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.
Helen and Joey Estate
For quite a large winery, Helen and Joey Estate is a little hard to find. It’s not on the Yarra Valley’s two main wine arteries (the Melba and Maroondah highways), and Google Maps directions can make it quite easy to miss the turnoff. But it is worth the U-turn to come back to the estate because it is one of the most gorgeous estates in the valley.
There is a large cellar door and tasting room inside, but if the weather is good the best seats in the house are outside on the terrace, overlooking the vines and gently rolling hills. If the winery isn’t slammed, you might get lucky enough to be able to work your way through the wines on tasting in this spot.
If you’d like to nosh as you sip, you can also get snacks and charcuterie, and you can of course buy a bottle or two to enjoy in your primo location – plus a few to take home.
Like many in the Yarra Valley, the winery prides itself on its chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling varietals, and these come in a range of price points. For those who like things a bit funkier, Helen and Joey Estate offers its Wild Child range – boundary-pushing drops that defy categorization.
They are the result of experimentation and the winemaker’s imagination, and they are bang on the trend of funky, low-intervention, skin contact and interesting.
It’s the chardonnay that does it. Fruit forward, creamy, mellow and eminently drinkable, it’s a chardy for Chardy lovers. None of this “well our chardonnay isn’t like most chardonnays, it’s more like a riesling in disguise…” you might find elsewhere in the Yarra Valley.
Mark and Fiona Horrigan, who run Pimpernel, take their winemaking seriously, and their drops reflect the characteristics of the grapes.
They are also serious about terroir – so serious that Mark’s mother pocketed a couple of limestones from a pinot noir vineyard in Burgandy. When they returned to Australia, Mark had the stones analyzed and subsequently buried more than 250 tonnes of similar crushed limestone in his vineyard.
The pinot noir grapes that grow above it produce some of the best pinots the Yarra Valley has to offer.
Fruit is picked by hand, and little is done to it to interfere with the natural fermentation process. The result is a wine that is rich, complex and downright delicious. This is not a cheap and cheerful winery – very little here is under $40 a bottle.
There’s no on-site restaurant, and the cellar door wouldn’t accommodate more than ten people at a time – giant hen’s parties, look elsewhere. But for those who appreciate good wine and the people who work hard at growing and perfecting it, it’s well worth a stop on your Yarra Valley travels.
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Paringa Estate is one of a handful of vineyards that pioneered commercial winemaking on the Mornington Peninsula. The small pocket of land was a derelict apple orchard until Lindsay McCall acquired it in 1984. The self-taught winemaker spent the following few years planting 10 acres of vines and produced his first vintage in ’87.
The Peninsula’s cool climate can be challenging for local vignerons, but McCall and his son Jamie (who joined as assistant winemaker in 2012) have a few tricks up their sleeve. The primary estate on Paringa Road is a natural amphitheatre, trapping the sun in the gully and warming the vines naturally.
U-shaped trellises are also employed in several places. This labour-intensive design prevents mildew and improves sun exposure and yields.
The Paringa restaurant was built in 1999 to showcase the estate’s maturing range of wines.
The Peninsula series vintages are produced with fruit from five locally leased vineyards, while the Estate series is crafted from lower yielding vines, some more than 30 years old. The Single Vineyard series is made with fruit from Paringa’s oldest and most established blocks, just below the restaurant, and includes pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz.
Space itself is relatively modest but serves food worth travelling for. Head chef Joel Alderson (Attica, Royal Mail Hotel) runs a three- or four-course set menu, it’s less a degustation than a traditional entrée-main-dessert arrangement.
Expect top-quality proteins such as Macedon Range’s duck and Otway Ranges lamb with creative accompaniments such as eucalyptus stock and eggplant barbeque sauce.
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One small square of Tarra Warra Estate’s 400 hectares – beyond the cellar door, restaurant and art gallery – is devoted to its vegetable garden. There are rows of potatoes, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Tuscan kale.
Head chef Mark Ebbels worked in the UK in the development kitchen at The Fat Duck, then in Singapore where he worked for six years as chef de cuisine at Bacchanalia, which was when the restaurant won its first Michelin star.
The food at Tarra Warra is unpredictable and invigorating. Six of the 12 savoury dishes feature meat. The rest of the menu is vegan.
The butteriest sauces are butter-free; mayonnaise and chocolate mousse are made with whipped chickpea-cooking liquid in place of egg whites; a dessert of Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and ale custard is devoid of cream and eggs.
A Panko-crumbed nugget of cauliflower with a tarragon, parsley and lemon gremolata is topped with shaved truffles. The beef dish is Blackmore’s 7+ score Wagyu short-rib off the bone. It’s sliced so the fat marbling is visible and served with a red wine jus made from cellar-door leftovers.
The short-rib is cooked for 48 hours using a hybrid confit-sous vide method. The meat is submerged in grapeseed oil in a tray that is lowered into the water. The sous vide circulators sit in the water, swirling it at a steady 64 degrees to cook the meat evenly. This is done to eliminate the plastic bag from the sous vide process.
And the kitchen uses as little plastic as possible, with a vision for a single-use-plastic-free restaurant eventually.
Mornington Peninsula region
The Quealy family is an icon in the Australian wine world and the wine here tells you why very quickly. This winery is a later project for the family, who have a group of Peninsula spots on the map including T’Gallant (read below) and the newly opened Kerri Greens. The cellar door at Quealy is in an intimate location 70km from Melbourne in Balnarring.
The all-timber room is lined with tens of their bottles with standing and tasting room for groups or just a pair. Tom, the son of owner Kathleen Quealy, runs this winery and the many vineyards attached. His charismatic and intelligent explanations will have you ticking order forms by the end of your visit.
