An impromptu visit from J’s cousin H made for an excellent excuse to head out to the Yarra Valley for a day of eating and drinking.
Our first stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery just past Yarra Glen. This was mine and J’s second visit to this haven of chocolate and thankfully it was early enough not to be as busy as our first visit. This place gets packed so my advice would be to get there early.
They have a great lawn area for the kids to run around on, and I believe balls are available if you want to have a kick.
To get inside, turn left at the giant chocolate block.
Inside you are immediately greeted by three very large bowls of chocolate drops. Grab a handful of your preferred variety (white, milk or dark) and have a look around. I love the colour and vibrancy of the packaging and the vast range of goodies on offer.
At one end of the room is the cafe, and at the other is a wall of glass where you can watch the chocolatiers at work.
J and I decided to stock up! We purchased freckles, choc covered honeycomb, choc covered macadamia and choc covered hazelnuts.
We also picked out 24 truffles to try. With every purchase of a 24 box, you get this neat little cooler bag. Very handy for keeping purchases fresh.
And the truffles?
Have a look at these beauties…
Prettiest box of chocolate ever!
We did get a little pamphlet with a picture, description and allergy advice for each of the truffles available, which came in very handy as there was no way I was going to remember even half of what we had selected.
Our next stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy. I love the contrast between the shiny new chocolaterie and the dairy which is housed in the original milking shed.
The space is a bit cramped and there is limited room at the tasting counter, but H and I managed to squeeze in and taste around six cheeses. They were all very good and so different in taste and style. I purchased a jar of marinated goat’s cheese and a tub of hot cow.
The dairy also sells ice bricks for $2.50. We got one and added it to our cooler bag and put all the cheeses (H got some as well) in with the chocolates and everything kept cool for the rest of the day.
After all that chocolate and cheese we needed a beverage!
It was onto the home of sparkling, Domain Chandon. With beautiful manicured lawns and shady trees, this is one picturesque winery.
And while blue sunny skies are always preferred, the dark low hanging clouds do look good against the green.
Domaine Chandon is always super busy, but instead of trying to join the masses at the Chandon Tasting Bar, J suggested we go into the Greenpoint Bar where we could have a seat, enjoy the view and a proper glass of bubbles.
What we ended up doing was ordering one of the range tastings each. These are four half glasses of four different wines, all selected to complement each other or have something in common. They vary in price and the one we all chose was the blanc de blancs range for $20 per person.
Blanc de blanc means white on white and if you see it on a bottle of bubbles it means the wine has been made with all chardonnay grapes, no pinot or other red grape varieties have been used. I actually prefer a sparkling or champagne that is blanc de blanc, but most are made with a blend of chardonnay and pinot grapes.
From left to right, we had the 2009 Chandon ZD and Chandon sparklings, plus two chardonnays. I have always been a fan of the ZD (ZD stands for zero dosage and means no sugar has been added, resulting in a dryer wine). We could taste the difference between the two sparklings, with the Chandon being much sweeter than the ZD, but still not a sweet wine.
At first taste we all preferred the second chardonnay, but as the wines opened up, and we went back to them, we liked the first one better.
J and H also shared a plate of oysters.
J and I ended buying two bottles of sparkling.
Parts of the winery are open to the public and guided tours are available, or you can have a look around on your own. Not much was happening on the day we were there but that will soon change in a few months when the fruit starts coming off the vines.
The morning had flown by and it was time for lunch! Oakridge Estate is one of our favourite Yarra Valley wineries and we were keen to check out the new cellar door and restaurant. We normally pop into Oakridge whenever we are out that way but had only dined there once before.
The new building looks stunning as you come up the drive. As you enter, the cellar door is on the left. It is one long bar with floor to ceiling windows behind it that overlook the vines.
We tasted some wines and then went through to the restaurant. This is a much bigger space than before and can be sectioned off into smaller private areas if required. The windows continue in here, allowing everyone to enjoy the view, and filling the space with light.
There was a mix up with our booking, they had only set two places, but a third was quickly added with no fuss.
On weekends two courses are available for $50, or three courses for $60. Once we had ordered an entree and main each, bread was provided.
To start with I had the grilled Koo Wee Rup asparagus, parmesan and sweet garlic, turmeric dressing.
Light and fresh, this was a great combination of flavours and textures and was also a little bit healthy.
J had the cured Yarra Valley Buxton trout, crispy squid, yuzu dressing.
Cousin H had the Ken Lang’s wallaby, leek and mushroom tart, Y.V.G.G roquette. My photo of this dish didn’t turn out but we were all expecting a tart filled with wallaby, but instead it was topped with wallaby pieces! There could have been wallaby inside as well, I forgot to ask Cousin H.
For main course, Cousin H had the baked hapuka, surf clams, broad beans, kaiserflaiche.
I had the local quail, char grilled in vine leaf, crispy tempura leg, black quinoa, almonds.
This dish messed with my head. On appearance it looked to be very dry, and I kept thinking it needed a sauce, but it didn’t taste dry so it confused me. I am not sure whether I liked this dish or not!
J had the marinated lamb rump, snow peas, white bean and harissa, olive dressing. I was debating between this dish and the quail and maybe I should have gone with the lamb….
We didn’t need the Dobson hand cut chips, chipotle sauce, but I am glad we ordered them. Yum!
We had enjoyed a couple of different wines with our lunch and when we went to order something to have with dessert, the waiter said to J that he looked familiar (J actually had the same thing happen last time we were at Oakridge too). J said he worked in the industry and that we had also been to Oakridge before. But the waiter said he had only been there five months, however he used to work at restaurants in the city. When we asked which ones, the first one he said was The Black Toro in Glen Waverley, which I have been to five times now, three of those with J, it is basically our local! So we thought that might be where the waiter recognised J from.
So we finally got around to ordering a drink and I wanted something different to what I had before and the waiter offered me a glass of the 2005 chardonnay from a bottle he had convinced the cellar bar staff to open. The photo below doesn’t do the colour justice, it was liquid gold.
And on another wine note, the restaurant is licensed to take-away, so if you order a bottle of something and don’t finish it, the staff will re-cork it and you can take it home.
So, onto the last course.
Cousin H had the pistachio and olive oil cake, licorice ice cream, white chocolate sauce.
I had a taste of this cake, and it was lovely and moist, and made me think I really should order outside of my comfort zone dessert wise more often.
J had the Kennedy & Wilson chocolate and peanut butter parfait, raspberry compote.
I may have had more than my fair share of J’s dessert…
If J hadn’t have ordered the parfait I would have done so, instead, I thought I should try something different. It is not on the online menu so I don’t have the full description, but it was strawberries, meringue and basil.
It had way too much basil going on for my liking, but the strawberries and meringue were good.
Another solid performance from our favourite winery, and well done on the new fitout.
A couple of bottles were purchased and it was time to roll home after another fun day in the valley.