The Yarra Valley is only an hour from Melbourne, making it the perfect day trip or weekend away. The region specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, which also happen to make perfect sparkling wine. But if you know where to look, you'll also find less common varietals, like Nebbiolo, Savagnin and Chenin blanc.
There are 160 wineries to try in the region, from tiny mom-and-pop operations to giant foreign-owned behemoths. Don't know where to start? These are our favorite wineries in the Yarra Valley right now.
For more mini-break ideas, visit our guide to Victoria's best getaways. Alternatively, stay close to the city and discover Melbourne's best wine bars.
The big daddy of bubble producers in Victoria, Domaine Chandon has been crafting top-shelf sparkling wine since the days it was allowed to be called Champagne. It is owned by giant champagne producer Moët & Chandon (itself owned by LVMH, or Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). This classic winery combines French tradition with the Yarra Valley cool-climate terroir.
Tastings are $12 for six, and you can choose between still and sparkling. There is also an onsite bar, so once you have tasted your fill it's worth getting a full glass (our favorite is the sparkling pinot shiraz) and enjoying the panoramic views over the vines. As one of the biggest wineries in the Yarra Valley, the venue has an uninterrupted view of row upon row of vines, beautiful at any time of year.
You can also do a self-guided tour of the winemaking facilities, with Schmick interactive displays to teach you about everything from picking to fermenting, riddling to disgorging sparkling wines. You can also see some of the winery's real equipment, including huge tanks and presses.
Coombe Yarra Valley
Coombe Estate is right at the intersection of the Maroondah and Melba highways, and although its address is Maroondah, its heart is 100%, Melba.
The former home of Australia's first artistic export has been turned into an excellent restaurant and cellar door, specializing in Yarra Valley cool-climate wines like chardonnay and pinot noir. Tastings are $5, and the knowledgeable staff will guide you through a personalized tasting geared towards your personal preferences.
Love lighter reds like pinot noir but not a Chardy fan? Your tasting will have lighter styles and will stay away from heavy chardonnays (though you might be surprised at how zesty and light the Estate Range Chardy is). If you're more of a merlot fan, the staff will give you more full-bodied reds to try. And if you buy a bottle, the tasting fee is waived.
You'd do well to start your day in the Yarra Valley at Coombe, which offers a high tea-style breakfast from 9.30am on weekends. For just $35 each, you'll get a tiered stand filled with quiches, croissants, mini muffins, mini waffles, mini French toasts, and brownie bites. And yes, there are scones (warm, fluffy scones with accompanying jam and cream, thankyouverymuch).
It comes with a glass of blanc de blanc sparkling, as well as tea or espresso coffee. It's the perfect way to start a busy day of wine tasting. The restaurant is also open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday, and high tea Wednesday and Saturday.
But seriously, Melba. There is Dame Nellie's music playing throughout, and the house includes a museum filled with paintings and memorabilia of the woman herself. House tours are also available, and in the warmer months, you can tour the gardens as well.
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Healesville cellar door and restaurant Giant Steps is named after saxophonist John Coltrane's 1960 album of the same name. Winery owner Phil Sexton, who is a massive jazz fan, named his Yarra Valley wines in the jazz musician's honor.
The winery, which underwent a redesign in early 2017, is a large space split up into a wine bar, dining area, and little counter selling local baked goods towards the front, and an open kitchen and barrel hall in the back.
The renovation, headed by Bergman and Co (the interior design firm responsible for Chin Chin, Kong, and Mr. Miyagi), has given Giant Steps a moody atmosphere full of dark timber, brass trimmings, and lush leather booths in the dining room.
The barrel hall, a high-ceilinged warehouse filled with towering stacks of oak wine barrels, is where the tastings are done. Instead of shelving, bottles here are cradled in sleek leather slings attached to metal brackets.
Here is where you can taste the single-vineyard wines Giant Steps is known for, such as winemaker Steve Flamsteed's chardonnays which have set the benchmark for the Yarra Valley region.
Breakfast is served every weekend, and at lunch and visitors can order a wine flight to go with wood-fired pizzas, a charcuterie and cheese platter, or a classic Angus porterhouse steak.
Even in the Yarra Valley, where every bend in the road reveals a striking new vista, Oakridge Wines has it made. Its north-facing dining room and outdoor deck look onto 10 undulating hectares planted with pinot noir, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, Semillon and merlot.
Beyond, thickly forested hills run to the horizon, completing the calming panorama. You’ll feel your pulse slowing before you’ve had your first sip of wine.
The tasting room and cellar door is open daily, but we’d suggest timing your visit to coincide with the restaurant’s opening hours.
Although chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone are no longer helming the kitchen here, their cooking philosophies – founded on keeping an abundant kitchen garden and forging close relationships with local farmers and growers – persist under new executive chef Aaron Brodie
A dish of smoked trout, cultured cream, local caviar and a caraway croissant is a menu mainstay and excellent example. Another is the kitchen’s own brie, made with milk from a one-man, 12-cow operation down the road.
And how about the parfait flavored with spent oranges from local distiller Four Pillars and topped with finger lime? The tasting menu offers all this and more, or you can order a la carte.
The vineyard has been here since 1998, and for 20 years prior it was located in Seville. Husband and wife Tony D’Aloisio (a former Asic chairman) and Ilana Atlas (who’s held board positions at Coca-Cola, ANZ and others) took over in 2007 and they’ve been slowly expanding the business since.
Two additional vineyards, in Gladysdale and Woori Yallock, now provide Oakridge with pinot gris, pinot noir and chardonnay.
