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Wine

Cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail

Discover the fun of cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail with Wine Selectors Membership Consultant, Elliot Watt, as he shares all his tips for touring through this spectacular wine region.

Exercise and wine don’t usually go together, but, when you think about it, it's actually a genius combination. You are essentially cancelling out the damage done by one with the other. Well, in theory, anyway.

Now a word of warning. We’re in no way suggesting you empty a bottle of wine into your drink bottle and hit the gym. There are far more attractive and much more appropriate places to achieve this symbiotic activity.

A leisurely two-hour drive north of Adelaide will see you in Australia’s epicentre for Riesling, the Clare Valley, where you’ll find the Riesling Trail. This 35-kilometre-long cycling and walking track follows the path of the old rail line that sliced through the hills before it was irreparably damaged by the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires.

Today, the trail takes you past some of the region’s finest Riesling producers, so get ready to sip, sweat and cycle your way through the Clare Valley. 

Clare

It all begins with a visit to the Riesling Trail Bike Hire to collect your trusty steed. Kent will size you up with the perfect bike and give you the local lowdown on the trail.

Once in the saddle, an easy 12-minute ride north on the trail will take you to your first destination, Knappstein Enterprises Winery and Brewery. Originally established as the Enterprises Brewery in 1878, the current winery was installed by Clare Valley icon Tim Knappstein in the late 1960s. In 2006, 89 years after the original taps went dry, the brewing of beer started up once again in this heritage building.

For Riesling lovers, definitely look to the Single Vineyard range, which is a perfect expression of the diversity in Clare Riesling. However, if you prefer a beer, then the delicious Knappstein Reserve Larger will quench your thirst and replenish the tank for the next leg of the journey. 

Sevenhill and Penworth

Now you need to put in some hard yards and work off that wine and/or beer. Head south, 6km from Clare, and you’ll arrive in Sevenhill where it’s time to take a detour. John Horrocks Road is off the trail and runs through some seriously beautiful countryside, which will take your mind off the fact your legs are on fire. More importantly, it leads you to one of the jewels of the Clare Valley, Mitchell Wines.

Andrew and Jane Mitchell established their winery in 1975 and have created something really special, showcasing a true Australian family-owned and run winery. On arrival, Jane welcomes you like you’re one of the family and you can tell her and Andrew are proud of their wines and vineyards and so they should be. Within their quaint cellar door, they present stunning single vineyard Rieslings, as well as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon.

Now, it’s awfully hard to transport wine on a bike, trust me, I ride to work at Wine Selectors and constantly attempt to juggle wines home. However, not to worry, Jane will personally deliver any purchases direct to your accommodation that very same day. 

Watervale

Departing Mitchell Wines, with a few more turns of the cog, you’ll be off the detour and back on the trail. This is where things start to go downhill, literally, not figuratively, as you’re now over the incline and can give the legs a rest as you glide through the rolling hills towards Watervale.

As soon as you arrive, it’s essential to restore your energy with some carb loading and there’s no better place to do so than the Watervale General Store. It’s one of those charming country icons that is part café, part grocery store, part post office. The food is simple and delicious, but heed my warning, it's not wise to consume a full pizza and then carry on the trail as if you are riding in Le Tour De France. That pizza will come back to haunt you.

Leasingham

With a full stomach and renewed energy, it shouldn’t take long to reach the next town of Leasingham and the home of Claymore Wines. Here you can wash down lunch with a glass of Dark Side of The Moon or Bittersweet Symphony. No idea what I’m talking about? Cleverly, the majority of their wines are labelled after hit songs from a bygone era. However, there are no gimmicks when it comes to the wines with some seriously good juice going on here. Sing your way through the range, find your favourite and sit down with a glass accompanied by a board of local South Australian Cheese. For a second in time, you will completely forget about your aching muscles and the fact you still have to ride home. 

The Riesling Trail comes to an end a further five clicks south at the town of Auburn. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the tale of Auburn as Leasingham is as far as my legs would carry me. Some say, namely my wife, it was the pizza that lead to my ultimate demise however that’s neither here nor there. 

