If this isn’t the best value tour on the Mornington Peninsula or Yarra Valley, I’d love to know what is!
Only $99 per head – for 11 people (max) – for a full day of wine tasting and great food?
Are you kidding ?!?!
Having been out of action for the past two months with an unfortunate knee injury, I was delighted to host a wonderful group of ladies, celebrating a 30th birthday.
Our first appointment was at Quealy Winemakers. Always atmospheric and inviting, this small cellar door concentrates on an intimate tasting of their unique wines. Large and beautiful glassware adds to the theatre and atmosphere of the tasting.
The freshly baked sourdough and home grown olive oil was devoured with relish.
The ladies enjoyed the variety, and purchased a few bottles to enjoy with their much anticipated BYO (local wines) lunch.
One of the interesting facts regarding Quealy, is that Kathleen Quealy, with her husband Kevin, introduced Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio into Australia. Prior to that, Pinot Gris was grown predominantly in France, most commonly in Alsace region.
Pinot Grigios have traditionally been grown in Italy. It is interesting to note that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are in fact the same grape variety. The French have traditionally allowed the grapes to ripen on the vine a little longer, often giving riper, more aromatic and medium bodied wine.
Pinot Grigio, as the Italians call the variety, is usually picked a week or two earlier. This helps retain more natural acidity, with less aromatics. The Italians generally prefer their white wines to have a high level of palate cleansing acidity, and low aromatics, to compliment regional cuisine.
O.K. – so now we know all about the difference between Pinot Gris and Grigio, it is worth noting that Kathleen and Kevin established the famous T’Gallant Winery in the early1990’s. This business was subsequently sold to Treasury Wine Estates. Kevin remained at T’Gallant until 2014.
Our second visit was to one of the most popular cellar doors for larger groups on the Mornington Peninsula – Red Hill Estate. Even though it was very busy, the guests really enjoyed the experience as well as the wines. More delicious wine was purchased for lunch, namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
After tastings at 2 wonderful cellar doors – lunch was highly anticipated. We enjoyed a semi private dining area at Greek inspired Food on the Hill. The shared plates of traditional dips, cheeses, olives and bread were most welcome. This was then followed by slow cooked lamb and chicken to share – with fresh Greek salad.
The wines, carefully chosen at the previous 2 wineries, were a Perfect accompaniment to the delicious lunch. Vegetarians and Vegan options are also available.
After a delicious and plentiful lunch – washed down with hand picked wine, we headed off to Dromana Estate for our final winery visit. We all enjoyed a leisurely tasting in the outdoor garden (I had coffee).
The ladies were generous enough to allow me into this shot for a final photo – on the beautiful lawns at Dromana Estate.
Thanks for a great day ladies – and for being kind to me on my first tour for 2 months.
No.7 Healsville is an exciting new destination and business venture conceptualized and sponsored by family behind the Meletos / Stones of the Yarra Valley enterprises.
No. 7 is a magnificently re-purposed warehouse at 7 Lilydale Road – Healsville. Now tastefully featuring European style exposed brick and reclaimed multi pane arch windows on the interior, this new space is instantly inviting. Due to the tastefully distressed features, it feels as if it has been here forever, however the interior was only completed in 2019.
The impressive new space boasts a state of the art communal winery, restaurant / café and event space. It is dedicated to giving the next generation of Yarra Yalley winemakers the facilities and technical ‘kit’ they need to help in their quest to make beautiful Yarra Valley wine.
Notably the first such program of its kind in Australia; Damian North (Journey Wines), and Behn Payten (Payten & Jones, Four Pillars), have been chosen to oversee and guide those on the Healsville No.7 Young Winemakers Program.
The previous nondescript concrete car park at No.7 has only just been converted to a European style courtyard and outdoor dining space – complete with long tables, mature olive trees, shade umbrellas and 2 huge industrial fans – to breathe some sweet relief on the warm days ahead.
Once on the lonely edge of the industrial estate, at the western end of the township, Lilydale Road is now a rockin’ little precinct; featuring now world famous Four Pillars Gin Distillery, the idiosyncratic Paynton & Jones Cellar Door, and now No.7. You could easily spend the best part of a lazy day in Lilydale Road – as long as someone else was doing the driving.
