Location: One hour drive south of Adelaide. With its idyllic Mediterranean-style climate, proximity to stunning beaches and wealth of food, wine and hospitality experiences, McLaren Vale is the perfect destination for a quick getaway or luxurious weekend stay. Old vineyards and generational family businesses exist here, and there are pioneering new makers as well. Shiraz here is exceptional, along with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and grenache.
- Alpha Box & Dice – one of McLaren Vale’s young guns, winemaker Justin Lane is putting out a range of quirky, delicious wines that are fast gaining fans. The cellar door is not your new modern style – here it’s all about character. (Lot 50 Olivers Rd,Mclaren Vale. Cellar door Friday to Sunday 10-5pm, all other times by appointment).
- Battle of Bosworth – single vineyard, organically grown wines from the family’s own vineyards located in some of the world’s oldest soils. Make sure you try their amarone-inspired “White Boar” shiraz. (Gaffney Road, Willunga. Cellar door Friday to Monday 11-5pm)
- Bekkers wine– glorious wines, but I will leave it to the winemakers to explain their philosophy; “Our wines are gently crafted in small quantities, with an accent on finesse and fine texture. We strive to inspire confidence and push the limits of what’s possible for McLaren Vale and Australian wine. Bekkers wines are created for people who desire products with a soul. This is a story of special wine……from the soil to the soul”. ( 212-220 Seaview Road, McLaren Vale. Cellar door 10am to 4pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday)
- Cradle of Hills – McLaren Vales’ newest ‘hidden gem’ winery. Owner/producers Paul Smith and family, use old-world techniques with a twist, to handcraft small-batch fine wines at their organically-managed winery. Wines of note include the 2011 GMS Route du Bonheur, or, Road to Happiness, the luscious shiraz mourvedre and the 2010 Row 23 McLaren Vale scarce earth shiraz. (76 Rogers Road, Sellicks Hill. Cellar door open by appointment on 0438 564 281, 7 days, 10-4pm)
- Coriole vineyards – family owned and operated, Coriole vineyards has a reputation for being a premium and innovative McLaren Vale producer. Chenin blanc, shiraz and Italian varieties (including sangiovese & fiano) are their specialties.(Chaffey’s Rd, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 10-5pm)
- D’arenberg– it is one of Australia’s great wineries with an instantly recognisable red-striped label on the bottle. The cellar door here is excellent, with helpful staff on hand and more than 30 wines in the range. (Osborn Road, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 10-5pm)
- Hither & Yon– a cool and funky cellar door right in the heart of Willunga’s high street. Hither and Yon are producers of some serious wines from some of the regions best vineyards, and deliver a fun tasting experience. Make sure you try some of the alternative varieties and blends they produce, such as their tannat grenache. (17 High Street, Willunga. Cellar door open 7 days, 11-4pm)
- Inkwell wines– making the winding journey up California Road, you can’t help but admire the striking volumes of Inkwell wines in the distance. As you get closer, you can begin to appreciate the feat of sustainable architecture that towers above. Inkwell Wines is constructed from twenty shipping containers that meet and overlap to provide multiple spaces to enjoy a few glasses. Along with an ever-changing tasting menu, you’ll be treated to the story and background of each wine from the experts. Don’t forget to make your way to the rooftop viewing deck for magnificent scenes of Mount Lofty to the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. (377 California Rd, Tatachilla. Cellar door open Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm – 5pm)
- Kay Brothers vineyard – McLaren Vale’s oldest winery still in the original founding family hands.The winery boasts some stunning panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards, valleys & hillsides. The friendliness of the staff at the cellar door is another reason to visit.(57 Kays Road, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 10-5pm)
- Maximus Wines– Winedinerecline, unfortunately, has not been able to try these wines. However, from information that I have sourced- old vines, grapes sourced from selected vineyards and a passionate winemaker have produced a range of award winning, hand-crafted premium wines. “The name ‘Maximus’ conjures thoughts of strength, character and integrity,” says owner/winemaker Rowland Short and “these are all qualities that drive the success of a wine label in today’s crowded market place.” (197 Foggo Road, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open Friday to Monday, public holidays and by appointment between 11.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m).
