Melbourne is one of the most popular destinations in Australia, yet few people know that just one hour away by car is the picturesque Yarra Valley wine region, and even fewer actually plan a Yarra Valley day trip to go wine tasting! It’s shocking, really, seeing as it is one of the best wine regions in Australia.
If you want to get off-the-beaten-track in Melbourne (yes, there’s more to Melbourne than the street art and coffee), then you absolutely need to go on a Yarra Valley winery tour to try the award winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Though the Yarra Valley wine region is best known for these two types of wine, there’s plenty of options including sparkling wine, dessert wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
The best way to travel to the Yarra Valley from Melbourne is by booking yourself into a small-group day tour – but the question is, which one? There are dozens and dozens of Yarra Valley wine tours, all at varying price points and with slightly different itineraries. After reading through hundreds of reviews, we decided to book the Yarra Valley Food & Wine Day Tour with Vinetrekker.
Though the price was higher than some other companies, the company limits the number of people per group, you get semi-private tasting sessions at the Yarra Valley wineries, and the tour was consistently rated highly for the quality of food, service and professionalism. Read on for why you must visit the Yarra Valley and the best Yarra Valley wine tour that you won’t want to miss!
Where to stay in Melbourne
If it is your first time to Melbourne, you should aim to stay in the CBD or in Carlton, Parkville, Richmond, Southbank or South Yarra where you can reach the CBD easily via tram or train. We stayed at The Larwill Studio, a boutique hotel in Melbourne that is design-focused with modern amenities, a 24-hour gym and spacious rooms.
The hotel offers both twin or king bed configurations, and some rooms have a view over the park or the city. Just outside the hotel is the tram station where you can hop on a tram straight to the CBD and Flinders Street Station, and the airport is a AUD$35-40 Uber ride away. You can check out room availability and current prices at The Larwill Studio by clicking here, or take a look at some other highly rated accommodation options in Melbourne here instead.
Melbourne room rates tend to go up from early December to around February during the Australian summer, so make sure you book your room ahead of time!
Visiting Melbourne for the first time? Read my guide on the top 10 things to do if you only have 3 days in Melbourne!
Best time to visit the Yarra Valley
Melbourne and the Yarra Valley tend to be quite unpredictable in terms of weather, so you will want to bring warm clothes – even in the Australian summer months. The Yarra Valley tends to be a few degrees cooler than Melbourne, so bring a jacket and scarf.
The vineyards are beautiful during the summer (December to February), and never get too crowded, but you might want to head there on a Sunday or weekday to avoid the typical Saturday hen/bachelorette, birthday and holiday parties.
Looking for another fantastic day trip from Melbourne? Head to the Great Ocean Road to see jaw-dropping rock formations and coastal views!
Tips for Wine Tasting in Yarra Valley
There are more than 150 wineries in the Yarra Valley, and it is fairly impossible to see all of them in one trip. Instead, I recommend booking yourself into a Yarra Valley wine tour from Melbourne so that an experienced guide can take you to a handful of the very best Yarra Valley wineries, as well as organize transportation to and from Melbourne so that you don’t have to worry about trying to find a designated driver.
If you do not join a tour in the Yarra Valley, you should know that most wineries charge for tastings (more often than not you can use this as credit towards a purchase), some places require advance bookings for group tastings, and it is an offence to drive in Australia while your blood alcohol concentration is 0.05 or above (but there are exceptions where a 0 blood alcohol concentration applies – for more details click here).
Here are some additional tips if you are visiting the Yarra Valley:
- Book a reputable Yarra Valley wine tasting tour – I recommend Vinetrekker for their experience, excellent itineraries, knowledgeable guides and semi-private tastings. If you want to see some Australian wildlife, they also organize a winery + wildlife tour to visit 2 (instead of 5) wineries in the Yarra Valley as well as the Healesville Sanctuary, one of Australia’s most recognized and acclaimed wildlife sanctuaries showcasing koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes, birds of prey and platypus.
- Book your Yarra Valley day tour early – The best Yarra Valley wine tours are usually booked solid during the peak season, and you might be stuck going on a cheaper tour that might feel more like a designated driver service rather than a proper winery tour. You won’t want to miss going on a Yarra valley day trip from Melbourne, so don’t leave it until the last minute to organize your tour.
- Eat breakfast – Make sure you line your stomach properly before the wine tour. During our Yarra Valley wine tour we tasted approximately 40-45 different types of wines, with each winery pouring approximately 20-30 mL per tasting. Though you can spit or pour out some of the wine, that’s still a lot of wine!
- Stay hydrated – Pace yourself and make sure you’re drinking enough H20, not just vino.
- Take advantage of the bathrooms at each stop – Every single winery has bathroom facilities, so make sure you use them, especially before the drive back to Melbourne at the end of the day.
- Avoid wearing white – Wearing anything white is just asking for it to get stained by red wine!
- Ask questions – I’ll let you in on a secret: few people are actually wine experts. Even if you know very little about wine, take advantage of the wealth of knowledge around you and ask your tour guide and winery staff questions about the wine-making process, recommended food pairings, how to taste wine properly and so on.
Yarra Valley Food & Wine Day Tour Itinerary with Vinetrekker
Vinetrekker runs some of the best Yarra Valley wine tours and their tour director, Paul, has an excellent rapport with the winery representatives. At many of the locations we were given semi-private tastings away from the other walk-in winery guests (it can get hectic inside smaller wineries with only a handful of staff trying to facilitate tastings for more than a dozen people), we were allowed to tour Chandon’s production facilities and got a behind-the-scenes look at the sparkling wine-making process, and even had a private lunch at Yering Station, one of the oldest and most reputable wineries in the Yarra Valley.
