|Lunch by the vines at Oakridge Estate|
One of my favourite parts of living back in Melbourne, is being able to take off in the car on a sunny day to be surrounded by some of the world's most beautiful wineries within the hour. Drive east about 60 minutes from the centre of Melbourne, pass Legoland, and you'll find yourself among endless vineyards, rolling green hills and grazing cows in Victoria's beautiful Yarra Valley. For a bit of non gluttonous culture, you can even stop off at the Heide Museum of Modern Art on the way.
As in Burgundy, the order of the day in these parts are the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. There are endless places to sit tasting wines immersed in the stunning vistas, while nibbling fresh local produce, cheeses, charcuterie platters, wood fired pizzas or some terrific fine dining.
|Duck leg at Oakridge Estate|
Some of my favourite local wineries include De Bortoli, Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander and Domaine Chandon. But there are tonnes more scattered around the Valley, and all an easy and scenic drive from each other.
We started our recent day trip at the farmer's market at Yering Station - held on the first Sunday of every month. Stock up on gorgeous Jam Lady jams (I like pear, vanilla & ginger), olive oil, honey, tomato and coconut harissa, and, of courses, cheeses aplenty.
|Indoor section of the farmers' market at Yering Station|
It's thirsty work. So do yourself a favour and head to the tasting room (all free) where some of the Valley's loveliest wines will be poured for you with a smile. Stock up the boot and head off to lunch.
The restaurant at Yering Station is hard to beat, with great food and magnificent views to match. However, after some more tastings of wine and a punchy pear cider at Punt Road (and some more boxes for the boot), we headed to Oakridge Estate to try out the chardonnay that has been winning awards all over the place. Yes, it's good.
|The Yarra Valley Dairy|
We stayed on for lunch outside by the vines - to start, silky pink Yarra Valley venison carpaccio, Bloody Mary sorbet, cucumber jelly and cornichons for me and King George whiting fillet, with a zingy fennel and citrus summer slaw for TPG. To follow, the Gippsland spring lamb rack with medjool dates, quinoa, preserved lemon, Hoddles Creek hazelnuts and harissa yoghurt was a little overcooked and slightly disappointing given it read like heaven on a plate, but TPG's twice cooked duck leg with white beans, cacciatore sausage, peperonata and red currants was the bees knees. A really lovely (if not earth shattering) long lunch with fabulous wines - 2 courses are $50 or 3 courses are $60.
|The cafe and store at the Yarra Valley Dairy|
For me, no trip to the Yarra Valley is complete without a stop at the Yarra Valley Dairy. The strong stench of cow dung wafting through the air is the sign that you're heading in the right direction. But put it out of your mind as you head in the door and taste a delicious range of cheeses - we've been gorging all week on Persian feta, goats cheese in ash and creamy cow's cheeses marinated in oil. There's also wine tastings and a cafe for coffee and cake before you make your way home again to stock up the cupboards.