Wine Travels in Australia -- The Clare Valley, South Australia --- The Riesling Trail
Clare Valley, South Australia, Food, Wine, Pioneering History and relaxing countryside.
Recent travels to South Australia from Canberra illustrated just how diverse and vast Australia is. And South Australia is only a small piece of Australia a very small piece. Clare is an hour and a half drive north of Adelaide. Easy.
For us, we started in Canberra. The 13 hour drive (yes, 13 hours, on the motorway) was exhausting. Outside the temperature soared to 44 Celsius. It was higher than expected summer temperatures, but not an Aussie heat wave. We were on a mission. Destination was the Clare and Barossa Valleys for a few days of wine tasting. With some of Australias finest and oldest Riesling vineyards and some extraordinary winemakers made the drive pass like a 13 hour drive would pass. It was, without doubt, long. Two drivers, or two days. But it offered the opportunity to see some small rural communities and landscape that would have been missed had we just taken plane to Adelaide. And seeing the countryside into Clare was part of the holiday through South Australia.
The Clare Valley was the first on the list. Clare is full of stone villages, working rural communities, and great history. It was the settled when copper was discovered in the early pioneer days of Australia. Old towns like Burra, Kapunda and Mintaro are steeped in this history, and throughout these communities it is possible to stay in a bed and breakfast, or self catering accommodations that are original homestead properties, or small stone homes that are linked to the mining history. Mintaro in particular has great little one and two bedroom cottages to rent for a few days or longer.
As a predominately rural Valley, great local produce is always available. Winemakers of considerable reputation are throughout the valley, cellar doors are open for tastings (with a number of wines that are not available for sale except at the cellar door), and many have wonderful small restaurants at the cellar door, or picnic grounds at the winery, to make for a most relaxing and enjoyable excursion.
Riesling is king in Clare. The Riesling Trail, a 25km cycle or walking trail, features the best winemakers in the Valley. The trail is well marked, and a perfect way to organize your visit. If you want to follow a complimentary trail that also features local cheese producers, there is a Cheese and Wine Trail that starts in Auburn (www.wineandcheesetrails.com.au )
James Halliday, the Australian wine writer without equal, has compared Clare to Tuscany. I agree. And when your travels include the Barossa Valley (next door), youve got a fantastic holiday on your hands.
Winemakers to visit in Clare? All of them. Who are they?
Sevenhill Cellars (still run by the Jesuits, named for the seven hills of Rome. Dates to 1851. Considering that the pest phylloxera nearly destroyed half of the European vineyards in the late 1800s, these vines are likely older than most of the oldest vineyards in France!)
Annies Lane, Kilikanoon, Knappstein Wines, Leasingham Wines, Mt. Horrocks Wines (some was served at Queen Elizabeths 80th birthday celebrations!), Neales Rock, Pikes, Taylors, Tim Grant among many many others.
My own favourite cellar doors were Taylors (because the host that day was brilliant and very well informed), and Seven Hills (because it was a relaxing stop, steeped in history). Annies Lane was indeed the prettiest stop, it looks like an old winery should, but unfortunately the host that day had a different interpretation of client service than I. And compared to all other cellar door experiences, I felt that I had inconvenienced her. The wines at Annies Lane were grand. Tannins however, should remain in the glass, not originate directly from the host.
In the interests of time and space, I suggest that if you are thinking of visiting Clare, log on to clarevalley.com.au A grand place to spend a relaxing few days an hour and a half north of Adelaide. Slow pace, quiet countryside, wonderful wines, great walks, outstanding food. It was well worth the 13 hour drive to get there!