Sitting in prime position with panoramic views of the nearby ranges, paddocks and river flats, is boutique cheese producer, Yarra Valley Dairy.
Owners, Mary and Leo Mooney, moved to the property from inner city Melbourne more than 30 years ago. Together they ran it as a traditional dairy farm until Mary realised she could use the cow’s milk to create cheese for her children’s school lunchboxes. The first cheese she experimented with was a very simple soft cow’s milk cheese, but it sparked a vision for her to create a range of quality farmhouse cheeses.
Jack Holman is Head Cheesemaker and has been at the dairy for more than 15 years. With almost two decades of experience in making cheese and with a string of impressive accolades, Jack uses his skill, passion and knowledge to create a range of delicious cheeses.
Jack was just 23 when he met three third-generation French cheesemakers in India who suggested he come and visit their farm in the south of France. It was at this farm that Jack began his education in the craft. ‘As a cheesemaker you need to respect each cheese for what it is and understand the journey that cheese needs to take,’ he said.
Today, Jack continues to draw inspiration from that formative period, creating a unique range of cheeses that combine the best of his experiences in France and his love for the unique flavours of the Australian bush. He is often experimenting, producing cheeses infused with native herbs and spices like strawberry gum, lemon myrtle and paperbark for special events, as well as local restaurants.
Jack and his cheesemaking team use only the freshest milk provided by neighbouring farms. The dairy also sources fresh goat’s milk from nearby regions in Victoria. Most of the cheeses created at the dairy are fresh and soft, just like the very first cheese Mary made, but mature cheeses have also become an important part of the dairy’s product range.
There are a number of farmhouse cheeses on offer at Yarra Valley Dairy. The most iconic is the Persian Fetta, which is a cow’s milk feta marinated in an irresistible combination of fresh thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and olive oil. The Ashed Pyramid is a delicious fresh goat’s cheese dusted in ash; the Bulls Eye is a semi-hard mature cow’s milk cheese, and the Yering is a matured white mould cow’s milk cheese.
Every cheese made at the dairy is available for purchase and tasting at the farmhouse cheese shop. Make some time to nibble on one of the popular cheese platters, complete with locally baked bread, relish, smoked trout and charcuterie items – think pork terrine, rabbit rillettes and duck parfait.
The cheese shop also showcases some of the best local produce and represents more than 20 independent and local winemakers and brewers. Peruse the shelves and choose a bottle of small-batch wine that tells a story of the region.
If you need a little advice, have a chat to the friendly and experienced team who are only too happy to share their extensive knowledge with visitors. If you come on the right weekend you may even be able to speak to the winemakers themselves, who make regular guest appearances.
The shop also offers a range of beers and ciders from neighbouring brewers and locally sourced coffee, tea and ice cream, all of which can be taken away or enjoyed in-store. Food and wine enthusiasts can pull up a seat at one of the long communal tables in the century-old milking shed and gaze out the window at grazing cows while tasting the delights on offer.
Yarra Valley Dairy is located on one of the most picturesque properties in the area, showcasing not only hand-crafted farmhouse cheeses, but also quality homewares and the best produce from around the region. It makes a trip to the Yarra Valley well and truly worthwhile.