We left home at mid morning and had a lazy drive to the wine town of Rutherglen in northern Victoria where we have a stopover on our way to a reunion in Port Macquarie, NSW. We decided to stay at the very nice Tuileries Resort here for a celebration.
We reached Shepparton for lunch. This is a large regional city, about 190 km north of Melbourne. Since the 1950’s Shepparton has been one of rural Victoria’s largest cities. It is located in the Goulburn Valley, at the junction of the Goulburn and Broken Rivers, along with extensive irrigation works that were developed in the early decades of the twentieth century. One of the regions biggest industries were the two nationally known brands of canned fruit, Ardmona and the Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC). SPC has had some tough financial times over the last two decades as the demand for canned fruits has gradually decreased. It was last owned by Coca Cola Amatil but has just been sold to a Melbourne based conglomerate. The area is also a large dairying centre and the historic butter factory in town was built over 100 years ago.
For some reason, the names of local towns in the area get shortened by the locals. Shepparton is just called ‘Shep’. Nearby towns are Kyabram (Ky), Maroopna (Roop) and Tocumwal (Toke). Maybe its because orchardists are too busy pruning and don’t have time to say the full name?
A little further along the road is the tiny town of Katamatite. Whilst it has an interesting and evocative name it is a sad little village of about 300 people with many dilapidated and closed shops. A little park at the end of town recognises local pioneers and original Aboriginal tribes. Its name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word naming or describing a local creek. The township is on Boosey Creek near its junction with Broken Creek.
While early farmers grew wheat, crops in this area have now expanded to Canola with its vibrant yellow flowers.
Before reaching Rutherglen, we diverted to a point where the Ovens River joins the Murray River. While the Murray is the largest river in Australia, we couldn’t help but think about its relative size as compared to the Mississippi River on which we will be cruising in six weeks time. The Murray is a mere trickle by comparison.
Rutherglen is a very historic town with many old pubs with verandas on the main street. It has been a wine growing area for decades and was famous for its very heavy red wines. I don’t think they are made as heavy any more because the popular trend now is to drink wine soon after it is bought. For most people, the art of cellaring no longer exists. I can remember wines from this area that were thick enough to stand a spoon in (well not quite, but they were delicious very full bodied wines).
Today is out 47th Wedding Anniversary. I told the young lady at reception that we were still on our honeymoon, but she didn’t quite know what to think about that. The Tuilleries at Rutherglen offers a pretty nice dinner, bed and breakfast package and was the nicest place to stay (that I could find our way to Port Macquarie). There was a stunning sunset over the vineyard tonight and I hope it is a good indicator of the time we will spend with my old mates at the reunion of the unit in which I served in Vietnam. It’s fifty years this year since I was posted there and I only see some of the guys every two years.