Rutherglen & Milawa Grog Tour

This trip occurred on the weekend (Friday to Tuesday) on which the following took place: the federal election, Phillip Island Motorcycle races, Bathurst race and it was in the middle of the Victorian gas crisis. (October 1998)

Day 1

The Car trip (yuk!)

We had to endure 8 or so hours in our hatchback with two trikes on the borrowed trailer, a racer dismantled and in the trailer, and an MTB dismantled and in the hatch with wheels, seats pedals etc spread amongst our luggage. Just to get everything in was a challenge worthy of the assembled gathering - Mark (a Ph.D. student in Maths), Claudio (a Ph.D. in Maths), Fran who is doing Masters in Maths, and me to take instructions from those who can work these things out :)

On arrival in Milawa at about 16:15 we threw all our luggage into our respective motel rooms, reassembled the bikes, bought batteries for Fran's front light and rode a very short 6 km down the road the Markwoood Estate. The owner and winemaker here is one FJ (Rick) Morris who has built a small winery dedicated to his grandfather, and produces some extremely fine wines.

Fran and I have known Rick since the early 80s. Our baroque flute and recorder teacher form our undergrad days at the Conservatorium used to bring parties of us here to stay with Rick and taste wines from this famous NE region of Victoria. Mark and Claudio had not been here before (Claudio is on a visiting fellowship to Uni of Sydney for a few months) and were, not surprisingly, taken aback by the excellence of the wines, the Tawny and White ports in particular.

Markwood Estate wines cannot be found anywhere in Sydney, and only sometimes in one or two shops in Melbourne. Rick makes small quantities and sells it without the use or need for advertising or retail outlets. A cheque was soon written for a few dozen bottles and a few of the bottles squeezed into my top-box, the rest to be delivered to our home the following week.

Next step - shower and dinner. Well, this area of Victoria is far enough from the main centres that many motels, shops and so on have bottled gas so we had no trouble getting hot showers and a good meal. The Rhine Riesling and the Cabernet were of course excellent, and with the Sacher Torte we had some White Port.


Day 2

Election Day (double yuk!)

Breakfast was excellent and after a short time mostly allocated to me patching a flat on the MTB we were off! (yes, I know think we've been off for years...) We were headed for Baileys of Glenrowan. Baileys has many good wines, but supreme among the offerings are the Muscats and Tokays. This was to be a great day.

The weather improved from early morning rain to cloudy and then warm and sunny by about 9:30. We rode quite slowly partly due to the wind and partly because we had all had to much white port the night before, but so what! The ride is flat except for a 300 metre climb through Taminick Gap. At the top of the climb we rested a little and then took off for what was to be a great downhill. Mark disappeared early and I decided that Fran and I would wait for a while so Claudio could get well ahead of us - then we took off. After the first bend I reached 69 km/h and as I rounded the next...OH NO! Claudio had fallen off!

I jammed on the brakes, but from 72 km/h it takes a while to come to rest. As I turned around Fran came down and also hit the brakes. We found Claudio in excellent spirits but with what we all suspected was a dislocated shoulder. Fran rode off the find Mark - the vineyard was only 2 km away so she would not have far to go.

Claudio had some nasty abrasions but made light of his situation and eventually stood up and we chatted for a few minutes...Mark and Fran arrived and we hatched a cunning plan...(apologies to Black Adder fans)

Mark and I rode back to Milawa and for me it was just wonderful. I had never ridden at this sort of speed for an extended period. We didn't drop under 60 on the downhill and for the entire 25 km home we kept above 36, often above 40. Now most riders can do this with ease, and indeed it was not new for Mark, for an an aging 40 yr-old I thought I di d quite well. We decided that rather than take our car back we'd call an Ambulance to get Claudio, and then take the trailer to pick up his MTB and Fran and her trike - today's riding was over.

In due course Claudio was taken to Wangarratta Hospital , we picked up the bikes and Fran, took them back to Milawa and then set off to the Hospital, by car.

After several hours Claudio was released with no serious injuries; a very sore but not dislocated shoulder and some scratches covered in iodine based ointment. His sling made a great fashion statement as did his somewhat shredded riding nicks. He was sore and needed rest, painkillers and probably a good drink, but that was out for now. Mark and Claudio had 'quite time'.

Fran had been short changed on the ride, so she and I went out for a pleasant late afternoon 21 km trip around Milawa and Oxley.

On our return we showered, changed and decided, as we always must, that it was beer and chips time! Dinner at the Pub was excellent, especially the Stanton and Killeen Moodemere red (1990) which went really well with the Kangaroo meat and local mustard. Even Claudio and seemed to enjoy his meal and we all felt a little relieved that he was not seriously hurt and was able to enjoy a meal and our stupid discussions and attempts at humour.

The evening ended with a session of Lie-Dice and some white port

Day 3

Bathurst, Phillip Island and us

The weather was perfect. a cool, almost cold morning, not a cloud in the ceiling, and a very light breeze. Claudio was clearly out of action for today, and expressed a wish to act in a way more normal for him. He skipped breakfast and declared we should meet for lunch.

The three of us set off for a ride to Rutherglen. This trip is almost flat the entire way, the largest hill being the bridge over the Freeway. It was uneventful - just such a glorious day to be out cycling. We arrived at Buller's vineyard and tasted some wines and fortifieds, bought a few and returned to Milawa. Now that all sounds very short and sweet, but the ride was 102 km all up. Of course on our return


Claudio expressed the desire to become a hitman, which prompted us to nickname him "Hitman Hermida". This sounds much better if a good Argentinean accent is used

During the afternoon I turned on the television to discover that Mic Doohan had won the Phillip Is Grand Prix and the Jim Richards took his 6th Bathurst 1000. We had, however, achieved a long ride in a reasonable time (av speed for me and Fran was 23, Mark did some sections faster). This was in fact Fran's longest ride on the trike so far!

It was time for us too to use petrol based transport so we visited the Milawa Cheese factory which was crowded with other tourists. The cheeses are excellent, especially the many varieties of white a blue mould cheeses. This tasting session was the perfect precursor to our visit to Bailey's. The previous day Hitman Hermida had done his Mulga Bill trick only 2 km short of Bailey's Vineyard.

Baileys produces some of the best fortified wines of the Rutherglen region, the Muscats and Tokays being our particular favourites. We tasted, ordered some wine to be sent back home for all of us, and took a bottle for dinner.

Quiet time...

...Beer and Chips at the pub...

Dinner at the King River Cafe was excellent. It is a first class restaurant about 4 km down the road from Milawa in the similarly tiny town of Oxley. Despite our having used sunburn cream early that morning, all three of us who had ridden were sunburnt, and tended to groan each time we had to get our of a sitting position as our legs felt the strain of the day's efforts. Hitman however, who was in real discomfort with his injured shoulder managed to remain cool and displayed no hint of his pain - just like a real tough guy from one of those films, you know the type, Die Hard, James Bond, etc

Johnny Howard, having won the election, was already claiming a mandate to introduce his GST, despite the fact that the Senate was not in his control and that Labor and Democrats parties had sworn to vote against it (or at least demand modifications). Methinks a mandate does not exist in such a situation.

Day 4

Before hitman Hermida was awake the rest of us decided to do a short ride to help recover from the previous day's exertion, so we headed off towards Everton at about 8:30. The rivers were all in minor flood, and the countryside was as green as I've ever seen it. After we arrived back at the motel the local bus driver decided to visit and ask us about our trikes - he had seen us out and about.


The rest of the day was spent in the car visiting wineries around Rutherglen.

Day 5

We drove home. Some of our wine had arrived before us...excellent!