#TravelTuesday: Top wineries in the Yarra Valley
Australia is home to some outstanding wine regions, and in the southern state of Victoria, it doesn’t get better than the Yarra Valley. Sited just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, this picturesque wine region will delight foodies and oenophiles alike. Here are five of the area’s best cellar door experiences.
It might look like a medieval Tuscan castle, but amidst the modern interiors of De Bortoli’s Yarra Valley location, visitors can indulge in lengthy tastings of the winery’s contemporary wines. The Noble One Botrytis Semillon is Australia’s most awarded wine, while the Black Noble is a decadent Port-like variation. Those partial to Chardonnay will find it surprisingly light, feisty, and modern. Dressed in shades of white and drenched with natural light, the bright, modern restaurant, Locale, specialises in local produce and handmade pasta. But if you're just after a nibble, grab a glass of wine and some cheese (there’s an on-site cheese room) and head for one of the property’s secluded gazebos to wind down with jaw-dropping vineyard views. If you have an hour to spare, it's worth booking ahead for the private wine and cheese tasting in the Trophy Room.
A visit to the Dominique Portet cellar door is like visiting a Tuscan winery without investing the time and cost to get there. A European-style villa set amidst sweeping views, this is a lush boutique winery with buckets of history. The Portet family’s winemaking expertise stretches back to 18th century France, and Dominique has had stints in Champagne and the Napa Valley before opening the Yarra Valley outpost in 2000. Get here early to avoid crowds at the intimate tasting bar and be sure to try the Provençal-style Fontaine Rosé. Dominique’s son, Ben, is experimenting with his own label – called Ten Men – and if you’re lucky, you might wheedle your way into trying his 2014 Pinotage. Visiting in summer? Grab a picnic hamper of duck terrine, sardines, cornichons, sausages, baguettes, and a bottle of Rosé to enjoy on the grounds.
Everyday, busloads of tourists flock to the Chandon cellar door, and for good reason. The Australian subsidiary of Moet et Chandon is a treat for everyone — even if you have to put up with the crowds. Beginners can learn the craft with a self-guided winery tour while experienced oenophiles can head for the tasting bar to try the label’s full range of bubbles. All wines here are made according to the traditional method. Don't leave without tasting the Chandon Sparkling Pinot Shiraz, a unique, premium Australian sparkling red. You'll do best to also indulge in the delicious plates at the Greenpoint Brasserie, where the charcuterie platter is perfection. With plenty of vineyards, lakes, and rolling hills, the property also offers some of the best vistas in the valley, so grab a drink, find a perch, and enjoy this little slice of heaven. Here's a tip: Book ahead to attend Chandon’s ‘Sunday School,’ where you’ll sample wines from the barrel, learn how to taste wine, explore grape varietals, and experience food and wine matching sessions.
The drive to Oakridge’s cellar door – through miles of lush vines – is just the beginning of a spectacular experience. Begin in the modern tasting bar where you’ll taste wines alongside gorgeous vineyard views, and even try some of the grapes the wine is made from. Next, head for the restaurant. If the sun’s out, grab a table on the terrace. Either way, settle in to enjoy a medley of dishes by chef Matt Stone, who uses fresh local produce in his seasonal menus. On your way out, drop by the tasting bar again to pick up some souvenirs; Oakridge collaborates with local artisans to stock a rotating range of products ranging from snacks to cooking ingredients.
It’s gained quite a reputation for its ‘A Day on the Green’ concert series, where musicians like Jamie Cullum, Norah Jones, and Rob Thomas play among the vineyards, but if you ask us, any visit to Rochford is a real treat. The newly-renovated bar offers full tasting experiences, and if you don’t walk out with bottles of the 2013 La Droite or 2013 La Gauche, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re peckish, feed your appetite at the Rochrod Restaurant and Wine Bar, which offers upscale dishes in both indoor and alfresco settings. Be sure to nab a few treats and souvenirs from the shop as you leave.