A beach holiday in Normanville

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I have often wanted to blog about places we have visited but then I  get overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to include all sorts of details and reviews.

As my word count on my Vietnam book increases and I start to think that I might actually write a book, I’ve started to research travel writers and especially those writing memoirs. Last week I came across this post, about how this travel writer was no longer going to blog, and it struck a chord. I do want to share stories about the places we visit but I don’t want to feel I need to provide pricing or details or tell you why I liked the food or the wine. She made the point – and I think this goes for all of us when we share about our holidays, that we can’t miss being in the moment and enjoying the holiday just because we’re too busy recording and writing down details. I have always taken lots of photos, even back in the days of film that cost precious savings to get printed, but I definitely take way more on my iPhone now, and I need to make sure that I don’t miss the experience of the holiday because I’m too busy recording in – and as another aside – must get myself in more photos – no matter how I look.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share a bit about our week in Normanville towards the end of the school holidays. We went as friends have been visiting there a lot and I loved her photos. My sister and her family were also joining us for a week and so I wanted us to have options if the weather was bad.

We were able to book 2 side by side cabins at the Beachside Caravan Park, and while it’s a little out-of-town, it was super quiet and our back corner position gave us lots of space. Our cabins backed onto the sand dunes so we also had some great views

Here are some of the we did during the week:

– lunch at the Victory Hotel on the way down to Normanville from the Barossa

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Lunch views at the Victory Hotel, Sellicks Hill

– beers and chips at the beautiful Normanville Surf Life Saving Club high above the beach (run by volunteers, it’s always great to be able to support an organisation that keeps us safe in the water)

Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club
Normanville Surf Lifesaving Club

– dinner at the Normanville Kiosk and Cafe right on the beach – great wine list and enormous (and tasty) meals with a fantastic kids option

– cloudy cool day adventures visiting Second Valley climbing over rocks, Rapid Bay and then to Victor Harbor to watch the Tour Down Under

– snorkelling with friends at Second Valley – and discovering the great work Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries are doing. Free, guided snorkel tours with all equipment provided teaching people about the local marine life in various parts of South Australia

– A couple of visit to McLaren Vale that included Paxton Wines, lunch at S.C Pannell (the best duck curry, great wines, more good kids options and fantastic service), d’Arenburg (saw the almost complete cube and had a great tasting) and Beach Road Wines (excellent pizza).

– lots of sand castles and beach walks

 

– a crazy windy walk along the beach felt like a scene from Star Wars

– watching the horse riding groups passing past the cabin window and along the beach

– totem tennis and games on the deck

– awesome cousin time (and a few late nights spending some quality time with my sister)

– delicious treats from Yankalilla bakery, op shops galore and great coffee from 21 Junk Street and One Little Sister in Normanville (must go back for a meal)

– first run in months to Carrickalinga and then back along the beach with my sister

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It was everything a beach holiday should be. Lots of relaxing, exploring and just hanging out together. The cabins were simple but all we needed and worked well as my sister and her family were only there for 3 of the 7 nights. I think Normanville will definitely be a regular holiday spot in the coming years, especially as it’s an easy two hour drive away.

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Second Valley, January 2017

What did we miss? Any recommendations for next time?

I’d love you to leave your comments below. What makes a truly great beach holiday? Where are your favourite beach destinations?

 

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My Barossa – a few of my favourite things – wineries and other things to do

View over the Steingarten Vineyard
View over the Steingarten Vineyard

In recent months, we’ve had visitors, done a house-swap and been asked to provide suggestions for friends of friends coming to visit. So I thought I should write a blog post with the various emails I had sent. However  I have been procrastinating over this post for weeks because every time I work on it, I think, “now I should just visit a few more places” and then post.

The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

The reality is, when you decide to call a place home, it can sometimes be too easy to slip into a local’s, “I’ll do that later” attitude and forget to play tourist. On the positive side, writing a list like this is a good reminder about all the places I still want to visit and to make time to do so. So Mum’s visit last week was a good excuse to tick a few more of the “must-dos” off my list which means it’s become an even longer and I’ve split it into two parts.

