by Mark Chipperfield
The top 10
When the people of Adelaide refer to their city as “the wine capital of Australia”, they are not giving in to hyperbole. There are three main wine- growing regions - the Adelaide Hills, Barossa and McLaren Vale - on the doorstep. Many cellar doors are less than an hour’s drive from the central business district.
Despite the prominence of household brands such Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass and Penfolds, the SA scene is dominated by family-owned vineyards producing fairly small volumes of estate-grown wines.
These boutique producers are also revamping the cellar door experience, offering structured tastings, long- table lunches and the opportunity for people to blend their own wine.
Vineyard food is also breaking out of its narrow confines and embracing wood-fired pizza, gourmet share plates and fine dining. Almost every winery now offers a sumptuous tasting platter of local cheeses, smoked meats, olives and other regional fare.
Here are 10 of our favourite cellar doors.
Damien Tscharke (pronounced “Sharky”) is one of the region’s most respected younger winemakers, handcrafting shiraz, tempranillo, graciano, montepulciano and other European varietals on his family-owned land at Marananga. The Bavarian-style tasting room, Tscharke’s Place, is intimate and welcoming and has a courtyard garden for sunny days. Damien is a traditionalist and his wines reflect this non-interventionist approach.
376 Seppeltsfield Rd
Phone:08 8562 4922
Open Thursday to Monday, 10am to 5pm
Founded in 1849, Yalumba is the oldest family-owned winery in Australia – and one of the prettiest. The tasting room carries a good range of table wines (from old-vine shiraz and grenache to lighter styles such as tempranillo and sangiovese) and fortifieds. A highlight is the Yalumba wine cellar which is packed with rare and valuable vintages from around the world. The estate hosts regular lunches, master classes and other events.
40 Eden Valley Road
Phone:08 8561 3200
Tasting room open daily 10am to 4.30pm
Two Hands Wines, Barossa
Although Two Hands celebrates its 14th vintage this year, the cellar door still feels innovative and contemporary. As do its award-winning wines; the winery sources fruit from six Australian regions, including the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Clare.
Housed in a beautifully restored 19th century stone cottage, Two Hands has dispensed with the static cellar door experience. Instead, guests take part in a structured wine tutorial for a $5 fee. More detailed master classes are also available but most people from Adelaide motor up to enjoy a legendary Two Hands wood-fired pizza with friends on the back deck.
Two Hands Wines
273 Neldner Road
Phone:08 8562 4566
Open daily 10am to 5pm. Pizza served on Thursdays and Fridays (lunch only)
Artisans of Barossa
Artisans of Barossa showcases wine produced by seven boutique wineries, allowing visitors to taste small-batch wines.The tasting menu changes regularly. The building also has a small art gallery. In 2013 Artisans of Barossa joined forces with Mark McNamara (formerly executive chef at Appellation restaurant), whose company Food Luddite has created tasting plates for the tasting room. He also offers long-table lunches.
Artisans of Barossa
Light Pass Road
Phone:08 8563 3935
Open daily 11am to 6pm. Platters served every day but long-table lunches by arrangement only
J & AG Johnston, Adelaide Hills
Established in 1839 this atmospheric stone complex has had many incarnations, including as a brewery and soft drink factory.
Wine making includes sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and pinot noir using fruit grown on the family estate. It has a most welcoming cellar door. Order a food platter and a bottle of wine to enjoy in the sunny courtyard.
Johnston Oakbank Cellar Door
18 Oakwood Road
Phone:08 8388 4263
Open Monday to Friday 10.30am to 4.30pm and weekends 11am to 5pm
Bird in Hand, Adelaide Hills
Apart from tasting the latest release, guests can sample rare aged red wines. The Gallery dining area serves seasonal fare for lunch on weekends and public holidays.
The winery hosts concerts by the likes of James Morrison and Julia Stone and exhibits paintings and sculptures by Australian and international artists.
Bird in Hand
Corner of Bird in Hand and Pfeiffer Roads
Phone:08 8389 9488
Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and weekends 11am to 5pm
K1 By Geoff Hardy, Kuitpo
Kuitpo (pronounced “ky-po”) may not be SA’s best-known wine region but Geoff Hardy has been making award-winning, cool-climate wines here since the 1980s. The range includes sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot plus some more obscure varietals such as gruner veltliner and arneis. The winery no longer serves food but is wine-tasting offering can include vintage sparkling, tzimmukin and one other museum wine for $10 a person.
K1 by Geoff Hardy
Phone:08 8388 3700
Open Monday to Thursday 11am to 3pm and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11am to 5pm
Primo Estate, McLaren Vale
A touch of Tuscany in the heart of McLaren Vale, Primo Estate is an impressive modern winery and olive oil complex, offering a luxurious wine tasting experience – and a dash of Italian architectural flair.
The cellar door overlooks a central courtyard with its own outdoor kitchen – the scene of many celebrations over the years. The estate operates two labels – Primo Estate and Joseph – and sells a small range of imported Italian wines under the Primo & Co label.
The company is equally famous for its extra virgin oils and vinegars, including its powerful barrel-aged La Casetta vinegar.
To fully explore the wine range here, book the Joseph Experience, which includes wines, a taste of olive oil, grand pedano cheese and a hunk of farmhouse bread.
Phone:08 8323 6800
Open daily 11am to 4pm
d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale
D’Arenberg is McLaren Vale’s most iconic winery with a restaurant that has an equally lofty reputation. D’Arenberg is particularly known for its full-flavoured reds, especially shiraz and grenache but it also produces some delicate pinots, chardonnays, viogners and rieslings. Structured wine tastings are available at the cellar door or you book a table at the Verandah Restaurant. Private tastings are also available – advance bookings required.
Phone:08 8329 4888
Cellar door opens daily from 10am to 5pm
Samuel’s Gorge, McLaren Vale
Justin McNamee is a young winemaker operating from a tiny shed down a dusty and potholed road. But it’s definitely worth the search because he is responsible for some of Australia’s best (and most affordable) small-batch shiraz, tempranillo, grenache and mourvedre.
The wines are rustic, savoury and old school. The cellar door is laid back, especially when the winemaker is around. If you’re lucky he’ll give you a tour of his beloved shed. This is one experience you’ll want to savour, so take your time and settle in.
Lot 10 Chaffeys Road
Phone:08 8323 8651
Open daily from 11am to 5pm