Flavours of the valley

Flavours of the valley

The food bowl of Victoria now has a tantalising tasting trail called Seasoned that links different facets of food production with consumers.


Think of Victoria’s Goulburn Valley and SPC products such as canned fruit and baked beans may come to mind. Indeed, the region’s main town of Shepparton is the site of one of the world’s largest canneries, which started in the early 20th century, when local European immigrant growers sought a solution to their production oversupply.

A new tasting trail, however, is aiming to bring much more to the table. Called Seasoned and recently launched by Destination Goulburn Valley (DGV), the trail includes farmgate products, brewers, distillers, roasters, winemakers, butchers, bakers and other makers, as well as restaurants and cafes.

It’s centred on the towns of Dookie, Mooroopna, Murchison, Tatura and Shepparton in the north of the state and takes the form of a smart 64-page booklet with an accompanying map that’s available online as well as locally. Those featured include Bunbartha Beef and Fine Produce, Premier Australian Walnuts, Tatura Milk, Black Rabbit Distillery, Cheeky Grog Co and Tallis Wine, just to name a few, plus an impressive array of eateries.

DGV executive officer Vicki Scott says the trail takes visitors and locals “on a story throughout the Goulburn Valley”. “We don’t always know what’s on our doorstep,” Vicki says. “These are experiences that aren’t going to break the bank. It will enable families, couples and individuals to go for a daytrip or it might be an overnight stay. Go and enjoy your coffee, some wine, something beautiful to eat, spend some time in those communities, just appreciating what a lot of our towns have to offer.”

Kelly McPherson showcasing premium produce at Bunbartha Beef; Sol Sutherland at The Dookie Emporium and cafe.

Vicki says DGV is an independent tourism advocate with a vision to put the region on the map. “We want to be seen, and we should be seen, as a destination offering,” she says. “Like a lot of regions, we’ve had tough times in COVID. We really want to support this region and drive the economy back on track. The floods last year also had an impact, and the project was put on hold. Through guts, determination and resilience we’ve kept forging on.”

One of the featured businesses is egg producer Goodlookin Googees located amid the rolling hills of Dookie. Although you can’t visit the chicken farm for biosecurity reasons, you can enjoy the difference a happy chook makes at restaurants, cafes and markets around the region. Co-owner Jo Nelson says she’s keen to be a part of the initiative. “It’s a very good idea to promote our area, telling people what is produced here,” she says. “They didn’t always connect the dots.”

Jo and her husband David have up to 1800 free-range Hyline hens across 90ha of chemical-free paddocks, using maremmas for protection.

Dino Lee and Kris Howley offer great food and coffee at Kialla’s Milestone Cafe; Chris Buzza of Mooroopna’s hip Bill + Beat’s.

“A lot of local businesses have supported us,” Jo says. “We have married up with a lot of cafes. They understand that because we focus on the health of the birds, we get a better product. Eggs aren’t just eggs. That’s like saying cars are cars. The cheapest product is not the best.”

Sandra and Guido Vazzoler own and run a cellar door and winery at Longleat on the banks of the Goulburn River in the small town of Murchison. Their dining room overlooks a backdrop of vines and river red gums – the perfect place to enjoy their latest release with a cheese platter and homemade pasta or desserts.

Varieties grown and produced at Longleat include semillon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, as well as a rosé, an Australian sparkling and a late harvest wine. 

“Seasoned has been a much-awaited resource for visitors,” Sandra says. “We’re very happy and proud to see it in circulation. The Goulburn Valley is home to some amazing producers, delicious products, and little hidden gems along the Goulburn River and into the hills. Seasoned extends the invitation to guests to visit, taste, try and explore.” 

A culinary journey might include freshly picked seasonal fruit from Boris’s Fruit Shed at Shepparton East, olives and olive oil produced in the paddocks surrounding the Kialla West Olivehouse and a visit to SPC Factory Sales in Shepparton, where preserved food products are available at a fraction of supermarket prices. 

Also in Shepparton, budding gourmands can sample brews from coffee beans grown worldwide at Brother Pablo cafe, taste artisan smallgoods at Krueger’s Fine Meats, and the best vanilla slice in the country – according to the Baking Association of Australia – at the North End Bakehouse. Each of the smaller towns also has its speciality offerings, from Bill + Beat’s stylish restaurant at Mooroopna and Kialla’s popular Milestone Cafe to Tatura Hot Bread and the whimsical Dookie Emporium.

“The Goulburn Valley has long been a productive and diverse community made up of a rich tapestry of tastes and cultures,” Vicki says. “Our produce is world class. Take the time to scratch the surface and you’ll discover talented locals drawing on traditions passed down through families and innovative next-generational artisans all honing their craft baking, growing, mixing, making and brewing, in changing landscapes that move with the seasons.”