A Road Trip to the Yarra Valley
By Rochelle Godwin
When it comes to day trips in wine country, one of the first regions that springs to mind is the Yarra Valley… and for good reason. It’s within an hour’s drive from Melbourne and boasts over 90 cellar doors. Best known for chardonnay and pinot noir, and its cool climate syrah and cabernet; the region has no shortage of diversity and options for the wine wanderer. With elevations varying from 50-1250m, alongside an array of soil types and micro-climates, it’s the diversity that makes this region so damn intriguing. As you marvel at its beauty and become beguiled by its wines, Yarra Valley always leaves you wanting more, and with each visit, it’ll never cease to surprise you. If you’re planning a day trip to the Yarra Valley, here are our top picks:
Tip number one: start sucking up to that good-looking, smart and funny friend; you’re going to need a designated driver for this road-trip.
10:00 - First stop is Seville Estate. With sweeping views of the Upper Yarra Valley amidst staggering gum trees, this winery is an absolute charmer. As you drive up to the cellar door, you’ll feel more as if you’re pulling up to your friend’s house for a cuppa, not for your first wine tasting of the day.
Since 1972, Seville Estate has built itself up to being one of the Yarra’s most esteemed wineries, prized for its cool-climate shiraz. At the cellar door, Tony was more than happy to guide me through the range. New to the Seville Estate range is their entry level, playful wines under the ‘sewn.’ label. Having never tried the new range I was excited and delighted by their expressiveness and value. Another must-try is the acclaimed 2016 Estate chardonnay, wooing you with white flower perfumes, opulent melon fruits and sweet spice. But, as expected, the shiraz didn’t fail to delight, with the 2012 Dr McMahon as the standout, still flaunting lush and plump red fruits, supported by native pepper and savoury back tones.
11:00 - Next of course, has to be Yarra Yering. One cannot simply do a tour of the Yarra Valley without stopping off at Yarra Yering. Entrenched deep into the Yarra Valley’s history, a trip to Yarra Yering pays homage to the forefathers of the region whilst also looking into its future with 2017 ‘Winemaker of the Year’, Sarah Crowe. Don’t miss out on the 2016 Dry White Wine No.1 and 2016 Underhill shiraz - purely exceptional.
Lunch at Meletos
12:30 - Bookings here are essential, especially if you’re visiting on the weekend. This place is popular for a reason, famous for its wood-fired pizza and salumi boards; it always tastes better when shared with friends. And if it couldn’t get any better, Meletos also shares a roof with Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse, a definite win-win if you need a ‘wine break’. For me, I’m a sucker for the cloudy apple cider, the perfect accompaniment to lunch and the best kind of palate cleanser.
14:00 - Back along the Maroondah, stop off at Oakridge and get your palate back into the wine game with their vast portfolio. My cellar door host, Bec, gladly showed me though the range, sharing with me her knowledge and passion. Needless to say, I was swiftly romanced by the wines, the vineyard views and the full cellar door experience. David Bicknell’s reputation does not precede him, as I tasted through a dozen wines, each was able to surprise and intrigue me. David doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to highlighting Yarra Valley’s diversity, showcasing a range of varieties from his various vineyard sites. A highlight for me was the 2017 pinot meunier, rarely seen as a single varietal in the region, I was eager to explore the flavours of cherry cola and candied strawberry to green bell pepper and cut grass, a complex little guy offering amazing value. I also can’t go past mentioning the 2016 cabernet sauvignon 864 Single Block, full of power and concentration, you’ll want to hold on to this one for a special occasion down the track.
15:00 - If exploring the Yarra Valley’s diversity is what you’re after, our next stop, Giant Steps is the perfect way to get a grip on it. Their tasting, ‘A Tour of the Yarra Valley’, does just that, as you taste side-by-side the chardonnays and pinot noirs sourced from around the valley. What’s more, they line them up for you in order of elevation so you can taste the difference as you start climbing; both a great learning opportunity, and the perfect way to grasp the diversity of the Yarra Valley. In both the chardonnay and pinot noir line-ups, the Applejack Vineyard was a standout for me, showing sexy complexity.
Payten & Jones
16:00 - From my first sip of chardonnay, I was serenaded by the minimal interventionist and unfiltered wines from Behn and Troy. These wines are edgy and exciting. Too many highlights to list: but don’t go past the 2016 chardonnay, the 2016 ‘Brownes Block’ pinot noir, the 2017 ‘Hollow Bones’ grenache or the ‘Major Kong’ syrah. Truly clever winemaking, not to mention, the labelling is ingenious. If you’re the kind of person that judges a book by its cover, you’ll want to pick up Payten & Jones’ wines, illustrated by Roland Harvey, you’ll find these labels slightly nostalgic and entertaining (just like the wine).
17:00 - Had enough vino for the moment? Head into the heart of Healesville to Alchemy Distillery for a cheeky cocktail and snack. Check out the Quinoa Vodka, better yet, try it in the Alchemy Mule. A great way to spritz up your afternoon.
Graceburn Wine Room Bistro
18:30 - If you’re traveling on the weekend, definitely check out the Graceburn Wine Room Bistro. Home to Mac Forbes’ wines, this stop is another Yarra Valley must. Browse through the museum release wine list for your chance to check out some back vintage chardonnay and pinot noir - bookings essential!
I’ll leave you with one final tip: make sure you pick up a nice bottle along the way to gift to your designated driver, you owe ‘em!