Foodies from all across Australia agree that visiting a wine area is the best way to spend a weekend. Cellar doors have a plethora of treats to offer, and their proximity to farms ensures the freshest ingredients to match your drink.
The Clare Valley in South Australia is one such destination, known for its wine, gastronomy, and breathtaking scenery. The ideal storm of red and white beauty is created by rich red soil, an undulating valley with varied microclimates, and chilly, dry seasons. And, in collaboration with southaustralia.com, we’ve put together this thorough guide to the legendary wine area — from some of Australia’s best riesling to outstanding cabernet sauvignon and Shiraz, there’s something here for any wine lover’s palette.
The Clare Valley is only a couple of hours from Adelaide, and you can almost taste it as soon as you step off the plane. Immerse yourself in the Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast if you have the time. Explore the Adelaide CBD, where you’ll find dozens of underground bars and rooftops adorned with fairy lights.
We recommend strengthening your stomach in the weeks leading up to your Clare Valley weekend because you’ll want to eat a lot. Every turn in the route leads to an award-winning destination, but we recommend starting with a trip to Skillogalee and its winery restaurant. The lunch menu is full of unusual combinations (try the wallaby shank if you’re feeling brave), or bring a picnic basket full of local produce and explore the grounds.
Seed, a modern wine bar and restaurant set in a wonderfully renovated ancient building on Main North Road, should be next on your list of must-eats. The comfortable and stylish setting, with exposed stone, wood, and a blazing fire, invites you to snuggle in with a buttered rum or a glass of the Valley’s finest red. The cuisine is hearty and modern, including a vegetarian component, and everything is served on house-made ciabatta.
If you haven’t yet fallen into a puddle of hedonistic excess, head to Terroir Auburn, a restaurant in Auburn that mixes ethical produce with old-school service. Terrior’s airy decor is balanced by the warmth of its timber décor and welcoming personnel. Pick their brains for the best food and wine pairings. The menu is short and meat-heavy, but the cuisine is well presented and delivered liberally.
Finally, Bush Devine, located in the Paulett Wines Cellar Door in Polish Hill River, is an unforgettable experience – and we don’t say that lightly. Bush Devine is an Indigenous Australian bush cuisine restaurant with a bush food garden where the food you’ll eat is grown. Before you sit down to eat, feel free to wander about the garden. Wattleseed gnocchi with a smoked kangaroo, fennel, green olives, peas, and sage cream is a must-try. The share plates are also a terrific opportunity to sample everything on offer.
If you thought choosing a restaurant was difficult, wait till you try choosing a winery. To see everything the Clare Valley has to offer would take a lifetime, but since we only have a weekend, let’s focus on the best of the finest. The Clare Valley Brewing Co. is a great place to start your weekend with a beer. “I didn’t come to a famous Riesling wine region to drink beer!” you might argue, but believe us when we say you’ll kick yourself if you miss the CVBC. The brewery itself is stunning, with amazing vistas to enjoy while sampling their award-winning brews.
When you’re ready to go on to the main event (wine), head over to Sevenhill Cellars, Clare Valley’s first winery, after sampling a variety of wines at the cellar door, take a tour of the beautiful sandstone underground basement, which houses all of the fortified wines.
Mr. Mick’s Cellar Door is the next item on the agenda. Even just visiting Mr. Mick to see the grounds and venue is worthwhile. Try a glass of the Novo Sangiovese while you’re there, ooohing at sights straight out of Hobbiton and ahhing at the lovely cellar door decor. It has earned them awards.
Kilikanoon is next on the list, and it’s won more honors than you can throw a stick at, including winery of the year and finest Shiraz, to name a few. The vineyard is a gorgeous site with lush green rolling hills and a cellar door situated in a stone farmhouse surrounded by cottage gardens, fruit orchards, and tall trees. We recommend pairing your tasting experience with cheese or producing the board to get into the festive spirit.
Jim Barry, the renowned Riesling producer, is the final must-see. The Barry family owns and operates the winery (which is only a five-minute drive from Clare and easily accessible via the Riesling Trail), so you can meet the winemakers up close and personal. You’ll want to taste the riesling at the cellar entrance, but we also recommend trying some reds – the Shiraz will wonderfully finish your journey.
In between wine tastings and feasts, the Clare Valley has a variety of healthy activities to offer. Cycling the Riesling Trail is the most obvious (and it fits in nicely with the wine and food theme). There’s a 32-kilometer bike path between Auburn and Clare that takes you past the best riesling vineyards. The route will take a few days to complete if you do it right and visit all of the greatest wineries. You can either rent a bike and ride the course on your own or join a Trip de Vines all-inclusive tour.
We can’t pass up the Mintaro Maze since we’re still kids at heart. It takes 800 conifers to produce one magnificent maze that will keep you roaming for at least a few hours, if not hours. After you’ve finished the maze, grab a picnic and stroll around the grounds. Also, keep an eye out for the massive chessboard.
You’ll need a comfortable bed to recover in after a day of eating, drinking, riding, and getting lost in the maze shenanigans. Fortunately, the Valley is brimming with charming lodging alternatives to fit any budget. The Mill Apartments in Clare are modern, clean, and central if you wish to stay in town.
Neagles Retreat Villas in Emu Flats is not to be missed if you’re searching for a more isolated vacation. They’re right on the Riesling Trail and close to five major wineries, including Jim Barry, making it simple to coordinate your winery visits.
And if you want to rough it but not really, Bukirk Glamping in Stanley Flat can provide you with a fully equipped tent (complete with all the modern conveniences and a woodfire) that will allow you to rise with the dawn and greet the day in the middle of nature.