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Epic Aussie Road Trip Part 6: McLaren Vale and Adelaide

November 7, 2010

McLaren Vale vineyards

While we didn’t see a single kangaroo on Kangaroo Island, as soon as we were on the road from Cape Jervis (where the ferry from K.I. lets off) to McLaren Vale they seemed to be everywhere. In the hour-long drive I spotted eight kangaroos on the side of the road (alive!), including two that were actually standing straight up and fighting with each other! That was very cool to see.

The next morning we set off on our tour of the wineries of McLaren Vale. After a quick stop at the Visitor Centre, we headed off to our first stop: d’Arenberg. This was tied for our favorite winery in McLaren Vale. We had seen these wines before, as the label has a distinct red slash across it that we immediately recognized. (In fact, I think we may have had it before, possibly when Dad was visiting.)

d'Arenberg's The Love Grass Shiraz

Another notable thing about the winery is how it names its wines. All the wines have funky names, like Dead Arm Shiraz. In fact, we couldn’t help but splurge on The Love Grass Shiraz, a cellar door exclusive that was just too delicious to pass up. We really enjoyed most of the wines we tried at d’Arenberg (the hardest part was choosing which ones to try, there were so many available for tasting, including their “$60 icon” premium wines!), and I would highly recommend it.

Our next stop was, incidentally, our other favorite winery. I’m not sure if that’s coincidence or if we just got burnt out on tasting wines (though I really think we just did happen to visit the two best first!). There’s nothing bad I can say about Coriole Winery (except maybe that I wish they were cheaper — we felt terrible that couldn’t afford to buy anything after splurging $25 at d’Arenberg!). The sommelier working was absolutely wonderful. We had a great time just chatting with him and he was very helpful with the tasting. We tried two sangioveses right off the bat, the regular and the premium, and there were both absolutely amazing. Because we liked them so much, he let us try a nebbiola (something I’d never tried before) that wasn’t actually on the tasting list, and I pretty much fell in love with that wine, it was so delicious! We also tried a couple kinds of shiraz that were also wonderful. We would have loved to buy bottles and bottles of the sangiovese and nebbiola, but at $35 a bottle we really couldn’t. But if once we’re working again we ever spot a Coriole wine in the bottle shop I can guarantee we will choose it over almost anything else!

Oscar at Wirra Wirra winery

After that we decided to stop off at wine giant Rosemount since it was on the way and we have a kind of fake hatred for them (not really, more just a joke with Dad!) so we jokingly decided to go in and just try their most expensive wines. Oscar tried a tawny port (because it was the priciest thing available) and actually liked it, though I passed on that.

We were moving pretty quickly through the wineries so we stopped for a quick sandwich before heading to Chapel Hill Winery. The setting was beautiful (well really all the wineries were in gorgeous settings, with beautiful gardens and endless vineyards surrounding them), and it was based in an old chapel. We weren’t overly impressed by the wines, though, and were really feeling hungry and wined out since we hadn’t had anything but small sandwiches all day. So we decided it was best to head back into town and grab lunch.

A splurge of burger and fries later, we were ready to tackle a couple more wineries (though admittedly a bit half-heartedly, at least on my part). I was pretty tired, and I think it was a little more exhausting that everywhere we went we were always the only people there (it was a Monday so I guess it just wasn’t very busy) so we always felt we had to carry on a conversation with the tasters and everything. And they seemed to pour us bigger portions so that by the last couple wineries I could only take a sip or two of each wine and then pour the rest in the spittoon — I was wined out!

Adelaide Botannic Gardens

Our last two wineries were Wirra Wirra and Woodstock Wine Estate. They both seemed very nice (and empty), but we didn’t spend very long in either of them (especially compared with the first two we went to). Wirra Wirra had a huge sculpture of a wine bottle made entirely out of corks which was pretty cool. Woodstock had a wildlife sanctuary but there didn’t seem to be any way into it and there was nothing to be seen through the fence, so it wasn’t really much of a bonus.

We had a really great day, though, and I was happy to go back to the caravan park and take a nap after that! The weather was beautiful all day, very sunny and warm. And I think it also just felt nice dressing up a bit after weeks in the same old grungy clothes!

The next morning we took off toward Adelaide, which is a nice and short forty minute drive from McLaren Vale. We left the van in a caravan park really close to the city and were able to take some time off from our little campervan and do some walking! We walked through the Botanic Gardens into the city and pretty much just wandered around. It was nice being back in civilization again, just seeing normal stores and recognizable restaurants. And so many people. For the past week its been almost like no one else exists — we’re always the only people everywhere we go. We tried to soak up as much city-ness as we could, since once we leave Adelaide we will be in nowheresville for quite a while crossing the Nullarbor.

Penfolds Winery

We also visited the Haighs Chocolate Factory and Penfolds Winery (the most famous premium Australian wine brand, with certain bottles of its Grange going for thousands of dollars). We tried some nice wines at the cellar door and splurged on another cellar door exclusive that was too good and inexpensive to pass up. After that we had a bit of an experience driving all over the city trying to find a Pizza Hut (we had a good coupon and were thinking it might be nice to have a pizza before we leave civilization again). Unfortunately the GPS kept taking us to Pizza Huts that no longer existed (if they ever did), so we gave up and decided to just head off and begin our long journey across the middle of Australia.

This is part 6 of a 12 part series. Read the rest of the Epic Aussie Road Trip series or watch the video to drive across Australia in 2 minutes.

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