This is by no means a definitive list, in fact, if I ever get to a point where I say I have seen everything there is to see, and done everything there is to do, well, I should just up and find a new place to live. But I doubt that will ever happen because there are always new restaurants to try, new vintages of wine to sample, new shops and new exhibitions. Not to mention the fact that the Barossa is one of those fabulous places that thanks to the vines and fruit and almond trees (think blossoms), actually has seasons that you can see.

Wineries

Of course this is one of the main reasons people come to the Barossa and there are so many options. I have promised myself that in the coming months, I am taking myself of to do more wine tasting so I can expand my list of recommendations. I am no wine expert – so I’m not providing tasting notes – but I’ve included a link for all of them

  • Artisans of Barossa – 7 small winemakers in one of the most picturesque spots looking out over the vines towards Tanunda. Usually great art and jewelry on display, space for kids to run around or play soccer/cricket and the fabulous Harvest Kitchen (which I’ll include in next week’s post on places to eat). You might even get to enjoy a tasting with my husbandIMG_3716
  • Langmeil – great wine, fantastic history and a lovely platter (see my post on a day of wine tasting for more of the history about Langmeil)IMG_0515
  • Peter Lehmann – great tasting room, loads of beautiful space outdoors to enjoy a platter while kids run around and toys inside if the weather isn’t so great
  • Rockford – great wines being made in a winery that looks like it is a museum. Great insight into how wine is made

    Rockford Wines
    Rockford Wines
  • St Hallett – another beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic or a platter – I think they still do a fantastic duck platter
  • Whistler – a great one for families with BBQs, swings etc for kids and you can build your own platter
  • Thorn-Clarke – beautiful property out at Angaston and some great wines
  • Grant Burge – beautiful views up on a hill overlooking the Krondorf area, platters and lovely bubbles

    View from Grant Burge Wines
    View from Grant Burge Wines
  • Jacob’s Creek – a huge tasting room, excellent museum with history about the Barossa and wine making, a restaurant and beautiful outdoor areas. Also the opportunity for tours and cooking classes in the Jacob’s Estate cottages

    Jacob's Creek
    Jacob’s Creek
  • Two Hands – beautiful tasting room and a big focus on Shiraz

    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
  • Seppeltsfield – a huge tasting room with circular tasting benches, the opportunity to try a fortified wine from your birth year, s and beautiful architecture (plus the fantastic Fino restaurant and the Jam Factory – where you can see artists at work)

    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
  • Chateau Tanunda – celebrating 125 years this year, it’s certainly one of the most iconic landmarks in the Barossa Valley
  • Pindarie – won one of the top tourism awards, giant hay bales to climb (which has made it my boys’  favourite winery to visit) and a recently renovated tasting room. Great wine (especially the 2015 Riesling) and one of the most fantastic views out over the Barossa. The food is also great – we had a saltbush lamb pie and one of the best platters I’ve had in the Barossa in the time we have been here when we visited with Mum recently.
    Lunch at Pindaric
    Lunch at Pindaric

    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
  • Home of the Brave/First Drop wines – finally visited with Mum last week. Wines we had with our incredible tapas lunch were great so must get back for a tasting soon.

    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
  • Yalumba – one of the oldest family owned wineries in Australia and a beautiful property with it’s iconic clock tower.