Here is the tour itinerary for the full-day Yarra Valley winery tour with Vinetrekker:
1. Meet the guide between 8:30 and 8:50 AM
You are picked up from your hotel in the CBD or you can meet the group and guide at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street. Our group was a mixed bag from all around the world – Germany, Finland, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Napa Valley in California. Everyone was laid back and very friendly, which made the relaxed day even more enjoyable.
The distance from Melbourne to Yarra Valley is approximately 50 KM and will take an hour by car.
2. Wine tasting at Coldstream Hills
And the tasting begins! We started the day at Coldstream Hills, which was established by James Halliday, one of the most well-respected wine commentators in Australia. Roland from Coldstream presented us with a sparkling wine followed by a few of their award-winning Chardonnays and Pinor Noirs; while I tend to avoid Chardonnay, the Chardonnay grown in the Yarra Valley region is slightly dryer than ones you might have tasted elsewhere, and may have even changed my mind on this variety!
The stop here includes a tasting of 8-10 wines and an introduction into Coldstream’s sourcing and production methods.
3. Medhurst Vineyard tasting
Next up, we headed to the family-owned Medhurst Wines vineyard which is elevated and offers a beautiful view from their cellar door. We tried their Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir, a stunning Yarra Valley Burgundy (a mix of estate Pinor Noir and Shiraz), a 2015 Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the very sweet “Frances” Sauvignon Blanc (named after the owner’s daughter). Phew! See why it’s important to stay hydrated? Thankfully Medhurst also provided some delicious homemade hummus, feta dip and plenty of bread.
4. Domaine Chandon tour
Domaine Chandon is owned by the prestigious LVMH group and was founded in the 1980s when Moët & Chandon explored the world looking for wine-growing regions capable of producing exceptional sparkling wines.
I’m not normally a massive fan of Champagne/sparkling wine, but the Yarra Valley vineyard tour of the Domaine production facilities as well as the detailed explanation of the proper way to open sparkling wine bottles and their different characteristics was truly enjoyable. Did you know that you’re supposed to twist the bottle (not the cork) when you open a bottle of sparkling wine, and that 24 people die of champagne bottle-related injuries every year?
While you don’t get to taste the 4 varieties on offer at Domaine Chandon, you do get a full glass of Chandon’s sparkling wine to enjoy at their stunning property – it’s not hard to see why Domaine Chandon receives 250,000 visitors every year!
5. Yering Station vineyard lunch & tasting
Yering Station is one of the oldest wineries in the Yarra Valley, dating back to the early-mid 1800s. We were treated to a private tasting upstairs in the original winery (circa 1859) before a stunning lunch in the Wine Bar Restaurant.
They do not skimp on the portions here, and there are plenty of main course options including duck, Wagyu beef, fish or vegetarian. I was semi-expecting a few scones and finger sandwiches, and was more than pleasantly surprised when we sat down and saw the menu – lunch also includes a glass of wine and tea or coffee. I opted for the vegetarian gnocci and I can tell you that it’s one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.
6. De Bortoli Winery wine & cheese tasting
Our final stop for the day was the Italian De Bortoli Winery where the De Bortoli family has been making wine for 90 years. We paired delicious premium Chardonnay, Riesling, Cuvée Blanc, Pinot Noir, dessert wine and 21-year old tawny port wine with a selection of decadent cheeses. Who knew that dessert wine could work so well with stinky blue cheese?
The cheese and wine was the perfect end to a perfect day of wine, views for days and fantastic company. We made our way back to Melbourne with full bellies, and many of us (myself included) had to find space in our suitcases for a few bottles of wine to take back home!
The nitty gritty details
- Vinetrekker tours to the Yarra Valley depart daily and follow a set itinerary, though you can customize a tour if you have a group of people.
- The group sizes are limited to 8-11 people so you can enjoy a more relaxed tour experience.
- The Yarra Valley food & wine day tour starts at about 8:30 AM and returns to Melbourne by about 6:30 PM. The drive time from Melbourne to Yarra Valley is 1 hour.
- The full-day tour costs AUD$225 per adult or about US$150. While this may seem steep at first glance, it includes semi-private tastings at 5 different wineries, with 6-10 tastings at each winery (with the exception of Chandon where you get 1 full glass of sparkling wine), nibbles at Medhurst, lunch in the Yarra Valley (main course a-la-carte lunch with a glass of wine and coffee at Yering Station), a cheese platter at De Bortoli’s, bottled water, an experienced guide and transportation to and from Melbourne. Vinetrekker offers hotel pick up if you are staying within the CBD, or you can meet the group at St. Paul’s Cathedral across the street from Flinders Street Station.
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Going wine tasting in Yarra Valley is one of the best day trips from Melbourne and you are guaranteed to try world-class wine, eat mouthwatering food and take in panoramic views of one of the best wine regions in Australia. Ready to book your trip to Melbourne and Yarra Valley? I recommend booking yourself into The Larwill Studio, a short tram ride away from the CBD, or within the city itself. Click here to check current rates at The Larwill Studio or head on over here for more accommodation options in Melbourne’s CBD.
You might also enjoy these reads:
- Visiting Melbourne for the first time? Read my guide on the top things to do in Melbourne if you only have 3 days
- Looking for another fantastic day trip from Melbourne? Head to the Great Ocean Road to see jaw-dropping rock formations and coastal views
- Heading down under? Head on over here for even more Australia travel tips and destination guides
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I joined Vinetrekker for a full-day tour of Yarra Valley as a guest; however, no compensation was received for the review, and as always, the opinions on Yogawinetravel.com are (and always will be) my own! I only recommend products, services and hotels that I have had positive personal experiences with. This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to book using these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you – thank you for supporting my website by using these links!