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Jan 1, 2011 07:51 AM

Visiting the Yarra Valley in Australia - recommendations?

Hi, We'll be visiting Australia starting next week, and staying for a night or two at the Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley. We'd like recommendations for a couple of wineries to visit that are nearby, and that won't mind a well-behaved 4 year old coming along (she's done this in Napa, no problems). Wine-wise, we're fairly open, although I'm not a big fan of fruity whites - especially the tropical fruits often found in sauv. blancs.

thank you very much in advance for any advice you can give us.

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  1. Yarra Yering is worth a visit. They make pretty good wine, including one of the more extracted Pinot Noirs out there. Not far away is By Farr and Farr Rising in Bannockburn. Great Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Chardonnay

    1 Reply
    1. re: veganhater

      Just a comment on Bannockburn being 'not far away'? It's probably a two and a half hour drive, though that might be close in North American terms.

    2. Yes, Yarra Yering makes some excellent wines. They're cooler than most regions so Pinot Noir has become a specialty here; I also like a lot of Yarra Chardonnays.

      Yarra Yering were one of (if not the) first wineries in the Yarra Valley and has become flagship estate for the region. I also recommend Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander wines, and owner Phil Sexton has quite the complex set up for visitors -- a restaurant, bakery, coffee roastery etc. Giant Steps are for his vineyard-designates, mostly, and Innocent Bystander are larger production blends (often great values).

      Have fun!

      1 Reply
      1. re: originalfig

        I just sent some (winey/foodie) friends to Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander and they had a blast.

      2. Thanks so much to you both for the helpful replies. I'll tip a glass or two in your direction (and veganhater - you're a neighbor of mine, aren't you - at least globally speaking?).

        4 Replies
        1. re: LulusMom

          We are both lucky enough to live in NC. I was happy to see your name on the post. If you do get to see either Farr (Nick or his dad Gary), tell them hello from their Carolina friends they worked with in Burgundy in 02. By the way, Lulu sounds like she has been raised right. I like her taste.

          1. re: veganhater

            Sorry that I didn't make it to Farr to pass along your message. And yes, Lulu has been raised to eat pretty much everything. When our friends brought along a picnic to share the wines, Lulu's first choice was the lovely black olives and the blue cheese.

            1. re: LulusMom

              It's good to see some people have enough care to give their kids an option that is not chicken mcnuggets. Our youngest loves black olives and it gives me immense pleasure to watch him gorge on something so healthy that so many kids won't touch. I think our son is too young for Lulu (3.5), but if she gets desperate he loves girls with good taste for food and wine. Enjoy the rest of your trip if it isn't over yet.

              1. re: veganhater

                Lulu, I'm guessing, would forgo the older man in order to find a date with similar tastes. Tonight she had a bowl of black olives as a starter (seriously, her favorite food) and then polenta dusted calamari for her main. She was delighted. The vanilla creme brulee put her over the top. I must, however, admit that she also loves to indulge in a bag of salt and vinegar crisps whenever we're in pub-heavy places. So, if your son isn't put off by that, lets talk in about 12 years.

                Another great meal tonight. Bistrot d'Orsay in Melbourne on Collins. Husband and I both had trout with a light horseradish beet sauce and rocket greens to start, then he had salmon - very old school french, and i had pasta with seafood. it is a wet wet wet day down here, although cooler than usual. The wines at this place by the glass were phenomenal. We're off to Auckland tomorrow ... touring NZ with a 5 week stay in Wellington. if anyone happens to be reading this and has advice about NZ, it would be very gratefully accepted!

                PS - Lulu has never seen a chicken nugget in her life, and only this week (in the middle of NSW where there weren't many other options) had McDonalds.

        2. When you get to the Valley find the tourist office and pick up the brochure that has a list of all the wineries and a map with locations (your hotel may have one available as well). This will show where all the big name wineries and small boutique producers are, just about every major wine area in Aus produces a similar brochure and they are invaluable in helping to navigate the areas.

          My tip is to avoid the big names and head for the smaller more bespoke places, the biggies like Domaine Chandon and De Bortoli will have quite commercial cellar doors, often set up for tourist coaches. A smaller place like Yarra Yering will be more intimate, and other smaller less famous ones will probably see you served by the owner/wine maker.

          If you want good food I would reverse the advice, with some of the bigger producers now running good restaurants in great settings i.e Chandon, Bortoli, Giant Steps etc. I am far from an expert on Yarra Valley so can't recommend individual wineries but don't worry about Lulu kids will be welcome at all the cellar doors.

          4 Replies
          1. re: PhilD

            Thanks PhilD. We've spent a lot of time in Napa/Sonoma, so we figured that the smaller places probably would be nicer and have a good atmo, but we also know they don't all have great wines. Appreciate everyone's help on this. Yarra Yering sounds like a must.

            Probably somewhat weirdly, Lulu is obsessed by Pinot Noir (which she calls Peanut Duvoir). She has asked for a bottle for her fifth birthday. Needless to say, she won't be getting one.

            1. re: LulusMom

              You underestimate Lulu, closer questioning will reveal she wants to cellar top burgundies for 10 to 12 years. She will then sell these to significantly augment her college fund.

              1. re: PhilD

                Laughing! Could be a hint of truth in that since her father is an economist, and probably teaching her things like that on the side.

            2. re: PhilD

              If you've got an iPhone, the government tourism organization has released a free app of their wineries regions brochure at

              It misses a few of the smaller wineries, but has otherwise pretty good coverage.

            3. The original comment has been removed