RIESLING AND ROMANCE
The life of a winemaker conjures up a raft of romantic images: toiling in the fresh air, shiraz-soaked Sundays by an open fire and sundowners in the vines. Meet Peter Barry, head of the acclaimed Jim Barry Wines, and it appears at first blush to be no fantasy.
By day, the Clare Valley veteran drives us to a secret lookout to watch the sun rise, regaling us with the history of the third-generation winery as kangaroos hop by.
By night, he holds court at Clare’s latest dining hotspot, Seed Winehouse & Kitchen, selecting the finest red to decanter and rattling off the menu by memory.
He’s so enamoured with the rustic restaurant, he jokes, that he even bought a motel next door: “It’s stumbling distance away if I need it!”
The prominent winemaker has turned the clutch of dated rooms into luxury suites called The Mill Apartments, with freestanding bathtubs, complimentary bottles of Jim Barry wine and treetop views of Hutt River. It’s just one example in a region undergoing an evolution, and making a name for itself beyond its famed riesling.
A weekend sloshing about the Clare Valley offers a tasting platter of experiences as fine dining restaurants, artisan food outlets and up-market lodgings pop up, and wineries stretch their legs and appeal to a new market.
The pocket-sized region boasts about 30 cellar doors in many guises, from traditional stone cottages to farm sheds and modern buildings.
Shut the Gate winery, for example, is a mix of eclectic wares and comfy couches, hip wine labels decorated with art and fables, and gourmet fare.
Up the road, work your way through the prestigious Asset Collection in a sophisticated tasting room at Kilikanoon, and discover why James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion named the family business “Winery of the Year” in 2013.
In nearby Sevenhill, Pikes Wines is a mix of old and new. The stone cellar door harks back to its traditional roots, but a sleek, industrial-styled brewery next door built three years ago is spruiking its stouts, pilsners and ales to a hip new clientele.
For a timeless classic, visitors can’t go past the picturesque Skillogalee Winery, the home of the area’s first winery restaurant.
While away the hours on the veranda quaffing their celebrated riesling or linger over blueberry and raspberry Dutch baked pancakes with creme fraiche at brunch.
Add in an open fireplace and it will have you floating on cloud wine.
THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN TOURISM COMMISSION AND AUDI.
Award-winning Kilikanoon Winery.