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Food

The taste of the Adelaide Hills

We traipsed around the Adelaide Hills to discover the most divine food offerings in this picturesque wine region.

Just 20 minutes drive from the centre of Adelaide you find yourself in the Adelaide Hills. The ascent from the city is 700 metres, making this a cool climate wine region boasting a range of award-winning wines such as Pinot NoirChardonnay and Sparkling, as well as elegant Shiraz, while it is arguably the home of Australian Sauvignon Blanc.

Alongside impressive wines, the Adelaide Hills has an array of sumptuous dining offerings. Here are some of the highlights recommended to me by locals during a recent trip to the region.

CRAFERS

Crafers Hotel one of the best in the Adelaide Hills

The first village you come to in the Hills along the M1 from Adelaide is Crafers, and it is where you'll find the recently renovated Crafers Hotel. Retaining the 1830s heritage of the original structure, it offers a pub feel with a contemporary dining experience with dishes like beouf bourguignon and duck confit sitting alongside gourmet burgers. There's a range of craft beers on tap, but it is the wine list, or more appropriately, the wine cellar, that is something to truly behold. With an extensive range of local wines and South Australian gems, there's also some hard-to-find wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. With boutique accommodation on site, you could be excused if you called in for lunch, but ended staying for the night.

Crafers Hotel, 8 Main st, Crafers.

Hardys Verandah Adelaide Hills Restaurant

Just up Mount Lofty Summit Road, is Mount Lofty House and the serious new addition to the Hills dining scene - Hardy's Verandah. A recent renovation has seen the long closed-in verandah opened up to become an exquisite dining space with breath-taking views across the Piccadilly Valley. The degustation menu from chef Wayne Brown is edgy and bold with a Japanese focus to local produce and a scintillating wine list curated by sommelier Patrick White.

Hardy's Verandah 74 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers.

SUMMERTOWN AND URAIDLA

Follow Mount Lofty Summit Road and just a few enjoyable twists and turns up the hill you'll find yourself a culinary world away from Crafers at the Summertown Aristologist. This much-talked about venue is the collaboration of Aaron Fenwick, the former general manager at Restaurant Orana and winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commone of Buttons). Housed in a former butcher shop, the vibe embodies a communal epicurean feel. Produce is sought from the kitchen garden or the community of farmers, while artisan bread is baked on premise. There is no set menu as the chef of the day chooses from what's available, but think grazing plates such as buckwheat, kombu and beets or artichoke, whey and ricotta matched with natural wines sourced primarily from the nearby Basket Range sub-region. Friday, Saturday and Sundays for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Summertown Aristologist, 1097 Greenhill road, Summertown.

Taras Ochota Lost in a Forest Adelaide HillsKeep the communal vibe going and follow Greenhill Road down into Uraidla, where winemaker of the moment, Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels, has teamed up with a couple of mates to open Lost in a Forest - a wood oven/wine lounge in the beautifully remodelled St Stephens Anglican Church. Marco Pierre White called these 'the best pizzas he's ever eaten' courtesy of chef Nick Filsell's intriguing offerings such as cider braised pulled pork pizza with pickled vegetables, mozzarella and pork crackle, topped with housemade sriracha mayo. The bar features wines from nine Basket Range producers, as well as a range of exotic spirits.

Lost in a Forest, 1203 Greenhill Rd, Uraidla.

STIRLING

If in Crafers you decided to get back on the M1 further into the Hills just a few minutes' drive you'll see the turn off for the impossibly beautiful town of Stirling. Its tree-lined main street features boutique shops and a number of cool eateries including The Locavore. As the name suggests, this intimate venue adheres to the 100 mile rule with all produce and wine sourced locally and used thoughtfully in Modern Australian tapas style offerings.

The Locavore, 49 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling.

Just down the road is the Stirling Hotel, a beautifully renovated pub with a fine dining bistro, grill and pizza bar. Not quite the level of a gastro pub, the food is wholesome and hearty with a substantial wine list. But the highlight is its Cellar & Patisserie. Located in separate premises behind the hotel, it serves a range of mouth-watering pastries, pies and breads and coffee from five different roasters.