Now begins the journey home, although it's not over yet. As any good bicycle wine tour strategist knows, you’re going to get thirsty, so Stone Bridge in Sevenhill is the perfect rehydration stop. Crafting not only exceptional Riesling but another 14 wines from 7 different grape varieties, Stone Bridge has something to quench any thirst.

The aftermath

Once off the bike if you stop moving things begin to hurt, the wine wears off and the lactic acid sets in. The only solution is to manoeuvre yourself directly to Seed Winehouse and Kitchen in Clare. Immersed in the simplistic stone and natural timber of the old chaff mill, you begin to imagine you are somewhere in rural Italy about to dine on local rustic cuisine. However, Head Chef Guy Parkinson is no Nonna, he may be better. Offering sophisticated A la Carte and degustation options, the menu highlights local produce with a wine list to reflect. Nearly 200 local and international wines will make the decision hard, add in 47 Gin choices and the mind begins to boggle.

Whatever your decision there is no doubt any indulgence is guilt free. You have literally burned off three Big Macs during the ride so sit back, reward yourself and reflect on the beauty of the Clare Valley and the amazing wines it has to offer.

Your Quick Guide to the Clare Valley Riesling Trail

Wineries

Restaurant

Bike Hire

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Mudgee - nest in the hills
Words by Keren Lavelle on 12 Sep 2016
There’s a zest for life, a sense of passion and purpose, among the winemakers, restaurateurs and providores of this Central Western NSW region. Friday night, with the sun setting and the moon rising, is a fine time to arrive at Lowe Wines, high on a hill-rise, with its vista of vines and cerulean blue hills beyond. There’s time enough for a quick catch-up with the very busy winemaker David Lowe, just before hundreds of guests are seated at tables in his winery for dinner and a show. Lowe is a sixth-generation descendant of the first Lowes to take up farming on this property, and he’s a passionate convert to organic, indeed biodynamic, farming measures. "When I took over, the soils here were completely degraded, needing drastic repair, and biodynamics seemed the fastest and best way to fix them,” Lowe says. Biodynamic farming techniques involve burying cow horns with a mixture of fermented manure, minerals and herbs at specific phases in the lunar cycle ‘to harmonise the vital life forces of the farm’, as one authority explains it. While it’s based on belief more than theory, it’s certainly working here. David is famous for his premium, certified organic wines; some made without any preservatives, notably a Shiraz , demand for which is high. Adjacent to the winery is The Zin House, Mudgee’s only restaurant with a SMH Good Food Guide chef’s hat. Chef Kim Curry is David Lowe’s partner, so naturally, flights of Lowe Wines accompany her degustation menus, which are inspired by what’s fresh and in season – 60 to 70 per cent of the ingredients are sourced locally, many of them grown here on the farm. PALPABLE PASSION There is a long tradition of organic winemaking in Mudgee , starting with Australia’s first organic vineyard, Botobolar in 1971. At Vinifera Wines, the McKendry family is celebrating having achieved organic certification for their wines. After Tony and Debbie McKendry recognised climatic similarities between Mudgee and Spain’s Rioja region, they embarked on Spanish varieties like Tempranillo, Graciano and Gran Tinto – all of which have been very popular – however, it’s their Chardonnay that leaves me smitten. The passion emanating from the winemakers – indeed, from all the Mudgee producers – is palpable. They care deeply about quality, and are continually improvising and experimenting to improve quality and variety. The other striking feature is how collaborative they are – they share advice and ideas, and as winemaker Peter Logan tells me, they have fun together – the winemakers field their own indoor soccer team in a local comp. A STUNNING OUTLOOK With over 40 cellar doors in the fairly compact Mudgee wine region, there’s a lot of choice. There’s also plenty to please the eye, like the stunning tasting room and deck at Logan Wines with its sweeping view of Apple Tree Flat and its surrounding pyramidal hills. Peter Logan, celebrating his 20th vintage, is happy to show off his latest range called Ridge of Tears, two very different styles of Shiraz. Each is made from low-yield fruit and treated much the same, but ‘terroir’ is the variable – one comes from Logan’s Orange basalt-based vineyard, the other from Mudgee’s more loamy soils. The terrace