Lifting the Vale on a rural wine region
It’s always great to get out of Sydney. And there’s nothing more fun than a weekend away with a group of like-minded friends.
We flew into Adelaide and headed to McLaren Vale which is a small town well known for its red wines. The closest wine region to Sydney is at least a 3-hour drive away, so the 45-minute drive from Adelaide was a pleasant surprise. The town is quaint with many hip and modern eateries.
We kicked off the Saturday morning with a trip to the outdoor farmers' markets for breakfast. After some tasty smoked Kransky rolls, and bacon and egg buns we pottered around the markets sampling and purchasing some local treats like fresh orange juice, honey and lavender infused chocolate.
We’d arranged for a tour bus to pick us up at 10.30am for a trip around the wineries. We were under the impression that we could pick where we wanted to go, but the driver had a list of places he’d booked us in for.
The first place we visited was not a place of our choosing but the service and wines were terrific so we weren’t disappointed. Hugo Wines is a family owned business with wines made from estate grown grapes.
The friendly cellar door staff took us through their wines with complimentary cheese boards, olives and breads. Their 2014 Shiraz and 2013 Reserve Shiraz were very popular amongst our group. We all purchased several bottles including their their Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and Grand Tawny and some of their award-winning olive oil.
Next on the list was a visit to the Graham Stevens cellar door, another family owned and operated business. But we were a little too fascinated with feeding some friendly mules at the neighbouring property.
Things were a little cramped inside with another large group also doing a tasting so it was hard to hear and hard to enjoy. Their Chardonnay was not to our fancy but their beautifully coloured 2016 Grenache Rosé made with free-run juice was a standout.
Next up was a visit to Wirra Wirra cellar door. Although a busy cellar door, the staff were very friendly and ensured we sampled all that we wanted. From Moscato to Shiraz, everything was very palatable. This cozy cellar door with quality wines worth checking out.
Lunch was at Vasarelli back in the main drag of McLaren Vale. It was a decent Italian feed that kept us going for the next few hours.
Post lunch was a visit to Mollydooker, a place of our picking. Their bottle labels and website artwork is captivating and fun, like a colourful circus. But this isn't quite followed through as much as you’d expected at their cellar door. It was a lot more traditional cellar door and not as quirky as their marketing pieces. But their property is beautiful and made for fantastic photo ops.
Instead of being made with sulphites, which people can be allergic to, their wines use nitrogen. Because this suppresses the flavour, they suggest shaking their wines before opening to bring the wine back to life. Their portfolio features a lot of reds but I went home with a fun Sparkling Verdhelo. Tastings are $5 but are donated to charity.
Our day wrapped up at a very hip cellar door called Box and Dice. The place was packed with other groups including some ladies out for a hen’s celebration. We weren’t quite into the vibe of the place at that point in time. A tasting fee was charged and sadly we didn’t stick around long enough to really enjoy the place. Best book ahead for a tasting.
We had plans to hit the local supermarkets to stock up for food for snacks and breakie. We were a little shocked to find everything closes at 5pm unlike midnight for some Sydney supermarkets. But blessed be, the Blessed Cheese shop opened their doors for us so we could grab some evening snacks.
Breakfast the next day was at the hip local cafe Mullygrub. The pumpkin scones were a highlight and the coffee was good. It’s a fail-safe location for a decent meal.
With a few hours to kill before our flights home, we started to drive back, detouring to the affluent suburb of Glenelg for a stroll along the pier before a walk through Adelaide Royal Botanical Gardens. Located next door is the National Wine Centre with the City Cellar Door bar inside.
Most of the time, cafes and restaurants in public exhibition places are incredibly snooty with over-priced feeble food. But the food and service at the City Cellar Door was a great surprise. They were accommodating to our large group and the food was delicious. Get the crispy pulled brisket.
They also have wine dispensing machines so you have the chance to sample iconic wines like Penfolds Grange for around $35 for a few mils, or get a whole glass for over $100.
It feels like we only got to see a tiny piece of McLaren Vale. There were some other cellar doors we were hoping to visit like d’Arenberg and Hither and Yon. It may be a while before we get back as there’s some many other great Australian wine regions we are yet to explore.