Perhaps you could start with a comprehensive tasting at Paynten & Jones, followed by a cheeky glass of their delicious Sangiovese? Pop next door to No.7 for a coffee and cake of your choice – and make a lunch reservation. Now it’s off over the road to Four Pillars, for an informative and fun filled bench tasting. The formalities now out of the way – it’s time for a refreshing G&T, or my partiality, a lovingly constructed Negroni.
Well that was fun! Now it’s time for lunch – back over the road to No.7. The staff is welcoming and professional.
Chef Joel Bowers provides a concise menu of tasty morsels, including duck neck sausage at the moment. Tapas are / is also a feature of the casual dining style here. Importantly, the coffee is excellent, which is almost always the case when I visit Meletos (St Huberts Road Colstream), or No.7.Healsville.
You will find featured at No.7, a growing selection of wines produced by young Yarra Valley of talented budding winemakers, sponsored by Meletos for the inaugural 2019 Young Winemakers Program.
Tilly J (the person), spent some time at the wonderful Giant Steps winery – under the tutelage of the hugely talented and equally self effacing chief winemaker Steve Flamsteed. Steve has mentored Tilly through her first vintage of ‘Tilly J” Pinot Noir. 2 tonnes of fruit was sourced from Helen’s Hill Winery, Coldstream, Yarra Valley.
As a generous kick start to sales, No.7 buys half of the wine produced by those in the Young Winemakers Program – and features the wine at their venue.
Tilly J Pinot Noir – Yarra Valley – 2019.
Vibrant and youthful mid purple colour. Raspberry and assorted red fruits waft up the nostrils. The taste is most evidently fruit driven, with red fruits to the fore – lovely fresh acidity and mild tannins. Medium bodied with a medium finish.
This is a modern style of fun Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. Not made to be overly complex, it is all about juicy generosity and instant gratification.
Drinking well now – I enjoyed my glass of Tilly J at No 7. Healsville very much. I believe this wine will be even better in 2-3 months when it has settled in the bottle, and will drink well over the next 3-4 years.
Recommended Retail Price is $36 per bottle.
No. 7 Healsville is selling this lovely wine for $30 per bottle while it is still featured.
I am delighted that we will be able to offer a visit to No 7. Healsville as another option for our Perfect Day Tours customers. It is also gratifying to support the new wave of Yarra Valley winemakers by visiting No.7, and furthermore having an opportunity to taste and buy the wines.
I was delighted to finally get the opportunity to partake in a masterclass tasting at the recently relocated Giant Steps tasting room on 9th of December 2019. The new venue is above Habituel Bakery 314 Maroondah Hwy, Healsville, Yarra Valley.
I have been taking small groups for visits with PDT – but hadn’t yet had the chance for a personal tasting. Finally I had time the to visit on a day off!
This impressively appointed tasting room is merely a ‘pop up’ destination, as long term there will be a purpose built tasting room at the iconic Sexton Vineyard, Gruyere. They have good neighbours, with the iconic vineyards of Yarra Yering to the west.
The house style, if you like, of Giant Steps has traditionally involved using 20% new French oak, and 80% older French oak for the single vineyard Chardonnays. The single vineyard Pinots, however, generally range between 8% and 25% new wood – depending on vineyard and vintage. This high percentage of older oak is to allow the pure fruit of the vineyard to be expressed – without a heavy oak influence on flavour and aroma.
The Yarra Valley range (estate blend), is wound back another notch – with only 10% new, and 90% older barrels. Once again – the aim is to let the pristine fruit do the talking. It also makes great economic sense – as the cost of new French barrels can be upward of $1200 a piece. Happily, this helps to keep the cost of the Yarra Valley range pretty sharp.
2018 Tarraford Vineyard Chardonnay.
Stonefruit and greengage – good length. Very nice drive on the back palate. Will continue to evolve and reveal buried treasures with patience and time. Cellar Door – $50.
2018 Wombat Creek Vineyard Chardonnay.
New season Granny Smith apple aromas – flowing onto the palate. Bracing fresh acidity from the cooler climate vineyard (450m above sea level). The Wombat Creek vineyard has the cooling influence of a rain forest to the south east.It reminds me of what the Chablis producers might describe as “a little bit cripsy”. Delicious. Cellar Door – $50.
