At university parties in the late seventies, there was always Brown Brothers wine - usually White Hermitage and Cabernet Shiraz and usually out of the ten-litre box. I remember the lecturers celebrating the last sociology lecture of 1979 by laying on cubed tasty cheese, sliced salami, olives and Brown Brothers wine. This was at ten in the morning, you understand. Then we had lunch at the Clare Castle in Rathdowne Street. I don’t remember much of the afternoon, but then I don’t remember much sociology either.
All this came back to me as we drove through the King Valley and past the Brown Brothers winery at Milawa, on a cold winter morning under a heavy black sky. Although they are based here, the Browns now grow fruit in about seven different regions. It’s a label that is slightly out of favour so I suppose they must export. Why out of favour? I don’t know. Maybe it was the tankloads of spatlese lexia they sold in the eighties. Or maybe it’s the name. Today’s edgy wine labels bear names like The Broken Down Tractor, Sixteen Emus and a Wallaby or Kelly’s Last Revenge.
It grew darker. The clouds hung as low as they could without actually sitting on the ground. Rain was coming down in sheets and we had the headlights on. Can it rain from inside a cloud or only from the bottom? The things I think about when I’m driving. It rained so hard I had to call upon the wipers to perform in ‘extra fast’ mode (the only other speeds being ‘intermittent’ and ‘normal’ in a 1986 Volvo wiper set-up). I stopped for petrol in Benalla, positioning the car so that it would be subject to as little horizontal rain as possible. Not that rain bothers me, but moisture in the fuel tank is never a good idea.
Then we pressed on towards lunchtime which, when we’re travelling, can be anything after 10am, but it was about eleven when we stopped at Euroa. Euroa is now bypassed by the Hume Highway but is worth a detour to visit Euroa Fine Books (mission statement: Descriptions of condition mirror those of the older generation, when 'a good copy' meant a better copy than usual; and not, as now, a dog of a copy).
Across the road, we found the equally refreshing Euroa Café, a large place with a central kitchen, some really switched-on waiters and an eccentric menu in which all the items seem to be named after customers or friends. As in: Patricia Sandwich. Filled with all the things that Patricia loves best. We ate a simple lunch of toasted sandwiches and the coffee was good so I had two. The cakes in the display case were stupendous. We shared a piece of sponge cake about a foot high. Sunday drive idea: lunch at the Euroa Cafe and a few hours browsing Euroa Fine Books. Sure beats shopping at Chadstone or, worse, DFO at Essendon Airport.
We finished lunch, got back in the car and drove the last hundred or so kilometres back into Melbourne, arriving home at half past three. Just in time for afternoon tea. Put the kettle on!