    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival
    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival

Places I’m off to visit soon

  • Yelland and Papps – run by Michael and Susan Papps who are lovely people (which makes it even worse that I haven’t visited). First generation winemakers making great wine and with a tasting room that always gets rave reviews
  • Tscharkes
  • Turkey Flat – visited years ago, drive past on a weekly basis – must make time to stop!
  • Elderton
  • Taste Eden Valley – a tasting room in Angaston showcasing around 12 Eden Valley producers

This is just a tiny selection of the 170 wine companies in the Barossa. More details and a history of wine making in the Barossa, check out the Barossa.com website

Don’t forget, tasting a few wines at a few different places can add up. So unless you can spit like a professional, you’ll need a designated driver or the services of one of the local transport companies. There are lots of options from taxis, to private cars (including beautiful vintage cars), buses and even a three-wheeled motorcycle tour.

However there is much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, you’ll need to book in advance.

Other Things to do

Of course, it’s not all about wine tasting and there are a number of towns throughout the Barossa with great places to eat, beautiful shops, parts, galleries and other sites.

I tend to spend a lot of my time in Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston but there are lots of other great towns to visit including Lyndoch (where we have spied a number of restaurants, a bakery and most importantly a park for the kids), Eden Valley, Kapunda, Springton and Williamstown (close to the Whispering Wall)

The Whispering Wall
The Whispering Wall

And while we’re on parks, favourites in our family include the Sculpture Park at the Mengler’s Hill lookout, Tanunda Oval, Angaston and the train park at Nuriootpa.

Mongrel's Hill and the Sculpture Park - great views out over Tanunda
Mongrel’s Hill and the Sculpture Park – great views out over Tanunda

There are also loads of great antique and second-hand stores full of furniture, home wares and other curios that provide a fantastic insight into the history of the Barossa.

Finally, the Barossa is a fabulous place to just walk or drive around. This place is a photographer’s dream, especially if you love landscapes dotted with old stone churches, farmhouses and the ever-changing colours of vineyards and paddocks.

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As I said at the outset, this is just a sample of the things we have enjoyed or have on our wish list to explore in the coming months.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources here (and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

If you’ve been to the Barossa (or live here), I’d love to hear your tips for wineries I might have missed.

I’ll try share and my list of favourite places for lunches, dinners, food and coffee soon, so be sure to tweet or email if there are places I should include.

A day of wine tasting in the Barossa

Two Hands Wines
Two Hands Wines

One of the advantages of not having a full-time job is being able to make the most of the opportunities when they come along. So when the opportunity arose to help a friend out by playing chauffeur last week, I jumped at the chance. The guest was Kamal Malik, the Head Sommelier from the Conrad Resort in the Maldives. Kamal was in Australia as the guest of Teusner Wines, as he was the winner of the Hilton Hotel Group’s South East Asia Sommelier Cup, which Teusner had sponsored. I met Kamal on his last day in the Barossa, picking him up in one of the big black Teusner utes (a definite highlight for this city girl who has only recently moved to the country). On the way to our first stop, I learned that Kamal had started in hospitality and after being assigned to the bar in the hotel he was working, decided that wine was more interesting than cocktails and decided to make a career of it. After several years in India, he moved to the Maldives where he has been for about 9 years, the last 4 with the Hilton.

The bakehouse
The bakehouse

Our first stop was Two Hands Wines in Marananga, one the prettiest villages in the Barossa. We were met by Daniel Hill, who recently joined the Two Hands marketing team. Daniel showed us around the winery before taking us up to the old bake house for a private tasting. The cellar door is in a beautiful old farmhouse and the bake house was apparently where the locals all came to bake their bread. The bake house also has a glass floor so you can look down into the cellar of back vintages below. Being the designated driver, I enjoyed a coffee while Kamal tasted, although I did taste a couple of the Flagship wines as I figured this was a special opportunity. While Shiraz is definitely the focus (including single region wines from six different regions and single vineyard wines), we were able to try a yet to be released white from the Flagship series as well as a Rare Muscat in one of the coolest bottles I have seen.

