Considered a must-see destination in Yarra Valley, Rochford Wines is a spectacular setting to enjoy award-winning cool-climate wines.
Australia’s Yarra Valley is less than an hour from Melbourne, but the contrast is striking. Melbourne’s skyline is dominated by modern architecture and its neighborhood streets closely lined with Victorian houses.
In Yarra Valley, the scenery is filled with flowing hills and valleys. During our visit in January, the fields were painted with the yellows, browns and light greens of Australian winter. Our next stop on our tour was Rochford Wines, a landmark in this famed wine region.
The winery was founded in 1985 as Yarra Vale. In 1992 it was purchased by current owner Helmut Konecsny, who had already established a reputation growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That reputation has been further burnished as Rochford regularly garners top awards for its single vineyard wines.
Rochford is a true destination winery. In addition to the cellar door, there is the acclaimed Isabella’s restaurant, meeting space for any type of special event, and an outdoor amphitheater and facilities capable of hosting concerts for up to 7,000 people. Everything about Rochford is truly first class.
My dish was new for me, an oyster blade. This is actually a cut of beef below the shoulder blade. It was served crusted in black pepper and coriander with heirloom carrot, almond cream and harissa. Fantastic!
Unfortunately, I was sipping a Rochford Sauvignon Blanc. I thought we’d have a glass of white to be followed by a red. Only one glass was included with our lunch -- and I couldn’t flag down the server to change my wine. That couldn’t detract from the great meal and the Sauvignon Blanc was quite good -- but I longed for the Syrah.
My wife and I ascended the spiral staircase to the top level, where we had an open air view of the winery grounds. After viewing a brief shower from the crow’s nest, we headed to the tasting bar where I opted for the premium tasting.
Cool Climate Mastery
Superb cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir mean there is plenty of great sparkling wine in Yarra Valley. I started with the 2016 Blanc de Blanc. Nutty with a touch of citrus, this is 100% Chardonnay and made in the Methode Traditional. It is sealed with a crown cap which, I’m happy to say, stayed perfectly in place during its trip home in my luggage.
Rochford has an impressive lineup of Chardonnay and we sampled a trio from the 2017 vintage. The Dans les Bois Chard has nice grapefruit notes, a smooth texture and a nice pop of oak. The Terre Chardonnay doesn’t get malolactic fermentation and the minerality and acidity are more evident. The latest addition to the Chardonnay family is Isabella’s Vineyard, which retails for AU$75.
The wines we sampled were all 2017 vintage, even though the Rochford wines, including the Chardonnay, can be cellared for years. The reason is China. China is now Australia’s largest wine export market, and they are buying it as fast as Rochford can bottle.
We sampled three Pinot Noirs, the Dans le Bois, Terre and L’Enfant Unique. Yarra Pinot has unique flavors of underbrush, earth, cherry and dark fruit. L’Enfant Unique is unfined and unfiltered and spends 10 months in French oak and time on the lees. It’s a powerful Pinot with notes of spice.
We wrapped up with the Estate Syrah and the Garrigue Heathcote Syrah. This is a rich, dark wine that isn’t fined, and so had sediment. It is whole cluster fermented, adding extra complexity and depth. Grapes are sourced from Victoria’s Heathcote region, renowned for great Syrah. A very nice bottle at AU$86.
Rochford is a great choice for your Yarra Valley wine tasting experience, dining or special event.