It's easy to forget that the Yarra Valley, with its rolling green hills, swaying vineyards and old farmhouses, is less than an hour's drive from the CBD. The cellar doors of the region's famous wineries are open every weekend and the winery restaurants are becoming some of the most sought after dining destinations out of Melbourne.
Yarra Valley wineries we love
Healesville cellar door and restaurant Giant Steps is named after saxophonist John Coltrane's 1960 album of the same name. Owner Phil Sexton, a massive jazz fan, named his wines in the jazz musician's honour. The winery is a large space split up into a wine bar and dining area towards the front, and an open kitchen and barrell hall in the back. The barrell hall is where you can taste the single vineyard wines Giant Steps is known for, such as winemaker Steve Flamsteed's chardonnays, which have set the benchmark for the Yarra Valley region.
TarraWarra Estate has become one of the region's must-see destinations. Built on a hill, the winery's stunning contemporary architecture houses a cellar door, art gallery and restaurant that sits among the estate's vineyard. Visit the cellar door where, for $5 a person, guests can sample wines with winemaker Clare Halloran. Try the Single Block and Reserve ranges – the best chardonnay and pinot noir produced on the Estate. Chef Troy Spencer heads up the winery's restaurant, which uses produce from the kitchen garden and local farms. Don't forget to visit the TarraWarra Museum of Art before you leave to see art by contemporary Australian artists.
The big daddy of bubbles producers in Victoria, Domaine Chandon has been crafting top shelf sparkling wine since the days it was allowed to be called 'Champagne'. With direct lineage to the Moët & Chandon giants, this classic winery combines French tradition with the Yarra Valley cool climate terroir.
Oakridge Wines is a family owned winery in Yarra Valley that is gaining renown for its restaurant. The kitchen, which is headed by chef Matt Stone along with pastry chef Jo Barrett, produces dishes highlighting produce from the kitchen garden and local growers. Guests can enjoy a meal matched with a selection of wines exclusive to the Oakridge restaurant, or simply take in the view of the stunning vineyard.
Innocent Bystander is conveniently located across the street from fellow Healesville winery Giant Steps. Set in a former brewery, the winery has a beer hall atmosphere, with their Prosecco to Syrah served out of temperature-controlled draught taps. It's an approachable venue: order a carafe or a flight of wines and it'll come in beakers straight out of science class. The food menu is centred around wood-fired pizzas and share dishes made for nibbling, while diners sample the moderately priced wines.
Though the Dominique Portet winery was only founded in 2000, it's the project of a ninth-generation winemaker from Bordeaux. The Dominique Portet winery in the rolling hills of Yarra Valley offers a cellar door open daily and the restaurant serves country-style lunches (think snack platters, cheese and charcuterie) ideal for a post-wine tasting meal. Taste the Fontaine rosé, one that’s an exceptional berry-driven summery blend of merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, and a steal at $22 a bottle.
If you want to experience Yarra Valley's oldest wineries, head to Yering Station. The winery has been run since 1838 and is a favourite with visitors to the region. Head into the cellar door housed in the original winery building. Wine tasting is complimentary for groups with fewer than ten guests. Larger groups are required to make a booking. The Wine Bar restaurant is open daily from noon and is the perfect spot for a winery lunch with views of the Yarra Ranges.