You know those quirky ads for Victoria with the unrealistically gorgeous people skipping around unrealistically gorgeous vineyards looking deliriously happy? Well, the Yarra Valley is like that. And it’s real.
It’s also close. Head towards the Maroondah Highway and follow the signs to Coldstream. The Valley’s rolling hills are now home to over 120 wineries and produce some of Australia’s best cool-climate chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and the ever-elusive shiraz viognier.
Start by checking into the Sebel Heritage Yarra Valley. It’s larger than your standard boutique but with the good service, contemporary rooms and great food you’d expect from something smaller. The hotel’s Bella Restaurant offers a seasonally changing menu from chef Darryl Hand – go the grilled duck breast for a wintry highlight.
A short drive away is the big-brand-owned-but-small-run Coldstream Hills winery. Run into one of the winemakers, Andrew Fleming or Greg Jarratt, and they’ll give you a full play-by-play on the current vintage and why the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay stands out for its “finely balanced acidity”. Don’t skip the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir, though, which carries Coldstream’s signature plum and cherry characteristics.
Down the street at Dominique Portet, the winemaker’s background – in the French regions of the Rhone and Champagne – shows through, especially in the flagship ‘Andre’ red, a blend of Yarra Valley cabernet sauvignon and Heathcote shiraz grapes.
Across the Valley, Yering Station is synonymous with pinot noir and shiraz viognier and arguably produces two of the finest examples in Australia. But the winery’s Yering Station ED Rosé, made from 100 per cent pinot noir grapes, is fantastic summer drinking – take it with the swordfish in the restaurant next door, headed by chef Laura Webb-James.
If you’re all graped-out by the end of the trip, stop by Healesville Sanctuary where you can get as close to koalas, emus and platypuses as you’re likely to get anywhere in the country.
TIME OUT TIP: For a bit of romance, book a sunrise balloon ride with Global Ballooning, which has flights from $290 per person.