Stirling Hotel, 52 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling.

BRIDGEWATER

Historic Bridgewater Mill

Just a few clicks up the M1 from Stirling (or along the more scenic route through Aldgate) you'll find an icon of the Adelaide Hills dining scene, the Bridgewater Mill. The former 1860s flour mill was turned into a fine dining restaurant in 1986 by wine industry legends Brian Croser and Len Evans. A few years ago, Seppeltsfield's Warren Randall bought the venue and gave it a major overhaul including a new wine bar and extending the outdoor deck. Local Hills chef Zac Ronayne delivers delicious seasonal offerings enjoyed by the fire in winter, or on the deck overlooking the huge working wheel in the summer.

Bridgewater Mill, 386 Mount Barker Rd, Bridgewater.

HAHNDORF

Seasonal Garden Cafe Hahndorf

The main strip of the historic village of Hahndorf is very touristy and you can find any number of German-inspired pubs where you can eat your weight in bratwurst, but there are two gems in Main Road as well. The Seasonal Garden Café celebrates local produce delivered as delicious wholesome meals such as salads, slow-roasted lamb as well as vegetarian options. Be sure to check out the delightful and relaxing kitchen garden out the back.

Seasonal Garden Cafe, 79 Main Rd, Hahndorf

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Chocolate @ Number 5. Famed for its waffles and exotic hot chocolates, there's also a range of decadent desserts, chocolate truffles and pralines and coffee sourced from a small batch roastery.

Chocolate @ Number 5, 5 Main Rd, Hahndorf.

The Laney Vineyard Restaurant Hahndorf

Pay a visit to the iconic Beerenberg farm shop before taking the Balhannah Road north to the The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, where you are greeted with sweeping views across the region. Chef James Brinklow has created delicious seasonal recipes and also offers the Lane Kitchen's Chef's Table experience - scores of dishes matched with wine across an indulgent three hour sitting.

The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, 5 Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf.

WOODSIDE

Woodside Cheese wrights woodside

Woodside Cheese features on many menus around the Hills. Being so close, take the Onkaparinga Valley Road and see artisan cheesemaker Kris Lloyd, winner of over 100 awards, including a Super Gold at the 2016 World Cheese Awards for her Anthill - a fresh goat cheese encrusted with green ants - she's been experimenting with a variation that includes lemon myrtle, as well as doing the country's first raw milk cheese. An innovator in the industry, she is a must-visit in the Adelaide Hills.

Woodside Cheese Wrights, 22 Henry St, Woodside.

Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Restaurant

A bit further along Onkaparinga Valley Road you'll find Bird in Hand winery. Everything about this place is impressive. Picturesque vineyards, incredible artwork and a top class restaurant, The Gallery. Carlos Astudillo has recently taken over as Chef de Cuisine and has introduced a farm-to-table rotation of dishes with produce sourced directly from local growers and Bird in Hand's kitchen garden. Open every day for lunch, take on one of the two lunchtime dining experiences, Signature Flight, a share-style menu or the more immersive Joy Flight - an exciting seasonal culinary journey that unfolds over three delectable hours, best enjoyed with matching Bird in Hand wines, of course.

The Gallery, Corner of Bird in Hand & Pfeiffer Roads, Woodside.

Another winery with a stellar restaurant is Howard Vineyard just 10 minutes drive back up the hill to Narnie. MasterChef alumni Heather Day has taken over the reins at the recently renovated Clover Restaurant and she's serving up some of the exotic, fresh flavours of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. The venue hosts acoustic Sunday Sessions and the lush green lawn outside the cellar door is the perfect spot to soak up some cool musical vibes and feast on Heather's delicious Asian dishes.

Clover Restaurant, Howard Vineyard 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne.

VERDUN

If you follow the signs from Woodside 
back to Adelaide, you'll pass through Verdun, where there are three final additions to your Hills culinary journey.

The Stanley Bridge Hotel is still an 'old school' pub, with a 1970s carpet and undulating floor. And that's its charm. With its cosy inside dining with dishes such as mushroom gnocchi and marinara linguine, it is finding favour with the hip crowds on the weekend who kick on out the back on the petanque rink and frequent the caravan-cum-bar.

