Located just about 50km away from Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD), the Yarra Valley is a world renowned wine region. Located at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, the Yarra Valley offers a rich diversity of terroir varying from the cool valley floor to the colder Upper Yarra Valley slopes. It’s about an hour’s drive from the CBD. On a beautiful sunny morning, we hopped onto the tour van for a scenic drive into the pristine Yarra Valley. From buildings and busy roads, the scene quickly changed to rolling greens dotted with the warm gold and red hues of autumn trees as the highways led us to the gorgeous countryside.
Throughout the journey, Nick our guide and wine expert regaled us with stories and information about the Yarra Valley. Professing not to be a “wine snob”, Nick’s an excellent guide with his interesting and often-humorous chatter on wine and the area. While listening to his educative and entertaining briefing, I busied myself looking out the window, taking in the changing colours and landscape as the van took us to our destination.
Nick doing his stuff… and doing it really well!
Lots of other stuff to buy in the Cellar shop
Before we knew it, we had arrived at the first winery – Yering Station. The Yering Station holds the distinction of being the first vineyard in Victoria. Upon entering through the heavy cellar door (erected in 1859), Nick himself briefed us about the winery and taught us how to swirl, sniff, slurp and taste the wine. We tasted chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz here and browsed through their wide displays of wines and other goodies.
Next to the rustic charm of the winery building, the adjoining new building which houses the restaurant is built on stunning modern architecture. The chic restaurant has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and overlooks the sweeping vineyards beyond.
Such an impossibly blue sky!
The artistic touch…
The glass-wall uber modern & chic restaurant
We moved on to the next winery – Balgownie Estate. A stylish estate with rolling slopes, the building itself is perched on higher ground. All around the driveway and gardens, hundreds of roses are in full bloom in all their colorful glory… from deep reds to yellow to white to tangerine hues! Everyone whipped out their cameras and went crazy shooting the blooms.
This sprawling 7-hectare vineyard is planted mainly with Burgundian varieties for pinot noir and chardonnay, as suited by the region’s climate and soil. The property now consists of the cellar door, restaurant, conference centre and 65 one bedroom spa suite accommodation and a state of the art Day Spa. I’m not sure if anyone can get any work done in the conference centre or boardroom here! What a pity that we didn’t get to enjoy their suites and spa but we got to taste some really excellent wines and a superb lunch here.
Rae’s Restaurant, with cosy fireplace
So… we had lunch at Rae’s Restaurant, after a round of wine tastings of their sparkling Shiraz, Black Label Sauvignon Blanc and a Black Label Cabernet Merlot. A full glass of Black Label Chardonnay was served with lunch.
Pan-fried Snapper with Romesco sauce and Crisp Polenta
Prosciutto Chicken with Potato Mash, Saute’ed Vegetables and Mustard Cream Sauce
3 mains were offered for selection. DL and I had their Pan-fried Snapper with Romesco sauce and Crisp Polenta and Prosciutto Chicken with Potato Mash, Saute’ed Vegetables and Mustard Cream Sauce. Both dishes were executed very well. The snapper was really fresh and the crisp polenta was mopped up with the delicious romesco sauce in no time. My initial apprehension about dry chicken breast meat turned out to be totally unfounded as the chicken was succulent and juicy. The mustard cream sauce was excellent with the mash. Our fish and chicken paired very nicely with the glass of Chardonnay.
I told you – we went crazy with the flowers!
After lunch, we moved on to Yering Farm. We love the rustic charm of this boutique winery with its wooden structured cellar door, the huge oak barrels on the verandah and the ancient-looking stone floors. Standing at the wooden bar counter in their converted-hay-shed cellar door, tasting their merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, we felt as if we’ve been transported back to the 1800’s.
Old-school rustic charm
From the cellar door, we could see the rolling vineyard, orchard and far beyond that, the faint outlines of the Dandenong Ranges. Owner and expert winemaker, Alan Johns handcrafts his original New World wines, thus ensuring their quality and individuality. We got to meet Alan briefly as he roared by in his Kawasaki with 2 cute furry kids in the carrier.
Owner and expert winemaker, Alan Johns
The last winery on the tour was Domaine Chandon, Möet & Chandon’s Australian winery - our absolute favourite! Nick walked us through the various processes and riddling room where the world famous bubbles are made.
The sweeping driveway leading to Domaine Chandon – don’t you just love that glorious red tree there?!
Walking into the main building
Vineyards as far as the eyes can see…
We then proceeded to the Green Point Room to taste 3 of their bubblies, accompanied by slices of sourdough and fruit dips. From the 3 tastings, we got to choose our favourite (which was such a difficult task as we loved all 3!) and once chosen, we had a full glass of it!
Our favourite: Chandon Cuvee Riche
The Red aint bad either!
This is the life!
Sourdough and fruit dip: perfect accompaniment for the sparklies!
Established in 1986 by the French champagne house Möet & Chandon, this winery is dedicated to the production of méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine and premium quality, cool-climate still Victorian wines. The grounds are really lovely with lots of rose shrubs blooming next to the rows of vines – it’s no surprise to note that this is also a popular place for weddings… there was one on the day we visited.
Perfect place for wedding shoots, too!
We loved the sparklies so much we bought a bottle of it back. Yes, a bottle of their Cuvee Riche – an artful blend of pinot noir and chardonnay with extended ageing in the bottle. Generous and opulent with a refreshingly crisp finish, we just couldn’t resist this Chandon Cuvee Riche, an enticing and luscious aperitif.
Ahhh… Chandon’s a perfect pick to end a blissful day. On the way back to the city, most of us were drowsy, with bellies full of good wine and food. For me, I actually felt rejuvenated and intentionally chose a further drop-off point in the CBD and took a long walk back to our apartment.
We went with the Australian Wine Tour Company for this jaunt to the Yarra Valley. Nick, our wine expert & guide, is professional and good at what he does – we totally enjoyed our day tour with him and will not hesitate to recommend this tour company to anyone who wishes to get a taste of wines (and food) in the beautiful Yarra Valley.