Maybe it’s from drinking an abundance of wine or maybe they were born this way. Either way, the people in the Clare Valley have hit a whole new level of brilliance, as was on show when we popped up for a day trip this week. Bountiful boutique wineries, zesty wine makers, new restaurants worth travelling for, and a vibe of growth and new energy was the theme for the day as we explored why we should be travelling 90 minutes north of Adelaide more often. Gone are the days of a sleepy wine region with unrealised potential. Clare Valley is on the cusp of something big and it’s exciting.
The drive up there is a mix of beauty and heartbreak at the moment, with evidence of the Pinery fires across the dry red and golden landscape. The efforts to clear the land, and rebuild are also everywhere though. The resilience of the local community makes us proud and redoubles any commitment we had to supporting SA businesses affected by the disaster.
Shut The Gate. This hidden gem of a cellar door is in Watervale and is hidden from the road behind a lush wall of foliage. Park your car and venture into the secret garden, which whispers to you of warm Summer afternoons with cool wines and platters laden with local SA produce. The geese, cat and other animals dotted around, along with the electric mix of furniture and furnishings make you feel like you’re at a very cool friend’s house. Pull up a stool while you’re there and chat to wine maker Richard Woods about what led him from the Hunter Valley to Clare nearly a decade ago. He and and Rasa Fabian are the brains behind this wine label which, from the very edgy labels to the delectable contents of the bottles, draws you in and makes you want to clear out your wine rack to show off your new prized possessions. And just quietly, for a non-Riesling drinking, I may have just been converted. Wow.
Mad Bastard. Yep, that’s the name of a winery. And a good one at that. Previously going by the name of its wine maker Mark Barry (Jim’s son), this wine label is ALL about personality. The drive from the road up to the cellar door gets you in the mood to meet the man himself, unless you catch him at nap time after lunch. Check out all the signage around the place. It’s worth a visit for that alone, if not for the great wines and memorable Riedel wine glass set you receive with every 6 bottles bought – Mad Bitch & Mad Bastard. I know a few people they’d make a brilliant gift for…
Mr. Mick. Ask anyone and they’ll nod with approval. Great wine. Amazing food. This was our lunch destination, and it was a sight to behold after we got out of the car. It’s like seeing an enchanted castle for the first time. Mr. Mick is the brainchild of Tim Adams, who was mentored by the late and great Mr. Mick, a legend in the wine industry. This cellar door and wine label is a nod to the iconic gent, and serves up wonderous goods for your palate.
Seed Winehouse + Kitchen. This is another dining drawcard for the Clare Valley. Created by a couple hailing from Byron Bay, Seed is the word on everyone’s lips. It’s amazing in pretty much every way, from the food, to the decor, and the energy of the people running the joint. If you love food, this is the place to hunt down.
If you’re thinking of heading to Barossa Gourmet this year, do it. Things keep progressing and it continues to evolve. But if you find yourself with a day spare in the meantime, it’s not that far to just jump in your car and head up for lunch and a cheeky wine tasting or two. We certainly stocked up the ol’ wine rack.