Nine of the best places to eat and drink in the Yarra Valley

 A mere hour out of Melbourne, scenic Yarra is blessed with an abundance of excellent wineries and restaurants. From boutique cellar doors to the classic household names, here are nine of the best you should visit.

Jayden Ong, Healesville

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Jayden Ong

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

A few months old and going against the grain of most big-name Yarra Valley wineries is Jayden Ong. His new venture is handily located in Healesville, a 10-minute walk from Four Pillars in the more industrial - but entrepreneurial - end of the town. Anyone missing small producers found in Portland, Oregon will love it here. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Ong's long-time business partner is chef Andrew McConnell and together they opened up Cumulus Inc. Ong himself tempts us with a Cumulus cake which is served with a bottle of booze marked "x" as he's not allowed to sell it (it's homemade brandy). The cake, a rich, flourless orange unabashedly coated with expensive-tasting chocolate is a jaffa-flavoured bomb; but there's also a charcoal grill fired up for savoury snacks. Ong is ushered away from the bar when a huge truck delivering grapes arrives - this is a working winery and we are here in the middle of vintage - and he immediately gets to work on the new arrival. We're essentially in a large open shed - taste wines from one of his four labels while you watch them at work. There are also cocktails and an extensive international wine list, but the wines you really want to try here are his own - particularly the new minimum-intervention label "Moonlit Forest". jaydenong.com

Four Pillars, Healesville

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Four Pillars

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

There's really no need for an introduction to Four Pillars, as this award-winning gin maker has expanded from small batch to world recognition. And there's no better place to taste the gin cocktails than at their ever-growing Healesville base, which now accommodates twice the amount of visitors with a third expansion happening soon. Worship the wall of gin behind the bar then grab a seat by the window and watch how the magic happens over a gin tasting panel or by trying one of their sublime cocktails. Snacks include Healesville's own Stone and Crow cheese made from water left over from distillation, but nothing surpasses the orange marmalade made from gin-steamed orange peel. They've also coated mixed nuts in the addictive stuff as a glaze. fourpillars.com

Graceburn Wine Room, Healesville

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Grace Burns

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

This little cellar door with great service would be right at home in a CBD Melbourne laneway, but thankfully, it's not. A small neon sign announces its presence on a Healesville side street, where it serves as both a cellar door to local winemaker Mac Forbes' elegant, single vineyard wines and a bistro. Forbes' wines showcase the characteristics of the Yarra Valley terroir with a particular focus on chardonnay and pinot noir, and the dishes at his 30-seat restaurant also reflect the terroir and the seasons with colourful, sustainable produce, artfully presented by chef Kate Kilsby. The menu is ever-changing, so you probably won't receive the toasted brioche with ricotta, pickled rhubarb and radish or the mixed roasted heirloom carrots that we did but if you're lucky, you may be served the intense chocolate truffle for dessert. The bistro operates Thursday to Saturday, with snacks and drinks available Thursday to Sunday. graceburn.com

Yarra Yering, Gruyere​

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Yarra Yering

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

One of the oldest vineyards in the region, Yarra Yering's elegant cellar door has floor-to-ceiling views from its one-hour-long, bookable cellar door and private tasting rooms. The property was established by visionary Dr Bailey Carrodus, who, in looking for a French-inspired dry-grown vineyard, settled on this spot overlooking the Yarra Valley in 1969, producing his first red blends in 1973. Now, there are several grape varieties grown on site over 28 hectares with no irrigation, and his former home has been converted into the sophisticated cellar door you see today. The tastings - featuring 50ml pours - include a young shiraz that is unusually easy drinking and a French-method sparkling 2016 Pinot Meunier Blanc de Noir with creamy, strawberry notes. This is special as the grapes are limited and it's not always made. Winemaker Sarah Crowe won Halliday's winemaker of the year in 2017. yarrayering.com

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Coldstream Hills, Gruyere

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Coldstream Hills

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

Anyone with the remotest interest in wine should visit Coldstream Hills, one of James Halliday's original vineyards. Just don't get his own private residence confused with the cellar door like some international guests did, with Halliday arriving home in time to find them making themselves comfortable on his terrace. While Halliday may not contribute much more than taking photos for their labels these days, senior winemaker Andrew Fleming took up the helm in 2001 to produce wines under the same style. Coldstream Hills' cellar door tastings are particularly great for wine newbies, with Roland guiding visitors through different vintages side-by-side for comparison. A small amount of sparkling is produced to keep the cellar door going; but it's the chardonnay and the pinot noir that really shine. coldstreamhills.com.au

