The best wines from Yarra Valley wine producers, all on one table.
The very first feature in our new series, ‘Meet the Locals’ is the newly opened Yarra Valley Cellar Door - a hidden gem housed within the walls of a historic Victorian bakery.
A venture down a quaint alleyway entrance in downtown Healesville brings us to a doorway a black sign simply stating ‘Wine Tastings’. The space strikes us as instantly inviting and cosy. There’s a rustic charm to the place thanks to the old brickwork adorned with rusted equipment and furnishings leftover from its bakery days.
The space is the brainchild of self-confessed Yarra valley wine lover and local wine instagram legend Ben Mitchell. Each month, Ben brings together a curated wine selection from the diverse and vibrant Yarra Valley region. “The concept is 10 wines from 5 Yarra Valley wineries, on the one table,” Ben explains. The parallels between this philosophy and Handpicked’s own to ‘travel the world, one wine at a time’ are not lost.
This month’s line-up features none other than our famous new-release duo - Handpicked’s Wombat Creek Single Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. So we caught up with Ben between tastings to learn a little more about how it all began and his first impressions on the Wombat Creek vineyard wines.
Ben Mitchell - Yarra Valley Cellar Door
Why are you passionate about working with wine?
Wine is in my blood, but not all the time! I come from an arts background as a musician, writer and actor and discovered my passion for wine gradually. I love learning and there’s always more to learn about when it comes to wine. Of course, it helps that I also love drinking. Tasting new wines, styles, varietals and vintages, and then sharing the best of them with others is a pretty cool job to have.
Your most memorable wine memory or story?
Visiting Sienna in Tuscany and tasting a white wine which blew my mind. This was a pivotal moment for me and my wine-life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was so lost in the romance I didn’t even take a note of what the wine was or who made it. But I do remember it was completely delicious.
How did the idea to open the Yarra Valley Cellar Door come about?
Years ago, I was driving through Heathcote and noticed a shop that advertised having a wide range of wineries from the region on tasting. I thought it would be cool to do that in the Yarra Valley, especially because we have so many diverse wines here.
What do you look for when selecting wines to feature at the Cellar Door?
Quality first, always. But the wines have to have a spark too. Something that elevates them from the masses of wines we are fortunate to get to choose from in the Yarra Valley.
What factors make for a great Cellar Door experience?
Firstly, being made to feel welcome. Our visitors are the reason for it existing, and the cellar door is the link between the winery and the wine-drinker. Our goal is to take winemaking knowledge and impart that in an entertaining and relaxed way. It’s about getting an entertaining education without being condescended to.
What attracts you to Handpicked Wines?
The whole ethos of Handpicked is about making the best wines of each region, not just in the Yarra Valley, but the world. This makes Yarra Valley Cellar Door and Handpicked a perfect match. We are all about showing the best wines of this region, but I know every region has something special to offer, and that’s what Handpicked is all about celebrating.
Favourite place in the Yarra Valley?
Alchemy Lane. It’s home to Yarra Valley Cellar Door, Joe Slinger’s - a great new ‘hole-in-the-wall’ eatery and Alchemy Distillers - a young, top-quality distillery of gin, vodka and moonshine destined to be whiskey.
You are pouring the Wombat Creek Pinot and Chardonnay this month – what are your impressions on this wine?
Love at first sight, and taste. I think the Wombat Creek vineyard is the most exciting vineyard in the valley at the moment and both the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Handpicked show typicity—character you expect and hope to see from the finest examples of these varietals—and that spark of something special. Both wines are layered, with enticing aromas and depth of flavour. I can’t wait to share them on the tasting table.
Favourite food and wine pairing?
Wombat Creek Pinot Noir and Duck Confit.
If you were a wine, what kind of wine would you be?
Check in each month to find out the list of wineries up for tasting this month here: http://www.yarravalleycellardoor.com/wineries/
Wines are all available by the glass and for purchase to take home.
Purchase a minimum of one bottle and tasting is free. Otherwise, a $10 tasting fee applies.
Phone 0403 908 093 or visit www.yarravalleycellardoor.com.
Wombat Creek wines are available to purchased here or at Yarra Valley Cellar Door.
Learn more about Wombat Creek Vineyard here.