The Maroondah Highway was the perfect getaway for the start of autumn. With the leaves beginning to change colour and beautifully falling from the trees, the vineyards showing reds and oranges and yellows mixed with green. We pulled up to our home for the weekend at Tarra Lane Cottages. This stunning accommodation sits on a vineyard and is very well-equipped. A bathtub, separate bedroom, gorgeous fireplace and if you like to cook on your getaways there is space to prepare meals. We even got the picnic blanket out and did some amazing star gazing. It was so nice to be out of the city and able to stare out at the country sky.
Our first meal Friday night at the Coldstream Brewery was perfect. They are known for their ribs, steak and they make a scrumptious parma! My favourite was the rose cider and we also enjoyed a tasting paddle of their craft beers. Think fancier than your standard pub menu. The Truffle fries also really hit the spot. With both outdoor and indoor seating, lots on tap and even take-home beverages for purchase it was a great place for our first meal on the Maroondah Highway.
After a comfy rest at Tarra Lane Cottages, we enjoyed the Maroondah Reservoir Park. A tranquil walk through the trees. (Incredibly massive trees might we add) with a couple of them reaching higher than the dam. Especially with the autumn leaves beginning to change, climbing the dam is well worth the steps up and the stunning view was gorgeous. We spent a good amount of time soaking it in. There are lots of different walks at the Maroondah Reservoir Park whether it’s for a short stroll or a longer hike. There are also nice picnic areas to enjoy a bite to eat. Their grounds are beautifully kept and open from 8 am and 8 pm (but check for seasonal times).
The next stop was the YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub. We felt so lucky to have got to explore Ian George’s ocean-themed exhibit called Tidal. We were both so in love with the space and all of his creations. I desperately wanted one piece that was already sold so I may have sweet-talked the artist into making me a custom similar piece! What a great upstairs gallery for artists to showcase their work and enjoy the good vibes!
We began our winery stops for the weekend at Coombe Yarra Valley. Their tribute series features the best grapes on the hill and the estate has such a rich history too! The world famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba once lived on the property and Coombe have done an extrordanary job in keeping the estate in great condition. You can even do the tour, which we obviously did. Seeing Dame Nellie Melba's bedroom, in pristine condition -- with a mink coat draped across a chair and her silver sequinned shoes lined up next to her other shoes it feels like she has stepped out for just a moment. Close friend of the Queen and Prince Harry's Godmother, Lady Celia Vestey frequentened the estate until her recent passing (2020). They have beautiful tastings and a gorgeous restaurant.
Our bellies were excited for Merenda at Soumah for lunch. They have a delicious feature that combines savoury and sweet. Although usually one of us prefers sweet and the other savoury we both couldn’t decide what we like better as they were equally as delicious. With a beautiful selection including meats, burrata cheese, and delightful sweet treats to eat and brachetto frizzante italian grape variety wine and their blanc de blanc to drink we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Soumah was stunning, even in the rain, and a hidden gem that should not be overlooked. The immaculate grounds and delicious lunch was a memorable winery to visit!!
One of the newest wineries in the Yarra Valley is the Jayden Ong Winery & Cellar bar. We had a lovely tasting and you can tell Jayden’s Science degree was put well to us as he wants to know the science behind the wine. Looking into the WHY before the How. Here at Jayden Ong they want the fruit to be fresh as it can be with as little intervention as possible. This means some late nights into the wee hours and the extra efforts are to really let the fruit shine – as it’s all about the fruit after all. This cellar door also has a unique and gorgeous atmosphere with space to hire out up to 150 people for functions. With careful thought out labels from a local artist, at Jayden Ong the meaning of the wine goes into the label as well. We also enjoyed lions mane mushrooms on the Hibachi grill and amazing leeks that were picked fresh that morning from Jayden’s farm. Crunchy chicken skin and other meats are also on the grill menu. A very delicious unique experience. We even tasted the amazing blood orange margarita that delighted us with its flavour!
Our last stop for the night was at Payten and Jones. Here gives the feel like you’re hanging at your mate's place. Even the finishings of wood and tables were made from friends and they include their favourite things that they don’t specialise in. For example white wine and rose they leave to their pals. A local favourite during lockdown was their Fort mi Vermut which we had served with an olive and orange went perfectly with this drink on ice and we can see why the locals kept coming back for more. Outdoor seating with heaters and a private room you can enjoy some more secluded tasting inside. We loved hearing about the hand-picked, foot stomped wine that they create! Also, if you get there early enough we hear they serve oysters! Payten & Jones was truly a lovely place to be before heading back to Terra Lane Cottages for a cosy fire to end the evening!
Our first stop on our Sunday morning was Levantine Hill Estate. I have to say this was the winery where I left most educated on not only their wines but wine in general. The sommelier Marcus was full of vast knowledge and you can tell he loves and knows his wine!! The French influence wines began 22 years ago and a lot of research was done to get the wine at a similar elevation to vineyards in Chablis, France. Decades later wine connoisseurs can taste the similarities to their French influence. Along with their French-inspired wines, Levantine Hill also has family paddocks. Named after his wife and 3 daughters these 4 family paddocks allow for unique wine from the Yarra region to complement their French influences wines. The sommelier told us of the natural irrigation that changes and evolves on its own allowing for delightful wines. We even saw two helicopters landing and a spectacular place to dine for lunch. And, I even approved of every wine in the tasting which doesn’t tend to happen for me!
The next tasting was at Oakridge Wines. They are known for their chardonnay but have a wide variety of other ranges. Here at Oakridge, it’s all about showing the sites that they use for their wines and showcase site variation having different tastes side-by-side. The winery Five oaks was where Oakridge originated from and still use this vineyard today. There is a gorgeous light-filled tasting area from the huge windows. They are also known for their Pinot noir as well and enjoyed the comparisons and seeing what the varying sites produced. Explore different styles: arneis Italian varietal and Oakridge meuneir (Pinot family), both unique and delicious. They also have Cloudy minimal intervention sauvage garden and garden gris which are fun and funky having skin contact. Their 864 range take is when they take the best performing wines each year and further intervention allows them to blossom even more. A restaurant is also on-site if you fancy a nibble after your tastings.
For lunch, we went to the Garden at Meletos. They have indoor seating at the Meletos Cafe for a more fine dining experience, the Garden (where we ate) had gorgeous outdoor seating with an outdoor grill. For a more laid back experience, they also have the Meletos Brewery for on-tap beers and finger food. Although we dined outside I spotted espresso martinis on tap and thought we would have to come back to eat indoors and check it out. There is also space for private functions and lovely views and accommodation is also available. They also have the Providore where they sell homewares, local produce, wines and even flowers Wednesday to Sunday. The pink Moscato was a delightful treat with our lunch of grilled halloumi, gyros and a delicious mango cucumber salad.
After a beautiful weekend exploring the Maroondah highway, we made one last stop at Helen and Joey Estate. This stunning winery was peaceful, relaxing with beautiful scenery to unwind after the weekend. They are known for their casual, laid back atmosphere where they say they want to give a non-pretentious feel and a great place for those to come who like wine but don’t feel like they would fit in at a more grand winery. They have to build-your-own cheese boards with local cheeses from the Yarra Valley. Meats that are both imported and local. Specialities like prosciutto and truffle salami. They also have smoked meats on the BBQ and one-off food offerings like dumplings or pork buns depending on the day. They are always trying new things so check their Facebook and Instagram for up to date specials. They are also going to be open for functions weddings corporate events. Such a stunning view to complete a lovely weekend on the Maroondah Highway! We can’t wait to be back!