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Wine

Behind The Vine At Helen's Hill

To celebrate the Helen's Hill Ingram Road Pinot Noir 2015 being our April Wine of the Month, we caught up with Allan Nalder from Helen's Hill.

What makes the Ingram Road 2015 Pinot Noir so appealing?

To answer that I need to take a step back. All of our wines are 100% single vineyard and are all made at my winery. Only fruit that we grow on our vineyard goes into the wines that we make. It's not that we don't trust anyone, it's just that we don't trust anyone. We think this is super important. Come visit and I can take you to the very vines that make the wine you are going to enjoy. Call us "control freaks". I'll take it as a compliment.

The Ingram Rd 2015 Pinot Noir benefits greatly from this approach. Pristine Yarra Valley single vineyard fruit, French oak maturation, careful "hands-off" winemaking and a great vintage all combine to produce a wine that expresses hallmark Pinot Noir characteristics. And its price point is extremely compelling.

You have over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, what makes you so enthusiastic about this often-difficult grape?

You're right, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and can really only grow well in specific, little tucked away corners of the world. The Yarra Valley, and the little patch of dirt I call home, is one of those places.

It also helps to be a bit of a Pinot Noir fanatic. To me, it is one of the most remarkable red wines in the world. I once saw a quote about Pinot Noir growers from a wine writer:

"its makers are lunatic-fringe, questers after the holy grail…" - Marc de Villiers wine writer.

We fit that mould.

Who is the Helen of the hill?

We bought the property from Mr. Fraser in the mid 90s. He had owned the pasture land from the early 1950s. The reason he bought the land was because he fell in love with a woman called Helen, who wouldn't marry him unless he owned a farm. True love prevailed and he bought the farm. Sadly, Helen passed away some 6-7 years after their marriage. Mr Fraser never re-married and throughout the property inspection, he recalled many stories of Helen and her time there. From his stories, it was obvious that she had a passion for the land. We share that passion and thought it appropriate to name the vineyard after her.

What makes Scott McCarthy a standout winemaker?

To be blunt, the fruit. We live by the very old, well used, but absolutely true saying: "great wine is made in the vineyard". The most important decision we make in the winery is deciding when to pick the fruit. The rest of the process is relatively simple. Pristine quality fruit allows us to rely on natural fermentation, minimal filtering and minimal winemaking intervention. Our ethos is not to describe "perfection" as when there is nothing left to add, but rather, when there is nothing left to take away. We feel this is the key to winemaking. Ensure that we do as little as possible so we can deliver mother nature in the bottle.

You also make a range of beers - why did you decide to go into brewing and what do you think makes a top beer?

It gets pretty hot and sweaty picking grapes. Added to that, I ain't getting any younger, so after a big day in the fields a nice, cold craft beer is a perfect tonic. As winemakers and vignerons go, we drink a lot of beer, so it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea of brewing our own.

Getting the recipe right, the choice of hops and quality malt is critical and keeping the fermentation process under control. The rest depends on what you like. We serve our brews at Cellar Door and luckily our customers reckon they're pretty tasty.

What are the top 3 attractions you'd recommend to a first-time Yarra Valley visitor?

The great thing about the Yarra Valley is the diversity. You can visit the YV Dairy and sample a variety of cheese, the Chocolate Factory, world class art museum, on-farm produce stores for things such as apples, strawberries, etc, 6 top golf courses, mountain biking, bush trails, historic buildings, micro breweries, gin distillery and of course the odd cellar door and vineyard restaurant. The valley really has a huge range of things to do.

Obviously, a great place to start is Helen's Hill. Full al-carte restaurant on top of the hill with sensational views or our Cellar Door and casual dining nestled down in the winery amongst the vines.

