The Yarra Valley

Gary & Carolyn’s Epic Australian Adventure (part 1)

As we were planning their trip, my Mom and I discussed that a day of wine tasting in the Yarra Valley would be fun, and beautiful.  Fortunately, all of our friends also LOVE wine and a day was already in the cards.  After all, Lynette, Aaron and I had all recently left Target and required a celebration.

We used For the Love of Grape to organize our outing and ensure everyone could enjoy the tastings that day without the responsibility of driving.  Leah was amazing, and incredibly helpful in recommending which wineries to visit, but also allowing us to to tailor the day as we wanted.  We chose two of the wineries, and had her recommend the lunch venue/tasting and a small winery that was new to all of us.  She was extremely flexible, also, allowing us to tag the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie to the end of our day, at no extra charge.  If you’re planning a day out, I’m certain everyone in our group would recommend that you use For the Love of Grape to organize your day.

Our first stop of the day, was Coldstream Hills.  A few of us had been here before and thoroughly enjoyed it; a few of us had tasted their wines at an event a few weeks earlier and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Based on these factors, we requested this winery be on the list.  We worked our way through every wine they had available for tasting that day, each picking out some favorites.  Unfortunately, they lost us at the end of the tasting with a aggressively long sales pitch, even providing my parents with information on how to ship their wine club to America.  It was so long, in fact, that by the end of it I had forgotten what I was thinking of purchasing.  Thirteen of us walked out of this winery without purchasing a single bottle of wine, not because we disliked their wines, but because we were turned off by the sales pitch.  The friends that had visited a few weeks earlier mentioned as we made our way back to the bus that this was not the experience they’d previously had.  We chalked it up to large group mentality on the winery’s part.

Our second stop of the day was Hanrahan Vineyard, which none of us had been to or heard of before.  In fact, the co-owner of the vineyard asked me about our tour company, so I told her how wonderful For the Love of Grape had been in organizing our day, and advised her to form a relationship with them.  They seated us in a private area, told us their history and then took us on a tour of their wines.  As we tasted, it seemed like each one was better than the last!  The man giving the tasting was extremely personable, read our group well, and just wanted to talk about the wines and their vineyard.  He invited us to stay in the private seating area as long as we felt like, and never pressured us to purchase any wines.  In fact, I had to ask him as we were leaving where to purchase.  I believe each of us purchased two bottles of wine from them, with my personal favorites being the 2012 Shiraz and 2012 Chardonnay!  And we’re already planning our next trip back to Hanrahan Vineyard.  If you’re going out for a day, or planning a tour, be sure to add these guys to your itinerary.

The next stop on our itinerary was Tokar Estate & Restaurant, which unfortunately did not impress anyone in our group.  I should clarify, that the food we had for lunch was very nice, but despite knowing that there were four vegetarians in our group, they did not present a vegetarian menu, instead making us request it in addition to their prix-fixe menu that they were offering us.  After ordering, we were invited to the bar for our tasting, which was not large enough for a group of 13 people.  At the bar, we met the owner’s son, who seemed to have a bad case of the coke-sweats and came across as a douche-bag spoiled little rich brat.  He really didn’t give us any information about the wines, instead talking about how great of a chef he was, that he had to retire already because there was no improvement left for him.  As Ben would say, he was a total FIGJAM (fuck I’m good, just ask me).  Once we were settled back at our table, we weren’t allowed to choose our favorite wine from the tasting to enjoy with our meal, but instead were allowed to choose “red” or “white”, which is what I expect from an airplane or pub, not a winery.  We were served the worst wines from the tasting with our meals.  Overall, this venue was disappointing and I would not visit again.

Our last winery stop of the day was Yering Station, which is proudly Victoria’s oldest vineyard. This was my second trip to this winery, and my honest opinion was that the girl who did my first tasting here was better than the guy who lead this tasting.  She was more informative, involved with the group and friendly.  The guide on this day seamed to be a bit rushed, and had a lot less to say about each wine, how to taste it, what to pair it with, and where to locate it within the massive shop. It was quite busy there, being Labour Day Weekend, but if this had been my first experience at Yering Station, I might not go back.  On this day, I did not make any purchases at this winery, however I have in the past.

After our visit to Yering Station, we stopped off at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.  It was crazy in there, but we managed to enjoy our ice cream and stock up on chocolates before heading back to the city.  As we loaded into the bus, our wonderfully friendly driver asked if anyone was on a tight schedule.  No one was, so he suggested one additional stop to enjoy the gorgeous view over the Yarra Valley with Melbourne in the background.  This was definitely above and beyond, as we were well past the end of our itinerary and the time that For the Love of Grape had promised to us, but knowing that my parents were tourists and the rest of us had never been before, Eric wanted to share his favorite place in the Yarra Valley with our group.

I’ve already said it, but I’ll say again that I would highly recommend For the Love of Grape if your organizing a day out in the Yarra Valley or Ballerina Peninsula. Hands down, my favorite winery of the day, and I think I speak for the whole group, was Hanrahan Vineyard.

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