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Wineries band together to attract visitors

Three Victorian wineries are putting aside traditional rivalries to help each other recover from the coronavirus.
And they’re using award-winning wines and food, nature, and the relatively low profile of
the region as their biggest drawcards.
Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton — three, five-star rated wineries, located in the Strathbogie
Shire, approximately 90 minutes north of Melbourne — have been hit hard by border closures and Melbourne’s recent ‘ring of steel’, which separated regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne:
• The historic Tahbilk Winery is Victoria’s oldest winery situated on the banks of the Goulburn River. Once referred to by the first people as ‘tabilk-tabilk’ (or the ‘place of many waterholes’), Tahbilk is a carbon neutral winery nestled among river flats and kilometres of backwaters, creeks, and walking trails.
• Just up the road, also fronting Victoria’s longest river, is Mitchelton Wines, a mid-century architectural masterpiece, which has been recently updated to include the iconic Ashton Tower, overlooking the Goulburn River and ranges, award winning cellar door, 58 room hotel, restaurant, major events, and one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal art galleries.
• Fowles Wine is the relatively new kid on the block – a five-star winery and farm located in the small township of Avenel, a short drive from the other two wineries. Fowles has also invested in its future, opening a new cellar door and renovating its restaurant, drawing on inspiration from the quintessential Aussie shed and majestic views of the Strathbogie Ranges.
“Each winery is completely different. Yet, by coming together, we offer the chance for guests to experience the best of the Victorian wine industry in a day. This is a great opportunity for people who want real, authentic experiences,” according to Fowles Wine owner Matt Fowles.
Like most businesses in the region, Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton depend upon holiday makers and daytrippers using the Hume Highway, which completely dried up as a source of tourism in 2020. But now the renowned Shiraz and Riesling producers are fighting back, using the region’s natural hidden gems, and relatively low tourism profile, as part of a new campaign to secure their share of Victoria’s $10bn regional tourism market.
“Relatively little-known wine regions and townships, like nearby Nagambie and Avenel, now have a fighting chance to compete with better-known visitor destinations because of the virus,” Fowles said.
Tahbilk CEO Alister Purbrick said there were about 4.4 million people visiting and spending money in regional Victoria every month in 2019.
“That’s a lot of visitors, even before the pandemic begun, and that gives us a lot of heart to make a serious comeback from the ravage of this pandemic,” he said.
With Victoria’s regional tourism boom expected to go deep into next year, Mr Purbrick said it made sense for the three wineries to band together to offer an attractive alternative to the regular touristy spots.
“In the coming months, we expect to see a surge in visitors from Melbourne, within the region, and even interstate, looking for places to visit and explore, which are different, unexpected, and safe.
“People will still want to have a great food and wine experience in a beautiful regional setting. But, post-lockdown, they will also want to be able to stretch out, breathe, feel safe, and be totally free from the hassle of queues and crowds, which is exactly what we are offering,” Purbrick said.
Chief winemaker at Mitchelton, Andrew Santarossa, said the Take Nature’s Road Trip campaign exploited the fact the region is not always top-of-mind, or on the ‘map’, for most day-trippers.
“For us, this has become one of our greatest strengths as we don’t have the same crowds, or traffic problems, which other more frequented regional wine destinations are likely to encounter this coming summer.
“But what we do have is an amazing natural setting boasting some of Victoria’s best wineries and dining, wide-open spaces, the Goulburn River and Ranges, bush trails and billabongs, and friendly smiles,”  Santarossa said.

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