A lush, cool valley just outside of Melbourne, Australia, the Yarra Valley is is the perfect day trip escape from the city.
Not only does it have gorgeous forests, a roaring river, a natural park and plenty of wildlife, it also offers plenty to indulge in with more than 80 different wineries, cheese and chocolate producers, restaurants and much more.
We took a day trip from Melbourne with some wonderful friends of ours so that we could taste the Yarra Valley. Here are five yummy things we enjoyed.
Before we began our day of wine tasting and excessive hedonism, we knew that we needed to fuel up with a solid breakfast. We stopped in the cute town of Healesville, which is not much more than one main avenue – the tree-lined boulevard of Nicholson Street.
We enjoyed a hearty brunch at Mocha and Lime, a cafe that is known for its homestyle food and great coffee. A big plate of toasted organic sourdough, poached eggs, smoked trout and avocado was more than enough to fill my belly and leave me feeling energised and ready to explore.
I absolutely love chocolate.
Whenever there is a chance to visit a chocolate shop or a chocolate factory (like this one in Mindo, Ecuador) on my travels, I giggle with glee like a little kid on Christmas morning. There’s nothing like a warm dense chocolate cake, or a creamy chocolate gelato that melts in your mouth, or a rich truffle with salted caramel or tart raspberry. I’m making myself drool just thinking about it.
The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery certainly satisfied my chocolate craving during our day in the Yarra Valley. My eyes wide, I marveled at the huge displays of every type of chocolate I could image – from squares to bars to hot chocolate mixes and elaborately sculpted shapes. You can even cosy up to the glass separating the shop from the chocolate production area and watch the conveyor belts squeeze out perfectly formed chocolate coated treats. I was in awe of everything. I was like, well, a kid in a candy store.
I would highly recommend trying some of the gelato. It is rich, creamy and velvety and it put a huge smile on my face.
At one point, Cam asked us, “Do you guys want to stop for some cheese?”
What a ridiculous question, Cam. Of course we do.
So, we pulled into the gravel parking lot of Coldstream Dairy, located along the Maroondah Highway just past the Yarra Glen turn off. This locally run dairy specialises in cheese made with Yarra Valley mik, including fresh feta and Italian style cheese. They also make their own yogurt, dips and more.
The dairy is run by Anna Ladner, who has always had a passion for making cheese. “What I love about cheese making is that you are free to experiment with different cultures that come from France Italy Germany.” she explains. “You can add them to our pasteurised milk and you are free to make any type of cheese you like.”
She started the cheese factory on her farm in 2012. She grew up in an Italian family on a strawberry, gladioli and bean farm in Wandin in the Yarra Valley. Some of her earliest memories are of cheese making. Her family would also make their own sauces, pastas and preserves as well.
“I love making the cheese and then waiting 3 to 6 months to taste the flavours that develop.” says Anna. “These flavours have come from overseas and when you taste the mushroom, the hazelnuts and the earthy grains its amazing that other cows thousands of kilometres have ingested these plants and the cheese cultures have travelled to Australia and then have been reproduced here for our pleasure.”
It’s definitely worth stopping in to visit Anna and her husband John at Coldstream Dairy and sampling some of the delicious cheeses.
4. A Wine Tasting – So Many Wine Tastings!
How could I specify one winery when there are so many to choose from and they are all so different and wonderful in their own way? We stopped at Madden’s Rise first and got to taste a huge range of wines while surrounded by bright yellow daffodils and views of the rolling green countryside through the large windows. I liked the Shiraz… it was warm and spicy and fruity and full of flavour.
We also stopped by at Coldstream Hills, another fantastic winery. Located near the town of Coldstream, this winery is known for producing some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in all of Australia. It’s the rainfall and the cool climate that makes these wines so excellent. We loved the Merlot, with its complex dark and fruit flavours and hint of spice – they type of wine that is perfect for drinking around the fireplace on a cosy winter night.
By the time we got to Medhurst Winery I was at the stage of drunk where everyone is my best friend and I just want to tell everyone how much I love them. I was so enamoured with our friendly host that I wrote her a review on Tripadvisor on my phone as soon as I got back in the car.
Although the drunken review I wrote is surprisingly error-free, it was written under the influence of copious amounts of Merlot and a feeling of all-encompassing affection for the entire universe. However, from what I remember I do think Fiona was pretty great and the wines were yummy, so Medhurst should be on your list anyway.
Squitchy Lane was also a lovely winery to visit. By this time we had enjoyed so many different wines that our tastebuds were probably not very accurate, but we still did a tasting here and had a blast. Our hosts were friendly and we ended up buying a huge box of 12 bottles of wine at a really good value- $96 AUD.
After a day of wine tastings, I got myself to that giddy drunk point where I found everything hilarious and I couldn’t stop my mindless babbling. It was time for some substantial food again to help us sober up. The Butcher’s Daughter is named for the owner, Leanne, who grew up in the area in a family with two generations of experience in the butchery trade.
We headed to Seville and had dinner at the Butcher’s Daughter, where I feasted on a wagyu beef burger with garlic butter fries. It was exactly what I needed to fill my hungry belly. Of course, we paired it with plenty of wine.
The other options on the menu looked pretty good too – such as fig and prosciutto salad with goats cheese and pine nuts or fresh Australian prawns marinated in butter, white wine, garlic and parsley.
After we feasted, we headed back home to Melbourne. I salute Cam, our noble driver, who refrained from enjoying the wine so that we could have an amazing day. When we got back we all feasted on the cheese and wine we had gathered from our adventures – bringing a little taste of the Yarra Valley home with us.
Have you been to the Yarra Valley? Tell me about your favourite treats in the comments below!
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