Yarra Valley Wine Region – Victoria, Australia
There are so many day trip opportunities when visiting Melbourne and one we were definitely looking forward to was exploring all the wine regions. Access to Australia wine is limited so if this was anything like New Zealand, the good stuff does not make it to the USA.
Located an hour away from Melbourne, a valley situated between two mountains produces a cool-climate ideal for wine growing and was in fact the first wine region in the state of Victoria in 1838. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon do very well in Yarra Valley but some uncommon grapes for the area have been successful as well including Nebbiolo, Gamay, Arneis, Sangiovese and Sauvignon.
And the region is not just good for wine growing but also for produce as well – if you are around for a farmer’s market (third Sunday of each month) definitely check it out! Many of the wineries have restaurants that utilize the farm to table concept in the region.
There are several towns to explore that make up the Yarra Valley including Healesville, Coldstream, Yarra Glen, Seville and Lilydale. There is lots going on in and around this entire region including gardens, redwoods, animal sanctuaries, creameries, and more.
While there are many organized tours that run day trips from Melbourne to Yarra Valley, the wineries here are friendly to visitors so we were comfortable doing it on our own, especially since we had the car. This gave us freedom to select a variety of wineries – both larger and smaller – to explore. If you do not have a car, definitely take advantage of the many day tours offered – we saw many people enjoying this option!
The top wineries I had identified to visit:
- Helen’s Hill
- Oak Tree
- St Huberts
Our first stop was Helen’s Hill for a tasting and lunch. When we arrived, the place was mobbed with large parties so I was happy to have reservations. Once the vans of people left, the winery calmed down a bit and we were able to enjoy ourselves. We decided to do a tasting of the wines – two whites (regular Chardonnay and the reserve Chardonnay) and two reds (Pinot Noir and Shiraz) – and we were so impressed with all the wines. Great selection and execution of these grapes with bottles I wish we could take home. For food, we ordered the cheese plate – this what dreams are made of – just look at all the goodness on this board. We also got the sampler of small plates – we did not want to be tasting on an empty stomach and this certainly did the trick. Everything here from wine to food was excellent – two thumbs way up at Helen’s Hill – we could have stayed here all day!
Second stop was Oak Tree Vineyard just down the street. This is a small, family owned winery where one of the owners welcomed us to taste four of their wines. It is so fun to come to the smaller vineyards as they are able to really spend time with guests and go through the wine making process and their history. We had such a gorgeous day to be experiencing the Yarra Valley and it showcased the region so well. While nothing was left on the vines this time of year, the rolling hills of lush green with farm animals was as picturesque as it comes.
We had such a gorgeous day to be experiencing the Yarra Valley and it showcased the region so well. While nothing was left on the vines this time of year, the rolling hills of lush green with farm animals was as picturesque as it comes.
Yarra Valley Dairy was on our way to the next stop so we made a quick visit inside. While we could have participated in a more elaborate tasting, we did just have a cheese board so we opted for their standard tasting of four goat cheeses – and it was literally just a taste but for $5 that is all we expected. This is a fun spot and if you have not already indulged in a cheese plate, this looks like a great place to do so, especially if you are a goat cheese fan.
St Hubert’s Winery came recommended and their new estate is certainly an attraction. The new property features a restaurant, ample outdoor space, a separate building for events, and a tasting room that is physically under a hill. It really was quite a complex and when we had trouble finding parking in their generous parking lot, it only piqued our interest to see what was going on. We were lucky enough to be squeezed in for a tasting (we did not have reservations) and we thoroughly enjoyed the selection here. It was clearly a large operation and a great place to spend several hours.
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie was just down the street and with some time before our next appointment, we decided to swing by. We thought the St Hubert’s parking lot was crowded but wow, this was one extremely popular destination – we were lucky that someone was pulling out just as we arrived to get us a parking spot. Inside was madness – there were people just everywhere on chocolate shopping sprees. The offerings were so varied from regular chocolates, to ice cream, to brownie mix, to various items covered in chocolate, and various molds. My favorite giggle was that they called nonpareils freckles. We ended up purchasing probably one of the most inexpensive items in the store but it was so satisfying – milk chocolate pastilles – but it lasted us several days of the trip!
Our final winery stop was at Corniola Winery to another small, family owned operation. Italian immigrants, the owners operated an Italian restaurant in Melbourne before turning their hobby of wine making into the real deal. The owner was so incredibly welcoming and excited to showcase their wine selection. Always make sure when you are planning wine visits to find smaller wineries to support – they are truly special!
What an amazing place so close to Melbourne! If we had more time, there was so much more we could have done – have a winery dinner, walk around the redwoods nearby, explore the town of Healesville and more. This is a fantastic way to spend a full day or even a half day of your Melbourne itinerary.