2019 ‘Ocarina’ Chardonnay.
Just released. No Oak is used in the production or maturation of the Ocarina Chardonnay. The wine is instead matured in beautiful looking, egg shaped clay vessels. The wine is unfiltered, and as such, has a slight haziness. The wine has a complex character, due in part to yeasty, leesy notes (think yoghurt soft, fresh cheese), as the wine gently circulates on the lees in the clay ocarinas. Back to the future – as wine was made over 1000 years ago. Happily now without any spoilage bacteria. Delicious and complex. Cellar Door – $60.
2018 Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Perfumed with a lift of red fruits. Medium bodied with a gentle fresh finish, complimented by fine tannins. I notice that I have also written ‘Wow!’ in my tasting notes on the day. I think that translates as ‘Really Good’. Cellar Door – $60.
2018 Applejack Vineyard Pinot Noir.
More full bodied than the Sexton. Dark cherry, with lovely mid palate richness. A touch of bacon fat / charcuterie at the finish. Cellar Door – $60.
2018 Primavera Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Absolutely beautiful fruit on the nose. Dark cherry and complex alluring notes – the wine whispers “Come drink me.” Medium bodied with great length, that unfolds with velvety tannins. Demure and delicate with poise and presence. Wow. All MV6 clones. Captivating and delicious. Cellar Door – $60.
As well as a worthy winner of the 2019 Australian Pinot Noir Challenge, it may well be a serious contender for the Inaugural Perfect Day Tours ‘Wine of the Year’. I’ll keep you posted.
2018 Tarraford Vineyard Syrah.
An exemplar of the New World Syrah style. Arising from a warmer vintage, there is less of the classical cool climate white pepper notes on the nose. There is however perfectly ripened, bright dark fruits, still retaining natural acidity. The medium bodied palate shows delicacy, with fine grained tannins that are soft yet persistent. The olderFrench oak gently frames the wine, allowing a soft complexity, but never dominating. Bargain Alert! Cellar Door – $50.
2018 Known Pleasures Mclaren Vale Shiraz.
Emanating from a vineyard in the Southern Mclaren Vale region of South Australia – to which Giant Steps have exclusive access.
O.K. So this really highlights the stylistic differences between Syrah and Shiraz! This is a wine that your ‘Big Red’ lover will appreciate. A distinct and clever counterpoint to the cooler Yarra Valley style. Medium to full bodied, with ripe dark fruits, and coffee/ chocolatey notes on the soft finish. Cellar Door – $60.
2018 Harry’s Monster – Sexton Vineyard Red Blend.
A brilliant Bordeaux ‘Claret’ style. Predominantly Merlot this vintage, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot helping the team to shine. Stories abound regarding the ‘Harry’s Monster’ reference. Some refer to it as a way of keeping young’uns out of the vineyards. The story I am more comfortable with, is the crayon drawing that featured on the label of the very first Harry’s Monster. It was drawn at the time by 3 year old Harry, son of Giant Step’s owner and founder Phil Sexton. When asked about the drawing, Harry replied that it was a monster. I think that first vintage was in the early 2000’s.
The elements of this wine are sourced form the prestigious Sexton’s Vineyard in Gruyere, Yarra Valley. This picturesque site will in time become the cellar door and ‘experience centre’ of Giant Steps. It looks to be a visionary step forward from this progressive company.
Harry’s Monster is all lovely things to connoisseurs of Bordeaux style blends. Aromas of subtle blackcurrant, Harry’s Monster is well chiselled and aristocratic. Not a silken hair out of place. Medium bodied with definitive length. Polished fine grained tannins to finish. A shining example of how elegant Yarra Valley ‘Bordeaux style’ blends can be. CDP – $55.
I would love to take you and a few well chosen friends, on a Perfect Day Tour to explore the charms of Giant Steps & the Yarra Valley.
To find out more about Giant Steps – Yarra Valley, just click on the link below.
If popularity and sheer foot traffic were any indication, Helen & Joey, located at Gruyere , Yarra Valley, seem to have the Midas Touch.
Hugely popular with the so called ‘Millennials’, H&J boast stunning panoramic views of Coldstream and Gruyere, spanning 200 acres of vineyards, farmland and forests. The majestic Great Dividing Range adds a wonderful backdrop to the bucolic landscape.