Stanley Bridge Tavern 41 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun.

Only a couple of hundred metres up the road is the Walk the Talk Café. Housed in the old Verdun Post Office (locals still pop in to get their mail) chef/caterer Ali Seedsman and her partner Russell Marchant have opened a funky but unpretentious café. Ali's stellar pedigree (Bayswater Brasserie, Bathers Pavilion, Magill Estate) is evident on the menu - simple but sumptuous shared plates and housemade cakes and pastries.

Walk the Talk Café, 25 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun.

Still in Verdun, just before you get back on the M1 back to Adelaide, swing up the hill to Maximilian's, acknowledged as one of the best regional restaurants in the state. Casual shared plates, a la carte and chef's degustation journeys matched with wines from the on-site Sidewood Cellar Door. The venue also offers gorgeous views across the lake and vineyard.

Maximilian's Restaurant 15 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun.

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Wine
Margaret River’s 50th
Words by Danielle Costley on 12 Nov 2017
As WA’s Margaret River wine region celebrates its 50th anniversary, we celebrate the pioneers who brought it all to fruition. A hundred years ago, a couple of Italian immigrants arrived in the south west corner of Western Australia with some cuttings of a little-known grape variety called Fragola. These vines produced the first wines to be sold in Margaret River for the hefty price tag of two shillings a flagon. Fondly dubbed ‘red dynamite’ by the enthusiastic community, this wine was in high demand at the local dance halls where it was sold from the back of a truck. And it was said to pack quite a punch. Times have certainly changed since then and while other growers produced small batches of wines in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until the mid 1960s when agronomist Dr John Gladstones published a report identifying Margaret River’s vast potential for viticulture, that the region, as we know it today, was born.
The Gladstones report attracted the attention of budding vignerons and medical practitioners, Thomas Cullity and Kevin and Diana Cullen. In mid 1966, the Cullens organised a meeting in the Margaret River township of Busselton inviting Dr Gladstones to speak. It was the final push those attending needed. Soon after, the Cullens, in partnership with Tom Cullity, and Geoff and Sue Juniper, planted vines in Wilyabrup, which unfortunately didn’t survive. It was left to Cullity, who in 1967 purchased a mere eight acres of land, to plant Margaret River’s first commercial vines – Cabernet Sauvignon , Shiraz , Malbec and Riesling . He named his venture after French sailor, Thomas Vasse, who had drowned in Geographe Bay. Hoping for better fortunes than the Frenchman, he added the Latin word for happiness – Felix. His first crop, too, was all but a disaster, decimated by birds and succumbing to bunch rot. Undeterred, but determined, Cullity persevered. In 1972, Vasse Felix won a gold medal at the Perth Show for its Riesling. The following year, gold for its Cabernet. Happy days, indeed. The Cullens also persevered. In 1971 they planted vines on their own land where their current vineyard still thrives. At this stage, Moss Wood had been established for two years and within another two years, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, and Woodlands had also been established. In what was a fledgling industry at the time, these founding wineries worked tirelessly to forge the region’s reputation as a premium wine producer. “I pay tribute to the winemakers and grape growers of Margaret River,” says Dr Gladstones, who is still a proud member of the Margaret River community today. “It’s one thing to have an idea and put it forward, it’s another this to be brought to fruition. The work and financial commitment that had to go into it has been a big factor in bringing Margaret River to its present world-class status.”
Left: Bob Hullock. Right: Cullen Wines co-founder Diana Cullen  An American influence While the pioneering wineries may have simply dreamed of making good wine, there was a certain Californian who knew of Margaret River’s enormous potential – Napa Valley wine baron, Robert Mondavi. As the story goes, Mondavi was searching the globe for the next great wine region. His search took him to Margaret River and a patch of land owned by Denis Horgan, a chartered accountant, and his wife Tricia. Today, it is Leeuwin Estate. “Mondavi arrived on our doorstep wanting to buy the place,’ says Denis. “We weren’t the selling type, so he became our mentor in setting up a winery. He and his son and winemaker, Tim, came out on numerous occasions to advise on what varieties we should plant, where to plant them, about oak treatment and so on.” Mondavi’s advice was also greatly accepted by Cullity and Kevin Cullen, who Denis befriended and met up with regularly to discuss all things wine. “You would have sworn you were in a dog fight,” Denis says of the trio’s rendezvous. “They used to swear and curse and talk about one another’s wines, and then we’d all sit down and have lunch like we were the greatest of friends.  “They were fabulous guys. It was the best education I could have had because they didn’t pull any punches. They set out to make wines that ranked with the best in the world, and they damn well did it.” A region evolved
