There are some names that are so familiar that we almost forget to think about where they come from. Names such as Wirra Wirra, d’Arenburg, Angove and Chapel Hill, for example. They are certainly well known to those of us who regularly browse in wine stores.
However, they have another thing in common. They are all located in McLaren Vale, the verdant region to the south of Adelaide, where they are just some of the 100 wineries and cellar doors in the area. Several canny wineries offer not just cellar doors but activities and areas for children too, with toys, outdoor activities and even wildlife feedings. These are likely to make a vineyard visit palatable to the whole family.
McLaren Vale is the perfect region for a weekend escape. Only half an hour’s drive out of the city, the area boasts 31 kilometres of beaches and coastline on the western edge while the ridge of Sellicks Hill Range forms a scenic backdrop to the east.
McLaren Vale is situated right by the beautiful S.A coast
A great place to start a weekend here is at the Saturday market in the quaint village of Willunga. There’s enough fresh produce to stock the kitchen for the weekend and several stalls with great local cheeses. The town itself has a thriving arts scene so it’s worth strolling around the historic town centre past the Golden Fleece Café – was it really back in 1981 when Golden Fleece service stations folded into Caltex? – to the Willunga Glass Studio.
A trip down memory lane: a Thunderbird drives past the Golden Fleece café
Wirra Wirra Vineyards is the home to the Church Block wine vintages and the classic ironstone building has recently been renovated and the facilities expanded. There’s more to it than just the cellar door.
The streets of quaint Willunga
The entrance to the property has an oversized fence that’s perfect for a selfie as it gives you the shrunken appearance of being on the set of Big Friendly Giant. The expansive lawns and outdoor café with a barbecue area are pretty, too. The deli supplies a wide range of regional South Australian produce. There are some offerings at the cellar door that are offered only here so it’s worth checking them out. There are behind the scenes tours.
Down the southern end of McLaren Vale is a hotel that’s well worth visiting. The Victory Hotel has been here on Sellicks Hill since 1858 and commands excellent views over Sellicks Beach and Aldinga Bay. As you arrive it looks like a regular Australian country pub, but the innovative menu is a revelation, making the most of ingredients such as whiting from Kangaroo Island, Cape Grim beef and Spencer Gulf prawns. When it comes to selecting a wine don’t simply rely on the wine list – take a trip downstairs behind the bar into the surprisingly expansive cellar. It is a wonderland of great wines and excellent vintages.
Be sure to take a walk through the beautiful McLaren Vale landscape
Curiously, the names of the hotel and the location come from a common source. In 1847 William Sellick bought land in the region. In 1858 it was suggested by John Norman and others that a new road from the Encounter Bay whaling station should be constructed over Sellick’s Hill. Soon after it was completed, Norman’s Victory Hotel opened.
The impressive cellar range on show at the Victory Hotel
There’s a really strong food movement happening in McLaren Vale with a wide range of produce. The climate is perfect for growing olives and there are a few places where you can buy olives directly from the groves. Coriole has diversified from wine into vinegars, cheeses, olives and olive oils. Primo Estate vineyard has been producing olive oil since 1989 and its Joseph range of oils and vinegar has developed a great reputation.
McLaren Vale is full of delicious local wines and produce
Towards the north of McLaren Vale lies Chapel Hill Winery where you can taste wine in a 150 year-old chapel. It adjoins Onkaparinga National Park where you can walk along a boardwalk over the wetlands, have a bush picnic, or kayak South Australia’s second longest river all the way to its mouth.
There’s a wide range of accommodation throughout the region. Explore the best of McLaren Vale with our special deal on a Food and Wine Indulgence Day Tour. Click here for full details.
A great starting point for finding and booking your stay is contacting the team at WYZA Travel. They can help with all your holiday requirements, from airfares and accommodation to tours, cruises and travel insurance. Call them on 1300 50 50 97 or contact them here.
Have you been to McLaren Vale? Do you have a favourite winery?
(Feature image: Facebook / McLaren Vale Wine)