Think of rolling hills swathed in vineyards, boutique family-owned wineries, historic estates, attractive villages, mountaintop views and quiet, shaded forests, and it would be easy to imagine you’re in one of the great wine regions of Europe. But all this lies just an hour’s drive from the centre of Melbourne.
Victoria’s Yarra Valley has been the jewel-in-the-crown of the state’s internationally-renowned wine industry, but there’s so much more to this exceptionally popular region than the silky Pinot Noirs and seductive Chardonnays for which this area is world famous.
Amongst its kaleidoscope of towns and hamlets that nestle in the blue-green shadows of the mighty Yarra Ranges, modern, welcoming communities thrive, thanks to the flourishing wine, tourism and epicure industries. During the week, visitors from across the globe (and around the corner) flock to the cafes, cellar doors, day spas and gourmet providores that can be found throughout the Valley, while at weekends local farmers’ markets enjoy a roaring trade selling to discerning locals and those who come up from Melbourne just for the farm-fresh produce and wonderful country atmosphere.
The Yarra Valley is also a land for all seasons. The budding green shoots, pink and white fruit blossoms and brilliant gardens filled a dazzling array of colours herald the arrival of spring out of the crisp fresh winters. Summer becomes a hive of activity when everyone seems to roll up their sleeves to get the grapes in for vintage or prepare for the major visitor and party season. The ruby, gold and amber hues of century-old European trees create a dramatic backdrop as autumn sweeps across the valley floor, contrasting against the soaring evergreen Mountain Ash trees that tower above ferny glades and crystal clear creeks. Finally, winter in all its sublime beauty, with morning fog tinged with the aroma of woodsmoke from homely fires, while pubs and restaurants tempt with menus offering all-day-breakfasts, hearty soups, juicy roasts, and steaming hot puddings and fruit pies.
Of course, everyone has their favourites, and the team at RT Edgar Yarra Valley is no exception. Top of the list would be Coombe Farm, the former home of the world-famous opera soprano Dame Nelly Melba and now a gourmet and cultural destination set within seven acres of garden and vines. At the contemporary end of the scale, the centrepiece of the breathtaking Tarra Warra Estate is the imposing art gallery, restaurant and cellar door building that stands sentinel-like overlooking the valley below. On a quieter level, an afternoon at the Morgans Winery offers up complementary wine tastings with perfectly-matched antipasto and cheese platters. On those rare days when you’ve seen enough wineries, the Four Pillars Distillery is the place to head for a taste of the gin that’s sending excited ripples across the global spirits scene. And when its time to soak up some of those drinks, a stroll around the many cafes of Healesville or the nearby Healesville Sanctuary will do the trick.
Visually, the proud history of this iconic region lends a sense of tradition to the predominant architecture throughout the Yarra Valley, but for every meticulously renovated stone farmhouse or cottage there’s a stunning, modern masterpiece of domestic design, an innovative, eco-friendly residence, or classic family home waiting for the next chapter in its life.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere spacious to raise a family, a tree-change that’s still close to all the comforts of luxury living, a place to retire in the country or even a little block of land to grow your own vines, the Yarra Valley can simply not be beaten for beauty, convenience, opportunity and a gourmet lifestyle.