The air is hot and sticky. It’s a rare day of high humidity in Melbourne and I had to chose between having the car windows rolled all the way down to let in some breeze, or shutting them with my cardigan stuck in to block out the sun. In the end I decide to save my skin from sunburn and to just sweat it out.
We finally found a bit of relief when we entered the Yarra valley. Like most wine grape growing regions, the weather is a bit more temperate and dry. We got there just in time before the rush. We were staying at Balgownie Estate – a vineyard/ hotel/ cellar door/ restaurant/ spa. The estate was fully booked for the weekend, and one couple was checking in to celebrate their honeymoon there. We were also just in time to quickly relax and cool down in our room and still make it to the cellar door for a free wine tasting before it shut for the evening.
The cellar door is next door to the restaurant, so you can sample the selection before committing to an entire glass or bottle at dinner. Like most wine tastings, you start with the whites and move on to the reds. Like most other tastings there were a selection of young table wines (Monday to Thursday wines according to Paul who ran the tasting), and nicer more aged varieties (Friday and Saturday wines), but what really made this tasting unique is that you also have an opportunity to taste some very old and well aged Shiraz vintages as well. You can even sample wines that have been aged 10 or more years. The only danger is once you try, you might be tempted to buy. (We ended up buying four bottles – one of which was a ten year old bottle of Shiraz!).
And of course, you don’t need to leave the property for dinner. Choose either 2 or 3 courses from Rae’s restaurant and compliment it with a glass of Balgownie wine or a cocktail. The menu is inspired, with a focus on what is fresh and in season. I opted for two courses and chose a main and a desert – because you can’t skip desert! I had the prosciutto wrapped chicken breast, because meat wrapped in more meat, amiright? (Did you know I used to be vegetarian?). And for desert you can’t go wrong with a brulee, so I had the Chai Marsala Brulee. I meant to take a photo of it but I got too excited and ate it (sorry). You can see more of the menu here, but be aware that it does change.
The restaurant itself features a central fireplace for cozy winter evenings and huge windows offering an undisturbed view of the Yarra Valley. We have dinner as the sun sets over the valley, and breakfast to a view of vineyards. Breakfast is a buffet complete with everything you need, even a nespresso machine.
There are plenty of activities available on the estate to work off all that wine and food. Walks in the area, strolls through the garden and a giant chess set are all within easy walking distance from the rooms. There is also a day spa for those a little less inclined to exercise. Guests of the estate have free access to the gym, pool and sauna. I opted to not use the facilities since driving in the car with it’s broken air con is pretty similar to being in a sauna anyway (and I had my fix of that already!).
Where we stayed:
Balgownie Estate – Vineyard and Spa
or visit their website to learn more and make a booking