Domaine Chandon's Vineyards
Have you been to Yarra Valley? Located just an hour's drive away from Melbourne, this amazing valley held some of my best memories from Australia. It's easy to see why - gorgeous vineyards, lovely wine tastings, amazing cheese and lots of beautiful local products. At las, we only had a day to spare. Here's what we got down to doing: (Scroll to the end for a list of places I'd recommend)
Touring Domaine Chandon
Most cellar doors open at 10 am and close at 5 pm, so we planned an earlier drive to make the most out of our day. Our first stop was the beautiful Domaine Chandon, with green-yellow stretches of vineyards overlooking a sparkling lake. Photo opportunities abound. Free guided tours are available at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm everyday, and I'd strongly recommend going for them. It's an easy way to learn more about the laborious process that goes into sparkling wines and tour the winery at the same time. Did you know that technically, sparkling wines are no different from champagnes apart from the fact that the grapes did not originate from the Champagne region of France? The final part of the tour was at their storage cellar with racks specifically made such that the bottles are tilted for secondary fermentation - this is what creates the bubbles. From the cellar, we were led to the Green Point Tasting Bar, where tastings are available at $5 per pax and refundable upon wine purchases.
Green Point Tasting Bar, Domaine Chandon
Altogether, we tasted 9 different types of wines during the tasting session, both sparkling and still, which was terrific value. The quirks of each wine was explained to us and the entire tasting never felt rushed. All of us couldn't help but bring home at least a sparkling wine each!
Domaine Chandon's Vineyards and Lake
Possibly the prettiest vineyard in the valley.
Kennedy & Wilson Chocolate
Kennedy & Wilson chocolates are famous all across Yarra Valley - most desserts boast of using K&W chocolate, so how could we miss stopping by for a look? We tasted one or two truffles, which were lovely but stopped short of being phenomenal. That said, their dark chocolate is what draws the crowds. In particular, their Cats' Tongues (81% bitter chocolate) and Autumn Leaves (70% dark chocolate with cinnamon) are tremendously popular and would make great gifts!
Yarra Valley Food and Wine Festival 2012
We were lucky enough to visit Yarra Valley in time for the last day of their Food and Wine Festival 2012, which culminated in a Sunday Garden Party. The ticket was $25 but the abundance of wine tastings in a single location was well worth the ticket. We fell in love with Train Trak's Moscato, and Napaleone & Co's Pear Ciders. Yarra Valley Dairy participated as well. If they hadn't, I'd have dropped by their dairy regardless - all the wonderful things I've heard about their cheeses couldn't be more accurate. I absolutely loved their Persian Fetta, a cow's milk feta marinated in extra virgin olive oil, thyme and garlic. The gentle goat, a basic goat's milk cheese with a lovely, delicate flavour, was the one I brought home, however. My widening soft spot for goat's milk cheese knows no reason.
We spent a long time at the festival, but eventually made our way to Yering Station, which has the honour of being the first winery in the region. Its historic cellar door was established in 1859, more than a century ago! Wine tasting is complimentary here. I loved the quirky art pieces lining the tasting section.
Inside Yering Station's Historic Cellar Door
Apart from the tasting section, the cellar holds a market section showcasing not just wine but also local specialty products. You could pick up things you missed out previously over here, such as the beautiful Yarra Valley meringues, which are one of the best I've tasted. Yering Station closes at 5 pm on weekdays and 6 pm on weekends. Since we visited on a Sunday, we had enough time to comb the whole place!
Giant Steps/ Innocent Bystanders
Our last stop was Giant Steps/ Innocent Bystander. This is a winery, pizzeria, brewery and coffee house rolled into one. Moscato is on tap! The industrial decor is in stark contrast against the more traditional wineries earlier. Since it is the only winery that closes at 10 pm, Innocent Bystander is indisputably the best place for a relaxed dinner in Yarra Valley. And if you wanted, you could still do wine tasting after, at $10 per pax, also refundable upon wine purchases.