Pinot noir is the ultimate here, with several variations of different bodies—you’ll love Quealy’s even if pinot noir isn’t your favourite. The Campbell & Christine is perfectly balanced, Seventeen Rows is their number one, and Rageous is a Sangiovese-pinot noir-shiraz blend to lust after.
Of course, there are whites too, with a fantastic sparkling (Secco Splendido) and pinot grigio to save for summer.
From the same Quealy family comes a Peninsula stalwart. T’Gallant is in Main Ridge, an 80km drive from the Melbourne CBD. It is very popular among locals and a well-known spot to come down on the peninsula.
The Quealy family who owns this winery pioneered the introduction of pinot gris and pinot grigio in Australia in the 1990s and it’s damn good. Their range is inspired by Europe with a classic Australian twist, including variations from different ends of the region. What about Prosecco or Moscato in a can? Perfect for a picnic.
Come and enjoy a pizza on site amongst the vineyards, and if you love all things fungi, Mushrooms in May is an annual event focusing on the ingredient on a tour with lunch. And wine, of course.
Montalto is the sophisticated one of the peninsula wineries, 90km from the CBD. Schedule a lunch here without hesitation and gaze out over the sprawling hills lined with vineyards, olive groves and sculptures. The winery produces both wine and olive oil, with the food menu taking advantage of seasonal produce grown in the fields around you.
Have a big group of ten or more? Book upstairs into the Wine Room for panoramic views of the vineyards and groves, tasting wines and enjoying a set lunch. Pinot is the hero once again, with award-winning Chardonnays too. Their house-pressed olive oil is divine and offers to take home availability. Montalto is perfect for a group celebration or an indulgent long lunch in the sun.
PT LEO ESTATE
A restaurant, winery and sculpture park all in one, this elegant winery is #Insta heaven with expansive views of Western Port Bay. Wander around the sculptures to garner an appetite for a tasting.
The chardonnay here isn’t for your aunty but a clean, crisp version that surprises you. Interestingly, the 2017 vintage is nicer than 2015. Along with the chardonnay, pinot noir is once again a signature. The main restaurant showcases local produce with elevated classics, and the Best New Restaurant according to Good Food Guide, Laura, is on-site too.
An indulgent afternoon indeed, 80km from the CBD.
RED HILL ESTATE
Driving for 90km from the city centre will get you to Red Hill, a charming wooded area of the peninsula. Red Hill Estate is another gem beloved by locals. Winemakers there endorse proudly the cool climate that makes wine in this region so good.
RHE recently teamed up with the fifth-best Australian restaurant, Vue de Monde, for a special evening event paired with their wines. Their pinot noir and chardonnay are revered but offer most other types at equally reasonable price points. The wine is paired and matched with fresh produce at Max’s Restaurant—an elegant affair of seafood, meat and fresh vegetables.
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Yarra Valley region
You’ve probably heard of Moët & Chandon sparkling wine, and although they’re originally French, they have set up shop in Coldstream, 55km from the CBD, to produce the Australian batches of Moët & Chandon. The perfect location for growing (and drinking), Domaine Chandon is a popular spot for girls’ weekends and hen’s parties, birthdays and weddings.
But feel free to drive up here for a day or weekend trip away and enjoy the splendor of some of the best sparkling up for offer. Whichever your preferred drop, you’ll no doubt enjoy tasting and wandering the grounds.
Their range includes traditional whites and rosé (cuvée and brut), as well as a sparkling pinot shiraz to intrigue. The restaurant offers fresh local Yarra Valley produce with a French twist and paired spectacularly with a wine recommendation. All the hard work is done for you, especially if you also hit up GoGet!
Perfect for lovers of art and architecture, Yering Station will win you over at first glance with its stunning design. Situated in Yarra Glen, enjoy driving through farms and pine trees until you reach one of the oldest wineries in the state—vines were first planted in 1838. Imagine a bottle of that vintage!
Due to the cooler conditions, Yering Station also favors chardonnay, shiraz and pinot noir, with some sparkling white and rosé as well. There is also an art gallery on-site showcasing a range of contemporary artists on rotation. An annual event in spring focuses on sculptures, plus all commissions from purchases associated with their arts program are donated to a leukemia foundation.
Famous for holding an annual music festival, A Day on the Green, Rochford Wines is perfect for wine and music lovers. The winery is located in Coldstream, 60km away from the city. Check out their website for upcoming festivals and concerts—often they’ll have special events throughout the year.
However, walking around the stunning grounds with sprawling hills in the background will entice you enough. There is a conservatory, amphitheater and lakeside deck area to stop and soak in the views.
Head back to the main house for their trademarks: chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Match them with delicious charcuterie and hearty meals at Isabella’s Restaurant on-site, once again paying homage to local farmers’ produce.
A well-loved winery in Healesville, 65km from the Melbourne CBD, Giant Steps has been named one of the world’s top 100 wines by Wine & Spirits Magazine (US edition) for six years running. What’s so good about it?
They have single vineyards—isolated locations for different grapes— for each of their creations. That way, their chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah and LDR (a blend of the latter two) have been given space to be enriched by their soil and sun, giving bolder aromas and taste.
Head to the cellar door for lunch or dinner and enjoy the best of seasonal produce, and don’t forget to take some home to enjoy another time. Often, their vines only produce a batch of 200, making that bottle extra special.
Both of the prominent wine regions in Melbourne are a decent day trip from the city, so why not make a weekend of it? There are ample boutique bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs dotted around the picturesque countryside or overlooking the bay on the peninsula. Why not book a GoGet for you and a special someone, or with a group of friends to enjoy a wine-filled weekend. Always remember to drive responsibly or organize lifts to and from wineries.