Brendon is having a fantastic food experience, munching his way around Mildura.
Victoria's Sunraysia district is a desert oasis. If you love food and good wine, it's the place to go.
It was once a vast inland ocean, with soil made up of sandy and/or clay composites, including red loam, heavy sands, clay, lime and limestone, conducive to growing many crops.
Mildura is just one town in the area for visitors to look around. From here, Brian Erskine runs Enterprising Tours to some interesting places.
Brian is a great local character and seems to know everyone in Mildura, so he gets rare behind-the-scenes access. Stops depend on the seasons and what is happening in the fields.
A winter tour stops at Minter Magic. Its main crop is asparagus, but they also produce almonds, citrus, red globe and crimson table grapes and non-tart persimmons. It is a family farm of over 100 hectares. Four generations have developed it, now shipping to many Asian countries, with packaging and shipping down to a fine art. The asparagus can be delivered from the field to the Japanese consumer in just 72 hours. At picking times they employ up to 80 people.
Yandilla Park Citrus is one of Australia's largest integrated growing, packing and marketing enterprises. One hundred staff work there on a permanent basis and more than 1500 casual staff can be employed during peak seasons.
The Sunraysia area is a prime wine-grape growing region, with rich soil and warm weather providing perfect conditions for viticulture. There are many wineries and they are not limited to small boutique wineries the hub of the Lindemans operation is in Mildura.
If a visit to Mildura makes you feel tempted to grow some of your own crops, Boulevarde Nursery specialises in grape vines, citrus avocado and olive trees and a vast selection of ornamental flowers. They have minor commercial crops of pistachio, kiwifruit and passionfruit.
Gino and Elina Gareffa own Tabletop Grapes. Their vines are at the bottom of their garden and they supply air-dried raisins, rather than chemically dried. Elina has a little cantina near the vines where she cooks, welcome visitors, shows her preserves, tomato paste and Italian lemon liqueur and zipfoli, a wonderful Italian pastry. She even has a brick oven for baking wonderful bread.
Some think Stefano di Pieri has played the biggest part in putting Mildura on the tourist map. His successful television series Gondola on the Murray certainly prompted many people to go there.
He has his restaurant at the Mildura Grand Hotel, which is owned by his parents-in-law. His interesting background was in our story on the hotel a couple of weeks ago. If you missed it, it is worth re-printing here:
Stefano de Pieri arrived from Treviso, Italy in 1974 aged 19. After completing his schooling he went to the University of Melbourne, before editing the Italian newspaper Nuovo Paese.
Dabbling with food was always a passion as it is with most Italians. He went on to cook professionally with chef Raymond Fenech. He spent time as ministerial adviser to several Labor ministers. When he missed preselection in 1991 for the seat of Melbourne North, he relocated to Mildura with his family. His in-laws are the Carrazzas, hence the full circle of Stefano and his restaurant and the charming television series starring him.
A day with Brian will give you the chance to see all this and more … and you certainly won't be hungry at the end of the day.