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Wine
Simply Savvy
Words by Mark Hughes on 19 Dec 2016
It is fair to say that Sauvignon Blanc is the most recognisable wine ever, but Australian producers are doing their best to create a host of appealing new identities. We find out who is doing what to make drinkers swipe right. I’ll come right out and say it. I quite like Sauvignon Blanc. That statement will probably earn me the ire of a few wine critics that I know, but I reckon it is a sassy and wondrous wine, and deserving of far more than the limited adulation we give it. I’d be as bold as to say it has been unfairly heaped with harsh criticism. There are a few reasons as to why Sauvignon Blanc is the kid the rest of the class picks on. Firstly, Sauvignon Blanc is seen as a pretty simple wine – it really is a case of WYSIWYG – What You ‘Smell’ Is What You Get and Sauv Blanc has an unmistakable tropical aroma. No matter where it is grown, it will always smell like Sauv Blanc, and this leads to the second reason why it is ridiculed. Because it is so recognisable, it is the first wine that drinkers new to the game can accurately identify. And for the well-heeled wine critic, that is just so ho-hum. Thirdly, it is popular, and we all know Australians hate anything that is popular. It is so well-liked for the two reasons given above. It is appealing for the novice wine drinker, particularly young women, as its simple tropical and punchy profile is not too dissimilar to the flavour of juices and fruit punches we enjoy drinking as teenagers. And it is popular because the novice wine drinker can identify it. Not only does that give them a sense of assurance that the wine experience they are about to have is going to be an enjoyable one, but it also gives them a sense of pride about their burgeoning wine knowledge. And finally, it is because New Zealand has had phenomenal success with the varietal and Aussies just can’t put that Trans Tasman rivalry to bed. It is a wonder we are still playing rugby given the dominance the All Blacks have had over us this millennium, and for the foreseeable future.   ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW Having said all of that, Australian winemakers are a hardy bunch (even more so than the Wallaby scrum) and they have been busy creating a unique identity for Aussie Sauv Blanc that will have a point of difference from Kiwi SB and be just as popular, or even more popular. “I think Australian Sauvignon Blanc tends to be leaner than NZ wines, lower in alcohol with less residual sugar,” says McWilliam’s winemaker Adrian Sparks, whose High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc from the Orange wine region topped our State of Play tasting. “It is a crisper, more refreshing style of wine. This is what we try to achieve, but you want the wine to say where it is from. “I would hate to see wines from Margaret River, Adelaide Hills and Orange all looking the same. Regional differences are important.” Dan Berrigan, winemaker at Berrigan Wines and avid Sauv Blanc lover agrees. “As an Aussie winemaker, I try to understand what makes the NZ Sauv Blanc so popular, and emulate those characters in my wine,” he explains. “I then weave in the regional Mt Benson personality, which is usually in the form of more fruit weight on the palate, and I feel that it’s this combination that drinkers really appreciate, and are drawn to as a point of difference.”   BETTER WITH AGE Shane Harris, chief winemaker at Wines by Geoff Hardy in the Adelaide Hills makes another good point – we have only been growing and making Sauvignon Blanc for the last decade or two. After a slow start, we are growing better fruit and getting better at making good wine out of it. “When the Sauv Blanc train came to town, lots of the industry was fixated on turning the volume up to 11 on the varietal character, but somewhere along the line, the focus on site was lost and replaced with maximising varietal character with picking times and yeast selection based on volume of varietal character more than reflection of site,” says Shane. “More and more Australian winemakers are learning how to get the best out of the fruit sources they have available to them. Sauv Blanc has a great ability to show the site it comes from if you let it.” “I love Australian wine due to the vast differences in climate and styles. We are so fortunate in that fact and more so than any other country,” adds Adrian. “The altitude of Orange is the key, with its warm days and cool nights allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining wonderful acidity and not tending to have full blown tropical fruit, rather a lovely combination of citrus, herbs and exotic notes.”   TINKERING THE TECHNIQUE So what are some of the techniques winemakers are using and what result does it have on the wine? Overall, the answer seems to be to bring Sauv Blanc some complexity. “Winemaking begins in the vineyard,” says Dan. “With the Berrigan Sauvignon Blanc this means managing the canopy to achieve fruit with a balance of tropical and grassy flavours. “In the winery, you then need to extend the skin contact time of the must to ensure that those flavours you’ve worked hard for in the vineyard are extracted from the skins and into the juice. From there, it’s all about minimising the extraction of phenolics, while maximising flavour retention and balance in your wine without oak maturation, lees stirring or fining.” “Oak with the right fruit works very well,” says Adrian conversely. “Lees contact providing texture and depth and some wild fermentation all are providing layers of complexity.” “Sauv Blanc responds to as little to as much winemaking as you wish to give it. Whether that response is appropriate depends on the site and the intended style,” explains Shane. “This doesn’t mean that just because you can do something that you should! A level of restraint is required to bring the subtle characters from your little patch of earth. “For our site I find that some skin contact time, leaving the juice slightly cloudy, and yeast selection are the most important areas of my input. Some post primary fermentation lees contact also helps, but this varies vintage to vintage. “The ability to change and adapt to vintage variation and change your approach is required to get the best out of the variety. Following what you did last year isn’t good enough if you want to get the best out of it this year.”   