Unicorns are the ‘shtick’ at Helen & Joey – very popular with the young ladies for photo opportunities.
Poor old Bruce – the most senior of the Unicorn Mob, is looking somewhat the worse for wear, after being mounted by numerous and multiple Hen’s Parties and other celebratory groups.
Unfortunately Bruce no longer always boasts his big red horn, as it has been displaced by the pressure brought to bear by the enthusiastic groping thereof.
We all hope, for Bruce’s sake, that his big red horn is permanently re-affixed as soon as unicornally possible.
Having one of the best and brightest winemakers in the Yarra Valley, if not Australia, Helen & Joey also make some pretty decent wines.
Senior Winemaker Meg Brodtmann was the first Australian female to attain the highest achievement in the international wine world – ‘Master of Wine’, in 2002.
Having studied under Meg to attain my W.S.E.T level 3 qualification – I can assure you that she is incredibly knowledgeable on anything to do with wine, both in Australia and internationally.
The juice from this field blend was pressed directly to large barrels, where it underwent wild yeast fermentation. It remained in oak for 9 months, ageing on yeast lees.
Deeper in colour than most blends of this kind, due to the 9 months resting in oak. There are complex floral aromas of lavender, and nougat, due to the influence of the yeast lees and wild ferment.
The palate displays soft, mouth filling notes of stone fruit and citrus. The flavours build, finishing with mouthwatering acidity. Even though the acids are prominent, they are soft and gentle, due to the lees contact and barrel ageing.
The yeasty / leesy note on the mid palate helps to round out the wine.
The Ilion pairs well with homemade vegetable and pearl barley soup. I make the vegie stock for the soup from scratch, so take it pretty seriously!
The Ilion is a beautifully balanced wine – and so different from most white blends from these grape varieties. There is a level of complexity and nuance due to the love and time given in the winery.
The Wayward Child Ilion 2018 is available at Helen & Joey Estate, and on line. It sells for $35 per bottle.
The Medhurst winery and vineyards are tucked away on the enchanting Medhurst Road, in sub region of Gruyere Yarra Valley. With recognition for excellence at the Victorian Architectural awards, the winery and recently re imagined cellar door are well worth the visit. Not to mentioned the delicious wines.
Simon Steele is the winemaker. His previous gig was the highly respected winemaker at Brokenwood, Hunter Valley.
Much like Sarah Crowe, 2019 Halliday’s ‘Winemaker of the Year’ at Yarra Yering, Simon has migrated south from the hot and humid Hunter to make ‘proper’ wines. Those of the cooler climate styles. (It’s o.k. The various wine regions and states are always taking the ‘P’ out of each other. Just a joke. Well, half a joke).
After more rain than was required in December – January,February and March proved to be warm and dry, without excessive spikes of heat to stress the vines.
The wine was matured for 10 months in French Oak barrels (30% new), and the clone is exclusively MV6.
PDT Tasting Note.
Having been bottled in February 2019, the colour is bright and vibrant, with youthful purple hues still dominant.
Fresh red fruits, subtle violets and spice greet the nose, and thankfully, flow through the palate.
Medium bodied, with a fresh and moreish tang from natural acidity.
After trying this wine again after 24 hours, I was delighted to find that there were more enticing elements to discover. The wine showed more roundness and softness on day 2, and had more glycerol richness – due to the acidity becoming more integrated with aeration.
The tannins are soft and fine grained , with a well integrated lift of natural acid on the finish.
Due to my tasting over 2 days, I would recommend keeping the wine for at least another 6 months to show at its best. It will continue to evolve over 5 -8 years.
The Medhurst 2018 Pinot Noir is available at the Cellar Door for $44 per bottle.
Official Score Out of 100.
Disclosure – I was given a sample bottle of this recently released wine for review purposes.
I was happy to review the wine and include it in the PDT Wine of the Month, due its high quality and recent release.
I am always looking for new vintage and diverse wine styles to review, as our happy PDT customers will taste on a tour.
On Monday 18th of November, a day off from a Perfect Day Tour, I had a chance to indulge in a tasting at Four Pillars Gin Distillery in Healsville Yarra Valley.
