24 Hours in McLaren Vale
If you’re planning a trip out to the Vale and feel stuck on where to start, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. So much to see, so little time.
Where to breakfast
If you’re starting from Adelaide CBD, head first to the Central Market to kick off with a coffee and a pastry… or take your pick from 70+ vendors who call it home. We opted for a couple of freshly baked Portuguese custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) from Saudade, and if we didn’t have somewhere to be we would have headed back to grab a couple more. Central Market is also a surefire picnic supplier, with heaps of artisanal cheese and charcuterie stalls, plus fresh fruit, veg… we could go on, but the locals know - just go.
Where to begin
Head out into the Vale proper to Haselgrove’s cellar door, situated at the corner of their Ambassador block vines in McLaren Vale, is perfect for a first pit stop as you head into the Vale.
Book in for a tasting on the panoramic rooftop and soak in the environment as you’re taken through one of the flights on offer, and if you fancy it there’s the option of becoming a ‘Winemaker for a Minute’, a blending experienced designed for those looking to try their hand at creating an expert drop. There’s also the option to soak it all up and stay for lunch with a menu featuring hand-crafted pizzas, locally sourced grazing platters and cheese boards.
If you’re feeling like you want an extended immersion into the region via the cellar door, Wirra Wirra offer half-day tours that take you from the soil to the first sip. Starting in the vineyard you’ll learn about their approach to viticulture (including taking in the view over their biodynamic estate block), before getting an up-close look at the good stuff being made in the winery. From there you’ll head to a tasting held in their refurbished barrel room, where a glass partition allows you to see the winemakers in action as you sample their wares. You’ll finish up with a three-course lunch, featuring a seasonal menu of dishes with a focus on locally sourced produce, some taken from the on-site kitchen garden. Not bad, huh?
Where to lunch
Speaking of the locals, you’ll also find many of them dining at the Salopian Inn further down the road. With an organic seasonal menu (sourced as much as possible from their kitchen garden), you can either order à la carte or find out what those in the know want to show off by opting for the tasting menu. And as for the wine? There’s either the option of ordering from their award-winning list, or heading down to the cellar to select something for yourself from their racks. Decisions, decisions…
Where to wander
After lunch head to Silver Sands for a clear-the-head stroll, where you can drive down onto the beach if conditions are good enough. Dip a toe in the water, and as the waves lap around your ankles take a deep breath of the cool maritime breeze that carries across the Vale, helping to keep the vines comfortable in the heat of the growing season.
Look to your left at the headland to also see what makes McLaren so unique; the exposed rock strata tells the story of the sheer geological chaos that shapes what gets from grape to your glass. Earthquake after earthquake for millenia pulverised the hills and piled the land over and on itself like dough being kneaded, until settling into the eccentric patchwork of soil that defines McLaren Vale. What a time to be alive.
Where to fuel up
If you feel like you need to refuel after dusting Silver Sands off your feet, then the Victory Hotel is a winner - where good cold beer and even better hot chips can be yours. Featuring a seasonal rotating menu of pub classics with a local twist, don’t sleep on the wine list here either; given that this is a haunt for locals, this isn’t your average pub line-up. Their cellar, with 8000 bottles of local and international hits, would force most highfalutin city wine bar proprietors into a fugue state of abject humility.
Where to finish
Head back into the city to hit up Patritti - one of the oldest urban wineries in Australia, with vineyards in Blewitt Springs, Tatachilla and most importantly in Adelaide itself. Yep, these historic vines are the last of what’s left of urban winemaking history in the Marion district, and the wines are certainly a talking piece.
Cellar Two is where you’ll head for a tasting - catch a flight of their wines in a barrel room surrounded by their impressive looming jarrah tanks filled with luscious, sticky fortifieds (be sure to ask for a tipple) Friday, Saturday and Sunday they also play host to a revolving line-up of local food trucks and musicians, with full listings available in advance on their website to check out.
Where to dine
Ahhhh… you’re not ready to head back for an early night? Excellent - we’ve prepared a hitlist of the top BYO restaurants in Adelaide for you to head with that bottle (or two) you’ve picked up on the road today. And after that? Well, the night is young, mofo. We’ll leave you to it.
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