- Oliver’s Taranga– has a long and distinguished history in McLaren Vale and are custodians of some of the premier vineyard land in the region. They are doing some great work with emerging varieties such as fiano, tempranillo and sagrantino all sitting comfortably alongside the grenache and shiraz. (246 Seaview Road, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 10-4pm)
- Primo Estate– a family owned winery making a unique range of wines that reflect their Italian heritage. They also became one of the first extra virgin olive oil producers in Australia, which I highly recommend. The family recently opened a striking new cellar door and tasting room, combining ultra modern design with Italian style. A touch of Tuscany in the heart of Mclaren Vale! (McMurtie Rd, Mclaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 10-4pm)
- Samuel’s Gorge– the winery sits atop a hill looking out not only over the extensive vineyards, but also over the breathtaking Okaparinga National Park. Inside, the cellar door is rustic and full of character, originally built in 1853 when it was used as an olive-press house. The best thing about this cellar door is the relaxed and welcoming staff. Instead of pushing vino down your throat to get you out the door, their approach is much more personal. There’s no pretentious, elaborate bar segmenting the public from the staff – it’s more of an Italian family experience.There are only three reds in the range– grenache, shiraz and tempranillo – all lushly fruited and generous. (Cnr Chaffey Rd and Chapel Rd, Mclaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 11-5pm)
- S.C. Pannell- If you are looking for aromatic white wines and reds that are approachable and moreish – in essence, wines that are serious while remaining irresistible to drink- then you have certainly come to the right address! (60 Olivers Rd, McLaren Vale. Cellar door open 7 days, 11-5pm)
- Yangarra Estate– a solid portfolio of carefully crafted wines. (809 McLaren Flat Road, Kangarilla. Cellar door Monday to Saturday from 11am – 5pm)
- Bocca di lupo– Bocca di lupo, the restaurant located in the vineyards of Mitolo wines, serves up modern Australian cuisine with subtle Asian and contemporary Italian influences. Arranged within ten upcycled shipping containers, the space is minimalist with hints of warm wood to set the mood. You’ll want to allocate a few hours here to fully enjoy the culinary journey, sensational wines and rolling vistas. (141 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale) https://www.mitolowines.com.au/Restaurant
- D’arenberg- with breathtaking views overlooking the rolling hills of McLaren Vale, d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant is the idyllic place for an unforgettable dining experience. The dishes here are good, honest and flavoursome without being overblown. (Osborn Road, McLaren Vale) www.darenberg.com.au/darrys-verandah-restaurant
- Maxwell– although, the Head Chef, Fabian Lehmann, is far from local. With a stellar career forged in the Michelin-starred restaurants of Europe, his exquisite plates are now the stuff of Instagram legend. The menu champions fresh, seasonal produce from local suppliers. (Oliver Rd, McLaren Vale). https://www.maxwellwines.com.au/restaurant/
- Pizzateca– bringing a slice of Italy to Mclaren Vale via a three-tonne Stefano Ferrara wood oven imported from Naples. (319 Chalk Hill rd, McLaren Vale)
- Red Poles – the menu, where the food is sourced from many local growers, fishermen and farmers- serves dishes that are designed to be shared as part of a progressive meal which can be as short or as long as you like. On site there is also an art gallery that hosts a new exhibition every six weeks and offers a range of art classes and workshops. (McMurtie Rd, Mclaren Vale) www.redpoles.com.au/cafe.html
- Russell’s Pizza Willunga– open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Russell’s turns out a range of delicious pizzas and desserts from its wood-fired ovens. It is licensed and BYO, so if you feel like taking a bottle you bought that day, the corkage is reasonable. The food and atmosphere are terrific, the staff are young and funky and it remains an essential McLaren Vale experience. (13 High Street, Willunga) . Bookings are recommended.