Three generations of Credaros in their Woolston vineyard Fifty years on, Margaret River is indeed a world class wine region. While it only produces three percent of Australia’s wine, it contributes 20 per cent of our premium wine production. It is recognised internationally for exceptional Cabernets and Chardonnays, and also produces a stylish signature blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The handful of wineries have now boomed to over 200 with most of them producing the flagships, while also experimenting with other varietals and blends that suit the Mediterranean climate, cooling sea breezes and rich gravelly soils. In the northern districts lies the family-owned Credaro Wines, where some of the region’s first vines were planted by the pioneering Meleri and Credaro families to produce the ‘red dynamite’. These days, they have over 140 hectares of vines spread across five vineyards and alongside the legendary Fragola, and Chardonnay, Cabernet and SBS, they are doing well with Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Merlot. Thompson Estate is renowned for its Chardonnays and Cabernets, but is also finding favour with its Cabernet Merlot, Malbec and famed Four Chambers Shiraz. The 20-year-old vines are organically grown and produce impressive wines under the watchful eye of Bob Cartwright of Leeuwin Estate acclaim.
Hay Shed Hill, Margaret River At Hay Shed Hill, whose vineyards were first planted in the 1970s, the Block 6 Chardonnay is the star. Dry grown and located on a steep south facing slope, it is lean, light and fresh, but also has “flavour, aroma, body and textural interest,” says winemaker and owner, Michael Kerrigan. In concert with the Block 6, he is also giving plenty of attention to a stunning Cabernet Franc, as well as an intoxicating Shiraz Tempranillo blend. In the cooler, southern parts of the Margaret River, Sauvignon Blanc really finds voice as a single varietal. In close proximity to the Indian Ocean, you will find Redgate Wines, a winery that takes its name from a nearby property that once had a prominent red gate and was known for the production of a rather powerful moonshine. This estate, established by the Ullinger family in 1977, produces a sublime Sauvignon Blanc that is layered with gooseberry and lime. Their Cabernet blends are also beguiling, and they have a Chenin Blanc that is also turning heads. Even further south lies Hamelin Bay Wines, a quaint winery with a simply breathtaking outlook. It produces one of the region’s finest Sauvignon Blancs – fresh, vibrant and tropical, while their Rampant Red, a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet, is winning fans. Something Totally New When Moss Wood winery was sub-divided in 1982, architect Bruce Tomlinson purchased the land and established Lenton Brae winery. Putting his talents to use, he built a striking rammed earth winery and cellar door with two towers that are home to quintet bells from Westminster and chime on the quarter-hour. A few years ago, the Tomlinsons introduced a new varietal to the region, Pinot Blanc. This unassuming grape is a mutation of Pinot Noir, yet genetically similar to Chardonnay. Winemaker, Edward Tomlinson, says he was drawn to the subtle charm of this early ripening variety. “Essentially, it is a Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups,’ he says. “The decision to plant Pinot Blanc was a big call. Having seen my father wrestle with the implications of uprooting two hectares of Pinot Noir in the early days, I was amazed at how supportive he was for me to take a punt on Pinot Blanc.” And these are not the only newcomers to the region. There’s been an influx of plantings of Mediterranean varietals in recent years, with Fiano, Vermentino, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese finding favour amongst the growing band of winemakers. A Fitting Half Century
