Adelaide Hills is certainly a wine region that catches you by surprise. Before I took a day out to luxuriate in its rolling hills, I would not have believed just how quick it was to get there from the centre of Adelaide. A zippy 30 minutes in my less than zippy but oh, so cute Suzuki Swift rental. I would not have believed quite how many wineries had such stylish cellar door complexes in Adelaide Hills either. However, mixed bags were probably more accurately the theme of the day.
After the initial rush of arriving, I soon realized that there was just no way that I would be able to successfully traverse the region and still make it back to the Airport by 5pm. You are forced to take the region at a somewhat slower pace. The roads are picturesque and winding, it is quite easy to get lost as signage can be sparse (particularly coming off a side road into Hahndorf!!) and everyone seems to be out for a leisurely Sunday drive (well, it was Sunday and a splendid day at that). If you have a classic car, this is the perfect way to get around.
There are now over 30 wineries that fling open their cellar doors in Adelaide Hills and quite a few of them with slick restaurants that ensure that Sunday lunch is an elegant affair. The last time that I had ventured to Adelaide Hills was 1998 so it was, without a doubt, time to revisit a region that is producing some simply stunning wines and continues to push the bar higher each year. Who can deny the success of Shaw and Smith, the charm of Bridgewater Mill cellar door or the mastery of Ashton Hills Vineyard Pinots.
A great place to start if you are coming from Adelaide is Petaluma & Bridgewater Mill. Start with a Riesling of renown and taste your way up to a richly concentrated Coonawarra blend. There are some great little cellar door only gems to pick up as well. While I was there, I picked up a Rose on deal for $60 for 6 and a sparkling version as well – both were cellar door only.
My next winery on my list was Aldgate Ridge. It was as I drove out passed Aldgate and promptly got lost, that I realized that this was not going to be an easy winery to locate. But I did persist and was successful only to discover that there was not a soul around. On further reading of my trusty Adelaide Hills Wine Region Cellar Door map, I realized that it opened from 1pm on Sundays which was a bit of a dampener on my jubilance after such a good tasting at Bridgewater Mill. But, onward forward.
Depending how early you got started, you can either wend your way across passed Hahndorf and start near Balhannah or make your way across to the Piccadilly Valley and Barratt Wines and Ashton Hills Vineyard. Ashton Hills has a rustic charm which is as genuine as their wine. A stopover here gives you a unique opportunity to taste all their wines and I am sure that you will not leave empty handed. If you are peckish, make time to stop for a Tasting Platter at Barratts. They have been recommended to me by some keen foodies. Although I did not get to taste at Barratts on the day of my visit as it was sadly closed due to illness, it will be definitely on my list for next time.
If you have popped across through Hahndorf, then I can recommend stopping at both The Lane Vineyard and Shaw & Smith. The Lane has an interesting line up of wines and a humming restaurant with a gorgeous view. They do a very interesting Pinot Gris that is not quite varietal but is my recommendation for having with lunch there. Shaw & Smith are not to be out done and have a similarly elegant Tasting Room complete with a view that leave you in no doubt that you are in wine territory. Do not think that you can rush through here either. Tastings come with a Tasting platter and a flight of their 5 wines – wines that leave you without any doubt that Shaw & Smith have got it right.
Feeling in the mood for some market shopping? Now is the time to head to Lobethal and visit the local artisan markets held at the Old Woollen Mill. There is enough to browse a pleasant hour or two away here. Conveniently though, Tilbrook Estate has their cellar door and winery directly opposite the markets and I do recommend that you visit the cellar door before you start your browsing. Start with the generous Tilbrook Sauvignon Blanc but leave plenty of time to taste the rich Tilbrook Sangiovese Cabernet or the spicy Tilbrook Reserve Shiraz.
By now, you may have realized that you really needed to extend your stay to an overnighter….. that thought occurred to me as my little Swift bravely reached the speed limit going down the hill on the way to the airport. Mixed bags – I really wished I had packed a bag! I did not get to the other wineries on my list, which incidentally included Bird in Hand and Chain of Ponds, and so I had to be content with vowing to get back again next year and starting at the Gumeracha end.
For the reviews of the wines from this trip, please use the search function for each winery or alternatively search the Adelaide Hills category.