THE CLARE VALLEY is about 130 kms north of Adelaide, easily accessible, just a 90 minutes drive down excellent highways and roads, and absolutely spectacular landscapes and scenery!
The following is a photographic record of a local Tony’s Tours trip to the Clare Valley, and in particular Skillogalee Vineyard and Paulett’s Vineyard, just two of the over fifty vineyards in the region.
It seems almost cliche, yet as with any cliche there is always an element of truth, but one thing you are bound to do when visiting Adelaide is to be taken to one (or more) of the justly celebrated wine vineyards just outside the city in the Barossa Valley, McClaren Vale and Clare Valley. Adelaidians take great pleasure in taking visitors and friends to the vineyards in these regions, many with highly rated ‘fine dining’ restaurants. Since moving to Adelaide last April I have been fortunate to go to a number of different vineyards in the Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale, as well as in the nearby Mt Lofty Ranges, but I hadn’t as yet been to the Clare Valley.
The Clare Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Australia, starting with European settlement in the 1840s. Vineyards and wine-making was not initially the primary industry when the region was first settled by a diverse cultural and ethnic mix. Grapes, however, did accompany the first group of crops planted, and continued to be so throughout the development of the region. The Clare Valley still has a diversity in crops, people and places, but it is the vineyards that are the main tourist attraction – and deservedly so – with many vineyards being regarded as not just the best in Australia but also world-wide.
The wine for which the Clare Valley is mostly known for is Riesling. The region also produces excellent red wines, notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. It is, however, the Riesling that people come for, many following and enjoying the ‘tasting’ journey through the region called The Riesling Trail.
Skillogalee Vineyard and Paulett’s Vineyard are well known for producing all these wines, and more; not just the fabulous ‘tastings’ but also the delicious award-winning ‘fine dining’ restaurants – and both set within magnificent country landscapes and gardens.
After an leisurely drive to the Clare Valley, it was easy finding Skillogalee Vineyard due to good sign-posting, just a short drive off the main road that traverses the region. There is old homestead of the left, which houses the well-known and very popular restaurant, surrounded by massive grape crops on either side of the road,
‘Reception’ doubles as the ‘wine tasting’ room (more later)….You move through the relatively small but cozy house, with two small living rooms with old fire-places for those who desire indoor dining (great for Winter), to the slender verandah at the rear of the house. The notion of smallness continued as we were sat for lunch at a rather small wooden table. As it worked out, however, it didn’t matter; with the excellent service we ordered lunch and then went to a pre-meal wine ‘tasting’.
The vineyard lives up its reputation – the wines we tasted were fantastic! Personal favourite was the Late Harvest Riesling. Sign of a good wine, at least for me and my palate, is how easy is it to drink. In this it case, I loved it so much I had two generously filled glasses with my lunch.
A little inebriated and full of good cheer we returned to our table. The meal wasn’t actually ready as yet, one our party somewhat wisely having ordered a chicken dish that would take 30 minutes, giving us enough time for the ‘tasting’. However, after the ‘tasting’ we were ravenous. In order to kill a bit of time I went exploring the garden that lay to the side and below us.
The lunch was superb!
For ‘Entre’ I had a divine potato, leek and bacon soup – Heaven! This was followed as my ‘Main’ a Malaysian-Australian cuisine fusion of a slow cooked pork on balsamic rice, which virtually melted in one’s mouth – Double Heaven!! Couldn’t resist the dessert – neither could my companions. Somewhat amusingly, when initially ordering our lunch, after looking through the mouth-watering and pricey menu we had all decided just to have two courses – ‘Entres ‘and ‘Mains’; however, subsequently, the food being so good we also had dessert – Triple Heaven!!! I had an ‘affogato’ with a simply yummy home-made vanilla ice-cream, accompanied by the Skillogalee Vineyard’s amazing muscat liqueur. Quadruple Heaven!!!!! And all this complemented by excellent wines and coffee. Highly recommended.
After lunch we drove the relatively short distance to Paulett’s Vineyard. This vineyard has won numerous awards, notably for its excellent red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
The restaurant and ‘tasting’ bar is a in a relatively modern building, perched high on a hill that looks over a truly majestic and sweeping vista of the Clare Valley.
I was a little over drinking and actually had had my fill, nonetheless, the other joys and wonders of Paulett’s Vineyard marked this as a place that I most definitely would like to come back to one day.
Whilst my companions were tasting wines I went to the adjacent garden; a ‘native garden’ named Bush Divine.
The Garden – Bush Divine
Bush Divine is a relatively large ‘native garden’, from which the vineyard uses various Australian plants, herbs and flowers in the restaurant, as well as producing numerous jams and pickled items. I wandered through this terrific garden, learning more about edible native plants and flowers, as well as enjoying the various nooks and crannies within the garden, some of which contain somewhat curious and amusing objects, and all with stunning views of the Clare Valley. Fantastic!
All in all – wonderful!
There are a lot more vineyards and old historic towns that one can visit in the Clare Valley. I hope this post stimulates your interest, as well as your taste buds, to go for a visit – you won’t be disappointed.