A Food and Wine Lover's Guide to the Clare Valley
Within this famed wine region you'll find award-winning eateries, riesling-fuelled bike trails and vineyard glamping.
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Knowledgeable epicureans from around Australia know there's no better way to spend a weekend than hitting a wine region. Cellar doors offer a cornucopia of delights and their proximity to farmland means you're guaranteed the freshest produce to complement your tipple.
South Australia's Clare Valley is one such destination, famous for wine, food and glorious scenery. The combination of rich red soil, an undulating valley of varying microclimates, and the cool, dry seasons create the perfect storm of red and white perfection. And, together with southaustralia.com, we've created this comprehensive guide to the famed wine region — from some of Australia's best riesling to excellent specimens of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, you'll find something to suit every wine lover's palate here.
And only a couple of hours out of Adelaide, the Clare Valley is so close you can almost taste it as soon as you step off the plane. If you have the time, immerse yourself in the Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast, too. Or explore the Adelaide CBD — there are plenty of underground bars and fairy light-lit rooftops to uncover.
In the lead up to your Clare Valley weekend, we recommend training your stomach because you're going to want to eat — a lot. There's an award-winning venue around every bend in the road, but we recommend starting strong with a visit to Skillogalee and its winery restaurant. The lunch menu is packed with unexpected combinations (try the wallaby shank if you're feeling adventurous) or grab a picnic basket chock full of local produce and explore the grounds.
Next on your list of must-eats is Seed, a modern wine bar and restaurant housed in a beautifully renovated old building on Main North Road. The venue, with exposed stone, wood and a roaring fire, is cosy and sophisticated, beckoning you to settle in with a buttered rum or a glass of the Valley's finest red. The menu is hearty and modern, with a dedicated vegetarian section, and all served with house-made ciabatta.
If at this point you haven't melted into a hedonistic puddle of excess, head over to Terroir Auburn, a restaurant in, yes, Auburn that combines ethical produce with old-school service. The light interior of Terrior is offset by the warmth of its wooden décor and the friendly staff. Pick their brains to find your perfect food and wine match. The menu is tight, meat-heavy and the food is beautifully presented and generously served.
Finally, Bush Devine in Polish Hill River, located in the Paulett Wines Cellar Door, is an unforgettable experience — and we don't use that term lightly. Bush Devine is an Indigenous Australian Bush Food restaurant with an associated bush food garden where they grow the food you'll eat. The garden is free to explore before you settle down to your meal. We recommend the wattleseed gnocchi with smoked kangaroo, fennel, green olives, peas and sage cream. The share platters are also a great way to get a taste of all the best bits.
If you thought figuring out where to eat was tough, just wait till you try to pick a winery. You would need a lifetime to explore all of the Clare Valley's amazing venues but seeing as we only have a weekend, let's explore the best of the best. Start your weekend off with a beer at the Clare Valley Brewing Co. You might say "I didn't come to a famous riesling wine region to drink beer!" but trust us, you'll kick yourself if you miss the CVBC. The brewery itself it beautiful, with insane views to take in as you sample their core range of award-winning beers.
When you're ready to move onto the main event (i.e. wine) make your way across to Clare Valley's very first winery Sevenhill Cellars. After tasting plenty of wines in the cellar door, head on a tour of the stunning sandstone underground cellar which is where all the fortified wines are stored.
Next on the agenda: Mr Mick Cellar Door. It's worth a trip to Mr Mick just to experience the grounds and the venue. And while you're there — oooh-ing at scenes straight out of Hobbiton and ahh-ing at the cosy cellar door decor — try a glass of the novo sangiovese. They've won awards for it.
Speaking of award-winning, Kilikanoon is next on the agenda — and it's won more awards than you can shake a stick at, including winery of the year and best shiraz. The vineyard is in a picturesque location, with lush green rolling hills and a cellar door nestled in a stone farmhouse surrounded by cottage gardens, fruit orchards and tall gums. We recommend adding a cheese or produce board to go with your tasting experience to really lean into the holiday mood.
The final must-do is famed riesling producer Jim Barry. The Barry family own and operate the winery (only a five-minute drive from the town of Clare and easily accessible by the Riesling Trail) so you can get up close and personal with your winemakers. At the cellar door, you'll obviously want to try the riesling, but we also recommend exploring some reds, too — the shiraz will round out your trip perfectly.
If you have a few moments between wine tastings and feasts, the Clare Valley has many wholesome activities to offer. The most obvious (which ties neatly into the wine and food agenda) is cycling the Riesling Trail. It's an easy, 32-kilometre bike track that takes you past the best riesling vineyards between Auburn and Clare. If you do it right and stop at all the best wineries, the trail will take a few days to complete. You can either hire a bike and do the trail solo, or join an all-inclusive tour organised by Tour de Vines.
And, because we're still kids at heart, we can't go past the the Mintaro Maze. It takes 800 conifers to create one glorious maze that will have you wandering for, well, hopefully not hours — but at least a little while. Once you've conquered the maze, crack open a picnic and cruise around the grounds. Keep an eye out for the giant chess board too.
After a day of eating, drinking, cycling, and getting lost in the maze shenanigans, you'll want a comfy bed to recuperate in. Thankfully, the valley is resplendent with cute accommodation options to suit any budget. If you want to stay in town, the Mill Apartments in Clare are modern, clean and central.
But if you're looking for a more remote stay, Neagles Retreat Villas in Emu Flats are not to be missed. They're located right on the Riesling Trail and close to five big wineries, including Jim Barry — so it's easy to line up with your winery tours.
And if you want to rough it, but not really, Bukirk Glamping in Stanley Flat can hook you up with a kitted-out tent (including all the mod-cons and a woodfire) that will still let you rise with the sun and say hello to the day in the middle of nature.
To discover more of Adelaide and South Australia, head to SATC.
Top image: Riesling Trail, Adam Bruzzone.
Published on July 31, 2018 by Imogen Baker