Somewhat lesser known (at least in the states…or at least by me) than, for example, Napa Valley in California or Rhône Valley in the south of France, Australia’s Yarra Valley is one of the many wine producing regions in Victoria. It is exceptionally convenient for anyone living in or visiting Melbourne, being only a few hours’ drive away. This past November during a spontaneous, plan-as-we-go trip in Australia, my boyfriend and I explored Yarra on a Thursday. I would however recommend a weekend and planning a little bit beforehand – on a weekday there were only a couple of spots that were open. The plus side to this is, of course, fewer people doing tastings. Fortunately, we were able to stop by the main attraction of Yarra Valley – TarraWarra estate, and as well as a few other smaller wineries. Driving in to the valley feels ethereal with the rolling hills and the ideal Australian summer weather – 75 degrees, sunny with blue skies, and buoyant bunches of cumulus clouds. To compare it to Eden would not be hyperbolic.
To enter TarraWarra, you first drive up a gravel driveway to a very posh, modern stone building. When you see it, you might think you’re entering the property of a museum – and actually, you are. The estate holds not only the wine cellar for tastings, but also a restaurant and an art museum. With wine on the mind, we didn’t stop to observe the museum, skipped the restaurant (though it looked beautiful with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the estate) and went straight for the cellar door. Sort of. We passed a positively picturesque pond with willow tree and outdoor sitting area before reaching the cellar. TarraWarra is so sleek and modern that the cellar door didn’t even appear to have a handle to open it, so we wandered around kind of confused as to why we couldn’t find a way to get through what appeared to be a door and was literally labeled “Cellar Door”. After a few back and forths, we actually approached the door and soundlessly the door slip open as it detected our presence. We walked up to the tasting bar, bathed in sun rays from the skylight above. I grabbed a bottle of the 2015 Estate Shiraz to go.
There were a few failed attempts at tastings at other estates as a fair few were not open, but we found another much more modest and lowkey spot and tried a few more wines. It was at this spot that I learned a lot more about rosé and the specific grapes whose skins are used to achieve the rosé color status (in this area, pinot noir is the grape skin of choice).
Finally, after accumulating approximately 4 glasses of wine from tastings with empty stomachs, we sought out the Yarra Valley Dairy where they had the best of both worlds – more wine tasting, but also cheese tasting. After tasting a few more wines, I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and we split a plate of house cheese, breads, and spreads.
We spent just the afternoon in Yarra though it would be easy to spend the whole day (or even a weekend) exploring all of the different estates, but if you’re just around for a short time, go for an afternoon and make TarraWarra the priority.