When my wine sister Alison recently took up residency in my spare room it was only a given that some form of wine tasting would occur at some point during her visit.
We settled on the Yarra Valley, then realised that we knew zip about the Melbourne wine region (both hailing from South Australia, or in Ali’s case, South Australia via California). We actually (shamefully) had to look at a map to work out whether the Yarra Valley was north, south, east or west. Fortunately, it was only a very easy (north-east) hour’s drive from Melbourne.
About ready to road trip our way out of Melbourne, by some miracle the huzzband Jude offered to be our driver for the day. I didn’t ask what he’d done, I just threw him the keys and happy danced my way to the passenger’s side of the car.
Which Yarra Valley wineries should you visit?
Having done didly squat research beforehand (besides working out what navigational direction the Yarra Valley was in), I plugged into the GPS the address of the Yarra Valley Visitor Information Centre knowing that they’d be able to plan out a wine tasting itinerary for us, which they did a tremendous job of! High fives to the Yarra Valley VIC.
The kind, unjudging Visitor Information Centre volunteers also quickly enlightened us on the wine ways of the Yarra Valley:
- Its signature varietals are Pinot Noir and Sparkling.
- It was Victoria’s first wine growing district with vines first planted in 1838.
- It’s also the home of many food producers – think fresh trout, fruit and veg, and cheeses.
- Plus, the Yarra Valley is also the spot for a good craft beer – a handy husband lure.
Winery #1: Innocent Bystander
First stop was this industrial-looking cellar-door-come-restaurant-come-providore, which is an amalgamation of some of my most favourite life pleasures. Here you can stock up on artisan breads, pastries and cheeses. Take part in a bout of wine tasting, as Alison and I happily did. Pick up a large latte for the road, as Jude happily did. Or even stick around for lunch, which we also happily did. All while being able to peer directly into the winery’s production facility, which is cordoned off by a glass wall – kind of like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I love an Italian Prosecco, so was mildly excited to discover Innocent Bystander’s very own, King Valley-grown Prosecco. Ok, who are we kidding, I was extremely excited! So much so I bought a boot-full.
Yarra Valley lunch stop: Giant Steps
Innocent Bystander is not your run-of-the-mill winery experience. Next door expect a full gastronomic delight in the form of the always-buzzing, but relatively laid-back, tapas restaurant Giant Steps. Book ahead to be able to enjoy a tapas and pizza lunch that is the perfect accompaniment to soak up a day of wine tasting.
Innocent Bystander and Giant Steps | 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5962 6111
Winery #2: TarraWarra Estate
The concept of a cellar door being open in the same vicinity as 5pm blew my mind – if you are visiting a South Australian cellar door at 3pm you feel like you’re about to turn into a pumpkin. But here TarraWarra Estate is, open until 5pm.
After you navigate the striking modern colleseum-esque architecture, and do an obligatory selfie star jumping in front of the scenic vineyard and hill views, you can finally get to the task at hand: swishing, sniffing and swallowing some Sav. What I loved about TarraWarra Estate was that the guy behind the counter added a glass to ours and did the tasting with us.
If you bypassed Giant Steps for lunch, there is a restaurant at TarraWarra Estate too. I was also secretly jealous of the group of 20-somethings sitting out in the sun on the winery’s beanbags, enjoying the fruits of Pinot and a picnic feast on the lawns, all while looking like they were having such a yay old time. I contemplated getting all stalkey and joining them.
Winery #3: Yering Station
This wasn’t on our itinerary but given we had time (and Yering Station is open on a Saturday until 6pm!) we thought we’d pick somewhere that we liked the name of. But then this happened:
“Do you have horses?” Alison asked. Unsmiling, eye-rolling guy behind the counter: “Um… no. We’re called Yering Station, not Yerling Station.” Alison: “Oh. So you don’t have horses?”
There’s a lot of history to be uncovered at Yering Station. This is where Victoria’s first vineyard was planted (in 1838) and the cellar door is found in the original winery building. While I loathe to use the word quaint, there’s definitely a whiff of nanna’s house about this place.
On the way out do as we did and pick up some snacks for the drive home from the produce store. The carbs were a huge hit with the over-talkative, wine-happy females and the now-regretting-his-choice-to-chauffer husband.
Yering Station | 38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9730 0100