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Coonawarra - the Cult of Consistency

While other Australian regions may have caught up to Coonawarra in the red wine stakes, the commitment of this region’s passionate locals will see it shine well into the future.

Coonawarra is an enigma wrapped in a red dirt riddle. We all think we know Coonawarra because it seems like it’s always been there.

When you set out on the journey to discover Australian wine, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the first checkpoints you reach, a foundation stone for building an understanding of what this country can do with its vineyards.

But does familiarity breed contempt? And where do the classics sit when the market seems obsessed with the cool cutting edge? Is it enough to continually do a few things well when the consumer has the all the loyalty of a stray cat and the attention span of a goldfish?

Is Coonawarra’s glorious past impeding the region’s push into a bright future?

A famously close-knit community

Coonawarra is a place where many of the names on the bottles have been there for generations. While its biggest players are corporate, Wynns most notably, the majority of producers are family owned, including names like Balnaves and Bowen Estate.

Vineyards are tightly held and rarely change hands and its comparatively small size – just 5,500 ha – ensures the region’s prized fruit is all taken up by those domiciled there and virtually nothing is available for winemakers from other regions to have a crack at making Coonawarra wine seen through outsider eyes.

There are obviously benefits in a strong sense of community.

“There’s certainly a combined sense of purpose,” says Peter Bissell from Balnaves, a transplanted Kiwi and relative newcomer, having arrived in Coonawarra in 1989.

“There’s also a long collective memory of winemaking traditions going back to the 1950s and beyond, that gives us as winemakers a real sense of carrying on something important.”

Dan Redman is as Coonawarra as they come, having joined the family business exactly a hundred years after his great-grandfather made his first wine from grapes grown in the famed terra rossa soil. It’s been his nursery, his playground, his backyard, his home.

“To me, this community is a source of great friendships and some pretty good times with people I’ve known all my life,” he says. “One of the real strengths of this place is the shared common goal we all have to promote Coonawarra. There’s a united front when any of us talk about the region.”

But Redman is not totally blinkered.

“It’s probably fair to say that some of the ideas and thinking from the wider wine world might take a bit longer to get here than some other places,” he admits.

That’s pretty understandable in a way. You can’t talk about Coonawarra without considering its physical isolation. It’s halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, but not on the direct route to either. New blood flows through Coonawarra the way it does through a statue.

Kate Goodman is uniquely placed to comment on the region’s uniquely singular focus. She makes wine under her own label in the Yarra Valley and was appointed consultant winemaker at Coonawarra’s Penley Estate a couple of years ago.

“The Yarra is vast with a huge diversity of sites, while  Coonawarra is a small area with a tight focus on carefully defined vineyards,” she says.

“I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just saying the diversity of the Yarra’s landscape lends itself more easily to a diversity of winemaking approaches.”

Goodman relishes the opportunities Coonawarra presents, and has quickly learned what makes the place special. “Dear God, the fruit this place can produce is just bloody sensational,” she says.

Evolution, not Revolution

It would be wrong to see Coonawarra as a wine region trapped in amber. There has been significant change over the last decade, but those changes have been subtle and have taken place within the well-established framework of the classic Coonawarra style.

Most notable of these has been the widespread reworking of the region’s vineyards, a sustained exploration of how best to manage its most valuable assets with fruit quality the singular aim. This focus certainly underpins winemaker John Innes’ philosophy and, he says, he spends time in his vineyard, “continually tasting the fruit for optimal flavour and textural ripeness.”

The minimal pruning regimes that dominated the region in the 1980s have given way to practices more conducive to vine health and various flirtations with both over and under ripeness have given way to a more comfortable middle ground.

A wider clonal mix is now present in the region’s vineyards, offering new angles from which to view the Coonawarra Cabernet picture we think we know so well.

Coonawarra has so far been immune from invasion by hipsters who harvest while howling at the moon, so remains untouched by the outer extremes of winemaking methodology, but that doesn’t mean the place is all ‘set and forget’ when it comes to winemaking approach.

But it’s all about refinement rather than re-invention. Concrete fermenters are back in vogue, larger format oak and softer fruit handling are helping shape red wines that are more medium-bodied and supple, yet still retain the region’s famed capacity for ageing. Nick Zema explains it best.

“We’re always looking to improve, but we never forget what this place has always done best,” he says.

