It’s a long weekend and the perfect time to think about taking some trips outside of Melbourne. Today we’re off to Milawa, about 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne and the home of the renowned Milawa Cheese Company.

David and Anne Brown founded the Milawa Cheese Company in 1988 when they set out to make Australian farmhouses cheese inspired by European methods. All the preservative-free, non-animal rennet cheeses are now handmade by a team of cheese makers headed by Stephen Russell.

The factory has now expanded to include a tasting room, produce store, cafe and bakery plus a chocolate store in the Old Butter Room and contemporary fine art gallery Muse Gallery.

As it was lunch time when we arrived we pretty much skipped the chocolates and the art gallery and headed straight to the busy cafe housed in the shed-cum-country cottage.

The lunch menu is quite extensive, including a mouth-watering selection of cheese pizzas, but as we were in a hurry we decided on two ready-made meals – a lamb and rosemary pie ($4.50) and a toasted foccacia filled with salami, spinach, sundried tomatoes, olive tapenade and multi-award winning King River Gold washed rind cheese ($8.50).

I’m told that the pie was quite good, with recognisable chunks of meat inside. I’m not so keen about serving it with sachet of bottled tomato sauce though, especially given the large selection of gourmet relishes/sauces available for sale nearby. Oh well for $4.50 I guess you can’t expect too much.

My foccacia was very good – full of strong Mediterranean flavours smothered in gooey cheese. Simple yet effective.

Then onto the  main event – the free cheese tastings. Milawa Cheese Company make over 20 different types of cheeses, from artisanal goat and cow milk cheese, from fresh curds to white moulds, to washed rinds and blue vein cheese.  You can imagine the popularity of the cheese tastings when a sign states that every person can only taste 4-5 cheeses.

I have a fairly low tolerance for stinky cheese so I shuffled my way around the crowd to the brie, camembert, cheddar and washed rind cow’s milk cheese. Not being much of a cheese connoisseur, all I can tell you was that all the cheese were nice. And not too stinky – even a little bit too much on the mild side.

On our way out we purchased a large loaf of Italian sourdough ($6.50) mainly because I was tickled by the sign saying that their sourdough starter was over 17 years old and named George. We had large slices of the bread for breakfast the next day, toasted with ham and cheese. Delicious.

Milawa Cheese Company is a worthwhile stop in the heart of the Milawa Gourmet region and surrounding wine-producing area. However, if you can’t get there then they have a shop in Carlton North which stocks a variety of cheese, wines and breads.