- Salopian Inn– chef-owner Karena Armstrong has instilled a carefree, contemporary ambience in this historic stone and slate-floor building, and delivers fuss-free cosmopolitan cooking. And to finish, you won’t want to miss out on the chocolate and salted caramel ice-cream sandwich. (Cnr Main & McMurtrie rds, Mclaren Vale). http://salopian.com.au/
- Star of Greece– a seaside shack overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf of St Vincent, Star of Greece offers great food with emphasis on seafood.(Cnr Esplanade and Port Rd, Port Willunga) http://www.starofgreece.com.au/the_food.html
- Beresford House– split into two equally impressive living quarters, Beresford house’s generously sized suites are positioned in the middle of a sprawling seventy-acre property. The idyllic, grand house boasts manicured gardens and a calming sense of symmetry. Imported Italian furniture, original artworks and 3D televisions make it an ideal place for an indulgent long weekend. https://www.beresfordhouse.com.au/
- Chapel Hill Winery the Retreat- if you are visiting with a group of friends the retreat could be just the ticket for a luxurious weekend’s accommodation. During your stay the retreat is exclusively yours including the purpose built teaching kitchen, spacious lounge area, large screen television, DVD and entertainment system. www.chapelhillwine.com.au/the-retreat/
- Hotel California road– Hotel California road is a place you won’t soon forget. The three-suite micro hotel is located on a private level within Inkwell Wines and features boutique luxuries such as a floating king bed, rain showers and a soaking tub. Sip one of Inkwell’s best drops with the owners of the winery before enjoying a warm bath overlooking the secluded valley. http://www.inkwellwines.com/hotel/
- McLaren Eye– a brand new luxury eco-designed building, featuring two luxurious bedrooms with ensuites and private balconies. http://mclareneye.com.au/
- McLaren Vale Studio Apartments– a group of six independent “apartment style” self contained accommodation suites. The apartments are only a short walk to some of McLaren Vale’s best restaurants and cafes. www.mvsa.com.au/
- The Vineyard Retreat Mclaren Vale– offers guests the choice of four elegantly appointed self-contained guest houses (two 1 bedroom, two 2 bedroom/2 bathroom) each with their own private deck to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding vines and valleys. The retreat is also centrally located, just a short distance from some of the finest cellar doors and restaurants. www.thevineyardmv.com.au/
- Beaches– my personal favourites: Port Willunga (a stunning, safe family friendly beach which also houses the equally iconic “Star of Greece” restaurant ), Sellicks beach (perfect for safe swimming, fishing and foraging in the rock pools at low tide) and Aldinga beach (you can actually drive your car onto the beach and watch the sunset over the sea, eating your fish and chips).
- Blessed Cheese– serves up excellent coffee, great breakfasts, and stocks a range of local and imported cheeses and produce. (150 Main Rd, McLaren Vale)
- Bracegirdles at 190– creates delicious handmade chocolates and has a light breakfast and lunch menu. Their coffee is also highly recommended.(190 Main Road , Mclaren Vale) www.bracegirdles.com.au/mclaren-vale.html
- Goodieson Brewery– all natural and family owned brewery.(194 Sand Road, McLaren Vale) www.goodiesonbrewery.com.au/
- Home grain bakery– head here for delicious bakery products and coffee. (13 Old Coach Road, Aldinga ).
- Limousine service– Integrity tours & charter (contact Kevin on 0402 120 361).
- McLaren Vale Beer Company– a must visit for any beer lover. As well as their own brews, you can also choose from a range of other Australian craft beers. There is a real celebration of the industry, and it is a great chance to try some interesting and unique beers. (McMurtrie Road, McLaren Vale) www.mvbeer.com/
- Off Piste 4WD Tours– combines wine tasting with some off-road, craft-beer and culinary adventures. http://www.offpistetours.com.au/
- Oxenberry Grapple Ciders– made from a unique combination of McLaren Vale wine grapes and premium Adelaide Hills apples.(24-26 Kangarilla Road, McLaren Vale) www.oxenberry.com/site/ciders.php
- Three Monkeys– for all you double-shot latte fans! (17a High St, Willunga).
- Tour Down under– for the cycling enthusiasts. Please note, if you decide to visit the region during this period you will need to make all your travel bookings well in advance. See the website for further information. www.tourdownunder.com.au/
- Victory Hotel– if you’ve had enough of the grapey stuff, the Victory hotel perched above Sellicks beach is one of Australia’s best pubs .There is no better place to enjoy an ice-cold, palate-calibrating ale than in the beer garden with its drop-dead gorgeous view down the coast and over the patchwork quilt of vines. The hotel’s cellar also stocks one of the finest collections of South Australian wine and white and red Burgundy in the country. (Main South Rd, Sellicks Hill) www.victoryhotel.com.au/
- Willunga Farmers’ Market– a four year-old farmers’ market that now boasts up to 50 stalls and 2000 shoppers every week. Willunga farmers’ market offers fresh produce direct from the growers and makers of the Peninsula and welcomes you every Saturday morning rain, hail or shine! (30 High St, Willunga) From 8am to 12:30pm
- EVENTS– Mclaren Vale BankSA Sea and Vines festival (9th June to 11th June 2018). Santos Tour Down Under (see the website for all the latest information on Australia’s premier bike race including the tour route- www.tourdownunder.com.au/).