Located around an hour’s drive from Melbourne,
Victoria’s beautiful Yarra
Valley is a flat, sprawling region peppered with more than 50 wineries,
cute-as-pie country towns, markets and even microbreweries.
It is possible to see most of its sights in a day
trip but you should consider staying a day or two if you have time to spare. Make
sure you check the opening days of places you are visiting – since the Valley
gets most of its visitors over the weekend, some are shut on Monday and/or Tuesday.
Choosing a winery
Probably the most-visited of all the wineries, De Bortoli, has more than 240 hectares
of vineyards. Their wines include cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinot noir,
chardonnay and pinot grigio, but the real highlight is the Richard Thomas
cheese room – named after the onsite award-winning cheesemaker who will serve
you cheese, tell you everything you want to know and then serve you more
The Moët group from France has a
sister property in the Yarra called Domaine Chandon, which has a line of delicious and
reasonably priced still and sparkling wines. (And no, they cannot call it
Another biggie to check out is Rochford Wines, with their
renowned A Day on the Green
series of concerts. Big names like Jamie Cullum, Diana Krall, Norah Jones and
Simply Red have graced the grounds in previous years.
The Yering Station winery is home
to the excellent Yarra Valley farmers’ market, held on the third Sunday of each
month. Pick up organic vegetables and meat, homemade pies, cheese, coffee, sinful
sweets and organic olives, all made by small producers. Their restaurant is an
elegant steel and glass structure set against a backdrop of lush vineyards.
For the more seasoned wine taster, Yarra Yering is all about
the wine. Established in 1969 by Dr Carrodus, one of the great
modern day wine pioneers of the Yarra Valley, Yarra
Yering is one place they do not tell you about in the tourist brochures. The
Dry Red No 1, 2 and 3 are the pick of the lot – and they sell out quickly. The
cellar door only remains open if there is still wine for sale, so check before
You could be forgiven if you are confused by
the number of wineries with “Yering” in their name – Yering is the name of a
nearby town and home to one of Australia’s first wineries – but Yeringberg is not one you
should quickly forget. Its cellar doors are officially open only once a year in
May on release of their wines. Top pick is the Yeringberg, a cabernet sauvignon
blend with merlot, cabernet franc and some malbec. This winery is open by
appointment only at other times, so ring ahead.
The craft beer scene
fascination with craft beers has exploded in recent years, and there are now several
microbreweries in the area if wine is not your thing.
Opened in 2007, the Coldstream Brewery
and its attached restaurant are set in an attractive standalone brick building.
Order a pizza and pair it with one of the many Coldstream brews. Choose from the
bitter, special bitter, pilsner, cider, ale and the seasonal summer ale, chocolate
winter ale, spring lager and autumn porter.
While the other breweries serve up local-style
Hill Brewing Company takes you around the world with their selection of
Hefeweizen, Kellerbier, Abbey Dubel, stout, pale ale and special bitter, all
brewed on-site. Can’t decide? Do a tasting of all six beers for seven
are kept simple at the White Rabbit Brewery: dark ale or white ale. Grab a sausage
roll from the Beechworth Bakery next door and pop over for a brew or two. Beers
on tap are seven Australian dollars but their “stubbies” (bottles) are a
bargain at only 3.50 Australian dollars a pop.
Exploring the country
If you are the designated driver, there are plenty of other things to occupy
your time while your mates get merry.
Make sure you stop by the town of Healesville. It
is a friendly “awww shucks” kind of place – wire baskets filled with local produce
spill on the pavement outside shops, and locals seem to have permanent smiles
on their faces. Look out for Kennedy and
Wilson Chocolates: their range of the sweet stuff will make
you abandon any diet. Their barista serves Toby’s Estate coffee, by far the best
in the area.
Located at the end of the town, the massive
complex of Giant
Steps/Innocent Bystander is part winery, part coffee shop, part restaurant -
and it sure is popular. Expect to wait up to two hours for a table on weekends.
Wood-fired pizzas keep the punters happy, and White Rabbit ale and Giant Steps
wine add to the merriment.
Head straight to the TarraWarra Museum of Art before
visiting its winery.
This not-for-profit gallery has a revolving collection of Australian art as
well as special exhibitions, such as the Archibald
Prize 2012, and concerts in the grounds.
The article 'An insider’s guide to Australia’s Yarra Valley region' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.