Bike, rain, and wine

We ventured out of the Melbournian box and took a short little trip out to the Yarra Valley with our bikes and buddies, Gerardo and Diana, last weekend. The Yarra Valley is about 45 minutes outside of Melbourne and is home to a beautiful country side filled with rolling hills, delicious vineyards and vast farmlands. The area serves as a much-needed escape from the bustling city and concrete jungle.

In theory, biking on a trail from winery to winery sounds like a great way to spend a weekend, but the weather and steep hill variables were not considered before making these plans. If you are considering biking the Yarra Valley bike trail, hope for sunny and dry weather and plan your wine tasting tour on a separate trip. Joe and Gerardo rode up on the train to Lilydale with Joe’s wheelchair and hand cycle while Diana and I drove up in the torrential rain with our luggage and three other bikes. As the rain kept pounding on the windshield, we questioned our intentions to bike around the valley. The warning signs didn’t scare off the boys. From the Lilydale station, they found the Warburton Trail and headed through the mud to our first stop at the Whispering Hills Cellar Door. Soaking wet and covered in mud, the adventure seeking men dried up next to the cozy wood stove chimney and we all enjoyed some incredible Persian Feta (among other yummy cheeses) and a great selection of wine. The Chardonnay is a must try at Whispering Hills! We ended evening with a warm, delicious dinner at the Innocent Bystander in Healesville. Known for their Moscato on tap, the Innocent Bystander delivers multiple gastronomic treats from the cheese room to the artisan bakery and everything in between. Be sure to check them out if you’re in the area!

Joe booked us into a bed and breakfast home to some friendly pets: mini ponies and lambs, Baaarb and Baaart! Sue and Graeme at Woodhaven Park provided a comfortable and lovely home away from home.

The second day we rode on praying the rain had made its way out of the valley.

Joe back on his bike, working on those biceps and staying dry on day 2.

Gerardo toting along Joe’s wheelchair on a questionably reliable milk crate. We’re classy down under!

It turns out that although the Warburton Trail doesn’t actually take the bikers, pedestrians, horses and pets enjoying the trail sights to the wineries’ front doors, a biking winery tour in Yarra Valley is possible… hard work, but possible. Engaging our powerful quads (and biceps), we muscled our way up steep hills to enjoy the free wine tastings the wineries have to offer (Free Alert: most things in Australia aren’t cheap, much less free, but all the wineries offer free tastings of their deliciously fermented grape juices!). The first stop was a bust with only two wines on the tasting menu, but at the second stop: Seville Estate a friendly winery dog welcomed us to wine room with a stunning valley view and big, bold award-winning wines. Home to some of the best wines I’ve had in Australia, Joe and I came home with a 2008 Shiraz and an Old Vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. After wetting our palettes and working up an appetite, we headed for winery No. 3 for the day.

At Seville Estates.

What goes up, must come down and (in the case of winery hunts on this trip)… must come up again. After a few kilometers of tough, calorie burning hills, our welcomed wine happiness started wearing off and muscle fatigue set in. Turns out that normal business hours aren’t necessarily standard in the valley, so winery 3, Ainsworth Estate, had no wine or cheese to offer us that day.

Diana and Joe owning the road (this was a nice hill).

Friendly tip: Call ahead of time to ensure tasting rooms are open (and serving food if you’re hungry).

With a 1 for 3 track record for the day we were hoping to break even with our last stop at Brimfield Winery.  We struck gold with the homey tasting room and café. Treated to a special home-made Dukkah (a delicious Egyptian spice and nut mixture) with olive oil and bread, the small family run winery provided the much-needed fuel we needed to bike back to the car and train station to begin our trip home.

Accessorizing with our helmets, we headed back after a nice, short weekend getaway.