at Moothi Estate has another gorgeous view, especially at sunset. ‘Moothi’ is another version of ‘Mudgee’, meaning ‘nest in the hills’ in the Wiradjuri language, extremely apt for this beautiful place. Jessica and Jason Chrcek now run Moothi Estate vineyard, which her parents started. At their cellar door, they serve award-winning platters of cheese, pickles and smallgoods – the lamb pastrami is a great discovery. At another family enterprise, the Robert Stein Vineyard and Winery, the multitalented, third-generation winemaker Jacob Stein (playing striker in the winemakers’ soccer team), also has responsibility for looking after the ‘old world’ varieties of pig that graze on the property. His brother-in-law, chef Andy Crestani, roasts the resulting free-range pork at the winery’s restaurant Pipeclay Pumphouse, and it appears as one of the dishes in the dinner degustation. (I’m keen to come back for breakfast to try the bacon and egg gnocchi with truffle oil.) Just about every cellar door will serve you High Valley Wine & Cheese Factory’s handmade soft cheeses, and they return the complement by serving local wines in their tasting room. The couple behind High Valley, Ro and Grovenor Francis, are no slouches. They already had 40 years of farming experience, and 20 years of viticulture behind them before venturing into dairy manufacture. The walls of their tasting room are plastered with the awards their wines and cheeses have won. ALL AGES ADVENTURES I discover local passion isn’t confined to producers when I meet ‘mine host’ of Mudgee’s Getaway Cottages, Elizabeth Etherington, a former mayor of Mudgee. These six holiday dwellings appear to be houses on an ordinary street a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town, but you soon discover that they all back onto a 3.64-hectare farm-stay wonderland on the banks of the Cudgegong River. “I’m a baby boomer,” Etherington explains, “and I grew up with plenty of space to play and roam, and with innocent freedom to explore. When I created Getaway Cottages, I had in mind to provide for today’s children the joy of nature, which many seem to miss out on.” To this end, Elizabeth Etherington has created a kids’ paradise, complete with an ostrich, a donkey, rabbits, flourishing vegetable gardens to raid for dinner, and plenty of toys and activities, including, for the big kids, a chip’n’putt golf course. In conversation, it transpires that Etherington is a producer as well, of the Orchy brand of fruit juices, which is a “100% Australian family-owned business since 1876.” Mudgee’s food manufacturing history goes way back. In town, Roth’s Wine Bar, holding the oldest wine bar licence in NSW, is the place to try (and buy) almost all of the district’s wines (due to the peculiarities of the ancient licence, you are also permitted to take away). Here you can dig into pizza, listen to live music, and try Roth’s special in-house drinks, such as the ‘1080’ (named after a poison bait) and ‘Diesel’. Before being licensed in 1923, when Roth’s was a general store, these were code names for the sly grog chalked up on farmers’ accounts. Also possessing a fine cellar, the recently renovated Oriental Hotel offers an elevated dining/drinking experience (and city views) on its second-storey deck, while at the nearby Wineglass Bar and Grill, owner and chef Scott Tracey serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (and provides chic boutique accommodation) in a restored 1850s former hostelry for mail coaches. BEER AND BITES It’s not all about the wine (and food), however, there are very fine craft beers to be sampled at the Mudgee Brewing Company (another live music venue), housed in a historic wool store; and adjacent to Vinifera Wines there’s Baker Williams Distillery, where distillers Nathan Williams and Helen Baker are having a lot of fun coming up with proof concoctions – butterscotch schnapps, anyone? Good coffee can also be found – at the Wineglass, you can buy the four-shot ‘bucket’, ideal for coping with a bad hangover. One of the most popular breakfast spots in town is the leafy courtyard café at Albie + Esthers, which transforms into a wine bar at night (of course). Tea is not neglected either – exotic varieties (and fresh handmade dumplings) feature on the menu of the delightful 29 nine 99 Yum Cha and Tea House at nearby Rylestone; it’s well worth stopping here for refreshments if you are making the 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Sydney. There’s lots more to explore – the old gold-mining township of Gulgong, the racehorses of Goree Park, the fine streets and shops of Mudgee itself, and more wineries – but when you eventually have to leave, FlyPelican can make light work of the trip with a 50 minute flight to Sydney. (Speaking of ‘light’, and speaking from experience, the aircraft’s 23kg luggage limit means it may be best to freight your wine purchases beforehand.) It’s good to know, however, that whenever you pine for a taste of more Mudgee magic, it can be quick and easy to return.
