THERE’S no shortage of great places to dine in the Yarra Valley. Almost every winery in this esteemed grape-growing region — said to be Victoria’s first winemaking enclave with a history stretching back more than 160 years — has a restaurant or cafe worth visiting at meal times.
So it wouldn’t occur to most visitors that an old farm shed at the top of a dirt track between Coldstream and Yarra Glen is one of the best spots to eat and drink in this pretty corner of Victoria.
Yarra Valley Dairy is not only home to a busy cheese factory, which has been making soft Italian and French-style varieties since the early 1990s, but a comfortable eatery serving sweet and savoury goodies made from ingredients gathered around the Yarra Valley.
Quince paste, pork pies, smoked trout, pate and olives are arranged beside Yarra Valley Dairy’s cow and goat cheese to make delicious antipasto platters while those with a sweet tooth will love the ever-changing selection of cakes and cookies.
Visitors to Yarra Valley Dairy are invited to sample a collection of the artisan cheese — a Persian fetta, the delightful Yering with “mushroomy camembert tones’’, or the Bullseye which is the estate’s first semi-hard variety — before browsing the items for sale in the chic provedore and settling at a table for coffee and cake or a cheese plate.
The cheese factory, cheese shop and cafe occupy a vintage milking shed with windows that frame a view across the cottage garden to stock browsing in surrounding paddocks and the mountains of the Yarra Valley National Park.
While the view is glorious in autumn and spring, when the landscape is dotted with colour provided by changing leaves or wild blooms, it’s just as engaging when a winter or summer storm blows through the valley bringing dark clouds that hug the peaks.
The Yarra Valley Dairy started as a family affair, with the Mooney clan making cheese for their four children from milk produced by the farm’s cows, before expanding in 1994 to deliver handmade farmhouse cheese to local wineries.
A few years later someone knocked on the dairy door with a bucket of goat milk. It was a neighbour claiming to have so much milk he didn’t know what to do with it — so Yarra Valley Dairy expanded to specialise in the production of soft cheese from both cows’ and goats’ milk.
If you’re keen to combine a casual meal at Yarra Valley Dairy with a fine-dining experience at one of the region’s elegant eateries then Locale at De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate, Eleonore’s Restaurant at Chateau Yering, and Greenpoint Brasserie at Domaine Chandon are charming options.