A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands

After Two Hands, we drove over to Langmeil, which is literally around the corner from home and was the first Barossa winery I visited on my first visit to the Barossa in 2007. We met Cellar Door manager Jonathan for a tour around part of the vineyard. We started in the blacksmiths forge and I learned that my street is named Christian Auricht. He was a blacksmith and founded the village of Langmeil in 1842. The other old buildings on the property were home to the butcher, baker and cobblers shop and I learned that Langmeil Road was actually the main street. The original “Freedom” vines were planted in 1843, and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving Shiraz vineyards in the world.

Kamal in the old blacksmith's forge
Kamal in the old blacksmith’s forge
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil

I was also excited to hear about the Orphan Bank vineyard. Vines planted in 1860 were transplanted from what is now the Langmeil housing estate (where I live) in 2006 and replanted on the Langmeil site. We were also lucky to see the new underground cellar being built in the old water tank. A local carpenter has built a beautiful circular rack around the walls and the wheel from an old machine for crushing grapes has been transformed into a stunning light fitting.

Underground cellar at Langmeil
Underground cellar at Langmeil

After our tour and history lesson, we escaped into the warmth of the cellar door for a platter of Barossa produce (including mettwurst from Steinys and cheese from the Barossa Cheese Company ) and a tasting. While Kamal was taken through an extensive tasting, I limited myself a taste of the Sparkling Shiraz (such a Barossa specialty and often referred to as Barossa Berocca), and the Valley Floor, Orphan Bank and Freedom Shiraz. The history buff in me loved that I was trying wines from such old vines, and while they don’t necessarily make better wines, the history behind them does make them very special.

A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil
A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil

Our final stop was Rockford Wines. I have driven past several times, but hadn’t been in to visit. We were met by Operations Manager David who gave us a brief history of Rockford as we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine in the courtyard.

Courtyard at Rockford Wines
Courtyard at Rockford Wines

In 1971, winemaker Robert O’Callaghan purchased the property and set about collecting various bits of machinery and old granite tanks and set up a winery that David told us was described by a journalist at the time as “a new 100-year-old winery”. It really did look like a museum, with a small window that grapes are hand loaded in through, the old crusher (the wheel of which was the same as the one now part of the light fitting at Langmeil), granite tanks and the iconic basket presses. All the reds are made on-site and I am definitely going to visit next year during vintage. There were so many great stories and things to see – from the new basket presses made by a customer who became a friend that are now exported around the world, to the very old solera storing fortified wine and the impressive barrel stacks.

Basket press at Rockford
Basket press at Rockford
The crusher at Rockford - with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil
The crusher at Rockford – with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil

After soaking in the history and stories, we went up to the Stonewall Tasting Room. Being the last stop for the day, I tasted more than I had at Two Hands and Langmeil, but I did work on the art of elegantly spitting. I tasted my first 2015 Vintage – the White Frontignac that had been released that day. I really enjoyed it, probably as it was quite light and zippy and at about 8.5 per cent, I could see it becoming a summer favourite. The Riesling and Semillon were also great and it was interesting to try the Alicante Bouchet – which looks like a rosé but is actually a red-fleshed grape. The Sparkling Shiraz was the first Rockford wine I had tried on my first visit to Adelaide in 2000, so of course I had to taste, and I would have to agree with it being seen as one of the benchmark wines of its type in the region. A tasting at Rockford wouldn’t be complete without tasting the Basket Press Shiraz, which was very enjoyable too. Finally, after managing to taste and spit without embarrassing myself, we finished with the 2005 Shiraz VP, a fortified wine that is made from a friend’s family vineyard before we farewelled Kamal who headed off to Adelaide, while I returned the ute back to Teusner.