As the 50th celebrations kick off in earnest, it is heartwarming to see much love given to the traditions of the pioneers. Vasse Felix’ s ‘tractor bucket’ party recreated the spirit of founding producers who celebrated each of those crucial early vintages in style with tractor buckets turned into eskys, filled with ice and wine and enjoyed out amongst the vines, even serving as a bed on some occasions. “Anniversaries such as this are an opportunity to share with the world just how special Margaret River is. It is a wine paradise,” says current Vasse Felix owner, Paul Holmes a Court. The single remaining bottle of the 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec is on display in the Vasse Felix vault and to celebrate the winery’s 50th anniversary, they have released a Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec made from those original vines. I am sure the good doctor would approve. And while he would be astounded to see how big the region has grown, he always knew how good the wines were going to be. “I knew because Mondavi told me so,” says Denis Horgan. “He always said that Margaret River was going to make wines that ranked with the best in the world. It was his catch cry.” The best is still yet to come says Dr Gladstones, who fittingly gets to have the last word. “I strongly believe that we’ve only seen the beginning,” he says. “This region has tremendous natural advantages for grape growing to produce top quality wines. “With its environments, experience and now increasing vine age, Margaret River is undoubtedly ripe to walk with the greatest.”
Wine
Top Adelaide Hills Wineries and Cellar Doors
The stunning Adelaide Hills region sits in the centre of South Australia’s famous wine growing regions, located only a short drive from the city of Adelaide. Famed for its premium cool climate wines, especially its distinct take on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, the Adelaide Hills region is winning awards at a record rate. One of the largest geographic wine growing regions in Australia, there are over 90 wine labels and 48 cellar doors to choose from. Go for lunch or stay for the whole weekend, our cellar door guide will help you to get the most of your next visit to this spectacular wine lovers and foodie haven. Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard The Mt Lofty Ranges 5-star Cellar Door and chef hatted restaurant are set at the one of the highest points in the Adelaide Hills. It’s not only the superb cool climate wines and fantastic food that attracts visitors from far and wide; the views sweeping down across the estate vineyards and taking in the stunning Mount Lofty Ranges, are spectacular too. In warmer months, you can take it all in sitting out on one of several level deck tables, or in a corner private room, with large windows and bi-fold doors opening wide to breathe in the fresh mountain air. An open fireplace heats indoors through frosty Adelaide Hills winters, while three split-level decks offer a multitude of areas for soaking up a little sun. An alluring menu shows off a delicious range of premium local produce, with tasting menus for vegetarians and vegans also available. 166 Harris Road, Lenswood Open daily for lunch and tastings 11am to 5pm Visit the Mt Lofty Ranges website K1 by Geoff Hardy Renowned for its stunning lakeside location, K1’s vineyard views are every bit as spectacular as the award-winning wine on offer. Sample delicious cool climate varieties, considered among the best single estate wines in Australia, while seated at Geoff’s wooden tasting bench, hand-crafted from 400-year-old red gum. For an extra special tasting experience stay on to try a selection of the museum or reserve stock for a small fee that is redeemable on any purchase. 159 Tynan Rd, Kuitpo Open daily 11am to 5pm Visit the Wines by Geoff Hardy website Shaw + Smith Shaw + Smith specialise in growing and perfecting the classic varieties that the Adelaide Hills region is known for: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Grandiose in size and sleek in style, the modern tasting room operates like a restaurant, with table service and guided wine flight and cheese options starting at $20 per head. Lunch is available on Fridays only where groups are treated to a selection of wines matched with a delicious meal, and a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the impressive vineyard. 136 Jones Road, Balhannah Open daily 11am to 5pm Visit the Shaw + Smith websit e The Lane Vineyard With magnificent views across the vineyard from the bright and stylishly modern tasting room, the Lane’s knowledgeable and friendly staff are on hand for table service style wine tastings. Wine flight options start at $5 for simple wine-only selections, or $20 for options that include wines paired with delicious treats from executive chef James Brinklow. For those in need of more than a bite-sized snack, enjoy a leisurely lunch paired with wines from the same single estate vineyard you can admire from the comfort of the beautiful restaurant. 5 Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf Open daily 10am to 4pm Visit The Lane Vineyard website Howard Vineyard The beauty of the gum trees, terraced lawns and rolling vines that surround the family-owned Howard Vineyard impress visitors before they even sample the award-winning wines. Try cool climate Cabernet Francs, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Gris and Sparkling wines before settling in beside the roaring fire with your favourite glass. Active guests can take a walk around the manicured gardens or play a spot of croquet on the lawn. The family friendly Clover + Stone restaurant is open from Wednesday – Friday, with a special set menu on offer for Sunday lunch.  