Jack Kerouac inspired the Beat Generation with his dreamy prose and tales of friendship and adventure with an implied jazz back beat. It seems appropriate then to paraphrase from the magnificent On the Road when contemplating a long weekend in Jazz country, where, with so many interesting things to do, who’s got time to sleep?
For over twenty five years the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues has satisfied the yearnings of hard core jazz and blues fans who, like a Dizzy Gillespie solo, barely come up for air as they immerse themselves in four days of non-stop jazz and blues.
But for those of you who like the idea of new adventures here’s five great ways to take a break from the music and breath in some of that fresh High Country air.
Discover Prosecco along Prosecco Road
You’d struggle to find a friendlier or more hospitable family than the Dal Zottos of the King Valley. It’s little surprise that Otto Dal Zotto pioneered Prosecco in Australia given he shares its birthplace in Northern Italy, as well as its inherently friendly nature. The King Valley has established itself as the home of Prosecco in Australia with many of Otto’s neighbours having turned their hands and vineyards to producing this increasingly popular style of sparkling.
Prosecco is a wine best served at social gatherings in a fluted glass, preferably as a counter balance to a bocce ball. Six King Valley wineries got together a while ago and created Prosecco Road which is effectively a progressive tasting of Prosecco with each winery offering a Prosecco ‘experience’ involving their respective house style. Prosecco Road is a great way to discover Prosecco and an even better way to experience La Dolce Vita.
Follow in Ned Kelly’s tracks
There’s a saying, “Watch out for Ned Kelly, he’s everywhere” and sure enough old Ned can be seen from Tassie to Townsville on everything from tea towels to tattoos.
But the real Ned Kelly story resides in North East Victoria and there is something quite moving when you sit on the same rock at Powers Lookout, looking down on the King Valley, just as an anxious Ned did all those years ago laying low, avoiding the police.
Ned Kelly’s virtues may still be contested but the places where his legend played out provide a tangible connection to what is certainly one of the most significant stories in Australia’s history.
From Glenrowan, site of the shoot out, to Beechworth where Ned was trialled and held before his final trip to Melbourne Gaol, take a trip through Kelly country.
Go with the flow
The King River flows gently through the King Valley feeding Lake William Hovell, perched in tranquil bush on the edge of the Alpine National Park. Wend through the valley, tracing the course of the river and along the way fill your picnic basket with the bounty of this celebrated food and wine region.
The Milawa Cheese Company has an extensive range of handmade cheeses and fresh baked breads while EV Olives has some of the finest olives you’ll ever taste. Take your pick from the many winery Cellar Doors in a region best known for its Mediterranean varieties which just happen to make great partners to an al fresco feast.
Pedal to Produce
Take a leisurely bike ride through the villages of Milawa and Oxley along the pedal to produce trail. The rail trail provides a safe, flat path through pretty countryside where the air is fresh and you’ll pass an abundance of farmgates, restaurants, cellar doors and restaurants. If you don’t have a bike, borrow one for free from Brown Brothers but beware, with over fifty wines on tasting and one of the best restaurants in the region you may not make it past the historic gates of this great winery.
And finally, number 5…
Well, that’s for you to discover. Why not start your journey here.
There is accommodation for all tastes and budgets in Jazz country but book early because the Jazz and Blues Festival weekend is busy and finding a bed can be a challenge. Mind you, with such little time to sleep maybe that’s not such a problem after all?