As a dear friend of mine had a visitor from the U.S staying with him, who also happened to be a big gin fan, I offered to take them on a casual visit to Four Pillars.
I asked for B.P. to host our tasting, as he is always entertaining and conducts a friendly, informative session.
I hasten to add that all of the team members at Four Pillars conduct wonderful tastings. It is just that I have developed a comfortable and friendly rapport with B.P over the last 2 years, so he was a good fit for the tasting.
After the tasting, my friends bought a bottle of the original Four Pillars Gin – and enjoyed classy Gin & Tonics that evening.
Thanks B.P. and all at Four Pillars, we all had a wonderful time with you.
We love taking our happy customers to Four Pillars, so if you love gin, check out their link below – and we can craft a bespoke tour for you.
On Saturday November 9th, I was delighted to host a group of ladies celebrating a birthday, and looking for a fun day out in the Yarra Valley.
We kicked off the festivities with a wonderful tasting at Warramunda Estate, in Coldstream Yarra Valley.
As usual, Owner Rob conducted a spectacular tasting, including his offering of Manchego cheese, and also Prosciutto di Parma, to accompany the newly released Warramunda Estate Pinot Noir 2017.
Outside at Warramunda Estate.After purchasing a few bottles of fantastic wine from Warramunda Estate, it was off to Oakridge Winery.
Oakridge Winery is just next door, at the famous address of 864 Maroondah Highway, Not too far to travel for more wine and fun.
Here I am imposing myself in this photo, on the deck at Oakridge. As you may notice on the left, we had a few guests in the shot. They are obviously well practiced in the subtle art of social media.
After so much wine tasting – Lunch was most welcome. Shared antipasti platters, followed by gourmet wood fired pizzas were consumed with great relish. Not the spreadable kind – I’m sure you know what I mean.
Lunch and wine tasting at Killara Estate – Seville East,Upper Yarra Valley.
Not a bad start to lunch. Antipasti platters at Killara Estate.
Killara also features striking views of the surrounding vineyards, as well as the Great Dividing Range to the north, and the Warburton Ranges to the south.
The next 2 photos were taken after lunch at Killara Estate. You can just see the majestic mountain range in the background, although it was misty and overcast. Perfect conditions for wine tasting.
The next shot taken just before we headed to our final destination,
Helenand Joey, Gruyere Yarra Valley.The ladies enjoyed the wonderful hospitality at Helen and Joey, as well as taking in the sweeping views of the 200 acre property, comprising vineyards, farmland and native forest. Not to mention a safe haven for the Unicorns, found at various locations around the property.
How much did this fabulous day cost, I hear you ask?
I have enjoyed hosting many smaller group tours of late – from 2 people up to 6. Here are a few photos to capture the fun and enjoyment of these Perfect Day Tours.
As keen wine lovers are finding out, the ‘Connoisseurs Tour’ is one of the best value tours, as you usually don’t pay for the tastings.
This is because the Connoisseurs Tour is all about tasting and buying great wine, either a bottle or 2, or a case or 2!
This happy group above chose a ‘Pay as you Go’ option. The only thing booked in was lunch at Innocent Bystander, and the rest of the day, we visited as many destinations as we could fit in. What fun. They said it was ‘the best day ever’. Thanks guys!
Happily, PDT are receiving more requests for smaller, Connoisseurs Tours, as outlined on the Tour Types and Packages pages of the website.
I was delighted to host a group from Sydney on Saturday 19th of October, who were keen to try a few of my suggestions for outstanding small producer wines – at a reasonable price.
These lucky people are seen here enjoying a wonderful tasting at Pimpernel Winery. They have 2 glasses each – as this part of the tasting is to show the differnce between Pinot Noir 1, and Pinot 2, both grown and produced at Pimpernel, Coldstream Yarra Valley. With the Connoisseurs Tours, I try to set up appointments to meet the winemakers and family members / owners.
The great thing about these tours are that they are such great value. Tasting fees are not charged if you purchase a few bottles – and 10% discount applies at selected wineries, even if only 1 or 2 bottle are purchased.
Thanks you to Daniel’s group (pictured), for such a glowing review of your tour on Trip Advisor and Google my Business.
Although you had a few suggestions of your own – it was nice to read that my suggested wineries were your favorites!