Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm Now a Yarra Valley Expert

Parent month has sadly drawn to an end. For Charlie and me, it was a month full of laughter, day trips, free meals (so much more than that!) and fun with our loved ones after almost eight months of living away from home. During just one month, Charlie and I travelled with our parents to Sydney, the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island, and, of course, the Yarra Valley... twice. Now I think I can say with some amount of confidence that I know a bit about the Yarra Valley. Or at least about its food options (since I still know little about wine, save for the coincidental occasion on which I pick up a scent that's actually in the ballpark of what I'm supposed to smell).
Like I just mentioned, I know little about wine. I know the process of what to look for and what steps to take while tasting it because I researched and wrote this little biddy a few months ago, but after two trips to the Yarra Valley I can conclude that I still do not know much about wine. I have decided that my favorites based on taste and how much gas they don't give me are pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, though! V. exciting because now I know what to look for when I browse the CleanSkins ($5 wines) aisle at the bottle shop. 

Domaine Chandon: When we visited the valley with Charlie's parents, we had a great lunch at Domaine Chandon, the same Chandon as Moet, just the Australian version. The vineyards at Chandon, shown above, are some of the most beautiful and picturesque that I've seen in the valley. You can see that we had typical Melbourne area weather on the day we visited Chandon. 
All of the vineyard lunches are pretty pricey, but I'd say the food quality at Chandon matched the winery's upscale aura. I had a duck pie that was flakey and crispy and served over sweet potato mash and gravy.  We all shared a charcuterie board with terrine, pate, cornichons, olives and and bread to start. Although Chandon is known for its sparkling wines (champagne that's not from France,) we had a rose with lunch, which was very pretty – very important criterion in wine analysis.
Chandon seems like it's probably one of the largest wineries in the valley, which equals tour busses and crowds around the tasting counter. It's gorgeous, though, and is well worth a stop over for lunch. (Shout out to the young waitress who looked like she came straight to work after the club and was limping – we've all been there.)

Punt Road Wines: Our first stop in the Valley with Chaz's fam was Yering Station, which had a nice cellar door tasting room, but I thought our second was more exciting. Punt Road Wines was an impromptu stop for us on our way to lunch, but was well worth it for the chance to try their pear and apple ciders. Both were so good. I don't usually like pear cider, but this one was just so light and fresh – not overly sweet. This guy is super into his cider, and he had us try his experimental apple sherry, too. I guess he pegged us as adventurous. I bought four of the apple ciders for $16. For the quality, you can't really beat that.

Innocent Bystander: Somehow related to Little Creatures and White Rabbit and in the same parking lot as the White Rabbit Brewery, Innocent Bystander makes their wines from blends of grapes from around the valley. They don't have their own vineyards, but their other company Giant Steps offers single vineyard wines. We managed a quick visit to Innocent with Charlie's parents and did a short tasting, but went back for lunch with mine.
I didn't know the first time we went but learned before returning that Innocent's buzzworthy product is its pink moscato that's served from the tap and can be bought in mini bottles, cans and kegs. Charlie and I declared a few months ago that we loved moscato, but then discovered it's, like, a pathetic entry level wine with much too little alcohol content for my liking. Love its sparkling, sweet taste, though, and this one's worth drinking. I thoroughly enjoyed my glass with lunch. Also – pretty!
We went with a few pizzas for lunch and the wagyu pastrami sandwich with beet and goat curd, and all kind of shared. All of the pizzas were good, but I think my favorite was the four cheese with asiago, taleggio, buffalo mozzarella, parmesan and roasted garlic. The pie with cotechino sausage, tomato, olive, sage, scamorza bianca cheese and eggplant was also nice, if not a bit too salty. There's a great atmosphere in Innocent Bystander and tasty food, without the prices of the vineyard restaurants. It's a good choice.

Healesville Sanctuary: We went here with my parents, and it was well worth the visit. And I say that even after going to both Sydney's Taronga Zoo and Phillip Island's koala sanctuary just a few days before. The Healesville Sanctuary is home to only Australian animals, which is great for foreign tourists who want to cut to the chase. The sanctuary is located within an indigenous forest, and that makes it possible to have more natural enclosures than at a zoo. Visitors are able to freely walk with the animals in many exhibits, including the lyrebirds, rainforest, wallabies, kangaroos and fruit bats enclosures, and that's just darn cool. If a wallaby comes up to you, you're allowed to pet it! I wanted to wait for it to happen, but no one wanted to let me. :( (Could have been a while.)

Yarra Valley Dairy: Don't let the intense smell of manure stop you from popping in to Yarra Valley Dairy. They do cheese tastings for like $3 a person or something, but if you buy cheese I'm pretty sure you don't pay for the tasting. We found that most of the vineyards had free tastings too. Not sure if it's free if you don't buy wine, though. At YVD we tasted maybe four of five cheeses, mostly of the young goat variety. I mean, they were all delicious. I loved the ashed goat pyramid, but we ended up buying a log of mature goat with a white mold rind and a pot of chevre and dill. And now I'm obsessed. 

Over the course of two visits to the valley, we also visited the Yarrawood Estate, Yering Station and Coldstream Hills vineyards.

Domaine Chandon: 727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, VIC, 3770. (03) 9738 9200
Punt Road Wines: 10 St. Hubert's Road, Coldstream, VIC 3770. (03) 9739 0666
Innocent Bystander: 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, VIC 3777. (03) 5962 6111
Healesville Sanctuary: Badger Creek Road, Healesville, VIC 3777. (3) 5957 2800
Yarra Valley Dairy: 70-80 McMeikans Road, Yering, VIC 3770. (3) 9739 0023

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