“You can go chasing market trends and change up everything you do, but by the time those changes come through to the wine in the bottle, the market’s moved on and you’re just chasing your tail. When you’ve got something that’s considered a classic, you just keep polishing it.”

Looking into the future

So where does the famed terra rossa fit in the Australian landscape? The status Coonawarra once had as arguably Australia’s finest red wine region has slipped – more through the competition catching up than Coonawarra going backwards – but the core of what has made this place great remains and, if anything, the future looks brighter now than it has for a long time.

Coonawarra’s biggest challenge is making the market fall in love with Cabernet again, and with the ongoing refinement of the style – small, considered steps rather than radical reinvention – the region’s winemakers are set to take that challenge on.

Once that’s been done, the story of the region’s outstanding Shiraz, hugely underrated Chardonnay, and affinity with other members of the Bordeaux brotherhood like Cabernet Franc can be told, too.

It will always be a place of traditions and tightly woven community ties and may that always be the case. In a world that flutters on the fickle winds of fashion, some certainty, classicism and Cabernet Sauvignon can prove to be welcome respite.

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Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
The Riverina  is home to 20,000 hectares of vines, making it the largest wine producing region in NSW and the second largest in Australia behind Riverland in South Australia. The region is well established, having been pioneered in 1913 by the famous McWilliam family of the Hunter Valley. Riverina wineries are largely family owned with many having Italian heritage including Calabria Family Wines, Mino & Co, Lillypilly Wines and De Bortoli . Some of the families behind these labels actually began making wine out of necessity when they first migrated to Australia, so they could enjoy a glass with their meal as they would have back home in Italy. “At the end of the long working day, my grandfather found he looked forward to a glass of home-made wine,” Elizabeth Calabria of Calabria Family Wines explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to invest in all of the necessary equipment to make it, so he took over my grandmother’s laundry tubs and improvised,” she continues. “Soon enough, he was producing wines for the local Europeans who had also made Griffith their home.” Ideal conditions
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Wine
Margaret River’s 50th
Words by Danielle Costley on 12 Nov 2017
As WA’s Margaret River wine region celebrates its 50th anniversary, we celebrate the pioneers who brought it all to fruition. A hundred years ago, a couple of Italian immigrants arrived in the south west corner of Western Australia with some cuttings of a little-known grape variety called Fragola. These vines produced the first wines to be sold in Margaret River for the hefty price tag of two shillings a flagon. Fondly dubbed ‘red dynamite’ by the enthusiastic community, this wine was in high demand at the local dance halls where it was sold from the back of a truck. And it was said to pack quite a punch. Times have certainly changed since then and while other growers produced small batches of wines in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until the mid 1960s when agronomist Dr John Gladstones published a report identifying Margaret River’s vast potential for viticulture, that the region, as we know it today, was born.
The Gladstones report attracted the attention of budding vignerons and medical practitioners, Thomas Cullity and Kevin and Diana Cullen. In mid 1966, the Cullens organised a meeting in the Margaret River township of Busselton inviting Dr Gladstones to speak. It was the final push those attending needed. Soon after, the Cullens, in partnership with Tom Cullity, and Geoff and Sue Juniper, planted vines in Wilyabrup, which unfortunately didn’t survive. It was left to Cullity, who in 1967 purchased a mere eight acres of land, to plant Margaret River’s first commercial vines – Cabernet Sauvignon , Shiraz , Malbec and Riesling . He named his venture after French sailor, Thomas Vasse, who had drowned in Geographe Bay. Hoping for better fortunes than the Frenchman, he added the Latin word for happiness – Felix. His first crop, too, was all but a disaster, decimated by birds and succumbing to bunch rot. Undeterred, but determined, Cullity persevered. In 1972, Vasse Felix won a gold medal at the Perth Show for its Riesling. The following year, gold for its Cabernet. Happy days, indeed. The Cullens also persevered. In 1971 they planted vines on their own land where their current vineyard still thrives. At this stage, Moss Wood had been established for two years and within another two years, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, and Woodlands had also been established. In what was a fledgling industry at the time, these founding wineries worked tirelessly to forge the region’s reputation as a premium wine producer. “I pay tribute to the winemakers and grape growers of Margaret River,” says Dr Gladstones, who is still a proud member of the Margaret River community today. “It’s one thing to have an idea and put it forward, it’s another this to be brought to fruition. The work and financial commitment that had to go into it has been a big factor in bringing Margaret River to its present world-class status.”
