Wow, was I in for a treat!
Looking at these photos from my stay at the Mount Ophir Estate, I’m immediately transported back to Australia. I close my eyes and I can see it all again.
The tall golden grasses home to kangaroos (and god knows what else), the hot winds, gum trees lining historical farm estates and old wineries, the gold rush era towns, but most of all the red earth beneath my bare feet. What a place!
When I reflect on my time in Victoria, this is what I remember. For me it felt so distinctly Australian, which I know sounds silly.
Iconically Oz, these region is the perfect escape for people looking for an authentic Australian experience in a beautiful place without the hustle and bustle of tourism in the more iconic locals.
Punching in the code, I opened the farm gate at the entrance of Mount Ophir Estate, a place unlike any other I’ve been to before or since. And doubt I ever will.
Greeted by wide open fields of tall golden grass (wheat? not a farmer here) tempting me to frolic through them barefoot in a flowy dress a la Instagram, which I of course resisted as frolicking in tall grasses in the summer in rural Australia is highly discouraged (cough, cough, snakes), I could see my destination amongst the spaced-out restored buildings – a beautiful brick tower.
A very unique and special bit of dirt, Mount Ophir Estate an exclusive property outside Rutherglen in North East Victoria. Once a thriving winemaking hub, it fell into disuse 60 years ago before being lovingly restored by the local Brown siblings.
First built at the tail end of the nineteenth century as a farm and vineyard, Mount Ophir Estate really came into its own when it was developed by wine merchants, the Burgoyne family at the turn of the century, where it quickly became the largest winemaking facility in the southern hemisphere.
Harking back to their french culture, they built a stunning french provincial tower on the estate, which still stands today and has been transformed into one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed.
Honestly, it was like a real life Australian fairytale.
For decades it was mostly forgotten, a lonely and an overgrown collection of winery buildings, before the land was bought by Eliza, Angela, Nick Brown a few years ago, who have painstakingly restored building by building themselves, breathing new life back into a spectacular place.
Owners of the nearby All Saints Estate and Terrace Restaurant, a must-stop on a trip to Rutherglen, the Browns have poured their heart and soul into revitalizing this incredible area.
Very much a family owned and operated business, everywhere you look you can see little touches they’ve put into making this a memorable stay and experience.
Six of the buildings have now been restored and are available to rent, or even to hire out the whole estate for functions, weddings and events. Some sleep up to 20 while others, like the Tower, are for couples or solo travelers like me.
As soon as I turned the old heavy key to the Tower to walk inside, I think I immediately fell in love with this place.
The extraordinary French Provincial tower at Mount Ophir Estate surely is the gem of the property and one one the neatest and most unique places I’ve ever stayed, which I do not boast lightly.
Spread over three floors, you walk in and greeted by the loveliest dining space and kitchen, well-stocked with local treats and everything you need (hello Nespresso machine!) curving along the walls in the circular space. The walls are decorated with artwork by locals.
A stunning narrow spiral staircase, leads you upwards to the second floor, a library and lounge with beautiful views over the estate. Chock full of colorful books, cozy sitting nooks and a vibe that inspires you to make a cocktail and park up and stay awhile, once you sit down, it’s not easy to get back up again.
Saving the best for last, the top floor is the bedroom complete with a marble bathroom and the coziest bed inviting you for a little nap.
I’ll just note here, the Tower at Mount Ophir is not for kids and is suited for agile people who don’t mind being out on their own. As a stubborn and lifelong solo female traveler, I wasn’t phased staying out on the Estate alone.
I came back after an incredible night out in the dark in a wicked thunderstorm which I thoroughly enjoyed but I imagine could freak out some folks.
Perhaps what I love best about this place is that the family truly believes and practices sustainable farm management and are working to be guardians of this special land. The winery will once again be running after decades of silence, with the first vintage being released in a few years.
How cool is that? Bringing back Mount Ophir to its form prestige and glory!
Now for the food and wine lovers, this area of Victoria is known for a local variety of grape called Durif as well as Brown Muscat, something new for me. For over a century, they’ve been harvesting grapes here, and Rutherglen arguably produces the best durif in the world. A late ripening variety, it requires a warm climate to develop to enough to “tame the tannins.” A big, bold red, I immediately fell in love.
Though not as in love as when I got my first sip of the local Muscat. Holy hell, where have you been all my life? Rich and ripe, this fortified wine won me over immediately, and I left with 3 bottles.
While I could wax lyrical about the wine of the Rutherglen area forever, I’ll leave you with the memory that this was one of my favorite days in Australia. Maybe it’s the wine talking, but I loved it!
Have you ever stayed anywhere like the Tower in Victoria? Do you travel for food and wine too? Have you ever tried a Durif or Muscat? Spill!
The Feast High Country Festival coming up from May 3rd to May 19th, 2019 and is an amazing time to explore, eat and drink around the Victoria High Country