De Bortoli, Dixons Creek​

De Bortoli Vines at Dixons Creek in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

De Bortoli Vines at Dixons Creek in Victoria's Yarra Valley. Photo: Andrew Chapman/Wine Yarra Valley

Although already established in the NSW Riverina since 1928, this third generation of family winemakers (with the fourth coming up close behind) did not establish a winery in the Yarra until 1987. Rutherglen, Heathcote and King Valley soon followed, each producing wine suited to its terroir. Sustainability is in the foreground of the winery's future, with the family keen to get ahead of climate change by planting southern European grapes such as Italian varietal Sangiovese, suited to drier climates. The Yarra winery is in a beautiful setting, with the main building perched on top of a hill surrounded by vineyards  (with the odd kangaroo in between). De Bortoli hosts a range of tastings that must be booked via its website; these can be held privately; or with a cheese pairing. It's not made in Yarra, but if you can try their Noble One Botrytis Semillon, it has been hailed Australia's premier dessert wine. debortoli.com.au

Healesville Hotel, Healesville

Healesville Hotel Exterior...

With its huge dining room dotted with wicker chairs, potted palms and slowly moving fans, the Healesville Hotel is delivering distinctly colonial vibes. New Thai-trained chef Jarrod Hudson is producing the really good Asian-inspired cuisine here, in particular entrees of crab salad served with shredded coconut, chilli, peanut and avocado, and a trout cured with orange rind, kaffir lime and coriander. Essential  "pub classics" are also on the menu and include parmesan-crumbed chicken, which is a salty, lemony, crisp perfection served with a piled-high salad of cos lettuce, green beans, caesar dressing and red onion. The hotel also prides itself on its wine list, and wine-matching goes beyond the Yarra - courtesy of knowledgeable and energetic beverage manager Andrei Telehin (and you should definitely check out their bottle shop on your way out). Everyone in town seems to be talking up the chef's Thai takeaway, which runs on a Friday and Saturday night. healesvillehotel.com.au

Seville Estate, Seville

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Seville Estate

Photo: Wine Yarra Valley

Winner of 2019 Winery of the Year by James Halliday, if there is only one place you eat when visiting Yarra Valley, make it Seville Estate. Not only does it have a perfect setting looking right through the valley onto the hills beyond, where low-slung cloud hovers, but the restaurant is housed in a Nordic art sculpture, with huge arching timber frames supporting sloped windows filling the restaurant with natural light. The food is excellent - focusing on local produce plus their own bread, honey and stracciatella, delivered to our table by excellent staff; so busy will you be gawking at the view and admiring the incredible food or vice versa, you'll forget that this extremely modern dining room is part of a winery that's been here since 1972, producing award-winning Upper Valley wines and in particular known for its shiraz. You realise it's a valid excuse to come back and experience it all over again, spending the night in their on-site accommodation, which is of similar design. sevilleestate.com.au

Yering Station, Yering

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Yering Station

Photo: James Morgan/Wine Yarra Valley

The Yarra's oldest vineyard is one of the oldest in Victoria, with vines first planted in 1838. The old dame's pedigree is easily recognisable from its grand stone foyer reflected in a pool of water, and the constant flow of helicopters ferrying guests in and out of Melbourne is testament to its popularity. But despite all the grandness outside, inside is far from stuffy. The staff are young and helpful, delivering food to diverse groups that range from families to 50th birthday parties. The food is a work of art: fresh prawns with salmon, scallops and saffron aioli, and hearty salads with avocado, cos, goat's cheese and bread. Irresistible desserts include 'drunken' banana cake with a molten centre or a perfect swirl of soft-centred pavlova with crisped rhubarb strands, rose petals and white chocolate. The views from their glass-encased restaurant are unusual - not vineyards, as you'd expect (the land was deemed unsuitable for vines and sold to dairy farmers) but cows grazing while diners sip on iconic matched wines. Walk off a decadent meal around its heritage-listed grand avenue of oak trees to its charming old cellar door, housed in the original 1859 winery building. yering.com

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The writer was a guest of Wine Yarra Valley

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