Read more at https://www.broadsheet.com.au/
The striking architecture is a common feature at wineries across Australia, from the brutalist rammed-earth walls of Port Phillip Estate on the Mornington Peninsula to the futuristic glass geometry of McClaren Vale's d'Arenberg Cube and the rustic-chic Vasse Felix in Margaret River.
Mitchelton's peaked, 55-meter-high tower was completed in 1973 and still represents a breathtaking entry in the category. It's not quite visible from the road, but as you drive through the estate's plots of riesling, chardonnay, shiraz and cab sav, it quickly pops above the horizon. It's a popular spot for weddings.
Renowned architect Robin Boyd designed the tower and adjoining cellar but sadly passed away in 1971, before works were finished. Architect Ted Ashton took up where he left off, overseeing construction of the on-site restaurant - now called Muse - and the rest of the main building.
The concise menu at Muse matches the surroundings. Expect top-quality proteins such as Cone Bay barramundi and Sevens Creek Wagyu cooked with a deft hand and plenty of creativity. The restaurant also serves breakfast for visitors and guests staying at the adjacent Mitchelton Hotel.
The winery itself is focused on the lower end of the market. Most bottles retail for $20 or less and represent outstanding value for money. The Blackwood Park riesling, for example, holds its own against some bottles sold for double its price. Get a taste at the cellar door, before moving onto the Ministry of Chocolate, an independently run chocolatier located on-site.
Though the Dominique Portet winery was only founded in 2000, the eponymous winemaker behind it is a ninth-generation winemaker from Bordeaux, so he's no newbie to the winemaking profession. Currently, Ben Portet, Dominique's son, heads up the winemaking team.
The Dominique Portet winery in the rolling hills of Yarra Valley offers a scenic setting for the vineyards. The cellar door is open daily and the restaurant serves country-style lunches (think snack platters, cheese and charcuterie) ideal for a post wine-tasting meal.
Critics and connoisseurs alike rave consistently about Dominique Portet’s Fontaine Rosé, one that’s an exceptional berry-driven summery blend of merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon; and a steal at $22 a bottle.
Read more at https://www.timeout.com
Head into the cellar door housed in the original winery building. Wine tasting is complimentary for groups with less than 10 guests. Larger groups are required to make a booking. Yering Station's Reserve Shiraz Viognier is one of the finest examples of the blend to be produced in Australia. And if you don’t want to spend big on the top shelf bottle, pick up a Yering Station Shiraz Viognier for $40.
The Wine Bar restaurant is open daily from noon and is the perfect spot for a winery lunch with views of the Yarra Ranges. Head chef Maxime Croiset's menu skews French and goes well with the range of Yering Station wines available in the restaurant.
Innocent Bystander is conveniently located across the street from fellow Healesville winery Giant Steps. The two wineries used to be housed under the same roof but since the businesses (amicably) split up in early 2017, Innocent Bystander has expanded and come into its own, taking over what was once the White Rabbit Brewery.
In a nod to its predecessor, Innocent Bystander's stand-alone venue has a beer hall atmosphere, with their Prosecco to Syrah served out of temperature-controlled draught taps. It's an approachable venue, order a carafe or a flight of wines and it'll come in measuring beakers straight out of science class.
The food menu is centered around wood-fired pizzas and share dishes made for nibbling while diners sample the moderately-priced wines.
On warmer days, Innocent Bystander's Moscato is a popular choice. The pink sparkler with candyfloss sweetness is made for drinking with summer desserts.
Just a short drive out of Bendigo will deliver you to the cellar door of Balgownie Estate, an 80-acre vineyard.
Cabernet sauvignon and shiraz vines were planted here in 1969 by local pharmacist Stuart Anderson. This makes Balgownie Estate the oldest winery in the region.
These two red varietals continue to be the vineyard’s signatures, which you can sample along with smaller batches of pinot noir, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet franc and viognier at the cellar door.
While working your way through the wine list, browse the wall of black-and-white photographs and historical information inside. Afterward, select a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy it at the picnic tables outside overlooking the vines.
Balgownie Estate acquired the second plot in the Yarra Valley in 2003. Here chardonnay and pinot noir grapes have been planted on 16 acres. Accommodation is offered at both locations.
Dal Zotto Trattoria
Otto Dal Zotto was born in Valdobbiadene, in the Veneto region of Italy – the original home of prosecco. It’s fitting that he helped pioneer the prosecco grape in Australia.
Otto tracked down an Italian man living in Adelaide, who had (legally) brought over two cuttings. It happened that the man used to reside five kilometres up the road from Otto’s hometown. From those cuttings, Otto produced the first Australian prosecco in 2004.
These days the Dal Zotto family makes five proseccos, both vintage and non-vintage, as well as an unfiltered, fruit-forward traditional style called col Fondo, which means “with sediment”.
Among the full range of cool climate, high-altitude wines are Italian varietals such as Arneis, Garganega, barbera and Sangiovese, which are well matched to the trattoria’s savoury Italian flavours.
The menu draws inspiration from the on-site market garden, which is tended by nonna Elena. What she can’t grow on-site, the restaurant sources as regionally as possible. Local Tolpuddle goats curd and housemade stracchino cheese feature in the antipasti and desserts.
Mains include housemade gnocchi with walnuts, sage, gorgonzola, pear and pumpkin; and Milawa duck confit with blackberry sauce on a sage, pancetta, chestnut and pea risotto.
Visitors can wander the vineyard, enjoy a supplied picnic on the lawn and, of course, taste their way through the winery’s extensive list. Dal Zotto also hosts several events throughout the year, including a salami-making day.