Sometimes, travel inspirations can be right under your nose. To escape Melbourne’s winter blues, 2onthewing.com decided to venture into the Yarra Valley where, on opening a bottle of Balgownie Estate Pinot Noir, we discovered a welcome that only an open fire and warm hospitality can deliver. Just under an hour’s drive from Melbourne, nestled snugly in the protective arms of the Great Dividing Ranges, the Yarra Valley is the birthplace of the Victorian wine industry. Known for its views and vignerons, the Valley’s spider web of wineries, many with good cafes and restaurants, art galleries and food trails, is the perfect place for a short break. When staying for a night or two in one of their smart, self-contained apartments Balgownie Estate have all bases covered. An indulgent breakfast, brisk walks, visits to local wineries and gourmet food stores before indulging in a spa treatment neatly ticks all our getaway boxes.
Overlooking rolling hillsides braided with grape vines, cellar door manager Simon takes me through the tasting notes at Balgownie Estate Vinyard Resort and Spa and it’s clear that when crafting their estate wines, they take an artisanal approach. The hand-picked, hand-made signature Chardonnay balances delicate stone fruits with soft oak cut with citrus for a cool finish. As the estate Pinot Noir swirls in the glass, aromas of plum and cherry combine with spice and oak bathing the mouth in warm satisfaction. I loved the cellar door’s collection of witty wine gifts like the quilted cardboard wine purses a la Chanel and pink diamente-studded wine coolers. Gourmet gifts from the Valley included fudge crisply wrapped in white paper, Brix chocolates – the perfect accompaniment to red wine – locally infused oils and bottles of lemon cordial. Warm, inviting and destined to become a favourite drop-in, the just-opened Bill’s wine and cocktail bar situated alongside Rae’s restaurant at Balgownie Estate, the mixologists sure know their way around a cocktail shaker. Offering all the classics plus new wave cocktails such as a Turkish Delight Martini or a Rhubarb Sour, it’s the best bar none! Check out their Winter Warmer Package at www.balgownieestate.com.au
Close by Balgownie Estate, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is a sweet feast for the senses. If golf’s your thing, a pack of three chocolate golf balls are definitely a ‘hole in one’ mouthful. The 1 kilo megabar or 1 metre multi-coloured bar would satisfy any chocoholic’s cravings while the truffle cabinet offers a vast selection that includes mango tango, zingy lime and soy sesame. Chocolate Moos turn out to be cute cows while the chocolate therapy section with its lip balm, exfoliating scrub, body butter, body wash and hydrating body oil is a bit hard to swallow. Together with decadent ice creams and wicked afternoon tea cakes, this is one cholesterol raising experience not to be missed! www.yvci.com.au
TarraWarra Estate is more than a winery, it’s also a privately funded museum of modern art that features the cream of internationally-renowned Australian artists. Changing seasons are reflected in TarraWarra’s approach to art and food with exhibitions and menus created to complement the calendar. On balmy evenings at nearby Rochford Winery, their summer program of open-air concerts attracts an eclectic range of international performers and enthusiastic grape groupies.
Don’t Panic, It’s Organic!
Members of the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group have your taste buds covered from fantastic fudge, gourmet buffalo and yabbies, Yarra Valley ice cream, home made preserves from Cunliffe & Waters, Oil and wine dressings from Valley Produce Company and bright, plump, hand milked Atlantic Salmon caviar. www.yarravalleyfood.com.au
The Australian vintage season runs from the end of February through to May with harvesting dependent upon the growing season and the wine maker.
Must See and Do
· Take a pre-dawn hot air balloon ride over the Yarra Valley with Global Ballooning www.globalballooning.com.au
· Fill-up a picnic hamper with Yarra Valley produce from Healesville’s Harvest Cafe, 256 Maroondah Highway
· Line your stomach with hearty fare from Yarra Valley Dairy Café, McMeikans Road, Yering
· Enjoy a concert amongst the vines at Rochford Winery: www.rochfordwines.com.au
· Experience some wild encounters at Healesville Sanctuary: www.zoo.org.au
. Join the inner circle and book at one of the year’s hottest tables when Ezard at Levantine Hill opens this month. www.levantinehill.com.au
For tourist information:
Tags: Balgownie Estate Resort & Spa, Chocolaterie Yarra Glen, Ezard at Levantine Hill, Global Ballooning, Healesville, Levantine Hill, Pinot Noir, Rochford Winery, TarraWarra Estate, Victoria's wine regions, Victoria's Yarra Valley, Wine gifts, www.2onthewing.com, www.visitvictoria.com, Yarra Valley, Yarra Valley Food, Yarra Valley Wine Region, Yering Station