The Outer Limits

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No, this is not about time travel or space monsters, like that enduring ’60s TV series.  No, this is all about a South Australian wine region and its far-flung outposts, cellar doors on the fringes of a surprisingly large region that just happens to be the oldest such bailiwick in this thoroughly wine-absorbed state.

The region is McLaren Vale, a comfortable half-hour drive south of Adelaide or, for us, north of Victor Harbor.  There are well over 80 cellar doors here in a highly acclaimed region that has been producing luscious grapes since the 1830s.

Most are centered right around two communities, Wilunga and McLaren Vale. That’s where most visitors end up, and for reasons besides geographic convenience.  The vintages of cellar doors like Wirra Wirra, d’Arenberg and Richard Hamilton (to name just three) are in all respects superb. You could easily spend three days sampling the goods on offer in the heart of the district and still not exhaust all your worthy options.

Let’s go further afield, to the west, the north and the east, to have a look at some cellar doors at the outer limits.

1)   BERG HERRING  Located in the west so close to the ocean you can revel in its cooling breezes, this converted church is in Sellicks Beach Road and offers a delightful outdoor drinking (or picnic) zone alongside a delectable selection of wines.  Gaze out onto Gulf St Vincent from comfy table settings or their quirky gypsy caravan. 

White drinkers are not always well-catered for in this region but at Berg Herring, you will want to sample the Vermentino as part of their special tasting program ($10, refundable when you buy a bottle or two).  As for reds, well, you can’t go past their Shiraz or the Grenache. 

2)  CORIOLE     You are just a hop and a jump away from the glories of Onkaparinga National Park when you pop in here for a tasting.  In the far north of the region, Coriole is much loved for its Chenin Blanc (a delicious white variety that is not all that easy to find) and its lush and colourful gardens. 

Combine all this with a charming tasting room and shady outdoor tables and you have the ideal locale for a cellar door visit ahead of some stimulating walking alongside a scenic gorge nearby. It’s just off Chaffey’s Rd.

3)  THE CONFESSIONAL Drive up to this winery in Foggo Rd and you are greeted not by a member of the clergy but a very friendly Lab Cross named Maisie, who’ll happily serve as your guide for a look around the vines.

 

Like Coriole, The Confessional does a really first-class Chenin Blanc (is my prejudice showing?) but that’s just one of many choices here.  This cellar door brings together under one roof three wine labels, La Curio, Skin Deep and Pieri wines, reflecting the ownership troika. 

Red drinkers will revel in the choices, especially the Cab Sav, Sangiovese and a new one on me, a Montepulciano.  Enjoy a few glassfuls, then confess your myriad sins to any of the three vintners or perhaps to Maisie, who seems quite experienced in granting absolutions.

4)   SHOTTESBROOKE  Drive another couple of kilometres east to McLaren Flat for a batch of cellar doors off the beaten track but well worth the diversion.  Bagshaw Rd is where you will come across several worthy choices – our personal favourite was Shottesbrooke, with its elegant and ultra-modern tasting room.

On a weekend your tastings might just be handled by Tilly, a pilates teacher on weekdays who on a Sunday enjoys talking wine and good food with curious customers.  We tried the Blanc en Blanc sparkling and a Chardonnay first, then graduated to a red or two, notably a Cabernet Merlot Malbec that was sensational in its richness and body. 

There are a couple of outdoor tables but this is a cellar door where you are happy to relax inside on comfy couches and catch up on life and love.

5)  LAZY BALLERINA  Way, way,  waaay east of the Vale, on the other side of a small mountain range, is Brookman Rd, where you can enjoy meals, great views and fine wines at Lazy Ballerina. 

Grenache and Shiraz are the most obvious choices, but we really took to the Moscato-style Sparkling Blush.  Tastings are perhaps second to the lunches served in their expansive gardens with views of the nearby range.  Even large groups can be accommodated with their ‘Feed Me’ menu – the pizzas seemed to be the food of choice for the biggest parties on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Kuitpo Forest is close by, where you can walk off all that food and drink, which, unusually for this region, also features local beer and cider.

6)  K1    Technically not part of McLaren Vale, K 1 is also located off Brookman Rd and enjoys a setting unmatched in the region. Famed vintner Geoff Hardy found this the ideal site for producing outstanding cool climate grapes in the lower Adelaide Hills. 

The winery sits on a lake and you can enjoy the wines (and perhaps a cheese platter) either indoors or on the deck overlooking the water, Come in autumn when the site is ablaze with colour.  This might well be one of Australia’s most memorable vineyard locations. 

It’s great fun discovering new varieties and K1 is the place – a Gruner Veltliner is a seldom-seen specialty white, quite delicious; spend a fair bit of change ($295 a bottle) and indulge in a bottle of Tzimmukin, a red you’ll never forget.  The Pinot Noir and Tempranillo are much less pricey and both top-notch.