THE FUTURE While critics predict the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc cannot last, our winemakers seem to believe it will be here for quite some time to come. “The wine style is just so strong in its personality, and with the majority of Australians living in warm, sunny coastal regions, the freshness of Sauvignon Blanc will always have its place amongst our lifestyles,” says Dan. It will always be popular as it’s such an easy drink and suited to Australia’s summer climate,” agrees Adrian. “I hope as an industry we can move with the ebb and flow of consumer preferences and make moves to deliver a style that is relevant and current,” says Shane. “We have to learn to not flog the horse too hard and kill the market and burn the variety, we need to be more sensitive to changes in consumer preferences and move with it, not fight against it. “Keep it fresh, keep it relevant.” Top 20 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 McWilliam’s Wines High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Orange) Scotchmans Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Geelong)  Henschke & Co Coralinga Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills)  Berrigan Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Mount Benson)  Taylors Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills)  Blue Pyrenees Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Pyrenees)  Redgate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (Oak Matured) 2014 (Margaret River) Silkwood Wines The Walcott Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Pemberton)  Tamar Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Tamar Valley) Dominique Portet Fontaine Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Yarra Valley) Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Margaret River) Alkoomi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Frankland River) Dandelion Vineyards Wishing Clock Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills) Wangolina Station Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Mount Benson) Geoff Hardy Wines K1 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Pemberton) Eden Road Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Canberra District) d’Arenberg The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills) Lambrook Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Nannup Ridge Firetower Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Blackwood River)
Wine
A guide to the best Yarra Valley wineries and cellar doors
Words by Ben Hallinan on 14 Dec 2016
Plan the perfect escape to the Yarra Valley wineries with our carefully curated guide, list, and map to this premier cool climate wine region.  There is a stunning array of Yarra Valley Wineries and Cellars doors within an hours drive of Melbourne's CBD. To help plan your trip to this spectacular cool climate region we’ve selected a collection of wineries that provide the best cellar door experience plus we’ve included a handy interactive  Yarra Valley map down below .  While the region is famous for it’s  Chardonnay ,  Sauvignon Blanc , and  Pinot Noir , there’s also a stunning selection of  Sparkling wines  and innovative savoury  Rosés  on offer. You can find out more about the wines on offer in our  Yarra Valley region guide here  . Yarra Valley Wineries to Visit Oakridge
Opened in 2013, the striking, architect designed Oakridge cellar door is a sight to behold with its sleek industrial lines in bold contrast to the surrounding vines that creep right to the cellar door windows. The exceptional restaurant headed by executive chef Matt Stone formerly of Melbourne’s Silo and sous chef Jo Barrett from Tivoli Road, serves a local and sustainable menu showcasing the best of Yarra Valley produce. Yet, the true star at Oakridge are the wines, and they are among the region's best.  864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Oakridge Website   Coombe Farm
The enchanting Coombe Farm cellar door is set within the grounds of the historic Melba House, constructed in 1912 by famed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. The exquisite gardens, restaurant, providore, Melba Gallery and High Tea that’s held at 2:30pm every Wednesday, all combine for a terrific addition to any visit to the Yarra Valley. Furthermore, the estate grown, limited production wines are elegantly varietal and regionally expressive. Tasting Panelist and wine show judge, Trent Mannell  says, “Coombe Farm is  a remarkable winery and destination with a real sense of history.” 673 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open 9:30am to 5pm Monday to Friday,  9am to 5pm Saturday to Sunday Visit the Coombe Farm website Punt Road Wines
The Punt Road Wines cellar door is the perfect place to sample a fine selection of single vineyard, estate grown wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Chardonnay, in particular, are all exceptional. Relax outdoors on the back garden lawn with a Gundowring ice cream or unwind with a quick game of bocce.  Tasting Panelist, Adam Walls  is rather fond of the Punt Road cellar door  – ‘It has a warm and welcoming feel and the quality of both the cider and wine on offer is very high!” 10 St Huberts Road, Coldstream  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Punt Road Website Domaine Chandon
When leading champagne house Moet & Chandon established Domaine Chandon, it gave an overwhelming stamp of approval to the Yarra Valley as a leading location for the cool climate Champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  Designed by architectural firm Allen, Jack + Cottier, the cellar door and winery melds traditional Champagne architecture with modern Australian design. The cavernous 72,000 bottle climate-controlled riddling hall, stunning colonnade wall joining the original homestead and the gorgeous cellar door and restaurant overlooking their Green Point vineyard are all world class. Yet, what makes Domaine Chandon a must visit during any trip to the Yarra Valley is their terrific self-guided tour of the winery. The informative trail allows visitors to examine up close the full winemaking process from the expansive winery, barrel and riddling halls, all with informative interactive guides. 727 Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10:30am to 4:30pm Visit the Domaine Chandon Website  Giant Steps
