All the Bubbles! La Dolce Vita Festival November 15-16, 2014.


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If this picture is making you thirsty, there are number of fantastic ways to get your bubbles on, Italian Style, at the annual Dolce Vita Festival in the King Valley, November 14-16.

Brown Brothers is celebrating 125 years of wine making at their 28th annual Spring Wine & Food Festival Opening Dinner, where you can dine with members of the Brown family at Patricia’s Table restaurant in the Epicurean Centre at  Milawa.

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This exclusive members-only event features a delectable four course meal with matched wines created by  award winning Head Chef Douglas Elder.
Over the weekend you can also experience some fantastic wine and food matching at Patricia & Co Pop-Up Wine and Food Bar, visit Epicurean Express for mouth-watering dishes direct from the delicious kitchen, or simply grab a picnic basket and get comfortable on the lawns listening to some wonderful live acoustic music. You’ll also be one of the first to get the chance to take a peek inside the beautiful, newly restored historic barn, the place where the King Valley wine adventure started. Drop in, relax, explore!

Dal Zotto Wines in Whitfield are celebrating their 10th Anniversary of producing Australia’s first Prosecco at their Primavera del Prosecco event this year.

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New release wines include 2014 Arneis, 2014 Riesling, 2014 Vintage Pucino and N.V. Pucino Prosecco. They are also very excited to announce the return of the ever popular Barbera Frizzante and an exciting new variety to the Dal Zotto range – the 2014 Garganega.

The Prosecco Cocktail Bar will be open again from 11 am until 8pm on Saturday and 10 am – 5 pm on Sunday, and for the kids, clown fun, with  2 x jumping castles (for big and little kids), face painting and craft activities.

“Wine Flights” will be served with food matches in the Trattoria by the winemaker and Dal Zotto family and team.

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House made Pizza, kids meals, delicious spring produce, together with famous Gelato Messina treats are only a few of the food options on offer, there will be music by local artists Tom Kline, Paul William Ray & Band and you can groove away the night with DJ Emlyn Andres at the  “Prosecco Nights” event (Sat 4pm-8pm)  where they will be crowning the King and Queen of Prosecco – and you can be assured I’ll be back defending my title as Prosecco Queen!

After 5pm on Saturday, enjoy Otto Dal Zotto’s now famous Tuscan Pork Roll – succulent spit roasted pork (that’s Eric below from the Trattoria doing a test run a few weeks ago), lovingly cooked all day and served up on house made bread rolls with Italian slaw….Bellisimo!IMG_1630

 

Pizzini Wines

 

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Every year Pizzini put on their ‘Gnocchi Carnevale’ as part of La Dolce Vita Festival. Along with Katrina Pizzini’s famous homemade gnocchi, there will be pork belly, Zatar crusted BBQ salmon, roast pumpkin and caramelised onion cannelloni, as well as a huge array of amazing desserts, and kids get to try Nonna’s bolognaise. There’s also an ice cream bar, market stalls, music, giant sandpit and art space for the kids as well as kite making, and roving entertainers teaching the kids circus art like hooping, enthralling with balloon art, face painting and magical tricks. All this means you will be free to sit and enjoy the sunshine, and all the wine. There’s also the annual gnocchi rolling and wine spitting competitions,

Fred Pizzini has grown over 275 kilograms of Dutch Cream potatoes especially for the gnocchi. It would be rude not to help them eat it.

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Just 5 minutes down the road you’ll find Politini Wines and Chrismont Wines, in Cheshunt.

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(image from Visit Victoria)

 

This year Politini are serving up a sensational southern Italian feast of seafood with a Mediterranean twist by the team of ‘Rinaldo’s Casa e Cucina’, plus Nonna Josie’s home-cooked fare and delicious Italian sweets including her ever popular amici & dolce platters.

IMG_0990Chrismont are celebrating with a two-day, lively affair brimming with exciting new release wines, top entertainment and dishes inspired by a southern Italian holiday, all with the region’s majestic vistas as your backdrop.

You can also experience a touch of Venice at the Bellini Bar with cocktails of La Zona Bellini and La Zona Spritz showcasing Chrismont’s La Zona Prosecco. This dry sparkling wine made in the authentic northern Italian style is shaping up to be the drink of summer – so jump in while it’s still spring and enjoy Prosecco ‘viva la vita’ style.

You can check out the entire Dolce Vita festival program HERE

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It occurred to me whilst finding images for this post that I have taken A LOT of photos of prosecco. And the King Valley. And I’m ok with that. It’s pretty. And I love it, so remember:

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* I was not asked to write this post, I am not being paid to write this post. It’s a public service announcement about all the bubbles. That is all. Prosecco Queen out…

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My picks for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014

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The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is upon us again, which many of us have been eagerly awaiting since last October, when the program was first announced.

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It’s another fantastic opportunity to showcase the talents of our world-renowned hospitality industry, as well as showing off the beauty of our city, the always elegant Lady Melbourne.

