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A Yarra Valley Road Trip

By Alex Russell on March 7, 2011 in Food

I was in the Yarra in December. It’s about an hour from Melbourne, so if you’re down that way, check it out. This month I thought I’d put together a game plan for you based on my Yarra Valley experience.

The Yarra is famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with some sensational coolish-climate Cabernets and the odd Shiraz.

If you need a place to stay, Balgownie Estate has a resort style hotel with day spa that rocks. Plus, it’s nice and central, so you can explore pretty easily from there. I recommend giving yourself at least three days to explore all the Yarra goodness.

Day 1: Head north and check out De Bortoli. They have a huge range of wines, so you’ll find something for everyone. There are a couple of other interesting wineries up that way too, like Miller’s Dixons Creek Estate.

Once you’re done, head back past Balgownie and follow the signs to TarraWarra Estate. Once you drive in, you’ll see this weird modern building with a great restaurant for lunch, a tasting counter and an art gallery.

When you’re done eating, sampling and perusing, head to Healesville and check out Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander for some cool little wines and a few serious big ones too. The Innocent Bystander wines are the entry-level stuff for these guys and they’re a safe bet for just about anyone; cool label too. If you feel the need for a cleansing ale after all that vino, look for the White Rabbit Brewery. It’s also worth checking out some of the local produce too – amazing cheeses.

Dinner on day one has to be at the Healesville Hotel; it’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had in a wine region. After that, head back to Balgownie and have a spa (or whatever other evening pursuit tickles your fancy).

Day 2: Head south to Yering Station. The cellar door is beautiful. There’s lots of open wine and lots of stuff to buy. Don’t miss the restaurant there either, where you’ll find sensational food and an amazing view.

Afterwards, keep heading south and take a left on St Hubert’s Road. Check out Punt Road and St Hubert’s if time permits, but don’t get bogged down because there’s plenty of good stuff coming up.

Next, take a left onto the Maroondah Highway and do Domaine Chandon if you like your fizz (though they have some decent still wines these days too). If you’ve run out of time, no worries, head back to Balgownie for dinner. They’ll even have older vintages ready to order from the menu. They do functions too, so if you need a good venue, this place wins.

Day 3: Head back near Chandon but go a little further this time and you’ll find Oakridge. Give yourself a little bit of time here as the Chardonnays in particular are superb.

If you keep going along the Maroondah Highway and you’ll find Dominique Portet; I’ve written about him before. He’s a pretty typical French guy (they even have a petanque area out the front) with a long family history in the wine trade.

When you’re done, ask the team at Portet for directions to Yarra Yering. This was the absolute ‘duck’s nuts’ of my Yarra trip. Tasting is $5 per person but when most of the wines are worth $70-plus, it’s totally worth it. Their Pinot is my current favourite Australian drop and the Chardonnay is out of this world. Of course, the famous Dry Red #1 and #2 are favourites of collectors too. Do not miss this place!