Head Chef and former MasterChef contestant, Heather Day creates a fantastic South-East Asian inspired menu, perfectly complementing Howard Vineyard’s best wines. Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm Visit the Howard Vineyard website Bird in Hand Visit the Bird in Hand winery to taste some of the very best wines South Australia has to offer while dining at award-winning restaurant The Gallery for lunch. Relax at the gorgeous cellar door to sample a superb range of premium traditional varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, through to sensational alternate varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano and Arneis. Wander through the original barrel hall, enjoy the carefully curated artworks and luxury retail experience, or linger longer to sample local cheeses and antipasti platters with your favourite glass of wine in hand. Bird in Hand Rd & Pfeiffer Rd, Woodside  Open daily (Mon to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday to Sunday 11am to 5pm) Visit the Bird in Hand website Deviation Road Husband and wife team Hamish and Kate Laurie are the owners of this divine boutique winery. The cellar door deck that overlooks the wine garden and home block vines is the perfect place to relax outdoors in the sunshine and sample their great range of wines. Taste from their range of artisanal premium cool climate wines; from Sparkling and aromatic whites to basket pressed red wines. Winemaker Kate trained at Lycée Viticole d’Avize in Champagne, no doubt helping them to perfect their award-winning Sparkling wine! Book in for a tutored wine flight or master class or simply sit and enjoy your chosen wine with one of the delicious tasting plates on offer daily. 207 Scott Creek Road, Longwood Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Deviation Road website For more cellar door guides, visit our dedicated Wine Regions section.
Wine
Wine Traveler Riverland
Words by Dave Brookes on 28 Dec 2017
While South Australia’s riverland region has always been famous for bulk wine production, innovative local winemakers are changing the landscape by planting a range of grape varieties perfectly suited to the hot, dry climate. As I sit down to pen this brief piece on the Riverland , I’m reminded of the words of that great American philosopher LL Cool J who rhymed, “don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years; I’m rockin my peers; Puttin’ suckers in fear”. Mic drop from Queens. Perhaps I’m getting carried away. I’ve always been told I have a fertile imagination, but who would have thought a decade ago that boutique winemakers from Margaret River to Coonawarra would be sourcing fruit from the Riverland and proudly displaying that fact on their wine labels? The Riverland has always been, along with several other regions that lie along the life-giving artery of the Murray, the engine-room of the Australian wine industry. The Riverland accounts for over 50% of South Australia’s wine crush and around 30% of the national total, some 470,123 tonnes in 2017. It is a very important region for Australian wine. One winery alone, Berri Estates, is the largest grape processor in the southern hemisphere, crushing some 220,000 tonnes of grapes annually or around one-third of the total grape crush of South Australia. Several years ago, I recall driving with the Berri Estates winemaker to the crushers; a journey through a huge truck marshalling area complete with traffic wardens. He turned to me and said, “Can you feel the romance?” Funny, but the sheer scale of the operation was astounding. The Riverland is also a region well aware of the hardships of farming; of extended droughts and the plunging grape prices of boom & bust cycles. But the droughts, while devastating for growers already struggling with low grape prices, have forced some changes for the better. Included among them are sustainable irrigation, drought hardy rootstock and clonal research, and the planting of alternative varieties, or, as one local winemaker described them, “appropriate varieties.” King of grapes