Rockford's Black Shiraz
Rockford’s Black Shiraz
2015 White Frontignac - my first 2015 vintage wine
2015 White Frontignac – my first 2015 vintage wine

It’s probably fairly obvious that I am no expert when it comes to wine – I can pick varieties, I can usually pick a couple of key flavours and I can tell if a wine is from an older vintage, but mostly, I either like it or not. I think the thing I enjoy most about wine tasting is the stories behind the wine. Apart from having the chance to taste some pretty special wine, I really enjoyed seeing the diversity in the wine industry in the Barossa. There is such a range of wineries – from large-scale big name brands to small batch producers, wineries with long histories and new players – and something I realised was that they are all important and all have a role to play in ensuring the longevity of the industry and the region. The other thing I have come to appreciate the longer I am here is the importance of the grower. I think before I moved here, I thought of most wineries owning and working their own vineyards, but the reality is, the region is made up of hundreds of growers and vineyards, many of which have been in the same family for generations. In some ways, they are the unsung heroes, perhaps overshadowed (at least in the average wine drinker’s mind) by the brands and big name wine makers. One of the great things about living here has been meeting the grape growers and seeing that at least in this part of the world, they aren’t just faceless or nameless farmers but an integral part of the winemaking life of the Barossa.

With a husband that works at a tasting room (Artisans of Barossa, which is a group of 7 like-minded wineries, including Teusner), we probably haven’t done as much wine tasting here as I would like. So after my day out with Kamal, I’m going to aim to go and visit a new spot every couple of weeks, if only just to learn more about the history of the Barossa and the importance of winemaking to the region.

View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa
View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa

I’ve included a link to all the wineries we visited in the blog, but you can also visit Barossa.com or Barossa Dirt to learn more about wine in the Barossa.

Barossa Vintage Festival 2015

Life has been pretty busy lately as I launch my consulting business, family visiting, school holidays and the Barossa Vintage Festival.

Launch of the Barossa Vintage Festival 2015 at the Festival Hub, Visitor Information Centre, April 14 2015
Launch of the Barossa Vintage Festival 2015 at the Festival Hub, Visitor Information Centre, April 14 2015

I heard about the festival soon after moving here and decided it would be a good way to learn more about the Barossa and to meet people. I also figured I should put my events experience and arts and entertainment management studies to good use. It is the largest and longest running wine tourism event in Australia and sees the Barossa community come together to celebrate the end of grape harvest and vintage. The festival was first held in 1947 with a parade and a ball, which 2000 people attended. It has been held every 2 years since, apart from in 1952 when it was canceled due to a period of national mourning following the death of King George VI.

The Orlando Barrel float was made for the very first parade in 1948
The Orlando Barrel float was made for the very first parade and was restored for the parade this year

In 2014, the concept for the festival was revitalised, with experienced events producer Andrew Dundon being brought in to oversee the 95 events organised over 5 days. Many of these events were free and most were organised by local businesses and groups, with the festival committee and sub-committees volunteers taking responsibility for the Ziegenmarkt, the Feast, the Parade and Barossa Comes Home. A key element of the festival is the Young Ambassadors program, which was established in 1999 and involves 12 young adults who host and promote the Barossa and the Vintage Festival. They sit on the event sub-committees as a means of developing a range of skills. The winners were announced during the Barossa Comes Home event and it was great to see one of the Young Ambassadors I worked with on the parade Dana Roocke, winning the Barossa Young Excellence award while Chloe Thomas was awarded Barossa Young Ambassador and Laura Romeo won for having the best personal project. It was great to be a part of the Parade sub-committee. Putting together Facebook posts for the event – first encouraging people to register their floats and then promoting the parade itself – was a great excuse to explore the archives and learn more about the history of the parade.

Festival Garden at Yalumba, April 15 2015
Festival Garden at Yalumba, April 15 2015

It was great to have my sister, my brother-in-law and their two girls join us from Sydney for the festival. We started on Wednesday – which was an amazing autumn day – visiting the Festival Garden at Yalumba. I hadn’t been back to Yalumba since moving to the Barossa but it was the first winery I visited in the Barossa when I escorted the Vice Mayor of Wuxi, China around Australia during my first year at Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1999. We spent a lovely day on the lawns enjoying great food from Saskia Beer, empanadas from our friend (and former Masterchef Contestant) Colin Shepherd and his wife Fiona, raspberry sundaes and wine from Yalumba. The kids enjoyed the first of many ice creams from Barossa Valley Ice Cream – which was definitely the highlight of each event (thanks Julie)!

