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With 16 different varieties of wines to try in this micro region alone, you will be quite an accomplished wine lover by the time you’ve explored this gem of a trail. The Alternative Taste Trail can be savoured over two or more days so here are some suggestions to get you started.
After leaving Lilydale, head along the Maroondah Highway and take the left hand option to Melba Highway towards Yarra Glen. Check out our Alternative Taste Trail map for more detailed directions and enjoy the food and wine adventures. Day one has a real Italian vibe, while day two takes us into places of beauty and delight.
And don’t forget to look up for the hot air balloons coming in to land in the mornings!
Day One – Italian influences
Sweet beginnings start here at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, where you can enjoy a hot chocolate or coffee (and something to eat in the cafe) and marvel at the wonderous creations of the inhouse chocolatiers. Taste a world of flavour (and house made gelati) and stock up for the rest of the trip (and home, and gifts for friends – you won’t be able to resist)
Late morning wander over to the stunning Zonzo Estate, where the wines are plentiful and the setting has an Italian feel, from the antipasti to the prosecco. Admire the old milking shed, the Capella and barrel room and enjoy a tasting at the cellar door. If you need to stretch your legs, there’s plenty of open space at the estate or you can make your way to the Yarra Glen Recreation Reserve for a wander or explore the shops on the main street for the quaint and collectable.
As wine lovers the opportunity to try something new is part of the Alternative Taste Trail experience. Expand your wine vocabulary, and home cellar, by discovering the new varietals from around the world grown right here: Colombard, Verdelho, Tempranillo and Petit Verdot are just the beginning in this region (and you’ll still find your favourite cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well). This trail is a taste sensation.
Mandala Wines is your next destination and lucky for you it’s lunch time because the onsite Italian restaurant DiVino is a fabulous place to enjoy an authentic woodfired pizza, or a mezze lunch with a view. Taste the wines and then enjoy them with your meal before stocking up (back vintages available) and linger as long as you want to..
Take the short trip to the cellar door at Corniola Wines in Dixons Creek. This family have been making estate wines since the 1970s and are delighted to share their wine wisdom.
And if you’re looking for intimate and unique accommodation you may choose to stay the night at Sutherland Estate right above the cellar door – but book ahead – it’s super popular all year.
Otherwise the perfect finish to your day is a stay over package at Balgownie Estate, also the home to Natskin Spa (hint hint) and a truly inspired range of wines. (An unfortunate kitchen fire in June 2020 has put a hold of the restaurant activities until further notice however the accommodation is open and warmly welcoming.) And if you’re still needing your fix of Italian food retrace your steps to Zonzo Estate for dinner.
Day Two – Gardens, music and masters
Unhurried – that’s the tone of the day. Just like a fine wine takes time, today’s meandering will take you into places where time doesn’t matter. After a homestyle breakfast at your chosen accommodation you’re checked out and ready to explore the world in ‘slow time’.
Take deep breaths at Alowyn Gardens, a delightful collection of European and sculptured gardens that delight the senses regardless of the season. These gardens are the essence of love and the inspiration for many a garden renovation back home. There’s a café and nursery onsite, and more than four acres of beauty to roam in six distinct themes. Time stands still here so you can quite literally stop and smell the roses…and a thousand other blooms.
Whet your appetite with a little pre-lunch wine tasting at Yarrawood Estate, which boasts 360 degree panoramic views, a lake and luscious lawns to picnic on. In summer, there’s entertainment and house famous platters abundant in local cheeses. The wines are handcrafted single vineyard and have attracted international acclaim.
If you’re looking for a place to spend time in nature, Sugarloaf Reservoir Park is an easy 10 minute’s drive from the township of Yarra Glen and provides plenty of opportunities for a short stroll. Known for its wildlife spottings, it’s also a delightful place to watch the boats and the world go by. (The circuit walk around the reservoir takes about five hours so is one to plan for next time.)
Are you ready for a LLL? Long Lazy Lunch is a specialty at Immerse Yarra Valley – another place to admire the gardens and expand your palate beyond wine to craft beers and cider while enjoying a lunch of seasonal and locally grown delights.
Platter dining is definitely something this fabulous region does super well and is a great way to sample the local delicacies that make foodies smile. As you amble on your day be assured that there will be plenty of opportunities for snacks…and music!
Greenstone Vineyards showcase wines from the Yarra Valley and Heathcote on their picture-perfect deck with cheese platters and music regular parts of the menu. A winery tour is also offered for those who want to get behind the scenes.
With it’s own little valley, Fergusson Winery and Restaurant is the place that will leave a lasting impression on you after two days of Alternative Taste travels. It’s hard to leave this magical setting where the fire roars in winter and the patio offers cool retreat in summer. Linger for dinner, share a moment at the cellar door and plan your return. The winery also has music on Sunday afternoons inviting you to ease back on the lawn and enjoy sundowners together. That’s life – what an alternative!
Head home safely knowing you’ve discovered a unique and often unknown part of the Yarra Valley that will never leave you and will always welcome you back.
This Alternative Taste trail is a perfect self-drive weekend away or midweek stay (thank you designated driver); however, you always have the option of enjoying a bespoke tour and/or transfers from one of our super knowledgeable and delightful tour companies so everyone in your party is free to enjoy the cellar door and more.