The husband and I have been to all the other major wine producing regions of Australia so Yarra Valley was the last on our “checklist”. He didn’t have any particular vineyard he wanted to visit (actually he did but they’re not open to public visits!); so we ended up going to just two in the area.
If your kids have never been to a vineyard before, and it’s along the way to one of your destinations, it’s worth having a stop to look around. A vineyard is, after all, a farm of sorts, and can be quite interesting to see how the crops are laid out, or a place to savour lunch, or just to marvel at the beauty of the landscape.
You could also just have stop on an estate and walk around without having to go into any cellar door, but that depends on how the property is laid out (if it completely gated, then obviously don’t go in right?), and please do not go helping yourself to any grapes! Or walking between the vines as the property owners generally don’t want any parasites introduced to the crops.
Some cellar doors might also charge for a tasting. Just to give you an idea of why some cellar doors charge for tasting – a few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that years ago we’d been to a vineyard in the Barossa Valley where they charged $5 for a tasting, and he was feeling envious and said he’d happily pay $5 to sample some of the premium wines you otherwise might not want to spend on. Which is what my husband did. But if you’re impartial to your wines (like me, I only know how to drink!) you probably might want to skip the cellar doors that have a charge.
For wine enthusiasts, visiting an estate is always interesting and not just about bottle sales. In fact you can sometimes get better deals in bottle shops than at cellar doors. At vineyards you can taste their range of wines, and sometimes speak to the wine makers. You can view their property and understand the plots and how and what goes into their wines. It is quite a scientific process, and not just about the alcohol! And although there is a lot of science to it now, at the end of the day it is simply an agricultural process, still dependent on nature’s elements to produce something for us to enjoy.
March and April is a good time for vineyard visiting because it is harvest or almost harvest time, so there are plenty of grapes to be seen on the vines. When we visited Margaret River in September which is the beginning of spring, the leaves on the vines were only just beginning to grow.
It doesn’t mean no leaves or grapes is a bad time to visit a vineyard, but having vines in their full glory with bunches of grapes means the kids can see that it is not your usual seedless grape varieties (yes, certainly no Thomson seedless grape wines) that go into making wine. If they are lucky they might even be able to smell the fermentation of the grapes!
On our recent trip to Yarra Valley, we stopped by Greenpoint Brassierie on the Domaine Chandon estate for lunch and if I had to recommend one estate in Yarra Valley, this would be it. It has the most breathtaking view we have ever seen, even compared to the ones in Europe. The French peeps from Moët & Chandon sure know how to pick such a lovely location! The kids meals were a good size, and the adults enjoyed our lunches too.
After lunch the kids played outside while this momma had the wine tasting which came complimentary since we’d bought a bottle to have with lunch. Otherwise tasting is $10 per person, redeemable against a purchase at the cellar door.
Apart from the lunches and the wines, the Chandon estate is a great place for anyone to start exploring and learning about wine making, and I think here it is particularly child friendly. First of all the “tour” is a self directed route, and there is no guide.
There is a walkway which takes you over some of the sorting machines and has views of the wine vats, and there are lots of interactive videos for kids to play with. There are also plenty of visuals for them to see.
I feel that this is a much better way to introduce kids to the science of making wine, rather than a full-on vineyard estate tour which can be a little dry and boring for kids, sometimes even for adults! Best of all, if the kids get bored you could just move on!
Another great place to learn about wine making in Yarra Valley is at Innocent Bystander, which houses a restaurant located within their winery, so you can see the wine vats (where fermentation takes place) and the barrels in which the wine is aged. It was also just down the road from where we were staying!
Their cellar door is located in the barrel room, and all can be viewed from the large glass partitions. Here, the kids loved the pizzas and we loved the tapas. And their wines, of course 🙂
The last vineyard we visited was Yarra Yering, which is just a cellar door and does not have a restaurant, and is not tailored for kids, but it is a lovely cozy cellar door that was the owner’s home before, and our kids had a good time playing with/harassing the cats.
We definitely wouldn’t mind stopping at more vineyards in the future, with kids in tow!
336 Maroondah Highway Healesville VIC 3777
Restaurant open 7 days a week 9am – 9pm
Cellar Door open 7 days a week 10am – 6pm
4 Briarty Road Gruyere, VIC 3770