Meletos Farmhouse, Yarra Valley
An hour from the centre of Melbourne, in the heart of Victoria's most famous wine producing region, you will find Meletos Farmhouse, the latest instalment from Stones of the Yarra Valley. Opened in January 2015, the guesthouse – 4km from Lilydale Airport – is set among vineyards on what was once the largest estate in the Yarra Valley. Swiss settler Hubert and Alice de Castella arrived here in 1854, founding St Huberts Winery and what was once known as the village of Castellaville. In 1902 the property was sold to David Mitchell, the father of Dame Nellie Melba, and was used to farm cattle and sheep before returning to viticulture in the 1970s.
Stones is a big-name player in the Yarra Valley, with the historic Barn and Chapel hosting more weddings in the region than any other venue. Recent additions include the Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse, Meletos Cafe and The Warehouse function space – all set on sprawling grounds amid vines, apple orchards, old oak trees and glorious mountain views. The Tuscan-inspired Meletos Farmhouse is a two-storey, 23-room boutique guesthouse finished in earthy rendered brick. Inside the sun-drenched lobby, set by floor-to-ceiling panelled windows, you'll find a cosy communal sitting room bedecked with Chesterfield lounges, a grand crackling fireplace and a spiral staircase leading to the guests' landing.
Sparsely furnished with a nod to French Provincial styling and shabby-chic decor, the compact guestrooms are simple yet elegant. A (very high) queen-size bed takes up most of the floor space but the centrepiece is the shuttered windows looking out over the lawn and the vineyard. I can't help wishing the bed was oriented to make the most of those wonderful views (I have to contend with birdsong in the morning), and I pity guests on the other side of the building whose rooms front the car park. The large bathroom features an impressive walk-in shower, stylish faux-timber tiles and Bvlgari toiletries. There's a coffee machine, plus wine glasses and two bread and butter plates with cutlery (a nice touch as the Yarra Valley dairy is just around the corner and the terrace outside is begging to be enjoyed with a glass of Sauv blanc and gooey cheese).
The Stables is Stones' flagship fine-dining venue at weekends and an unmissable part of the Meletos Farmhouse experience. Passing through the threshold of the 19th-century red-brick building and under a chandelier, you are transported into a rustic candlelit space of rough-hewn beams, distressed-painted brickwork and long pedestal tables set with baskets of rosemary and vases of flowers. The five- or seven-course regional menu by executive chef Hugh Davison draws on the flavours of the Yarra Valley and is a sophisticated and refined affair, with dishes like smoked eel brandade and poached free-range chicken with exotic mushrooms and a master stock foam. The courses are impeccably timed and complemented by the staff's vast knowledge of wine. Meletos Cafe serves a hearty breakfast (included in the rate) of a shared baker's board and cooked menu item (the ham, buffalo mozzarella, spinach, mushroom and egg calzone is a winner). The European-inspired cafe is housed in a collection of re-birthed farm buildings, amid crabapple trees and raised vegetable beds, and does a mean wood-fired pizza.
With scores of wineries at your doorstep, as well as cideries, microbreweries and many other artisanal producers, the Yarra Valley is the kind of place you explore via your stomach. Start at the Yarra Valley Dairy for locally made cheeses and head to nearby St Huberts winery and Punt Road winery (owned by the same family who own the Stones estate). You can also explore the townships of nearby Yarra Glen and Healesville, or go hot-air ballooning.
As one of the latest additions to the Yarra Valley's already substantial accommodation offering, Meletos Farmhouse does not disappoint. The guest experience packages everything that makes the region so appealing – great wine, magnificent views, excellent produce and warm regional hospitality that beckons you back.
Meletos Farmhouse, Stones of the Yarra Valley, 14 St Huberts Road, Coldstream. One-night Stay and Dine packages (available Friday and Saturday nights) cost $490 per couple, including a five-course regional dinner at The Stables ($65 with matching wines) and breakfast in Meletos Cafe. Room only is $320. See meletos.com, , www.thestablesatstones.com.
Dining at The Stables was exquisite. The setting was surpassed only by the food; an intimate, romantic space with truly standout cuisine.
The hallway outside the guestrooms can be a little noisy underfoot, particularly when jovial wedding guests call it a night.
Catherine Best was a guest of Meletos Farmhouse.