Left: Bob Hullock. Right: Cullen Wines co-founder Diana Cullen  An American influence While the pioneering wineries may have simply dreamed of making good wine, there was a certain Californian who knew of Margaret River’s enormous potential – Napa Valley wine baron, Robert Mondavi. As the story goes, Mondavi was searching the globe for the next great wine region. His search took him to Margaret River and a patch of land owned by Denis Horgan, a chartered accountant, and his wife Tricia. Today, it is Leeuwin Estate. “Mondavi arrived on our doorstep wanting to buy the place,’ says Denis. “We weren’t the selling type, so he became our mentor in setting up a winery. He and his son and winemaker, Tim, came out on numerous occasions to advise on what varieties we should plant, where to plant them, about oak treatment and so on.” Mondavi’s advice was also greatly accepted by Cullity and Kevin Cullen, who Denis befriended and met up with regularly to discuss all things wine. “You would have sworn you were in a dog fight,” Denis says of the trio’s rendezvous. “They used to swear and curse and talk about one another’s wines, and then we’d all sit down and have lunch like we were the greatest of friends.  “They were fabulous guys. It was the best education I could have had because they didn’t pull any punches. They set out to make wines that ranked with the best in the world, and they damn well did it.” A region evolved
Three generations of Credaros in their Woolston vineyard Fifty years on, Margaret River is indeed a world class wine region. While it only produces three percent of Australia’s wine, it contributes 20 per cent of our premium wine production. It is recognised internationally for exceptional Cabernets and Chardonnays, and also produces a stylish signature blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The handful of wineries have now boomed to over 200 with most of them producing the flagships, while also experimenting with other varietals and blends that suit the Mediterranean climate, cooling sea breezes and rich gravelly soils. In the northern districts lies the family-owned Credaro Wines, where some of the region’s first vines were planted by the pioneering Meleri and Credaro families to produce the ‘red dynamite’. These days, they have over 140 hectares of vines spread across five vineyards and alongside the legendary Fragola, and Chardonnay, Cabernet and SBS, they are doing well with Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Merlot. Thompson Estate is renowned for its Chardonnays and Cabernets, but is also finding favour with its Cabernet Merlot, Malbec and famed Four Chambers Shiraz. The 20-year-old vines are organically grown and produce impressive wines under the watchful eye of Bob Cartwright of Leeuwin Estate acclaim.
Hay Shed Hill, Margaret River At Hay Shed Hill, whose vineyards were first planted in the 1970s, the Block 6 Chardonnay is the star. Dry grown and located on a steep south facing slope, it is lean, light and fresh, but also has “flavour, aroma, body and textural interest,” says winemaker and owner, Michael Kerrigan. In concert with the Block 6, he is also giving plenty of attention to a stunning Cabernet Franc, as well as an intoxicating Shiraz Tempranillo blend. In the cooler, southern parts of the Margaret River, Sauvignon Blanc really finds voice as a single varietal. In close proximity to the Indian Ocean, you will find Redgate Wines, a winery that takes its name from a nearby property that once had a prominent red gate and was known for the production of a rather powerful moonshine. This estate, established by the Ullinger family in 1977, produces a sublime Sauvignon Blanc that is layered with gooseberry and lime. Their Cabernet blends are also beguiling, and they have a Chenin Blanc that is also turning heads. Even further south lies Hamelin Bay Wines, a quaint winery with a simply breathtaking outlook. It produces one of the region’s finest Sauvignon Blancs – fresh, vibrant and tropical, while their Rampant Red, a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet, is winning fans. Something Totally New When Moss Wood winery was sub-divided in 1982, architect Bruce Tomlinson purchased the land and established Lenton Brae winery. Putting his talents to use, he built a striking rammed earth winery and cellar door with two towers that are home to quintet bells from Westminster and chime on the quarter-hour. A few years ago, the Tomlinsons introduced a new varietal to the region, Pinot Blanc. This unassuming grape is a mutation of Pinot Noir, yet genetically similar to Chardonnay. Winemaker, Edward Tomlinson, says he was drawn to the subtle charm of this early ripening variety. “Essentially, it is a Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups,’ he says. “The decision to plant Pinot Blanc was a big call. Having seen my father wrestle with the implications of uprooting two hectares of Pinot Noir in the early days, I was amazed at how supportive he was for me to take a punt on Pinot Blanc.” And these are not the only newcomers to the region. There’s been an influx of plantings of Mediterranean varietals in recent years, with Fiano, Vermentino, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese finding favour amongst the growing band of winemakers. A Fitting Half Century
