Every so often we make the (slightly boozy) pilgrimage from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley. It’s a favourite weekend trip of ours and this visit was no different as we packed it full of wine tastings, museums, great food and topped it all off with a hot air balloon ride.
The Yarra Valley is only an hour from Melbourne, so if you’re looking for an idyllic weekend away but don’t fancy a flight or long drive, then I highly recommend visiting the region. The highlight is of course the wine – it’s what the region is known for after all – but even if wine isn’t your cup of tea so to speak, there’s still plenty to do.
We left Melbourne on a Sunday afternoon. One hour later we were cruising past vineyards and enjoying the scenery. Our first stop was at Domaine Chandon in Coldstream. Domaine Chandon is the Australian outpost of the famous French winery, Moët & Chandon. In Australia, Chandon too has quite the reputation for its sparkling wine. Once there, we wandered around the estate, drank in the views and then drank in the wine. We opted for their wine tasting where we sampled six different wines. My personal favourite was the Vintage Brut 2013, but the sparkling Pinot Shiraz NV and the Cuvée riche NV were also something special, even though I’m not usually a fan of sweet wine. The tasting cost $10 per person. A lot of the bigger wineries in the Yarra Valley charge for their tastings but many of the smaller cellar doors still offer free tastings.
After all the time spent soaking up the sunshine at Domaine Chandon, we hadn’t left a lot of time to visit many of the other wineries (though I highly recommend that you do) Our next stop was to Tarrawarra Museum of Art at the Tarrawarra Estate. Tarrawarra is one of the most well-reputed regional galleries in Victoria and has consistently high quality shows, exhibiting Australian artists. The exhibitions are fantastic but the building itself is something to be admired. I spent quite a while photographing the architecture from different angles. Every step you take it suddenly looks completely different. There is of course a cellar door on the estate where you can top up on wine and Yarra Valley produce.
We spent the night in Healesville after a shamefully early dinner – necessary as we had to be up at 4:30 the next morning. Getting up before dawn might not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing weekend getaway but I personally think it was for a very good cause.
We drove to Chateau Yering, the both of us still delirious from the early start. From there, we were shuttled to another vineyard. It wasn’t until flames were blasted into the hot air balloon that we woke up from our daze. Watching the balloons inflate was something truly magnificent. I may have been a tad ignorant but I really had no idea until we were there just how enormous hot air balloons could be.
I can’t describe just how extraordinarily beautiful a hot air balloon flight in the Yarra Valley is. As you ascend above the vineyards, the sun rises, the fog lifts and the early start is suddenly completely and utterly worth it.
Everything about the flight was magical. We were in the air for about an hour but it went by quickly. Surprisingly one of the most exciting parts of the flight was packing the hot air balloon up. I know that sounds strange but it was actually a very interesting experience (even if there was a little heavy lifting involved.) Seeing the inside of the balloon as we helped get all the air out brought a completely different perspective and I couldn’t help by marvel that a relatively thin piece of fabric had been keeping us in the air.
Feeling as though we’d achieved rather a lot in a day we headed back to Melbourne to ready ourselves for the next (slightly boozy) pilgrimage.