Exceptional food and wine has come to be expected in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, and the epicureans who call this pocket of the state home are ready to deliver. Victoria's wine industry finds its roots in the Yarra Valley, with vineyards dating as far back as the mid-1800s. More than 70 wineries and 40 cellar doors boasting benchmark cool-climate wines, under well-known names such as Mandala, Fergusson, Yering Station and Maddens Rise, are proudly produced in the Yarra. You will find wineries of every shape and size here, from backyard boutiques to awarded labels holed up in architectural masterpieces.
As far as fare is concerned, what's a top-of-the-line wine without high quality food to match? Follow the Yarra Valley Food Trail to culinary nooks and crannies where you can buy fresh fruit, veg and dairy straight from the farm, or cafe-hop across the region and see if you can find who serves the best Devonshire tea with scones, jam and cream. Whether you're seated at a hatted restaurant or rambling through a farmers' market, you're sure to be served up something to savour.
727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
A petite piece of France in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, Domaine Chandon follows the traditional techniques (or method traditionnelle) of their overseer, french champagne house Moet & Chandon. Offering one of the finest displays of wine tourism around, even including a "Sunday School" wine masterclass, Domaine Chandon winery is an experience for both the budding vino enthusiast and the certified oenophile.
Take lunch at the Greenpoint Brasserie, where meals have been planned to match the sparkling and still wines produced on site, especially Chandon Rose and Cuvee. From small tapas dishes to charcuterie platters and spruced up favourites like lamb brioche sliders, the stylish menu is just what you would expect from Moet & Chandon's only Australian winery.
874 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
Philosophy is paramount to Bella Verdere, with special emphasis on their relationship with local producers. A daily-changing menu ensures ultimate freshness and gives diners the thrill of constant surprise, no matter how frequently they visit for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dining during the cooler season gives an extra ambience to the experience – let the country-style chicken soup and house baked bread envelope you like a warm hug, not to mention the pear and blue cheese strudel, rabbit parmigiana and garlic studded lamb!
Beyond the lauded restaurant, Bella Verde lends its name to a cooking school, bakery and garden. Jump into the spontaneity of cooking with the Bella Verdere team and sharpen your skills with a class on sweet and savoury pies, sauces, preserving and more. Don't forget to swing by the Bella Bakehouse to pick up a warm toscanafruit load of corn cobb on your way home.
38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen, Victoria 3775
Victoria's very first vineyard is still going strong, some 175 years on. Rather than being left to the archives, Yering Station continues to reach new heights with the combination of their historic cellar door (dating back to 1859), the Yarra Valley Farmers' Market held on the grounds, and the exquisite Winebar Restaurant. From 10:00 to 17:00 daily, you can feast your senses with Yering Station chardonnay, dramatic architecture and stunning surrounds.
Butter poached pork and spatchcock with shiitake have the savoury side down pat, while brown sugar custard tart and strawberry and rose consomme will have you saving extra room for dessert. Top it off by sampling some of Yering Station's 15 wine styles at the Tasting Bar before taking a self-guided tour through the manicured gardens and glass-panelled winery.
694 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Victoria 3770
Coldstream Brewery is proof of what can happen when five Aussie mates follow their dreams. Housed in an old brick woolstore in a tiny township of the same name, the Coldstream restaurant and microbrewery allow ale aficionados the chance to learn about the delicate art of premium brewing, while sampling ciders and beers straight from the tap.
The Coldstream Brewery Restaurant is open every day of the year – just in case you were wondering what to do for Christmas Day lunch – serving hearty pies of the day, barbecue cider chicken wings and the quintessential Australian pub meal, chicken parma. Wash it down with a Czech Pilsner, Grand Porter, Crisp Pale Ale or classic Crushed Apple Cider, or take a taste of all the house draughts before you decide.
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate
58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek, Victoria 3775
De Bortoli is proud to be one of Australia's largest family-owned wine companies. Bringing the culture of sharing fine wine all the way from Italy in the 1920s, it wasn't until some 60 years later that the De Bortoli family set up their Victorian base at the Yarra Valley Estate. At De Bortoli's cellar door, you can enjoy a gourmet wine and cheese pairing against a rolling vineyard vista – tastings range from $5 per person to a "trophy room" experience for the more discerning palate.
Stick around for lunch at Locale from 12:00 Thursday to Monday and Saturday, sampling the best seasonal and organic produce from the region. The restaurant menu features tempters such as pheasant and confit duck terrine and ocean trout tortellini, with traditional Italian panna cotta or semifreddo for dessert.