South Australia – wine touring in the five-star Clare Valley
A leisurely day in Arcadia
By Sam Russell
Think Clare, think riesling. Here in this small valley, just 90-odd minutes from Adelaide, you will find no less than 21 wineries rated as five-star in the 2010 James Halliday Australian Wine Companion.
With few exceptions, each offers top-notch award winning riesling of impeccable style and finesse – and usually some good reds too.
Yet at its heart, this is traditional farming country. Since the 1840s its gently undulating landscape has hosted the Australian mainstays of agriculture – cattle, sheep and grain – and its resilient owners have tussled with those equally traditional Aussie hazards of fire, drought and flood.
Nowhere in the nation do vineyards appear so seamlessly integrated into the country landscape. This is picturesque rural Australia – placid, bucolic and productive. Even a single day in the Clare rewards the visitor in myriad ways. Here is one way to go about it.
Breakfast, papers and coffee
Greet the morn with a decent country breakfast in this bright café-cum-providore in the Main Street of Clare. McPhee’s crispy smoked bacon and award-winning saltbush sausages, free-range local eggs, grilled tomato, mushroom sauteéd in verjuice on sourdough toast, tea or coffee – that should set you up nicely. Read their newspapers, browse the shelves of gourmet foods and goodies, and ponder the day’s plan.
Open daily 8.30am to 5.30pm; weekends 8.30am to 12.30pm
Clare SA 5453
Phone (08) 8842 4255
Top of the town in every sense, this Halliday five-star winery is Australia’s legacy from a modern wine pioneer. Still family-owned after 50 years, the Jim Barry wine business is characterised by rigorous technical excellence tempered by a droll good humour found in the names and labels of the wines. It also has one of the district’s best views.
Open daily 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday; weekends and public holidays 9am to 4pm; closed Good Friday and Christmas Day
Craigs Hill Road
Clare SA 5453
Phone 08) 8842 2261
This was the first winery in the Clare Valley. Founded in 1851 by the Jesuits to make altar wines, it now produces a broad range of table and fortified wines for general markets here and abroad. It is a memorable place. Visitors stroll the placid grounds on guided or self-guided tours, explore the wine cellars, taste and shop at the cellar door and visit the adjoining St Aloysius church and crypt.
Open daily 9 to 5; weekends and holidays 10 to 5; closed Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Days, Good Friday and Easter Sunday
Sevenhill SA 5453
Phone (08) 8843 4222
This is another Halliday five-star winery with a sensational view – this time over the Polish Hill River valley. Family-owned it offers a compact range of premium reds and whites.
Open daily 10 to 5. Closed Christmas Day
Polish Hill River Road
Sevenhill, Via Clare SA 5453
Phone (08) 8843 4328
Memorable dining experiences are few in the Clare – all the more reason to book at this informal but gastronomically A1 restaurant in the Skilly hills. Set in a gum-studded landscape among rose gardens and vineyards, it is a fine Australian experience. Relax under the olive tree, enjoy innovative dishes and five-star wines – and reflect on the good fortune of the Clare.
Open daily 10 to 5
Sevenhill SA 5453
Phone (08) 8843 4311
In the imposing historic Quelltaler cellars, this is another five-star winery (and today a leading Fosters brand). Adjoining the cellar door is an evocative collection of early labels, photographs and winemaking paraphernalia. The omnipresent Quelltaler Hock of the 1950s has today evolved into the extensive Annie’s Lane range of reds and whites.
Open 9 to 5 Monday to Friday; 10 to 4 on weekends and public holidays
Watervale SA 5452
Phone (08) 8843 2320
This is our final stop: Yet another family-owned five-star winery and the biggest vineyard holder in the Clare. Now in the wine business for 40 years, Taylors is a shining example of how an unassuming family-owned wine enterprise, tightly focussed on quality, can rise to prominence in the solidly competitive world of wine.
Auburn SA 5451
Phone (08) 8849 1111
- Clare Valley (SA)
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