Victoria - Daniel Besen of TarraWarra Yarra Valley favourites

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Daniel Besen, TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Daniel Besen, TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria [©Tourism Victoria]

TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria
TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Stunning TarraWarra Estate in the Yarra Valley, Victoria
TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Daniel Besen is perched precariously on a narrow beam above a vat of bubbling crimson soup. He labours with a long steel plunger, struggling to push the thick cap of Pinot grape skins downwards into the juice. This is his winery, but he insists on being part of the creative process.

‘You want to get the colour, tannin and texture into the Pinot Noir, so you plunge manually to integrate all of these elements harmoniously,’ he says. ‘The fruits of that labour are very nice indeed.’

‘Involvement’ is the name of Daniel’s game. At TarraWarra, the Besen’s Yarra Valley winery, he stirs barrels of chardonnay and helps prune the vines as well as overseeing the operation. ‘It is funny how much sweeter everything tastes when you’ve been involved.’

Another involvement is with the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Australia’s first major philanthropically funded public museum and another adornment to the Yarra Valley. ‘I’m a great supporter of Australian architecture, art and design in both my business and personal life, and this is a wonderful outlet for those passions,’ he says.

Favourite food experience

Dining at Healesville Hotel, where Michael and Kylie are wonderful hosts.

One perfect day

Drive towards the Yarra Valley through the Christmas Hills which are dry, beautiful, somewhat desolate. Descend to Healesville and enjoy a coffee and croissant at Healesville Hotel’s Harvest Produce Store.

Drive up to Maroondah Dam and take the walk from there to Donnelly’s Weir, a 60-minute round trip where you are enveloped by the forests.

Drive back to TarraWarra wine bar  for lunch, where depending on the season you will enjoy local produce ranging from trout ravioli to venison sausages.

Visit TarraWarra Museum of Art   and finally sit on the grass with a bottle of TarraWarra Pinot Noir and a local cheese platter, enjoying the stillness as the sun sets.

Fine food

There is an abundance of great food in our area. I love the Farmers Market at Yering Station (third Sunday of the month) where in one beautiful old barn you can see a plethora of local producers.

  • Yarra Valley Pasta, especially their spelt linguini.
  • Yarra Valley Game Meats, run by my great friend Ken Lang, has excellent venison and smoked emu.
  • Kennedy & Wilson Chocolates, especially their dark chocolate and a range called Cats Tongues.
  • The wonderful Persian feta and goats’ cheese pyramids at Yarra Valley Dairy.
  • Harvest Produce Store at Healesville Hotel is great. We often stop off for pain au chocolat and a babychino .
  • Sunday brunch on the verandah at Mt Rael is an unforgettable experience. I’d order the trout.

With kids

Healesville Sanctuary provides an intimacy with wildlife that is wonderful. It is one of the greatest fauna experiences I have ever had, and going there with my daughters is magic. We enjoy the spectacular eagles flying, or getting close up with the wombats. It is exceptional that the Sanctuary has commissioned innovative Australian architects to create their new platypussary and Australian Wildlife Centre. My daughters love the gift shop, too.

  • Hedgend Maze can be intimidating for tiny children but it certainly keeps my daughters entertained.
  • At Buxton Trout Farm you are assured of a catch every time, and I love the joy on their faces as they reel in a trout then cook it for lunch.
  • At St Andrew’s Market on Saturdays we make a beeline for the chai tent for Anzac cookies and a sip of chai, then meander around the cornucopia of stuff. The falafel stand is fabulous, and the St Andrews Bakery makes the best hot cross buns in the southern hemisphere.

Wonderful wine

I love recommending the following wineries to people:

  • Domaine Chandon, because there is no better way to start the day than with a glass of sparkling wine.
  • Coldstream Hills for the expansive and beautiful view.
  • De Bortoli for a chance encounter with resident master cheesemaker Richard Thomas.
  • Shantell for the wonderful smiling welcome from Shan Shanmugam.
  • TarraWarra Estate for the incomparable blend of great cuisine, great wine, exceptional art and an exquisite view.
  • Mount Mary, Yarra Yering  and Yeringberg. These three exquisite boutique wineries don’t have cellar doors, but if you catch the proprietors on a good day and invite yourself for a visit you might be lucky – and certainly the wine is well worth searching out. Don’t forget to call in advance!

On the wild side

For one of the first dates I had with my wife Danielle I hired a Harley and we rode over the Black Spur. It was an amazing experience, cruising through the mountain ash and the giant ferns up the Maroondah Highway to Marysville.

At a very different pace but equally as enjoyable, I like taking a trail ride on horseback over the Great Dividing Range. Canoe rides down the river are also slow paced, but to see the Yarra Valley from that perspective is intriguing. You move through a varying landscape; sometimes there are steep cliffs that come down to the river, sometimes river flats extending hundreds of metres, and occasionally you see a platypus popping its snout up.

Out and about

I’ve enjoyed many wonderful summer Saturday afternoons at the Healesville racecourse. The picnic races are at a track surrounded by mountains, the bookies are all located under giant oak trees and the experience of laying your tartan rug on the lawn and enjoying some local produce is magic.

  • Summer concerts at Rochford Wines. I have been to some great twilight concerts at the amphitheatre there with the likes of Vika and Linda Bull and Deborah Conway  .
  • One side of the Yarra Valley has grey soils and the other has red soils. A drive through Wandin and Seville to enjoy the richness of the red soils is wonderful. The orchards are stunning, and there is a cornucopia of stone fruits and flowers when in season.
  • Heritage Golf Club at the Sebel. If you are into golf – and I am – then you have to play a round here .

About the Yarra Valley

Enveloped in natural splendour, the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges are just one hour from the Melbourne city buzz, but a thousand hours from workaday concerns. Victoria’s first vineyard was planted in the Yarra Valley; now it is surrounded by some of the nation’s most popular wineries, many of which have superb restaurants attached. From farmers markets and boutique cafés to the fi nest of fi ne dining, epicureans know that this is the way the world is supposed to be. The stunning environment features wildlife parks and gardens. Historic buildings and bushwalks are counterpointed by modern marvels such as TarraWarra Museum of Art and old-fashioned pleasures like Puffi ng Billy.



Reproduced with permission. For more information on Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges go to The information contained in this article represents the independent views of the subject. Every effort has been made to ensure correct information at the time of printing and Tourism Victoria accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions.


  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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