We decided to make this a four-day weekend and took a morning flight from Melbourne to Adelaide on the Friday which saw us hitting our first Clare Valley winery, O’Leary Walker Wines, just after 2:00pm. We sat on the verandah and lunched on generous charcuterie platters washed down with a couple of bottles of quality riesling. It was a great introduction to the Clare Valley and gave us the opportunity to start detaching ourselves from work and soak in the surrounds of dry grown vines. In non-wine speak, it’s as dry as all get out and an absolute miracle that you can get anything to grow in this part of the World, let alone grape vines.
Following a very enjoyable long and leisurely lunch, we then headed into downtown Auburn in search of our accommodation.
We were staying at Annabelle’s Cottage in Auburn. Annabelle’s Cottage accommodates up to 8 guests in two suites: the Original Cottage and the Southern Suite. The Original Cottage was built in the 1860s and is set in a lovely cottage garden. We stayed in the Southern Suite, a new annexe at the rear of the Original Cottage with its own street frontage. The Southern Suite is brilliantly appointed with two ensuite bedrooms and perfect for two couples sharing (one has issues with sharing bathrooms!). I would definitely recommend Annabelle’s Cottage.
After a cheeky afternoon nap we then headed out to Terroir Restaurant in Auburn for dinner. This was a 5 minute walk from Annabelle’s Cottage. The menu is small with a choice of 4 entrees, 4 mains and 4 desserts. It always gives me great comfort going to a restaurant with a short menu as you can guarantee the ingredients will be fresh and the dishes creative. Terroir was no exception. It also show-cases Clare Valley wines which was a big tick in our book.
Saturday was our big day cycling day. We were doing the Kilikanoon “Wine by Cycle” experience. There are many cycling trails in the Clare Valley. The main trail is the 33 kilometre ‘Riesling Trail’ from Auburn to Barinia which runs along a disused rail line. The slightly lazier Rattler Trail is a 19 kilometre rail running between Riverton and Auburn and joins up with the Riesling Trail. There is also the Riverton Trails, the Mason Trail, the Spring Gully Loop, the Polish Hill Loop and the trail that we did, or partly did, the John Horrocks Loop. I think we cycled between 5 and 6 kilometres in total and honestly, after visiting four wineries, this was as much as our group could ‘safely’ manage.
Our day started at Kilikanoon Wines at 10:30am where our cycles, helmets, water and maps were ready and waiting. Kilikanoon Wines has its own bikes but can arrange electric assisted bikes at a small extra (AUD$70.00). The John Horrocks Loop is a little hilly so I would definitely recommend an electric assisted bike if you are not a regular cyclist. Kilikanoon Wines organised our whole day so we had no nothing to do other than to get on the bikes and head off along the picturesque back roads.
The John Horrocks Loop takes in six wineries: Penna Lane Wines, Kilikanoon Wines, Mitchell Wines, Skillogalee Wines, Jeanneret Wines and Sevenhill Cellars. The full John Horrocks Loop which would see you stopping at all these wineries would be a 9 kilometre round trip so we cut out the Sevenhill part of the trail. Our first stop was Mitchell Wines followed by Jeanneret Wines, Skillogallee Wines and lastly back to where we started, Kilikanoon Wines.
As part of the Wine by Cycle experience, Kilikanoon Wines also organise your lunch booking. Your choices are The Little Red Grape which is a bakery in Sevenhill, the Sevenhill Hotel which is a gastroish type pub which funnily enough, is also in Sevenhill and lastly, Skillogallee Wines. We opted for Skillogallee Wines. After sampling their collection in the quaint little tasting room, we took our table outside on the terrace. We were blessed with wonderful weather so you couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable experience. Both the food and wines were fantastic. This is a very busy winery, so if you want to eat at Skillogallee Wines on a weekend, book well in advance, especially if you want to eat indoors. Skillogallee also do breakfast and open from 7:30am 7 days a week.
After a very long relaxing lunch, we cycled back to Kilikanoon Wines for our exclusive ‘Asset Collection’ tasting. For me, this was the highlight of our trip. After tasting their 2012 Tregea Reserve Cabernet, I fell head over heals in love.
After our day out, none of us was in any condition to drive home so we left our car at Kilikanoon Wines overnight and got ‘Dave’ from Clare Valley Taxis to take us back to our accommodation in Auburn. Dave often does bike rescue for those who imbibe just a little too much, not unlike like us. Dave has a bike rack which can take up to 4 bikes. This is perfect for those who do not want to do a full cycle trail, bearing in mind that a return trip on the Riesling Trail would have you cycling some 66 kilometres.