Ziegenmarkt, Goat Square Tanunda April 16, 2015
Ziegenmarkt, Goat Square Tanunda April 16, 2015

The weather turned on Thursday but that didn’t stop us from visiting the Ziegenmarkt. Ziegenmarkt (goat market) was a fresh produce and livestock market in Tanunda from the mid-1800s. Since 1981, it has been a part of the Vintage festival. The auction of local produce was a highlight (and raised money for charity), along with great potato pancakes from the Tanunda AFL Club, coffees from Barossa Coffee Roasters and pastries from Apex Bakery. The kids were kept entertained with games and meeting animals including goats, a horse, a pig, chickens, and guinea pigs.

Livestock and produce auction for charity at the Ziegenmarkt
Livestock and produce auction for charity at the Ziegenmarkt

Friday may have been wet, but that didn’t stop over 1000 people heading to Seppeltsfield for the Let’s Fly a Kite event, put on by one of the local schools. Unfortunately by the time we arrived they had sold out of over 400 kites, but we enjoyed a wander through some lovely markets, amused the kids with bubbles and stuffed ourselves with freshly made donuts, sausages on buns and pancakes (in that order) and of course coffee! On Friday night, we left the small ones at home with the babysitter and walked over to the Tanunda Show Hall to join 700 of our closest friends for the Feast. After drinks outside (in our BYO op-shop glasses as is tradition here), we made our way into the hall, which had been transformed with long tables and a huge feast of great Barossan food and wine. We were entertained by comedian Damien Callinan as MC, the Lucky 7 Swing band, dancers (and lots of dancing) and photo booth fun before walking back home in the early hours.

Glasses for the Feast
Glasses for the Feast
The Feast
The Feast

Waking up at 6am was a bit of a shock, but I had to be at Nuriootpa for parade set-up at 7am. Floats slowly arrived and started to set-up while I stood on the main street directing traffic around the road closures (thank goodness for the map our parade convenor Kat had prepared).

Traffic marshal selfie at the start of the Vintage festival parade, April 18, 2015
Traffic marshal selfie at the start of the Vintage festival parade, April 18, 2015

This meant I had a prime position to take photos of all 52 float entrants (some with multiple vehicles and usually with a group walking alongside) as they started the long walk/drive to Tanunda. At 7km, the parade is apparently the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, which involves quite a bit of logistical planning to manage road closures along the way and wouldn’t be possible with the many volunteer traffic marshals who turned up on the day. At least it was probably a lot easier to organise than the longest parade in the world which is the Hanover Schützenfest parade, which is 12 kilometres long and has more than 12,000 participants including more than 100 bands and around 70 floats and carriages.

Vintage SA Police car leading the parade
Vintage SA Police car leading the parade
The Young Ambassador's Float
The Young Ambassador’s Float
The Vintage
The Vintage “Queens” – winners of the People’s Choice Award
Best Musical Float - the Nine Popes from Charles Melton Wines
Best Musical Float – the Nine Popes from Charles Melton Wines
Vintage Steam Tractor - winner of the Best Vintage Vehicle
Vintage Steam Tractor – winner of the Best Vintage Vehicle

As soon as the last float left, I drove back home to collect the family so we could be in place as the floats arrived at the end of the parade in Tanunda. Standing on the street elicited the usual “I’m bored” complaints – until the parade started. The kids loved it and my almost 2 year-old niece was very cute laughing and clapping for them all. There were so many great floats as you’ll see below.