Coffee and Wood Fire Pizza, Giant Steps/Innocent Bystanders, 22 AUD
If I could choose all over again, I would skip the coffee (flat white) without batting an eyelid, and give their wine a go instead. By the way, their wood-fire pizzas definitely lived up to their name. The combination of spicy pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomato and chilli was completely delicious and spicy even for Asian standards. They tasted fantastic on a crust that was crisp and thin, but not absurdly so that you feel like you're eating biscuit. What a great end to our jam-packed day at Yarra Valley!
Recommended Places (Mostly wineries, and some)
Established by French Champagne house Moët & Chandon in 1986, Domaine Chandon is dedicated to the production of méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine. In short, affordable bubbly! Free guided tours are conducted three times daily - at 11am, 1pm and 3pm - and run for 30 minutes. Wine tasting is available at $5*, per glass from $8 or by the bottle from $22. Tasting bar is open 10.30 am to 4.30 pm daily.
727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
Kennedy & Wilson Chocolate
Most dessert menus in Yarra Valley boast of using "K&W" chocolate. It’s short for Kennedy & Wilson. Bring back boxes of Cats’ Tongues and Autumn Leaves infused with cinnamon or try out their new gelati line. Opens Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm.
203 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, Victoria 3777
Having been orchardists in the Yarra valley since 1948, the Napoleone Family's recent branch into ciders in 2008 from Punt Road Wines could only be the most logical next step. It's a great pit stop in between the wine tasting. Try their crisp Napoleone and Co. Apple Cider or their more unique Pear variant. Open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
10 St Huberts Rd, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
Yarra Valley Dairy
Complimentary Tasting of 5 cheeses selected each day. Generous tasting plate of 4 cheeses served with bread and crackers for $25 (feeds 3). Renowned for their cow’s milk Persian Fetta marinated with thyme and garlic. Open from 10.30 am to 5 pm daily.
70-80 MC Meikans Road, Yering, Victoria 3770
Victoria’s first vineyard. Houses the beautiful historic cellar door established in 1859 with lots of open wine and food-related books and magazines as well as a produce store. Open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 10 am to 6 pm. Head to Matt’s bar for a more relaxed and affordable selection compared to the Wine Bar Restaurant.
38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen, Victoria 3775
Giant Steps/ Innocent Bystander
A funky winery complete with a cheese room, beer brewery, moscato on tap, coffee roasted in-house and a bistro that churns out delicious wood-fire thin crust pizzas. Talk about a one-stop shop. Wine tasting is available at $10* per person. Open from 10 am to 10 pm daily
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, VIC 3777
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A beautiful estate sporting gorgeous views. Wine tasting available at $8*. Also houses the TarraWarra Museum of Art (opens Tues to Sun, 11am to 5pm at $5/adult), which boasts an impressive collection of Australian contemporary art donated by the Besen family, owners of the TarraWarra Estate. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen 3777
Kitchen and Butcher
The providore showcases a fantastic array of locally grown seasonal produce and products such as Yarra Valley Pasta and Cunliffe and Waters Jams. Fabulous cured hams, local and imported cheese, olive oils and vinegars and the quality of the fresh meat in the butcher's window make it near impossible not to buy something from this wonderful store. Open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
258 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, Victoria 3777
Hottest table in the valley at the moment - offers excellently prepared food using only the freshest produce. Menu changes weekly to suit seasonal ingredients. Reservations are essential. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 8.30 am to 3 pm, dinners are available on Friday from 6 pm to 10 pm and Saturday from 7.30 pm to 11 pm.
874 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
Excellent Pinot and Chardonnay. Their famous Dry Red #1 and #2 are favourites of collectors. Widely touted to be the best $5* you’ll be forking out for wine tasting, especially when most of the wines are worth $70-plus. Open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Yarra Yering Vineyards. 4 Briarty Road, Gruyere, Victoria 3770.
Known for its Chardonnay, Shiraz-Viognier and Noble One Botrytis Semillon. Wine tasting available at $5* per person. Also offers wine and cheese pairing at $11 subject to prior reservation. Open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
De Bortoli, Yarra Valley, Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek, Victoria 3775
*Tasting fee refundable upon wine purchases.
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