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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

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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
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.
Wine
Top Five Wineries and Cellar Doors to visit in Coonawarra
Discover the best of Coonawarra’s wineries and cellar doors to taste and experience the region’s delights with our guide and interactive map. Australia’s ‘other red centre’, Coonawarra is 450kms from Melbourne and 370kms from Adelaide, and is located in the heart of South Australia’s Limestone Coast. The region boasts some of the most sought-after vineyard soil in Australia, and with vineyards positioned just 80kms from the Southern Ocean, the vines are assured of a long, cool ripening period producing wines of fantastic balance, richness, intensity and longevity. It’s thanks to Scottish pioneer John Riddoch, who noticed the fertility of the regions’ famed terra rossa way back in 1890, that we can enjoy some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz . Today, the region is home to a mix of old winemaking families and fresh new talent, and has over 25 cellar doors to visit which all offer wonderfully friendly and delicious experiences. Here are our top five Coonawarra wineries Di Giorgio Family Wines
Don’t miss out on visiting the family owned and operated Di Giorgio Family Wines . Their winery is the second oldest in the district, and their Coonawarra vineyard boasts some gnarly old vines that are over 115 years old. Along with producing premium wines from Coonawarra and Lucindale, the DiGiorgio family sources specific varietal fruit from different areas of the Limestone Coast where they believe the terroir is best suited to the variety. At Di Giorgio’s cellar door, you’re invited to taste a selection of premium wines from their extensive portfolio, plus don’t miss out on their delicious olive oils and the fabulous range of local cheeses. The shaded outdoor seating area is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine with a ‘pick your own produce’ platter. 14918 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra Open daily 10am to 5pm. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day Visit Di Giorgio Wines website Katnook Estate
Located just 6 kilometres north of Penola on the Riddoch Highway, Katnook Estate ’s historic cellar door was first built in the late 1800s by the founder of the Coonawarra wine region, John Riddoch.   Today, the beautifully renovated building features locally sourced stone and timbers and provides a wonderful environment to sample a range of Katnook’s premium wines, along with platters of local cheeses.  If you’re visiting during winter, the cosy lounge area with its open fireplace is the perfect place to warm-up and unwind.  Adjacent to the cellar door is the award-winning 'terra rossa pit', where you can get up close and personal with Coonawarra's famous soil profile and learn why it’s so important to flavour of the region’s wines. Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra Open weekdays 10am to 5pm, weekends 12pm to 5pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day  Visit the Katnook Estate website Leconfield Wines
Owned by one of Australia’s original winemaking families, Leconfield Wines is situated just a stones-throw from Katnook Estate along the Riddoch Highway. Built in 1974 by Sydney Hamilton, the limestone winery building has an impressive barrel storage of 2000 barrels, predominantly sourced from France.  Once inside the winery, you’ll be welcomed to the intimate tasting room where you can sample the Leconfield and Richard Hamilton ranges while watching the winemaking team at work. 15454 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra Open weekdays 10am to 4:30pm, weekends and public holidays 11am to 4pm. Visit Leconfield Wines website Rymill Coonawarra
Rymill Coonawarra was established in 1974 by Peter Rymill, the great grandson of John Riddoch who was the founder of Coonawarra. Embracing the pioneering spirit of his forefathers, Peter planted a diverse range of varieties and built a stunning, high-tech winery that is still home to Rymill Coonawarra today. A must-visit destination of the region, the Rymill Coonawarra’s spacious cellar door boasts internal viewing platforms to watch the workings of the winery and external balconies that overlook the beautiful tree lined grounds. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the winery while sampling their range of 100% estate grown wines, then step outside to the gorgeous grounds to enjoy a local produce platter or grazing plate. Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra Open daily 11am to 5pm. Closed Christmas Day Visit Rymill’s website Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Wynns Coonwarra Estate is one of the region’s leading producers and largest single vineyard holder with the longest established vineyard sites in Coonawarra. What is now Wynns Coonawarra Estate was founded by Scottish pioneer John Riddoch, who in 1891 planted along the famed terra rossa strip and completed the estate's now iconic three-gabled winery in 1896. Riddoch died in 1901 and Coonawarra languished for the first half of this century. The region’s revival began in 1951 when wine merchants Samuel and David Wynns purchased Riddoch's original vineyards and winery and renamed the property Wynns Coonawarra Estate. The Wynns recognised the amazing qualities of Coonawarra wines and set out to establish an independent identity in the region. They created the famous label that has made John Riddoch's winery one of Australia's most-recognised buildings. 77 Memorial Drive, Coonawarra Open daily 10am to 5pm. Closed Christmas Day. Visit Wynns Coonawarra Estate website Zema Estate
Established in 1982, Zema Estate is a boutique winery owned and operated by three generations of the Zema family. Their modern cellar door overlooks beautiful hand prune vines and offers a wonderfully friendly and authentic experience. All current release wines are available for tasting, plus a stunning selection of cellar door only and museum release wines. You can also indulge in Mrs Zema’s estate-grown and homemade olive oil and chilli paste, and other delicious gourmet produce and that are sourced locally or imported from Italy.   Partial to a good party, the Zema’s also host regular events where you can enjoy Mrs Zema’s fantastic Italian fare of pizza, pasta and arancini while being entertained by local musicians. Keep your diary open for upcoming events including the After Dark – Vintage Celebrations (April), Cellar Dwellers (July), Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations (October). 14944 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra Open weekdays 9am to 5pm, weekends 10am to 4pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day. Visit Zema Estate’s website Coonawarra Wineries Walking Trail For those who are up to combining a bit of exercise with their wine tasting, the Coonawarra Wineries Walking Trail offers a great opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and explore the vineyards. Coonawarra Winery Map Planning a trip to Coonawarra? Download our interactive Coonawarra winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here  
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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