One of the larger producers is Kingston Estate, established by Greek immigrants, Nina & Steve Moularadellis in the mid-1980s after they met picking grapes in the early 1960s. Today, you can still find them in the winery most days, but it is son Bill who steers the ship. Kingston Estate produce a range of wines that offer great value for money and drinking pleasure. Their portfolio centres around the European classic varieties, but for me, when I think of the estate, it is their Petit Verdot that springs to mind and it is certainly a variety they have hung their hat on. Deeply coloured and laden with rich fruit and spice, it possesses an ample structure with plenty of ripe tannin and is a variety that seems to thrive in the warmer climes of the Riverland. Salena Estate, another of the larger operators, has around 520 acres under vine, roughly half of which is certified organic. Their range includes classic varieties, across different price points that provide great drinking, and their ‘Ink’ series concentrates on the ‘appropriate’ varieties with some great examples including Montepulciano , Graciano, Bianco d’Alessano and Vermentino . The Banrock Station cellar door is top-notch with the complete range of wines available for tasting, a great little restaurant if you are feeling peckish and the amazing wetlands ecosystem with walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. The Angove cellar door in Renmark is another must visit for the quality and diversity of their range of wines with fruit sourced from the Riverland and further afield across South Australia. In recent times, the interest in sourcing fruit from the Riverland by winemakers based outside the region has been pleasing to see. There are several factors at play here. Better farming practices and increased interest in some of the varieties that end in ‘O’ that seem well suited to the region are certainly in the mix. Another is the tireless efforts, boundless energy and great farming nous of Ashley Ratcliff of Ricca Terra Farms, who has done much to raise the profile of the Riverland as a source of well-farmed, alternative varieties. Part of this nous was knowing when to take a risk on doing something new. As he explains, “During the boom times in the Riverland, grape prices were up and getting people to change their practices was hard. Why would you decrease your yields and plant new varieties? When things turned, however, others panicked, but we were brave; buying up vineyards and planting alternative varieties that now fetch sustainable prices.” Ashley’s Ricca Terra Farms is just outside Bamera and is planted with many of the varieties that are now sought after in the region – Nero d’Avola , Fiano , Vermentino , Montepulciano , Zibbibo, Muscato Giallo and the curiously named, Slankamenca Bela. As well as supplying grapes for other winemakers, Ashley has his own ‘Ricca Terra’ label featuring inventive blends of these varieties. Another producer riding the wave of the alternative varieties that are well-suited to the Riverland is Alex Russell Wines. Viticulturist and winemaker Alex Russell crafts a range of delicious wines from Montepulciano, Vermentino, and Lagrein to Nero d’Avola, Saperavi and Graciano. Alex’s range of wines hold true to the tenet that a wines ‘raison d’etre’ is to be above all else, delicious to drink and they have picked up a swathe of awards at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in Mildura . small names, big impression
Other small local producers who farm in a thoughtful, sustainable fashion to seek out include Whistling Kite, whose biodynamically farmed range includes a fantastic Petit Manseng and a Montepulciano that is a benchmark for the region. The organically farmed Bassham Wines is another, with delicious, racy whites including Vermentino and Fiano, along with lovely examples of Lagrein, Nero d’Avola and Graciano. Also check out 919 Wines, whose range of table wines provides beautiful drinking across both the classic and alternative varieties, including a killer Pale Dry Apera style. And last but not least, the Delinquent Wine Co has a fantastic range of funkily packaged wines for “drinkin, not thinkin”, featuring new wave varieties, including the very drinkable Bianco d’Alessano Pet Nat Sparkling. Of the producers from further afield who proudly source fruit from the Riverland, the list is growing. Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines in Coonawarra produces a fantastic, award-winning Nero d’Avola Rosé and crisp, textural Bianco d’Alessano; Margaret River based winemaker Brad Wehr of Amato Vino produces a dangerously drinkable Riverland range including a wonderful Slankamenca Bela. In the Adelaide Hills, Unico Zela features amazing Fiano, Nero d’Avola and an enchanting skin-contact white blend. And from McLaren Vale, ex-NYC sommelier Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins Wines crafts a heady, textural Zibbibo using grapes from Ricca Terra Farms vineyard. a bright future
Riverland is on the up and up and if you haven’t sampled its wines, now is the time. Perhaps its reputation has been unfairly tarnished as a source of lower-end, bulk wine offerings, but today the wines have never been better and there is an undercurrent of innovation, sustainable viticulture and experimentation that bodes very well for its future.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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