Wine
Celebrating Christmas with Brown Brothers
We recently caught up with Ross Brown from the iconic Brown Brothers to talk Prosecco and Christmas. Your Brown Brothers Vintage Release Single Vineyard Prosecco 2014 is our Wine of the Month for December – what makes it so special for this time of the year (or anytime really)? Sparkling wine is all about celebration with friends and Prosecco is the new exciting fashion for Sparkling. It’s fine, zesty, dry and refreshing and just perfect for those lazy summer days. Brown Brothers has over 126 years of history in Australian winemaking and family is obviously very important to you. How is your family planning on spending this Christmas? Having all the immediate family around the Christmas dinner table is mandatory, but just a bit more complex this year, as Emma our youngest daughter is living in Napa Valley, California. We have all made a commitment to be in Mammoth Mountain, a ski town for Christmas. We will go by the local market and buy oysters and salmon for entree and duck for mains. My wife Judy's confit of duck recipe is a family legend. What wines will your family be enjoying over Christmas? This year as Emma is hosting, she's sourcing the wines with the brief to surprise us with the best of California, especially Pinot for the duck. Can you remember the first wine you ever tried? No, not really. There was always wine on the dinner table, and I was always allowed to taste, as long as I described the taste and aroma. It was no big deal as wine and food was a natural. When did you fall in love with wine? Growing up in the 1960s drinking wine socially was a risky business – real men drank beer! In the 1970s wine became fashionable and I had lots of friends curious about what wine I had brought to the party. I guess that was when I fell in love but not only with the wine. It’s a tough question, but do you have a favourite wine or varietal? When I'm asked which is my favourite wine, my reply invariably is the "next one". In truth Riesling is my favourite white varietal – the flavour dimensions are remarkable with lean and minerally Tasmanian styles through to rich, ripe and generous Noble Riesling. With reds I'm fascinated with Pinot Noir. For me it’s about the silken texture – fine and powerful and so reflective of the vineyard. It matches so many different foods and I'm already thinking about that duck for Christmas. What is your favourite wine memory? This is an impossible question as my entire life has been wine. I have been just so fortunate to grow up in a thriving family business, based in beautiful North East Victoria, and to share a wine and food lifestyle with so many wonderful people. Having dinner with friends and finding that gem that has remained hidden in the cellar for far too long, and it opens fabulously, along with a flood of memories around the year the wine was made, is the ultimate Saturday night filled with lots of laughs and short memories! How do you spend your time when you’re not making wine? With my daughter Katherine now winemaking, I'm delighted to run away and admire her good work, especially knowing she has the best mentors in the world. Judy and I love the ‘hunting and gathering’ lifestyle, we are crazy about fishing and love Tasmania. There we can catch crayfish, calamari, and flat head or fly fish for trout all in one day, and if it's a really tough day, fit in a game of golf just for the frustration. For me seeing another generation, my three daughters, excited and totally engaged in the wine business is the greatest reward, especially if they find a great Riesling and Pinot for Christmas dinner and don't forget the Prosecco! What is your choice at Christmas: Carols by Candlelight  – love them or loathe them? A must on Christmas Eve.  Sparkling Shiraz, Champagne or both?  Prosecco is the new Champagne. Plum pudding, pavlova or trifle?  Depends on the age of the Noble Riesling. Turkey, glazed ham or seafood?  Seafood, seafood and more seafood. Christmas lunch or dinner?  Don't know the difference as it starts around 11am and goes on and on.... Boxing Day recovery?  This calls for exercise and this year given a white Christmas, we will all be skiing probably until lunch.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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