Saturday, February 20, 2010

McLaren Vale

One thing about the folks here in McLaren Vale, they aren't bashful about recommending things for you to do.

When we checked in Thursday, Jacinta, the owner of the cottage, told us we really should have lunch at the Salopian Inn - which we did. Food was so good we booked to go back on Saturday, our last night here.

And while we were at the restaurant, the manager told us we really should drive down to Sellicks Beach on the Southern Ocean and have a drink at the Victory Hotel.

After lunch, we went into town to get some supplies for the cottage and ended up wandering into a small shop in that specializes in Italian wine. If that sounds like opening a store selling Vermont cheddar in Paris, you'd be just about right. But the woman who owned the shop was fun to talk to, which was good since she talked a lot. An awful lot.

Anyhow, before we left she told us we absolutely had to visit a couple of wineries Friday, and so we set out to visit Scarpantoni's and Alpha Box and Dice. Scarpantoni's was OK, but since we have no home to ship a carton to right now we grabbed just a few bottles to drink during our time here.

Our next stop was Alpha Box and Dice. Well, technically our next stop was several miles away from Alpha Box and Dice since we had given Honor the day off and I got lost. It took LK time to figure out a new route to recover from my mistake, but we eventually made it and once we got to this place it turned out to be a lot of fun.

The tasting room is an old shed that has been decorated by graphic designers and artists with a sense of humor. There's actually more emphasis on decorations than wine until you belly up to the small bar for the tasting. There winemaker Justin Lane has put together some really interesting Italian-variety wines to taste inside this shed overlaid with all the trappings of an out-of-control ad agency.

Much of the cellar door is great fun. That picture on the right is a great example. Apparently Justin has been ragged on because he is making Italian varietals and doesn't have a long family tradition behind his efforts. That photo of an Italian-looking gentleman says simply, "We don't know this man. He contributed nothing to this place." And that is that for his critics.

After Alpha Box & Dice, we went to d'Arenberg's, probably the top winery in the area. We went primarily because our friend David - who really knows his wines - recommended it as the best of the bunch when he was down here a couple of years ago.

Last night Andrew, Jacinta's husband, came by and recommended that we go to the farmers market in Willunga first thing in the morning. Which we did, and then hotfooted it over to Sellick's Beach. It was too early - even for us - to have a drink at the Victory Hotel, so we decided to put our feet in the Southern Ocean. That's me standing in there the top of this post, and these were some beachcombers I saw there.

After walking in the ocean, we went to Samuel's Gorge and Oliver's, two wineries which Andrew had recommended. Both had some really good wine, and at Oliver's the cellar door people - who were incredibly friendly - recommended that we have lunch at the cafe on the grounds.

Which, of course, we did.

So we're back in the cottage for a lazy afternoon before heading back to the Salopian Inn. I am pretty sure the staff will recommend stuff for us to eat. And the ladies at Oliver's have already recommended a grenache we should order.

We've had a great couple of days here, and - as you can probably tell - the only challenge was getting here. Once we arrived, we only had to follow someone else's recommendation.


Anonymous said...

Heading to McLaren Vale soon your blog is full of great tips. We are in need of accomodation do you have a recomendation. Is Andrew and Jacinta's cottage avaible to rent? What was it like ? How did you book it?

Don K said...

Hi - It's called Black Rabbit Cottage and it's just past McLaren Flats. LK found it on the Internet - not sure where - but you can check availability and rates directly with them at
Hope you have as much fun there as we did.

Anonymous said...

We stayed at Black Rabbit Cottage for 8 days last year and absolutely loved it. Jacinta and Andrew have put together the perfect environment for people of all ages to feel immersed in wondrous beauty and peace. It has an extraordinary character and ambience and an amazing array of modern appliances. We will definitely return for their warm welcome, the spectacular garden and views and the cottage itself. Rare value!