As the 50th celebrations kick off in earnest, it is heartwarming to see much love given to the traditions of the pioneers. Vasse Felix’ s ‘tractor bucket’ party recreated the spirit of founding producers who celebrated each of those crucial early vintages in style with tractor buckets turned into eskys, filled with ice and wine and enjoyed out amongst the vines, even serving as a bed on some occasions. “Anniversaries such as this are an opportunity to share with the world just how special Margaret River is. It is a wine paradise,” says current Vasse Felix owner, Paul Holmes a Court. The single remaining bottle of the 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec is on display in the Vasse Felix vault and to celebrate the winery’s 50th anniversary, they have released a Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec made from those original vines. I am sure the good doctor would approve. And while he would be astounded to see how big the region has grown, he always knew how good the wines were going to be. “I knew because Mondavi told me so,” says Denis Horgan. “He always said that Margaret River was going to make wines that ranked with the best in the world. It was his catch cry.” The best is still yet to come says Dr Gladstones, who fittingly gets to have the last word. “I strongly believe that we’ve only seen the beginning,” he says. “This region has tremendous natural advantages for grape growing to produce top quality wines. “With its environments, experience and now increasing vine age, Margaret River is undoubtedly ripe to walk with the greatest.”
Wine
Yarra Valley’s Best Cellar Doors and Wineries
Start planning your next trip to the Yarra Valley with our latest cellar door guide to this premier cool climate wine region.  The Yarra Valley is an easy one-hour drive from Melbourne’s CBD – arrive there and you’ll find an almost endless choice of premium wineries, cellars doors, restaurants and exciting experiences. To help make the most of your time in this spectacular cool climate region, we’ve selected a collection of wineries that provide great cellar door experiences. With a such a diversity of terroir, the Yarra Valley is able to produce a wide range of classic wine styles and is renowned for its Chardonnay ,  Sauvignon Blanc , and  Pinot Noir , Sparkling wines  and innovative savoury  Rosés . You can find out more about the wines on offer in our  Yarra Valley region guide here. YARRA VALLEY MUST-VISIT WINERIES Helen & Joey Estate
Established in 2010, Helen & Joey Estate is a family owned winery producing outstanding cool climate wines from their 85-acre vineyard located in the Yarra’s Gruyere sub region. Nestled in the Warramate foothills, a visit to their cellar door will leave you feeling like part of the family. Senior winemaker Meg Brodtmann MW is the first female Master of Wine in Australia, and has many years’ experience making wine all around the world. Meg works closely with vineyard manager Jamie McGlade to produce sensational Pinot Gris, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Enjoy a wine tasting across their Inara, Layla, Alena, Late Harvest, and Wayward Child ranges whilst soaking in the stunning views from the Helen & Joey deck. 2-14 Spring Lane, Gruyere Open 7 days a week (except Christmas day) 10am - 5pm Visit the Helen & Joey Estate Website Oakridge
While, the Oakridge’s vineyards and winery were established back in 1978, their contemporary cellar door was opened in 2013. With its sleek industrial lines, the striking, architect-designed building is in bold contrast to the surrounding vines. Step inside to sample a superb range of award-winning wines including Pinot Gris, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet and more. Treat yourself to lunch at Oakridge’s one-hatted restaurant where chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett serve seasonal menus based on fresh ingredients from the Oakridge kitchen garden, as well as wild produce they discover on foraging and fishing excursions around the region. 864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream  Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Oakridge Website Coombe Farm
Tasting Panellist and wine show judge, Trent Mannell says, “Coombe Farm is a remarkable winery and a destination with a real sense of history.” 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, lovely restaurant, and Melba Gallery are not to missed. Melba’s Morning Tea is available from 9:30am Saturdays and Sundays, while a special high tea experience is at 2:30pm every Wednesday and Saturday through June and August. The estate grown, limited production wines are elegantly varietal and regionally expressive.  673 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream Open 9:30am to 5pm Tuesday to Thursday, 9:30am to 3:30pm Friday and Saturday, 9:30am to 5pm Sunday and public holidays Visit the Coombe Farm Website Soumah