This year the Festival theme is WATER and there are many clever and original ideas and events based around this to wet your whistle and whet your appetite.
Following are my picks for the Festival. Not surprisingly they feature a lot of wine.  But wine has lots of water in it, so it’s totally on topic…
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The clever people from Hassell who put together last year’s Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar at the Festival, are behind this state of the art structure nestling on the left bank of the Yarra River at Queensbridge Square.
Immerse yourself in foodie delights at the open kitchen from numerous chefs including Daniel Wilson and Adam Liston,  learn about growing your own food, and discover cocktail delights complete with chemistry lessons when the sun goes down and it transforms into a riverside bar.
This one has my interest due to my love of both chefs and photography. A chance to see some of Australia’s top chefs captured in their natural habitat, and out of it, with surprising and amusing results. It’s also FREE.
Sommeliers Long Lunch – Sunday March 2
Hosted by Sommeliers Australia, with a 6 course extravaganza from Pope Joan, and wines expertly paired by top Melbourne Sommeliers from Rockpool, Grossi Florentino and Attica, this is one lunch you won’t want to miss. Held at Ormond Hall, this is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and funds raised help further the education of our local Sommeliers overseas. A fun wine-matching competition will take place across the event with the host sommeliers battling each other for crowd approval.  Just make sure you take the tram home!
Dreamily handsome Chef Luigi Taglienti shares his passion for Italian gastronomy in this Langham Masterclass.  Luigi, executive chef at the Michelin starred Ristorante Trussardi Alla Scala in Milan,  is known for blending traditional Italian flavours and seasonal produce with avant garde techniques, with spectacular results.  Add some fine Italian wine varietals from Dal Zotto in North East Victoria and you have yourself a winner here.
Regional Weekend March 14-16:  a long lunch, lilos and fly-fishing
St Leonards Long Lunch  Friday March 14
What’s not to love about a long lunch – especially in somewhere as gorgeous as Rutherglen in Victoria’s North East?
St Leonards are putting on a four-hour feast of epic proportions, and with a wine history stretching back to the 1860s, the refreshments will be as delicious as the local produce.
Lilos and Prosecco  Saturday March 15
Once you’re done here, stay the night and next morning scoot across to the King Valley and front up at Dal Zotto Wines at 10am for Lilos and Prosecco. A bus takes you to a perfect spot along the King River and after a safety demo you jump aboard a floaty pillow of fun and glide down the crystal waters that run through the picturesque valley of the Kings and home of Prosecco in Australia. Afterwards enjoy a beautiful lunch and plentiful prosecco at the Dal Zotto Trattoria.
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After the excitement of Saturday, you can try Fly-fishing on the King River on Sunday at Pizzini Wines.  Starting off with some fly fishing lessons, and then lunch and wine tasting with Joel Pizzini at the Cellar Door, you’ll head off to the river to try and catch your dinner. If you’re really nice Fred Pizzini might even share his favourite fishing spots with you.
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I’m excited and exhausted just thinking about all the fantastic events on offer this year, but I’ve been in training and my liver is ready and raring to go!
Buon appetito and look out for my Instagram feed for more fun and games from MFWF2014!
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for including any of the events listed here in my blog.  I am not attending any of these ticketed events for free. Any events I am invited to attend over the course of MFWF14 will be fully disclosed.

Volvo Prosecco-Road Trip

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A group of food and wine loving friends, and 2 brand new Volvos to test drive on a recent Autumn weekend saw us head to the King Valley in North East Victoria.

Just 3 hours from Melbourne, this is the birthplace of Prosecco, or Italian sparkling wine in Australia, and is aptly known as the ‘Prosecco Road’.  It is also home to a number of other excellent red and white Italian varietals. Our destination was Pizzini Wines, a family owned and run winery in Whitfield, in the heart of the King Valley.

The Cars
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Silverstone Volvo in Doncaster very kindly loaned us a brand spanking new XC60 R Design as well as the newly released V40, the latest in a line-up of sleek and sexy designs from the Swedish car maker who has undergone a revolution in recent years, amping up its image from safe but boxy and much maligned to what are now some of the best looking cars around.

At the recommendation of  Allison Walker  from  Mansfield Farmers Market , we went via Mansfield and tested out the cars on some wonderful curvy roads, driving through stunning countryside, past rolling green hills dotted with cattle, with a quick coffee stop at the delightful  Tea Rooms of Yarck .

The V40 is essentially a 5 door hatchback, but feels much larger and more spacious than your average hatch. It is a classy, sporty number (ours had a stunning cream leather interior) and is fabulous for city driving, especially with its additional features like park assist, a blind spot warning system, pedestrian airbag, and pedestrian detection with an auto-brake function. You’d be hard pressed to find a safer car. It’is also incredibly fuel efficient, and comes with start-stop technology (it turns itself off whilst you’re waiting at the traffic lights). I have a huge car crush on this little lady and did NOT want to give her back at the end of our weekend. She is also surprisingly affordable, priced at around $40K, give or take.

