We explore the Yarra Valley region – taste the wine, check out the cellar doors, sample the food and bed down for the night. By Kate Barracosa and Peter Bourne.
Matt Stone’s superb food is a worthy accompaniment to David Bicknell’s terrific wines at Oakridge, a cellar door, wine bar and restaurant rolled into one.
Drink now: Murrummong Vineyard Arneis
Cellar: 864 Single Block Release Chardonnay
The ghost of winery founder Dr Bailey Carrodus resides at this simple cellar door, his vinous legacy continued by the irrepressible Sarah Crowe.
Drink now Light Dry Red Wine
Cellar Carrodus Cabernet Merlot
This showpiece winery/tasting room/restaurant sits alongside the original Chateau Yering homestead, now a five-star hotel with a gracious, old-world feel.
Drink now Village Pinot Noir
Cellar Reserve Shiraz Viognier
The Yarra’s coolest winemaker operates Graceburn Wine Room, a hip cellar door that’s not in the vineyard but can be found in the township of Healesville.
Drink now EB26 Pinot Meunier
Cellar Hugh Cabernet Blend
The Besen family’s wines are wonderful, the outlook from their tasting room is perfectly picturesque and the TarraWarra Museum of Art is an absolute must.
Drink now K-Block Merlot
Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir
For breakfast and coffee
Hutch & Co
The third venture from former finance-industry guys Nick Panagopoulos and Rob Salha, Hutch & Co in the Yarra Valley’s south is the perfect pit stop for those travelling from Melbourne. Using local produce whenever possible, the menu is an all-day affair so you can order eggs on toast in various incarnations or the Full Bird Colonel fried-chicken burger on Turkish bread at any time. The Sharing is Caring board for two is a go-to for the indecisive – it even comes with a small serve of decadent white-chocolate bread and butter pudding. Coffee is roasted on site.
249-251 Main Street, Lilydale
Ezard At Levantine Hill
Designed by the hatted restaurant’s chef, Teage Ezard, the five- and eight-course dégustation menus with matching Levantine Hill wines are meticulously crafted and, quite simply, lots of fun. The Ōra King salmon arrives at the table under a cloche filled with smoke, the delicate dish only revealed when the smoke disappears. The “cheese on toast” emulsion, with a slippery, slow-cooked poached egg, is a strange and satisfying spoonful. And the chocolate dessert, served with malt ice-cream, flash-fried pumpkin seeds and judicious drops of pedro ximénez gel, is a perfect mix of sweet and crunchy. Set aside at least two hours for five courses or, if you’re pushed for time, opt for the more casual all-day menu available in another part of the restaurant.
882 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream ￼
￼It’s been a fixture in the town for more than a decade but since Phil Sexton sold the winery’s Innocent Bystander brand to concentrate on Giant Steps, the cellar door has undergone a refurbishment and become a more elegant outfit. Sit at the bar and nibble on small snacks and charcuterie (there’s now a dry-ageing room on site) before moving on to a pizza from the carefully curated selection or a bigger plate – anything cooked on the wood-fire grill is a good bet. Executive chef Jarrod Hudson has incorporated into the menu elements of the Thai cuisine he’s known for, with dishes such as clams in coconut-and-galangal broth and pork belly with flat rice noodles. Fresh sourdough arrives every day from Habituel bakery and coffee shop, Sexton’s newest venture, just up the road.
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville ￼
For taking home
Kitchen & Butcher
￼Part of the Healesville Hotel complex – where you’ll find Healesville Harvest café and the pub, long recognised for its outstanding food – Kitchen & Butcher stocks all the necessary pantry provisions. The store has its own line of relishes, chutneys and muesli mixes and stocks bread, wine, savoury snacks and sweet treats from other well-known and niche brands. Cheese expert Sophie Classon happily guides customers through the fromage, which includes international imports and cheeses from regional Victoria, plus the excellent smallgoods selection.
258 Maroondah Highway, Healesville ￼
Where to Stay
The Farmhouse at Meletos
Lemongrass. It’s the first thing your senses register when you walk through the door, thanks to a tiny oil burner at reception that wafts the scent through the building. The Farmhouse is located on the Meletos estate, which includes a café, a restaurant and events space and new store The Providore, and is set beside sister property Stones of the Yarra Valley. Owners Steve and Vonnie Frazer added the 23-room accommodation two years ago. Ask for a suite at the back: the gunmetal-grey shutters on each of the Juliet balconies open to views of the vineyards and a distant mountain. Grab a book and a glass of wine and retreat to one of the brown leather sofas by the fireplace in the communal lounge area. The fire burns throughout the day.
12 St Huberts Road, Coldstream
￼The Willow House and Habitat House, renovated a few years ago by Karen Dickson and landscape designer Greg Palmer, are equipped with everything you need for a cosy night in: gas heaters that spread warmth throughout each cottage, a fully equipped kitchen and a garden filled with fruit and herbs that guests are encouraged to make use of. The grounds surrounding the self-contained two-bedroom houses have been carefully designed to encourage meditative wanderings, with a wooden footbridge over tiny Piccaninny Creek and plenty of places to sit down with a cup of tea. If you’re wondering what’s growing outside your bedroom window, just look down: there are small signs beside many of the larger plants.
Chalet Road, Badger Creek
Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa
￼If relaxation is what you’re looking for, treat yourself to a Privilege Spa Suite, where views extend across the sprawling grounds of this 70-room resort (and you can watch TV from the tub through a curved glass wall). Facilities include a heated indoor swimming pool, steam room and gym, as well as a restaurant and cellar door. There’s also a 1.6-kilometre walking track behind the property. ￼
1309 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen