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Friday 16 August 2013

A brilliant Yarra vineyard restaurant with an Italian accent

The Yarra Valley, just a one-hour drive from Melbourne, is one of Australia's most exciting vineyard regions to visit, and the De Bortoli cellar door is a de rigueur stop for many wine lovers as it produces a wide range of excellent wines, many at extremely reasonable prices.

The family-owned estate comprises over 240-hectares of vines, a cellar door that is open daily, a cheese maturing cellar and shop and Locale restaurant, which serves rustic Italian-style cuisine using local, and often organic, ingredients.

You won't find fussy food here; it's all about honest, hearty flavours and recently appointed chef Adam Mead (right), a disturbingly young-looking man, is clearly very much at the top of his game. 

Mead has a strong background in Italian cooking having worked at Locanda at Girasoli on the Adriatic Coast and Il Marchesino restaurant at La Scala Opera House in Milan before returning to Australia to work at Grossi Florentino as sous chef before joining Church St Enoteca as head chef in 2011. 

He says: I am very excited to join the De Bortoli team here in the Yarra Valley and look forward to developing a constantly evolving menu, showcasing the seasons and abundance of quality produce available”. He has access to a vegetable garden and orchard within the vineyard “to highlight the beauty of fresh, regional food prepared simply, but memorably, in true Italian fashion".

On the evidence of lunch this week during the Yarra Valley Wine Program, he's hitting the ball right out of the park and Locale is en route to becoming a "must visit" destination in the Yarra. 

Take a look at dishes like a braised pheasant and duck terrine ($16) to start, or maybe an Italian seafood salad ($18) and then follow with a pasta dish like gnocchi con ragu di maiale ($16 or $25), a pork shoulder ragu with fennel chilli and pecorino served with pillows of potato gnocchi that are light as air and absolutely delicious.

Mains include a stunning Milawa duck breast served with a hearty confit duck leg pithivier, caramelised apple, belly lardons and port jus ($36) - perfectly conceived - or perhaps pan-fried snapper with poached cuttlefish ($35) or a Scotch fillet with grilled marinated vegetables, salsa verde and lemon ($38).

The dessert menu features chocolate terrine with honeycomb, raspberry sorbet and pistachio ($14) and yoghurt panna cotta, poached rhubarb and pear with tuille biscuit ($12), and, of course, there is a magnificent array of cheeses to choose from (left). 

The wine list is wide ranging, try maybe a Vinoque 2011 Gamay Noir ($35) or an altogether more serious Phi 2011 Pinot Noir ($75). 

De Bortoli Wines Yarra Valley Estate was established in 1989, following the purchase of the estate in 1987 by the De Bortoli family. The estate is managed by third generation Leanne De Bortoli and her husband, De Bortoli chief winemaker Steve Webber, who share a passion  for creating interesting and delicious wine and food.

Locale at De Bortoli Wines, 58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek, Yarra Valley, 3775. (03) 5965 2271. Open Thursday-Monday for lunch and for dinner on Saturday nights from 6.30pm. 

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