Yarra Valley Gems

The Yarra Valley is one of Australia’s most popular wine and gourmet destinations. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin goes tasting.

From Oakridge to Rochford, TarraWarra Estate to De Bortoli, Yarra Yering to Coldstream Hills, Levantine Hill to Soumah, the Yarra Valley is full of outstanding destinations for lovers of wine and food.

Under an hour from downtown Melbourne – it makes for a perfect day trip, or weekend away, for anyone visiting Victoria.

The Yarra Valley neighbouring Dandenong Ranges offer not only quality local food and wine, but also delightful scenery, romantic hideaways, and many adventures.

If you have not visited for a while, prepare for a surprise at the new-look Hubert Estate – home of the St Hubert’s cellar door. 

The new facility aims to take visitors on a food, wine, and cultural journey in a lovely rural setting. There is also plenty of room for functions. 

Using the existing St Hubert’s winery footprint, the site underwent a complete redevelopment with a dual-level design.

The estate now houses a modern Australian and Euro-inspired restaurant (Quarters), an art gallery immersed in Indigenous culture (Hubert Gallery of Art), an event space with a backdrop of the Yarra Valley (Harriett), a revamped cellar door for St Hubert’s as well as a boutique wine store (Notes). 

Plans are also underway to add a hotel and wellness centre – scheduled to be built by 2024.

“Together with St Hubert’s, we are proud to introduce Hubert Estate, which brings to life a stunning, multi-purpose destination that has an incredible history set for new beginnings for locals and visitors alike,” said Ryan Hospitality Group’s Andrew Ryan.

“Winemaking will always be close to our hearts, but with the estate we have broadened our table. Pull up a chair for lunch at Quarters, celebrate special moments with Harriett, or immerse yourself in Indigenous culture at the Hubert Gallery of Art. 

“We designed the estate to complement the landscape, and we’re inviting guests to find their place in the picture with us.”

Treasury Premium Brands’ chief marketing officer and general manager of sales, Angus Lilley, says the estate pays homage to St Hubert’s history. 

“Established in 1862 as one of the first wineries in the region, St Hubert’s helped position the Yarra as a premium wine producing location and was a champion of the Yarra Valley’s wine renaissance in the 1960s,” he said. 

“This is a progressive step in the journey of St Hubert’s. As one of the pioneers of premium winemaking in the Yarra Valley, we are thrilled to create an innovative cellar door experience that will set a benchmark for tasting room experiences and help drive visitation to the region as a whole.”

See https: //hubertestate.com.au.

Another “must visit wine destination is Levantine Hill (above), where owners the Jreissati family and winemaker Paul Bridgeman strive for excellence in whatever they do.

They recently unveiled Optume, $800-a-bottle celebrations of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon from the Yarra – the winery’s most premium range.

The 2017 Levantine Hill Optume Shiraz has a limited release of 65 cases, and the 2017 Levantine Hill Optume Cabernet Sauvignon comprises just 58 dozen bottles.

Winemaker Bridgeman says he has aimed to craft wines expressing the heart and soul of the Yarra Valley. 

The wines use hand-sorted grapes sourced from several selected Yarra Valley sites, which Bridgeman says allows for more nuanced flavours and complexity.

The bottles have been imported from France and locally crafted presentation boxes will hold each bottle, complete with their own individually numbered key to secure the contents. 

The Levantine Hill cellar door offers superb views of the vines, winery, and the Yarra Valley in the distance. The bar-style seating is suitable for groups of one- 6 people, where a wine expert will guide you through your chosen wine flight.

All guests who dine are invited to enjoy a seated tasting at the table as part of their gastronomic journey. The sharing-style menu is Mediterranean-inspired and celebrates the best local produce.

The estate comprises two vineyards, one planted in the 1990s; the other with family blocks created alongside a truffiére. The first vintage was in 2012.

A new state-of-the art winery is being built on site, along with a conference space and a classic car museum. There are also plans for luxury cottages on the banks of the Yarra.

For more info see www.levantinehill.com.au.

Right next door, Rochford Wines’ Italian restaurant, Il Vigneto, recently launched a new breakfast offering.

The feast includes a basket of pastries (to share between two), a choice of main course, and bottomless bubbles, mimosas, coffee, tea, and juices.

Among the breakfast pizza dishes are San Marzano tomato, ricotta, rosemary pesto, rocket; pork and fennel sausage, provolone, hash brown, egg, and prosciutto; and smoked salmon, ricotta, rocket and hollandaise.

The menu can be adapted to suit dietary needs.

The funs starts from 9am every Saturday and 10am every Sunday with bookings essential.

Another option with an Italian accent is a tasting at De Bortoli Cellar Door with a Gourmet Food and Wine Experience.

This privately hosted experience explores the iconic wine varietals from the Yarra Valley region and beyond, matched with delicious nibbles. Or try a three-course Italian-inspired lunch at Locale Restaurant with matched wines.

Anyone visiting in November should try to time their arrival to coincide with the region’s brand new festival: PULP. (below).

PULP aims to champion winemaking innovation and diversity across the region.

The 10-day festival will celebrate local producers, new and established, with wine tastings, food trucks and live music, bringing together young guns and local legends.

There will be a focus on environmentally sustainable and innovative practices, out-of-the-box wine styles and blends, and creative collaborations.

Ticket holders will have the chance to sample the latest releases at events taking place across the Yarra Valley and inner-Melbourne venues from November 11-20.

Maybe take the chance to try north-east Italian grape variety brachetto, or pair sparkling tempranillo with chocolates.

Or perhaps sample wines from Tillie J Wines, Seville Estate, Santolin Wines, Musical Folk Wines, Rongo Wines, Notes Wine, Sutherland Estate, Solar Wines and Wheeler Wines at a CBD tasting.

You can find out details at www.wineyarravalley.com.au/pulp/

If you prefer beer or spirits to wine there are plenty of artisan breweries to visit, along with spirits producers.

Healesville is also home to one of Australia’s leading small distilleries: Four Pillars.

Four Pillars recently unveiled its $7 million new home, seven years after launching in the same town.

The newly expanded Four Pillars has opened its new distillery, gin garden and hospitality experience directly adjacent to its original home in the heart of the Yarra Valley.

The design of the new additional 1000sqm space, by Melbourne’s award-winning and sustainability-led Breathe Architecture, has nearly tripled the capacity for visitors at Four Pillars and includes Jude’s Gin Garden, a multiple event and function areas, a crafted copper bar plus a dedicated Four Pillars Gin Shop featuring rare, limited-release and Healesville-only gins and merchandise.

The expanded distillery sees new blending and bottling line facilities, additional storage space, additional car parking and room for a new 2000-litre still due to arrive soon.

See www.fourpillarsgin.com.

You can follow Winsor’s travels at www.gourmetontheroad.com.