Impressed these guys rolled the barrels the whole 7km
Impressed these guys rolled the barrels the whole 7km

We all then headed off to the Oval for the Barossa Comes Home event, during which the winners of the Scarecrow exhibition, the Young Ambassadors and various parade categories were announced. The kids finally had the chance to go on a jumping castle, there was more ice cream for them and more wine and sausages for us. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as kind as it could have been but it was great to see so many families out enjoying the food, drinks and space to run around. Although we only attended a handful of the events on offer, we had a great time, and it was exciting to learn that most events were well attended and many were sold out. It’s very easy to see why the Vintage Festival holds such an important place in the tourism calendar for the Barossa and I am definitely looking forward to being involved again in 2017.

Clare Valley Day Trip

We decided to make the most of the beautiful weather on the last day of the last school holidays and head up to the Clare Valley for the day. My husband was also keen to use his day off from pouring wine to do some tasting.

One of the advantages of the Barossa is its proximity to several great day trips being only an hour away to Clare, Adelaide or the Adelaide Hills.

Clare Valley countryside
Clare Valley countryside

Our first stop was O’Leary Walker, which we’d visited on our last trip to Clare back in 2007. Back then they were still doing tastings in the large shed, so we were excited to see the beautiful new cellar door. It was a good start for all when pens and paper were offered to the boys who could sit at a low table close to the tasting bench. They soon decided that running outside under the sprinklers was more fun, but either way they were amused for long enough for us to taste some really great wine. The riesling was as good as I’d remembered as it was interesting to taste new release 2014, 2013 and 2008 wines.

Tasting wine at O'Leary Walker
Tasting wine at O’Leary Walker
View from the cellar door at O'Leary Walker
View from the cellar door at O’Leary Walker

Next stop was Crabtree Wines which is one of the prettiest cellar doors I’ve visited, and had a great set up with individual tasting “stations” atop barrels with the cellar door person moving between groups. A beautiful cellar door dog, a Whippet named Tiger kept the boys happy along with some chocolate from the lady running the tastings. As expected, the riesling was good and we also came home with some nice clean skins.

Cellar door at Crabtree Wines
Cellar door at Crabtree Wines

Lunch was our next stop and we all had great meals at the Seven Hill Hotel. Great service, tasty kids meals, a cellar to view (where you can select wines to open there or take away), wines by the glass and great service made it somewhere we’d happily return to.

After lunch we drove further on to visit Knappstein, a beautiful cellar door and brewery. Apart from the rieslings, the standout for me was the 2008 sparkling shiraz (which kicks off our collection for Christmas lunch). The beer was also really nice – but I think part of that was my excitement of having an ice cold beer fresh from the tap, rather than a bottle or the warm beer I was used to in Hanoi. We also brought some beer home with it and I am happy to report it was just as good from the bottle!

Knappstein cellar door and brewery
Knappstein cellar door and brewery

After a quick detour to a great shaded playground, we visited Mr Mick. I love the story behind this. Veteran Clare Valley winemaker Tim Adams took on the old Leasingham site on the edge of Clare, and renamed it Mr Mick in honour of his mentor Mick Knappstein.  I really enjoyed the Rose and the tapas menu looked great, so I think we’ll be going back there in the future.

Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen
Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen

Finally, on our way home we stopped in to the Clare Valley Brewing Company were we tasted a few beers and the Good Catholic Girl Riesling, which I’d actually had in Wollongong on my 40th. I’m not sure how I feel paying to taste, but the beer was nice, and we brought home a 6 pack of the Red Ale. I also liked the Miss Molly cider which I was surprised to find out was made with grapes. I was curious how it was then cider and not wine but the brewing technique and the alcohol content for the cider is much lower than for wine.

Clare Valley Brewing Company
Clare Valley Brewing Company

All in all it was a nice day out, and while the boys got a bit bored at the end, most places had somewhere they could either sit to draw or play on the ipad or they could run around outside. There is definitely a lot more we would like to explore in the area, including a few cellar doors that are only open at weekends, so I think it will be a regular day trip for us and probably something we’ll do with family and friends come to visit.

Have you been to the Clare Valley? Any tips for our next visit?