Imagine waking up on a gorgeous morning in Yarra Glen and gazing out of the window at endless rows of green vineyard. This is what mornings are like at Balgownie Estate, the Yarra Valley arm of Balgownie Estate in Bendigo, which planted its vines in 1969.
The Yarra Valley location is much newer and flashier than its country cousin, with accommodation ranging from a 29-square-metre standard queen room up to an 88-square-metre two-bedroom spa suite, which includes a circular spa bath in the middle of the room with views out over the vines. To see those views you have to open a curtain to the living room, so if you want to enjoy a good long soak with a glass of wine and a lovely outlook, make sure those you are staying with are close friends. There are 54 of these spa suites, in both one-bedroom and two-bedroom varieties, and relaxing in the spa is the perfect antidote to overtired muscles.
If that's not enough relaxation, you can also book in with the Natskin spa on the premises. You don't have to stay at the winery to use the day spa, which offers treatments like massages, algae wraps, facials, manicures and warm stone treatments. The spa also offers the very special Rasul treatment for couples, which is a two-hour experience that includes a massage, a salt scrub and a steam bath in a dimly lit room with pretty twinkling lights in the ceiling.
The on-site restaurant, Rae's, has a seasonal menu that makes use of local produce where possible. There are two-course ($49 at lunch, $60 at dinner) and three-course ($62 for lunch, $74 for dinner) options, and overnight guests at the property can get amongst a buffet breakfast in the mornings. Rae's head chef Grant Flack has more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, and the menu includes imaginative dishes like natural oysters covered in grapefruit foam; beef tartare with confit egg yolk; potted trout with chardonnay jelly; and pink risotto with airdried ricotta.
The venue can be used for weddings and celebrations, with private dining rooms available in the restaurant for birthdays and the like and three different locations available for weddings. It can accommodate up to 120 wedding guests, but intimate weddings are also beautiful on the site.
And of course, this is a winery, so we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the wines themselves. Tastings are $5, and the wines on offer include those from the Yarra Valley as well as those made from Bendigo grapes. Bendigo is warmer than the Yarra Valley, so as well as cool-climate favourites like chardonnay and pinot noir, Balgownie also offers fuller-bodied varietals like shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
If are staying the night and you'd like to try other wineries in the Yarra Valley (and you should), book a place on Balgownie's minibus on Saturday morning. The bus driver will take you to a handful of wineries in the region (you can choose your itinerary or take suggestions), and there's plenty of room in the boot for your haul of the day. It costs $30 a day and is only available on Saturdays, so come early Saturday morning, leave the car, tour the region and return to Balgownie's own cellar door for an evening tasting. It's a great way to experience the region.