If your idea of a perfect vacation involves a lot of wine, chocolate and beers, you’re going to absolutely love the Yarra Valley. Ideally, we’d have driven out to explore the vineyards on our own. But that means holding back on tasting the best the vineyards have to offer. So, we got a designated driver and had a ball of a time!
If you explore the Yarra Valley in early winter, you won’t be able to see any of the shrubs in their full glory. But you can probably still enjoy lots of greenery as we soon realised. Our initial plan was to enjoy the warmth of good wine in the cold, but having this view was beyond our expectations. A toast to that!
And it’s not all about the alcohol too. We started out at a small capsicum farm. Where they created a hydroponics system that ensures the plants are cultivated all year round.
It was fascinating to see the bell peppers harvested from walls of green. Not quite what I expected at all!
And we even enjoyed a variety of capsicum and berry jams with lots of delicious homemade cheese and dips.
Next, we made a quick stop at the chocolate factory for some souvenirs. To be honest, it was terribly touristy. But hey, it’s hard to say no to huge mounds of chocolate buttons which you can help yourselves to as you explore the aisles of chocolate heaven.
We ended up visiting 5 different cellar doors and vineyards. A cellar door is where you sample the different wines before you buy them. And each of these families would host you in their compounds with cushy armchairs, the heat cranked up and lots of what the Danish would call Hygge. It’s hard not to end up guzzling glass after glass before deciding which ones we’d like to take home.
But I loved the vineyards the most. Sampling all those delicious wines while being in the midst of where they were grown was a wonderful experience. It truly helps you appreciate the flavours just knowing and being mindful of where they came from. The shrubs were often hundreds of years old. And they just keep giving.
It was so great to be able to stretch our legs with long walks between the drives especially while admiring the wintry landscape. There is such beauty even among barren trees.
And one of my favourite and most educational stops has got to be at Napoleone brewery.
It’s interesting because the owners never intended to build a cider and ale business. They were mainly apple merchants who wanted to make the most of their leftover product and voila! A fun experiment ended up tremendously successful and the place was packed with visitors when we arrived.
We enjoyed a tasting flight of a variety of ciders, beers and ales. We learnt the difference between them all and it was so fascinating how they’re made and brewed right in the building. We even got to take a closer look at the raw ingredients needed to brew these drinks like hops you see here. It looks and smells like rabbit food, but somehow produces such amazing results.
I particularly liked the pear cider (which is a little sweeter than the tart apple ones), and this Breakneck Porter. It had a distinctive espresso flavour and was smooth, dark and very intense at the same time. I like my ales the same way I like my coffee. This was very memorable.
As you can tell, we were feeling pretty light-headed and happy by this point. And overall, while we would have preferred the privacy of making this trip on our own, it wasn’t possible to have your wine and drink it too.
I totally recommend hiring a driver and you can take your time exploring the valley. But start early and you’ll have a lot of time to enjoy what Yarra Valley has to offer.