2 May 2022
When you think Yarra Valley wine, you’re probably thinking of those bigger wineries out east along Maroondah Highway. We’ve got another idea, head north-east out of town and discover some of the hill’s lesser-known gems. Discover smaller boutique wineries dotted around the hills from Kangaroo Ground and Panton Hill to Smiths Gully and St Andrews. And likely the hands that pour the wine will be the very same hands that picked the grapes.
At Easthill Estate, owners Harry and Sarah know that good wine starts in the ground. In this case, the property’s dark, volcanic soils provide a rich growing environment for acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Kickback on one of their regular Sunday Fundays and share a grazing plate and accompanying wine flight, live music in the background. Sunday afternoons don’t get any better than this.
Discovering a small, family-run winery is the best part of exploring and Panton Hill Winery will make you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. The gorgeous recycled timber and stone buildings exude a distinct European feel thanks to owner and winemaker Teunis Kwak’s hard work. Sample the rustic Mediterranean-style menu on Saturdays or BYO picnic on Sundays and let the winemakers pour you a glass of their hard work.
Looking for a casual and family-friendly winery? Look no further than Nillumbik Estate, run by owner and winemaker John Tregambe who makes the kind of wines he likes to drink – sounds fair to us. Enjoy a wood-fired pizza while taking in the stunning views across the vines and the Kinglake Ranges beyond. The wine of choice has to be Domenic’s Paddock Pinot Noir, named after the family patriarch who continues to hand-prune the vineyard at the ripe age of 80.
James and Claire Lance are no strangers to a bit of lateral thinking. When the 2009 bushfires destroyed their entire crop, they put a call out to friends in the trade for some fruit. The result was a new label, Friends of Punch, which continues today allowing Punch to extend the style and varietals they offer.
Equally, that same divergent approach led the couple to open a cellar door, not on their vineyard as one might expect but right in the heart of St Andrews township itself. Punch Wine Room offers tastings and sales from their mud-brick cellar door on Saturdays 11am – 4pm. If you get peckish, just wander next door for some wood-fired pizzas or local cheese and antipasto from one of their neighbours.
The clue is in the name – it’s worth getting off the beaten track to visit this certified organic vineyard run by the Trist family since 1991. Sustainability is a top priority for Buttermans Track, with a state-of-the-art gravity flow winery at the heart of their operation and a long-term goal of net zero emissions.
Taste your way through their highly drinkable wines while enjoying a local cheese platter. Don’t miss the Sangiovese which continues to win legions of fans with its full-flavoured palate of dark red fruit and earthy/forest floor bouquet.
Rising Wines winemaker Anthony Fikkers describes his winemaking philosophy as ‘proactive in-action.’ Thankfully, expertise gleaned from years working in the Hunter Valley, the Yarra Valley as well as in Europe means he knows when to leave well enough alone. From the vineyard along every step to the bottle, he allows the wine to find its own path, resulting in wines that are honest expressions of where they come from.
His range splits between the traditional - monotone labels depicting the landscape that bore them - and bright, bouncy blends that don’t take themselves too seriously, easily recognisable by their abstract colourful labelling.
One of those hidden gems you wished you’d found earlier, Shaws Road is a family-owned and operated winery that has been quietly going about the business of making fabulous wine for over 30 years.
A charming restaurant serving weekend lunch with views across the rolling hills? Yep, there’s one of those. Maybe you fancy a private wine tasting in the cellar surrounded by barrels and hosted by the very person who made the wine? No problem. Grab a few friends and they’ll set it up for you. How about a charming Bed & Breakfast apartment onsite so you can really indulge? Of course. They’ll even throw in a complimentary bottle of wine.
Whether you’re looking to stock the cellar or just taste something new, the hills around St Andrews are full of passionate people waiting to share the bounty of their vines with you.