I pluck a card from the deck of “Brown Brothers Colourful Conversations” found at my holiday home and read the first suggested conversation-starter: What did you learn today?

For a start, I learnt that rusting or redeveloped tobacco kilns are the iconic architecture of Victoria’s King Valley. These distinctive tin sheds with their jaunty, pitched roofs line a true alpine valley from Milawa south to the bush shrouded Lake William Hovell. For reasons soon to become bleeding obvious, the entire valley is known as “Little Italy.”

Next card. What do you miss most about your childhood? Just ask Otto Dal Zotto, who emigrated from the northern Italian town of Valdobbiadene – the home of prosecco – in 1967 with a dream of growing the grape of his childhood in Australia. That became a reality when Dal Zotto Wines sold the first bottle of Australian prosecco in 2004, laying the first pavers for what they now call “prosecco road.” Otto’s son Michael shows me round the bocce court and his mum’s vegie garden, outside the winery’s stylish cellar door, converted from what was – inevitably – the farm’s old tobacco shed. We finish with a classic Italian lunch (in the King Valley there’s no other kind) of pasta and meatballs, eggplant parmigiana and a glass of ‘Tabelo’ Col Fondo prosecco, named in honour of Otto’s late father Giovanni.

Michael’s uncle is Fred Pizzini, one of four brothers who once ran the largest tobacco producing business in the Southern Hemisphere. Fred planted his first grapes in 1978 and the family has been producing nebbiolo under the Pizzini name since 1991, the longest consecutive vintage for any winery outside Piedmont. But man cannot live on wine alone, which is why I’ve signed up for Fred’s wife Katrina Pizzini’s famous cooking class.

  What food always cheers you up? Handmade gnocchi with garlic, sage and burnt butter sauce; tomato passata made from fruit grown outside the cellar door; jams, chutneys and pork sausages – guests can pull on an apron and learn the recipes that have sustained the Pizzini family for generations. “I’m not a chef,” claims cookbook author Katrina. “I cook casalinga style: home cooking.”

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