Today on the blog we welcome Adam Nicholls the Director of Wine Compass who offer winery tours in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Adam shares with us 5 of his favourite small cellar doors in the Yarra Valley.
Compared to other wine regions in Victoria, the Yarra Valley has more of a reputation for large wineries with big bus tours. While you definitely find big, impersonal wineries, coaches full or tourists and dodgy looking party buses, there are a large number of small wineries as well.
Many of these have top quality wines matched with personal service and are a lot more fun and relaxed than fighting the crowds at the big boys. Below are a selection of our favourites, all very different, but all with top wines and fun vibes.
1. Pimpernel Vineyards
Voted by Wine Compass hosts as their favourite stop in the Yarra Valley, this really is a hidden gem. Often after experiencing all that the cellar door has to offer, guests are heard to exclaim “Why haven’t I heard of that place before?”
The experience at Pimpernel is one of our favourite in the Yarra Valley. Great for wine lovers and people with a bit more knowledge than average, it is also a good laugh with many good stories.
And then, of course, there is the exceptional wine. Here they are obsessed with French wines particularly the Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, even re-creating a small part of a Burgundy vineyard for their top shelf Pinot Noir. The range of wines includes Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, GSM and Muscat and are right up there with the best premium wines in the Yarra Valley in our opinion (and half the price of a Yarra Yering). A must visit.
2. Soumah of the Yarra Valley
While word has started to get out about Soumah over the last couple of years, it still remains a largely hidden gem. Just off the main drag tucked in behind much larger Rochford and Levantine Hill, this is like stepping into another wine region. Although I’ve never been there, it has been said that it is reminiscent of Tuscany.
Comprising a cellar door and restaurant, it’s a small and friendly space. The wines here are quite delicious and focus on Northern Italy and South Eastern France with some interesting varieties. The range includes Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Brachetto (a sweet Italian style wine). There is also a new premium wine tasting experience which we are yet to try
The food is casual Italian style with some highlights being the charcuterie and antipasto boards, pizzas, pasta, grilled fish of the day and slow cooked lamb. The views from the restaurant rival the best in the Yarra Valley.
3. Yileena Park
Yileena Park is the passion project of Bob and Dianne, a retired real estate agent and his wife. They built the cellar door about 12 years ago, but it feels like it is from much earlier last century. Very homely and quaint with a nice deck, it feels like you are doing the tasting in someone’s loungeroom.
Here they pride themselves on their reds but do a nice Chardonnay as well. They have an interesting point of difference where they only release their red wines after 4 years and their reserve range after 6. They often have people coming in specifically to try aged Yarra Valley wines as opposed to the latest vintage release on most cellar doors.
Another interesting reason to visit is their smoked goods. Instead of selling off their old oak barrels for flower pots, they use them to smoke a range of duck, lamb and kangaroo hams (ham is the process of brining and isn’t necessarily pork, you will learn), cheeses, nuts, oils and sauces which you can try with your tasting. They also have a couple of friendly donkeys and a great view.
4. Mandala and DiVino Ristorante
Mandala is a lovely winery and restaurant out in Dixons Creek, you will feel the Italian vibes here. The cellar door manager is Italian and the restaurant is run by an Italian couple who are passionate about preparing food from their homeland. Even recently taking a working holiday to find more inspiration for their ever-changing menu.
The wines here are quite lovely with a nice sparkling, some great pinot noirs and a lovely cabernet sauvignon, matched with a friendly cellar door experience and reasonably priced wines, it’s hard not to take few bottles home.
As mentioned earlier, DiVino Ristorante is all about the Italian food including a range of woodfired pizzas, pastas and risottos, but also an interesting range of entrees and mains that steer away from just your standard fare. A great place to have a tasting and long lunch.
Kellybrook is another small cellar door with casual vibes, this is one of (if not) the closest one to Melbourne. Unpretentious and fun they also have a seriously good range to try.
In addition to their wines, they also make a range of famous ciders and beers. This is a great place for a group with varying tastes, with the wines deliciously drinkable, the ciders top-notch and the new range of beers really hitting the mark
If you’re after casual eats, they do local cheeseboards to match their beverages, which you can enjoy on the deck or in their stunning garden.