Located down a country lane in the dress circle of the Warramate foothills, the Soumah cellar door offers, not only a fantastic tasting experience, but also spectacular views of the vineyards and the surrounding Warramate Hills. “Our focus at Soumah is on making wine with the charm of Northern Italy, but with the provenance of the majestic Yarra Valley,” says Soumah director, Brett Butcher. “We’re best known for our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and are also gaining a good reputation for Viognier and Syarah, plus our passion for the Northern Italian varieties with our Nebbiolo, Brachetto, Pinto Grigio and Savarro ( Savagnin). Along with its casual tastings, Somuah has a premium wine rooms where you’re treated to six exclusive samples selected from their reserve quality, limited production and museum release wines. You can also enjoy a glass of wine or two at their restaurant, Trattoria d’Soumah which serves up excellent Northern Italian cuisine like antipasti, pasta, wood fired pizza, cheese and dessert, seven days a week, with extra options offered on Saturdays and Sundays. 18 Hexham Rd, Gruyere Open 7 days a week 10am to 5pm Visit the Soumah 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. Enjoy a cheese platter, a glass or a full wine flight, chat with their team and experience why they spend every day here. Relax outdoors on the back-garden lawn with a Gundowring ice cream or try your hand at bocce.  Tasting Panellist, Adam Walls  loves visiting the Punt Road cellar door – ‘It has such a warm and welcoming feel and the quality of both the wine and cider on offer is very high!” 10 St Huberts Road, Coldstream Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Punt Road Website Domaine Chandon
Every Aussie Sparkling wine lover needs to experience the joie de vivre of Domaine Chandon. In the mid 1980s, leading Champagne house Moet & Chandon established Domaine Chandon, considering the Yarra Valley as a leading location for the cool climate Sparkling grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  The stunning cellar door and winery melds traditional Champagne architecture with modern Australian design. Its cavernous 72,000 bottle climate-controlled riddling hall, stunning colonnade wall and restaurant overlooking their Green Point vineyard are all world class. As of course are the wines, including the Chandon Brut that was awarded Best Australian Sparkling Wine at the 2018 Champagne & Sparkling Wines World Championships. The terrific self-guided tour of the winery 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 Highway, Coldstream  Open daily 10:30am to 4:30pm Visit the Domaine Chandon Website Giant Steps
“Making wine is often done hidden in sheds in distant wineries. That’s no how we do it. We like our winemaking as transparent as the big glass wall between our winery and cellar door,” Steve Flamsteed, Giant Steps chief winemaker and 2016 Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year. Located in Healesville, the Giant Steps complex is a fantastic wine and food experience that shouldn’t be missed. The remarkable venue features a restaurant, café, private dining rooms and a cellar door built directly within their working winery separated by floor to ceiling glass. Visitors are surrounded by the winemaking process with tastings held in the barrel hall tasting room allowing further insight into the happenings of vintage.  All day grazing plates are available with a new menu of beautiful and seasonal dishes on offer Friday and Saturday evenings. 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville  Open 11am to 7pm Monday to Thursday, 11am till late Friday and Saturday, 11am to 7pm Sunday Visit the Giant Steps Website Dominique Portet
When you visit the gorgeous Dominique Portet Winery, you’ll be enjoying wines crafted by 9th generation winemaker Dominique Portet and his son Ben, who is the family’s 10th generation winemaker. Their cellar door is absolutely charming with a Mediterranean-inspired terrace cafe overlooking the rolling vineyards. Take time to sit and relax while sampling their exceptional Rosé, Sparkling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.  870 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Domonique Portet Website Rob Dolan Wines
A Yarra Valley winemaking stalwart of over 25 years, Rob Dolan launched his label in 2010 and in 2014 was awarded the  James Halliday Best New Winery . His farmhouse cellar door combines welcoming spaces where you can taste Rob’s premium wines, plus sample the delicious Stone & Crow cheeses that are matured at the winery by cheesemaker and founder Jack Holman. Enjoy a platter of local produce including pâté, terrine, olives, and a fantastic range of Rob Dolan pickles, pastes, relishes and jellies. 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 Open Daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Rob Dolan Wines Cellar Door Website De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate
One of Australia’s iconic wine producers, De Bortoli Wines   was established in  Griffith, NSW in 1928 by Italian immigrant, Vittorio De Bortoli. Even in his wildest dreams, he never imagined he would establish an Australian winemaking dynasty. The baby of third generation Leanne De Bortoli and her husband Steve Webber (who is De Bortoli’s chief winemaker), the Yarra Valley vineyard was established in 1987. The vineyard has produced excellent wines with De Bortoli winning the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1997. The cellar door is set in a stunning location with vines in every direction. Along with their 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. Upstairs, The Locale Restaurant offers an authentic Italian dining experience with the menu reflecting the best local seasonal produce and featuring veggies from their garden, homemade pasta and delicious authentic Italian risotto.  58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek  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, and that history is enshrined in the old winery that now serves as the cellar door and gallery.  Choose from several different tasting experiences to enjoy the excellent range of wines (including Chardonnay, Rosé, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and of course, Sparkling wines) crafted by chief winemaker Willy Lunn and his talented team. Open seven days from 12pm, the Yering Station Restaurant serves a superb French-inspired menu under the leadership of executive chef, Maxime Croiset. 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  Open daily Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm  Visit the Yering Station Website Seville Estate
One of the oldest continually operating wineries in the Yarra Valley, Seville Estate was named the Winery of the Year at the 2019 James Halliday Wine Companion Awards. “Our philosophy at Seville Estate is to capture the fruit expression of this unique vineyard, in wine styles that show cool climate complexity and finesse,” says Dylan McMahon, winemaker. Their famed Shiraz and Pinot Noir are excellent examples of the region’s terroir. “Seville Estate is a Yarra Valley icon, the higher elevation of the estate’s vines allows the grapes to ripen slowly to produce elegant cool climate wines perfect for Pinot Noir,” explains Trent Mannell, Tasting Panellist. Situated further southwest towards Yellingbo and 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. The newly opened restaurant offers lunch on Friday through Sunday, and dinner Friday and Saturday nights. 65 Linwood Rd, Seville  Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Seville Estate Restaurant Tarrawarra Estate
“There are so many great cellar doors in the Yarra Valley, but TarraWarra must be on your short list,” says Trent Manell, Tasting Panellist. “Situated on 400 hectares of prime land beside the Yarra river, TarraWarra’s wines are meticulously grown, handpicked, vinified and aged on the estate,” he says. The spectacular  TarraWarra Estate  cellar door is built into the earth of the wineries’ rolling hillside and is a stunning place to sample their premium-quality wines. Serving delicious dishes inspired by the estate’s kitchen garden and prepared by head chef Mark Ebbels, the renowned restaurant further cements TarraWarra as an exceptional Yarra Valley winery experience.  311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm Visit the TarraWarra Website Helen's Hill
Nestled at the bottom of its eponymous hill, Helen’s Hill is a 100% family-owned and operated vineyard and cellar door, and a must-visit for those interested in the inner workings of the winemaking process. The cellar door reveals floor to ceiling views of the winery and barrel hall, providing a real sense connection to the wines that are hand crafted by winemaker Scott McCarthy and his team. Enjoy tasting of Helen’s Hill cool climate regional range including premium Arneis, Fume Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Don’t miss The Wine Deck for a casual snack or lunch and tasting in the garden. For beer lovers there’s another treat – a fantastic range of carefully brewed small batch craft beers. A tribute to the family’s furry members, the Caesars Pale Ale, Brutus’ Amber Ale and Archie’s Pale Ale are all easy drinking styles that go really well with food. 16 Ingram Road, Lilydale  Open daily 10am to 5pm  Visit the Helen's Hill Website Yering Farm
Owned and operated by Alan and Vicki Johns, Yering Farm is located on the original site of the Yeringa Vineyards once owned by the Deschamps family in the 1800s.The Johns family, who are fifth generation orchardists, resurrected the property in 1980 with the replanting of the 30-acre vineyard starting in 1989. The original Yeringa Vineyard sign adorns the entrance of the rustic cellar door and the whole property exudes charm and commanding views of the Yarra Valley. All of Yering Farm wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, are produced on site from estate grown fruit. Enjoy a tasting and a Yering Farm 'Pruner's Platter’ by the fire or out on the large verandah where you can take in the gorgeous views. You can also bring your own picnic or use the BBQ facilities for a small fee (bookings essential). A tasting at Yering Farm wouldn’t be complete without trying Alan's Farmyard Apple Syder (cider), it's delicious! 19-21 St Huberts Rd, Yering  Open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm  Visit the Yering Farm Website
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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