Sunday saw us head out in the car to do the wineries that we missed including Eldredge Wines, Sevenhill Cellars and lastly Paulett Wines for lunch. Sevenhill was a big surprise. It is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley and is owned by the Jesuits. It is steeped in history and there is a lot to see and do including the Crypt for the Jesuits who have died at Sevenhill. The Jesuits all supply the majority of alter wines in Australia but surprisingly, their wines are actually very good and perfectly drinkable. They also have lovely grounds and on a good day, it would be a perfect spot to picnic. Sadly for us, the weather had taken a turn for the worse so picnicking was not a viable option.
After Sevenhill Cellars, we headed a short distance to Paulett Wine for lunch at their Bush Devine Café. The Café is written up as an ‘Indigenous Australian Bush Food Café & Garden’. The weather was too hideous to explore the garden so I cannot comment on that, but the food didn’t show case any indigenous flavours which was disappointing BUT the staff were incredibly accommodating, even bringing us rugs for the cold, and the food was good. In fact, after eating some incredible rich meals over the previous day, I welcomed my green chicken curry on rice. Would I return, yes if the weather was permitting as the views from the verandah are fantastic and have you thinking you are in an episode of McLeod’s Daughters for those familiar with this Australian drama series.
After lunch we headed off to do some none-wine related exploring. Our first stop was the historic village of Mintaro. This has some great architecture from the mid to late 19th century and is also home to the Mintaro Maze. Unfortunately, the Mintaro Maze was closed so we headed a short distance out of town to Martindale Hall which was a huge surprise. This is a grand residence built in 1879 which featured in Peter Weir’s ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. You can do self-guided tours of Martindale Hall but unfortunately, like the Mintaro Maze, it was closed by the time we arrived. However, we were able to walk around the grounds and take in the grandeur of the Hall.
So after a pretty full day of touring, we headed back to Auburn along the picturesque back roads for a well deserved late afternoon nap. After a quicken freshen up, we then piled into Dave’s cab again and headed into Clare where we had a booking at Seed Restaurant. This is the #1 restaurant in the area. Did I love this place? It didn’t blow me away but I think this was more the fact that I went in with really high expectations. I was expecting something quaint like Terroir but the setting was more barn-like and I was expecting a bush band complete with a ‘lagerphone’ to step out at any minute. The food was good but not outstanding. The big tick was the gin menu as we all love our gins. The biggest disappointment, however, was the wine matching. This only included one wine from the Clare Valley and the rest were from all over including a Spanish variety. It is not that we don’t like Spanish wines, quite the contrary, it was just that we were expecting Clare Valley wines. Would I return, probably not if we were staying in Auburn. Also, the taxi fare from Clare back to Auburn cost about AUD$70.00 so bear this in mind if you are staying in Auburn.
On the Monday, following a leisurely start to the day, we called in at the Mintaro Maze. After successfully navigating our way through the maze, we headed back to Adelaide Airport via the picturesque Adelaide Hills. Our recommendation would be to head off early and stop at the Barossa for lunch but we had run out of time unfortunately but you need something up your sleeve for next time!
Annabelle’s Cottage is located at 15 Henry Street, Auburn. Room rate includes all breakfast supplies and Nespresso pods. Little gifts of handmade chocolate truffles and biscuits were a welcome bonus. Further information can be found at: http://www.annabellescottage.com.au/
Kilikanoon Wines are located at Lot 52, Penna Lane, Penwortham (via Watervale). A big thank you to the wonderful team at Kilikanoon Wines who organised everything for us. Further details of the Wine by Cycle experience can be found at http://kilikanoon.com.au/.
Skillogalee is open between 7:30am and 5:00pm daily, except Christmas Day and is located at Trevarrick Road, Sevenhill. Further information can be found at: http://www.skillogalee.com.au/
Terroir Restaurant is located in Main North Road, Auburn and is open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday from 6:00pm. Further information can be found at: http://terroirauburn.com.au/
Information on the cycling trails, bike hire companies, the Clare Valley wineries (including opening times) and food and wine tour companies can be found at http://www.clarevalley.com.au/
Martindale Hall is located at 1 Manoora Road, Mintaro and is open to the public every day except Tuesday between 11:00am and 4:00pm. Further information can be found at: http://www.martindalehall-mintaro.com.au/
Mintaro Maze is a living maze located in Jacka Road Mintaro and is open between 10:00am and 4:00pm Thursday to Monday. Adult entry is $12.00 and child entry is $8.00. One thing that kept us entertained for a good half hour was a mini-maze puzzle. It took all four of it to crack it but we were quite chuffed given that the group before us failed dismally. for Further information can be found at http://mintaromaze.com.au/
Clare Valley Taxis including bike rescue service can be contacted at 131008 / 08 8842 1400.
Some things for next time:
- Sevenhill Hotel for lunch or dinner (www.sevenhillhotel.com.au).
- Shut the Gate Winery for a picnic lunch in their garden. Located at 2 Main North Road, Watervale.
Mr Mick’s Cellar Door and Kitchen for tapas-style food (www.mrmick.com.au).