Located in the township of Healesville, the Giant Steps complex is truly spectacular and is a must visit. It’s a remarkable venue featuring a restaurant, cafe and cellar door built directly within their working winery separated by floor to ceiling glass. Giant Steps allows visitors to be surrounded by the winemaking process. Tastings are held in the newly refurbished barrel hall tasting room allowing you further insight into the happenings of vintage.  Address - 336 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville VIC 3777  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open 11am to late Monday to Friday. 9am to late Saturday to Sunday Visit the Giant Steps Website Dominique Portet
Embrace a slower pace during your visit to the Yarra Valley at the delightful Dominique Portet Winery. The charming cellar door and Mediterranean inspired terrace cafe overlook rolling vineyards and are the perfect place to relax while sampling their exceptional Rose, Sparkling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon on offer.  870 Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Domonique Portet Website Rob Dolan Wines
Rob Dolan , a Yarra Valley winemaking stalwart of 25 years, launched his own label in 2010 and won the  James Halliday Best New Winery Award in 2014 . Rob’s new cellar door combines  The Farm (an events space) , Stone & Crow Cheese and the Rob Dolan Winery. Located in Warrandyte, just 30 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, this charming cellar door makes for the perfect start or conclusion to any visit to the Yarra Valley. 21-23 Delaneys Road, South Warrandyte - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open Daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Rob Dolan Wines Cellar Door Website De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate
De Bortoli Wines is an Australian wine industry institution established in Griffith, NSW, in 1928. The Yarra Valley vineyard, established in 1987 and helmed by Leanne De Bortoli and husband Steve Webber, is set in a truly stunning position completely surrounded by vines in every direction. This vineyard has produced excellent wines with De Bortoli winning the coveted Jimmy Watson trophy in 1997. Apart from a wide range of wines, what makes De Bortoli a particularly nice winery to visit is the marriage of wine with cheese. The extensive selection of local and imported cheeses in this friendly cellar door is outstanding and perfectly complements De Bortoli’s excellent cool climate Yarra Valley wines and those from their other regions. The Locale Restaurant offers an authentic Italian dining experience with a menu designed to reflect the best local seasonal produce featuring veggies from their own garden, home made pasta and authentic Italian risotto.  58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate website Yering Station
No visit to the Yarra Valley is truly complete without a visit to Yering Station . This winery is a destination in and of itself with an exceptional architect designed restaurant and bar, historic cellar door, art space, underground barrel room, local produce store, monthly farmers market and stunning grounds. The first vineyard in Victoria was established on this site in 1838. That history is clear and enshrined in the old winery that now serves as the cellar door and gallery.  The monthly farmers market held in Yering Station’s historic barn is the oldest farmers’ market in Victoria and is a must if you are fortunate to be in the area. Be sure to check the  Yarra Valley Regional Food Group’s page  for more details on the market. 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm  Visit the Yering Station website Seville Estate
This charming winery is situated further southwest towards Yellingbo. With a charming casual aesthetic overlooking a classic Australian bushland setting, the Seville Estate cellar door makes for the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. One of the oldest continually operating wineries in the Yarra Valley, Seville Estate’s famed Shiraz and Pinot Noir are excellent examples of the region’s terroir.  Tasting Panelist, Trent Mannell agrees,  “Seville Estate is a Yarra Valley icon, the higher elevation of the estate’s vines allow the grapes to ripen slowly to produce elegant cool climate wines perfect for Pinot Noir.”  65 Linwood Rd, Seville  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Seville Estate Restaurant Tarrawarra Estate
The spectacular TarraWarra Estate cellar door, built into the earth of the wineries’ rolling hillside is a truly stunning place to sample their high-quality wines. The renowned restaurant complete with vista further cements TarraWarra as an exceptional Yarra Valley winery experience.  Tasting Panelist, Trent Mannell   has this to say, “Situated on 400 hectares of prime land beside the Yarra river, TarraWarra’s wines are meticulously grown, hand picked, vinified and aged on the estate,” he says. “There are so many great cellar doors in the Yarra Valley, but TarraWarra must be on your short list.” 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen - view on our Yarra Valley Map   Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm Visit the TarraWarra website Helen's Hill
Nestled at the bottom of its eponymous hill, this 100% family-owned and operated vineyard and cellar door is a must-visit for those interested in the inner workings of the winemaking process. With floor to ceiling views of the winery and barrel hall, this relaxed cellar door allows a unique experience and sense connection. The nearby Vines Restaurant is exceptional and the perfect match to the wineries premier wines. 16 Ingram Road, Lilydale  - view on our Yarra Valley Map Open daily 10am to 5pm  Visit the Helen's Hill website  Yarra Valley Wineries Map Planning a trip to the Yarra Valley? Our interactive Yarra Valley winery map is the perfect way to plan your next trip.  To save on your browser or device click here . Explore The Best Yarra Valley Wineries Today For more information on visiting the Yarra Valley be sure to visit the  official Yarra Valley visitors website . Why not sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit  – explore our wide selection of Yarra Valley wines and find out more about the wineries listed in this guide in our  Meet the Makers section  . Here you’ll find further information on: With our Wine Selectors Regional Releases you’ll experience a different wine region each release with all wines expertly selected by our  Tasting Panel , plus you’ll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region.  Visit our Regional Releases page to find out more!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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