Coonawarra Cabernets are my favourite Australian wine varietal. So when Husband’s Friday wine club organised a weekend trip for the Coonawarra Cellar Dwellers we were extremely excited. This event is held over the month of July each year and is the time when participating Coonawarra wineries showcase their back vintages.
Where is the Coonawarra?
The Coonawarra is a South Australian wine region comprising 32 wineries dotted across an area of approximately 30 square kilometres (15 kilometres long x 2 kilometres wide). It happens to be located smack bang between Melbourne and Adelaide. It is also one of Australia’s oldest wine regions mostly known for its cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon, however, they also produce good Shiraz, Chardonnay and Riesling.
How long does it take and how do you get there?
From Melbourne, the Coonawarra is ridiculously easy for a weekend. We took the 6:45pm Regional Express flight from Melbourne Airport. The flight takes just over an hour from Melbourne to Mt Gambier. Upon arrival at Mt Gambier Airport, we collected our hire car and drove 35 minutes to our accommodation located between Penola and Coonawarra. This had us arriving in Penola around 8:00pm just in time to join the Cellar Dweller event taking place at Raidis Winery. They had three back vintages on offer by the glass with music and dancing which was a really fun start to the weekend.
Accommodation options in this region are very slim indeed and we did not love where we stayed so I am not going to disclose the name of it. My recommendation would be to try the glamping option at Bellwether Winery but only in summer. They have a number of tents dotted around a sheep property surrounded by the gorgeous old red gums synonymous with this part of Australia. Better still, since our visit, Kerry and Simon Meares of Coonawarra Experiences have opened their gorgeous two bedroom apartment (refer to fact file below for contact details).
Where to eat?
There are also not a lot of restaurant options in the area and of those options, only two are winery restaurants: Upstairs at Hollicks and Fodder and Ottelia. We lunched at Upstairs at Hollicks which is located at Hollicks Winery which was very pleasant and the staff were really lovely and very accommodating. The other restaurant we wanted to try was Pipers of Penola but disappointedly, this was closed during our visit . There are a few wineries that also do cellar door cheese platters including Balnaves, Rymil, Wynns and DiGiorgio.
Are there any recommendations for wine tour operators?
We would highly recommend Coonawarra Experiences which offer full and half day winery tours which can be tailored to your needs. Full details can be found at: https://www.coonawarraexperiences.com.au/.
As for wineries, there are a lot to choose from and there is no need to worry about how you can get your purchases home as they can all arrange shipment within Australia.
- Rental car vendors: Mt Gambier Airport has three hire car options: Avis, Hertz and Budget.
- Cellar Dwellers: For the month of July each year, the Coonawarra wineries showcase their back vintages which you can taste and buy. Details can be found at http://www.mountgambierpoint.com.au/events/coonawarra-cellar-dwellers/. Each year the organisers publish a programme of participating wineries and events.
- Wine tour operators: Coonawarra Experiences can be found at https://www.coonawarraexperiences.com.au/.
- Accommodation: Kerry and Simon Meares of Coonawarra Experiences offer a fully self-contained 2 bedroom apartment located in Penola. Details can be found on Air BNB by searching under ‘A Coonawarra Experience’ (https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/21729877).
- Flights: Regional Express flys from Terminal 4 of Melbourne Airport and has flights every day to Mt Gambier. Further details can be found at: http://www.rex.com.au
- Travel tip: If driving from Mt Gambier Airport to the Coonawarra at night, you need to be vigilant for kangaroos as we had been warned by a number of people.