check out the local shops, bars and restaurants.
We all met at the Alpine Gate Cafe to once again fuel up for the day of riding ahead. I would highly recommend the eggs benedict! The Alpine Gate Cafe is apart of the tourist information building. It is a great place to soak up some information about the area and talk to the locals.
We set off on the days 30km ride, this stretch is a nice flat ride and provides stunning views over the wineries, hop farms and surrounding mountains. Our first stop of the day was at the Australian Pumpkin Seed Factory at Pepo Farms. We were not quite sure what to expect from this stop, however, we were very impressed. The owners are extremely passionate about what they do.
We learnt all about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, different nut oils and their wide selection of all natural, gluten-free, vegetarian & vegan-friendly products. We left Pepo Farms feeling like everyone should come here and learn about the health benefits of these underrated nuts and seeds.
Lunch was booked in at Ringer Reef Winery, this is another winery that we were very excited to visit. We had heard about this place from friends and were dying to learn more.
On the way to Ringer Reef, we came across another winery that looked too good to pass up – Feathertop Winery. This winery was beautiful. It had great views, great wine and a build it yourself platter menu!
As a group, we made a decision that we had time to check out this winery. We tasted more wine and studied the menu. We will be coming back to try out the restaurant for sure! After a few cheeky purchases, we were off for our last winery of the trip.
We arrived at the Ringer Reef and were met with spectacular views and beautiful blue skies. We met the owner Mark Holm, and he was quick to get into telling us about the history of the winery, and the wines that he produces.
Ringer Reef is a small winery ran by Mark & his wife Julie. Mark took over the operation from his parents Annie & Bruce who originally planted the vines & produced the wine.
The wines are all handmade and bottled on site by Mark and his family. A lot of love goes into these bottles and when talking to Mark you can get a real feel for the passion he has for making wine and continuing his family’s traditions. The winery doesn’t sell commercially, only from the cellar door and to a few select restaurants in the area.
We got to tasting and we were very impressed by the love and passion Mark had for each wine. He could even sense we were all a little hungry and offered us sourdough bread his wife had baked that morning (it was absolutely delicious!)
It was at this point where I had my favourite wine of the trip. The Ringer Reef 2018 Petit Manseng. I have never been a white wine drinker, however, this wine has changed that. It was a very refreshing, well balanced citric white wine. You couldn’t ask for a better drop to sip away on a Sunday afternoon.
After the tasting Mark got to making our lunch. He presented us with four platters full of homemade dips, chutneys, sourdough, local cheeses, olives and meat.
Ringer Reef was more than a perfect spot to sit and soak up some amazing views with our new good friends. We could even see the only snow-capped peak of Feathertop.
After lunch, we slowly rode off the remaining 10km into Bright where the tour came to an end. Before we got picked up, we had a ride around Bright and checked out the famous Bright Ice Creamery. We all grabbed a delicious cone and ate it on the banks of the Ovens River.
Our new group of friends exchanged numbers and photos and reminisced over the past 2 days. We had all had an amazing time riding the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. It was an experience full of scenic views, great wine, amazing food.
Over the weekend we clocked up just shy of 100kms. Since most of the trail is downhill or flat it is a very easy and enjoyable ride. It’s amazing how quickly you can cover such long distances.
When we got to our destination of Bright, it hit me. It’s really not about your destination, but all about the journey.