957 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd, Yarra Glen
03 9730 2500
There’s always a seat waiting for you at one of the Yarra Valley’s best wineries, Zonzo Estate.
The Yarra Valley- based restaurant and winery, named after the Italian word meaning ‘to wander and stroll about’, encourages you to take your time exploring the area before taking a seat and enjoying a fantastic Italian feast.
Rod Micallef is the man responsible for making Zonzo what it is today. Despite harbouring a passion for food from a young age, it wasn’t until the 1990s that he truly embraced it. Rod started by owning and operating a venue close to Melbourne, but saw an opportunity to bring city dining to the country in a unique way.
When the right opportunity arose, Rod set about transforming a dairy farm in the Yarra Valley, bringing his concept to life. A few years later, he expanded the property with the acquisition of a vineyard, introducing a new and exciting wine brand to the successful restaurant.
As the only wedding venue in the area to have the original Healesville Rail Line train-tracks running through the property, Zonzo’s location was always going to be special. It is still an operating farm with acreage for cattle to roam upon, and the property includes 45 acres of vines and a stunningly restored milking shed, home to the casalinga-style restaurant. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide guests with breathtaking views of the prospering vineyard, home to the grapes of Zonzo Estate’s debut vintage, released in May 2016.
It’s in the restaurant that the plentiful fresh produce of the Yarra Valley truly shines. Rod takes on the position of Head Chef, sourcing products on the menu locally where possible and using only the freshest ingredients – including herbs from the on-site garden. The kitchen team also takes great pride in creating all elements by hand, including curing and preserving individual ingredients.
Taste all their hard work with a long lunch designed to be shared between family and friends. Starting with a glass of the 2015 Zonzo Estate Chardonnay, poke your fork into the cured meats of the antipasto misto, served next to imported Italian cheeses, Cerignola olives, pickled onions, grilled vegetables and casalinga bread. You’ll be fighting family members over the last gorgonzola-stuffed Mammoth olive: rolled in semolina, it’s an indulgent way to start your culinary experience.
Resist filling up on the delicious selection of starters – there are wood-fired pizzas to be consumed! Continue the cheese theme with the quattro formaggi, topped with pomodoro, mozzarella, gorgonzola, mascarpone and parmesan, or try something different with the prosciutto, featuring pomodoro, mozzarella, baby spinach, prosciutto crudo, mini Roma tomatoes and parmesan.
Pair your wood-fired pizza with a selection of salads – the bufala e pomodorini is as authentic as they come, combining buffalo mozzarella, mini Roma tomatoes, baby spinach and basil.
If pizza doesn’t rouse your appetite, there’s also a range of traditional mains on offer. The ravioli is handmade, and served with spanner crab, lemon, butter and thyme, while the lamb is slow cooked in red wine and porcini mushrooms, and served with green beans and roasted potatoes.
The Zonzo Estate wine is a special story within itself. Having acquired the vineyard in 2015, Rod turned to the local experts to produce the very first vintage: Caroline Mooney is a Yarra Valley local who transitioned into winemaking after years behind the cellar door, while Kate Goodman holds more than 20 years experience in the industry. The dynamic duo, working under the name of Yarra Valley Artisan Winemakers, teamed up with Rod to create Zonzo’s debut wine collection, which consists of five varieties: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.
The chardonnay exhibits a classic Yarra Valley chardonnay fruit profile of white nectarine and melon while the sauvignon blanc shows nuances of guava and gooseberry fruits with fine acidity and a crisp palate. The pinot noir’s savoury tannins are entwined with traditional fruit characters of raspberries and cherries and beautifully balanced oak. Likewise, the shiraz shows attributes of the cool climate, boasting a fine persistent tannin and
plump fruit of red berries and liquorice. Finally, a highlight is the cabernet sauvignon, which features bright cassis and berry fruits with background notes of tobacco leaf and spice.
It’s not just the wine that Rod has kept a close eye over. He has also been heavily involved in the design aspect with a Melbourne-based design team; sourcing the unique bottle in France and importing custom corks from Portugal.
This dedication to every step in the process defines Zonzo’s entire approach to the hospitality business. Between the bustling restaurant full of family and friends enjoying a feast, and the expansive vineyard producing premium drops, it’s the perfect place to get away and spend an afternoon in the valley.