The XC60 R Design, a family-oriented crossover SUV, goes head to head with the likes of the Audi A5 size-wise and easily holds it own with looks, performance, and features, as well as offering value for money. We drove the petrol version, which has a turbocharged engine with plenty of oomph and goes from 0 – 100 kph in just 5.8 seconds. And from one bass-loving hip-hop fan I can confirm the stereo is in fact THE SHIZZLE.

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The Pizzini family have been in the King Valley for over 50 years, starting out in tobacco farming and then transforming the land into vineyards, initially growing Riesling grapes for Brown Brothers in Milawa in the late 70’s, then adding Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz vines, the fruit of which was then sold to winemaking companies all over Australia.

In the mid 80’s, Fred Pizzini started experimenting with the Northern Italian grape varieties, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, and eventually expanded into other Italian varietals, including Il Barone, Arneis, Pinot Grigio, Verduzzo, Brachetto, Prosecco and Picolit.

You will usually find Fred at the Cellar Door, sharing his passion for his wine, family and the region, together with winemaker son Joel, whose love of grapes has seen him complete vintages in Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula as well as in Italy at Marenco in Piemonte and Isole e Olena in Tuscany (one of the world’s top ten wineries and producers of one of the three top Sangioveses in Italy).

Check out wine writer, personal wine valet, and fellow road-tripper Catherine Whelan, aka Lady Of Oenotria for her take on our Pizzini Cellar Door experience.

The Cooking School – A Tavola

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Katrina Pizzini is passionate about the Italian recipes passed down from her mother-in-law, and her cooking classes are the perfect way to experience some of the flavours of the region, whilst learning some traditional skills like making gnocchi, pastry and pasta.

Katrina is the most gorgeous lady, patient and kind (and extremely diplomatic when you stuff something up!). Her cooking tips include some gems for even the most seasoned home cook, she makes everything look easy, and she’s so super lovely I asked her to adopt me (sorry mum if you’re reading this).

The commercial kitchen is equipped with everything you need to feel like a total professional, and to keep the magic alive you can also take home her beautiful cookbook, ‘A Tavola’. During our cooking class we made bolognaise, potato gnocchi, and apple strudel, (with fruit from Nonna Pizzini’s apple trees), and then sat outside in the Autumn sunshine and enjoyed the fruits of our labour with some Prosecco. Salute!

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The Dal Zotto family, like the Pizzinis, have a long history in the King Valley (the two families are in fact related).  Otto Dal Zotto and his sons introduced Prosecco to the King Valley in 2000, and indeed to Australia. Otto claims he has wine in his veins rather than blood, and he is infectious in his enthusiasm for Prosecco and how it brings people together.   He is quite simply my hero.

By 2011 there were another  5 wineries in the region all producing Prosecco, including Brown Brothers, Pizzini, Sam Miranda, Chrismont, and Ciccone. They formed together a gourmet food and wine trail now known as The Prosecco Road.  For me Prosecco is a wine that suits every occasion, is great with meals or on its own, is celebratory, fun, easy to drink and perfect shared with friends. It captures the spirit of Italian hospitality in a bottle, and I am working hard to consume as much Prosecco as possible in my lifetime. So far I’m pretty pleased with my efforts. Anyone who knows me will know that it is nearly always ‘Prosecco Time’.

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Apart from a great cellar door experience, the Dal Zotto trattoria is a must visit if you’re in the King Valley. The menu features Italian-inspired seasonal and regional produce, from simple yet stunning antipasto platters to delicious handmade pasta. The family matriarch ‘Nonna Elena’ is a keen gardener, and still works to produce fresh ingredients for the kitchen.

Dinner – the Mountain View Hotel

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The Mountain View Hotel is a boutique gastro pub owned by the Pizzini family, in the heart of Whitfield, and its modern European-inpired menu is the work of chef Scott Burness, who has worked in kitchens all over the world including New Zealand, Scotland, the United States and Australia.

The service  here is city standard with country charm, and the food is nothing short of delightful.

The highlights of our meal (apart from spending it in the company of Katrina, Nat and Carla Pizzini) included the Bundarra Berkshire pork belly special, the dry aged Black Angus porterhouse, with onion marmalade, baby carrots, truffle potato foam and jus, and a stand-out dessert of pistachio and olive oil cake, roasted peach and vanilla bean ice cream.

The Mountain View on its own is well worth the trip to the King Valley, and is also home to the ‘Lana’ label of food-focussed wines, made by Joel Pizzini.

 

Accomodation – Jessie’s Creek Cottage

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This gorgeous new addition to Whitfield offers beautiful modern accomodation, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, luxury furnishings, a stunning fully-equipped kitchen, huge back yard and most importantly, is in staggering distance to the Mountain View Hotel. Cheers!

Thank you to the divine Pizzini family for hosting us so beautifully, and we can’t wait to see you again very soon!

You can also check out my Pinterest album for our all our Instagram pictures of the weekend here .