February 13, 2023
11 mins Read
Less than an hour south of Adelaide lies Australia’s most beautiful wine region, where dozens of inviting cellar doors are surrounded by lovingly tended rows of vines caressed by gentle sea breezes. From iconic shiraz to easy-drinking Italian, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese varietals, you’ll find an astonishing range of flavour profiles on offer, and that diversity is reflected in the cellar door offerings at the best McLaren Vale wineries.
In a single magical day you can enjoy a tasting with a sixth-generation owner and chase the kids around an enchanting natural maze before sitting down to an immaculately presented lunch at one of the Vale’s best restaurants and lying back in the lap of luxury at the cosy winery accommodation nearby – here’s everything you need to know.
Wineries | Winery restaurants | Wine tours | Winery accommodation
Whether you’re on the hunt for in-depth wine tastings, a spectacular lunch with a view or a private retreat hidden between the vines, plan the perfect weekend with this McLaren Vale winery map below.
The 45-minute drive from Adelaide makes it simple to visit McLaren Vale on a day trip, but you could just as easily spend several weeks visiting more than 80 cellar doors dotted around the region. And because they encompass everything from rustic, family-run operations to internationally renowned names, oenophiles of every stripe will find their tastes catered to at these McLaren Vale wineries.
Rolling hills lined with perfectly manicured rows of Sangiovese vines usually conjure up visions of Tuscany, but the glittering ocean in the distance makes this a McLaren Vale special.
It’s no surprise that this is one of the most sought-after wedding destinations in the entire region, and the views are even better with a glass in hand at the open-air arbour bar that pours the perfect mix of regional classics like shiraz alongside emerging Mediterranean varietals.
Old and new school winemaking techniques are on display at this shared cellar door, which is also home to Silent Noise wines. Eye-catching modern artworks set the scene for an innovative father and son winemaking team making everything from funky pet nats to single block shiraz releases that tell a story of place and let you do a deep dive into terroir. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for a visit, as you’ll want to taste most of the 30 wines on offer.
It’s strictly adults-only at this giant teal shed surrounded by palms, which feels more like a mate’s backyard than an award-winning winery. Don’t expect things to be quiet, though; regular gigs featuring many of the state’s best musicians make it the place to be Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. The service is as casual as the dress code (boardies and thongs are welcome) but the easy-drinking wines are the result of serious attention to detail, with left-field blends of Mediterranean varietals at the fore.
Little ones will absolutely love the wildlife sanctuary at this sprawling property, which is one of the most kid-friendly wineries in McLaren Vale. Arrive in the morning to spot some of the fluffy rescue koalas napping in centuries-old gums beside the cellar door before getting up close with the friendly resident kangaroos and an emu named Maverick at the daily 11:30 feeding.
Then it’s time to treat yourself in the tasting room that heroes crisp whites and powerful old vine shiraz alongside a fortified tasting matched with chocolates.
Waves of Italian migration and a dry coastal climate have had a profound influence on the McLaren Vale wine and food scenes, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find a range of classic Mediterranean options filling both your plate and glass.
But there’s also a strong modern Australian streak running through the culinary scene, which combines local produce and techniques from around the world with stunning views. Whether you’re after a grazing platter or a sophisticated degustation, you’ll find what you’re after at these McLaren vale winery restaurants.
This family-friendly winery is best known for mazes and mead, but the real star of the show is usually hard at work in the kitchen. Chef Fabian Lehmann devises the kind of audaciously plated creations that are made for Instagram, and fortunately, they taste every bit as good as they look.
The $165 price tag means this is strictly for special occasions, and the 10-course tasting menu features intentionally vague listings like “nori, ricotta, pea” to ensure that every dish is a surprise when it arrives.
This giant five-storey Rubik’s Cube rising above the vines is visible long before you reach it, which is a good thing: you might need a little time to decide which option to visit for lunch.
The playful fourth-storey restaurant Singapore Circus combines influences from across Southeast Asia in a range of small plates and signature dishes like the showstopping chilli crab.
While d’Arry’s Verandah in the neighbouring 19th-century homestead is the place to head to for leisurely long lunches that highlight seasonal local produce.
If you’re after something a little more casual, the staff at Harry’s Deli begin pulling shots of Dawn Patrol coffee and serving a simple brunch menu at 10 am before switching to more substantial fare at lunchtime.
You can get on a first-name basis with some of the region’s best producers as you tuck into cheeseboards and platters featuring Brian’s olives and Andy Clappis’ bread, or go a little deeper into the menu to find a range of sandwiches and a hearty steak and shiraz pie that’s a local favourite.
You won’t be able to taste your way through the entire range at this winery, which has six different skews covering everything from affordable porch pounders to a reserve series made for sipping.
But sample even a few and you’ll likely enjoy the excuse to stretch your legs on a short walk through the vines to The Currant Shed, where you’ll find yet more Shottesbrooke wines on pour alongside a thoughtful menu that offers elegant fine dining without any pretensions (there’s even a three-course set menu for kids that’s paired with housemade lime cordial).
With so many cellar doors to choose from it makes sense to let an expert help you plan the ideal day out, and having someone else behind the wheel means you can sit back and fully enjoy the day on these McLaren Vale wine tours.
When he’s not manning the cellar door at Samuel’s Gorge, North Carolina native Jon Overcash leads small group tours that give you exclusive access to some of the best wineries in McLaren Vale (with a few breweries and distilleries thrown in for good measure). His extensive network of local connections means you can expect exclusive access to winemakers and a few barrel samples along the way, and he can customise the itinerary to focus on particular wineries, styles or family-friendly venues.
Even the most experienced oenophile will learn a thing or two on Ian Hooper’s tours, which explore the cutting edge of McLaren Vale wines. Boutique, hard-to-find producers and unusual varietals and styles are the order of the day on these fascinating excursions, which include vegan and natural wine tours as well as a day-long sensory experience that aims to demystify this sometimes intimidating world by introducing guests to the vocabulary and flavours of new generation wines.
If you want to fully appreciate McLaren Vale’s stunning natural beauty, this unique tour gives you a bird’s eye view over the entire region, from the spectacular cliffs of the Fleurieu Peninsula to rugged Onkaparinga Gorge.
A number of local accommodation providers have their own helipads, which means you can get picked up from your front door and whisked away to a winery within minutes before stopping at The Currant Shed for a “fly-through” meal on your way to a private hilltop location where you’ll enjoy an unforgettable lunch.
After a long day of wine tasting, there’s no better feeling than disappearing to a sumptuous hideaway nestled in the vines. And whether you’re looking for a light-filled homestead with stunning views or a luxurious off-grid cabin, you’ll find a range of unforgettable stays at these McLaren Vale wineries.
The name may be a cheeky reference to the winery’s address, but once you check into Hotel California Road you’ll probably wish you never had to leave.
The exquisitely designed adults-only escape is built from interconnected shipping containers that have been placed on top of each other like Lego blocks, and each of the suites makes the most of the surrounding vines. All you need to decide is whether you want to enjoy the views from the comfortable leather couch, deep soaking tub, giant floating king bed or spacious deck.
This winery is big on biodynamics and soil health, but there’s no need to worry if you get your hands dirty on a farm tour. Just down the road from the cellar door, the CABN X pods are the perfect spot for a deep clean thanks to the wood-fired cedar sauna and a giant two-person outdoor tub. It’s all part of a design that maximises the natural beauty of the surroundings, and there are few better ways to wake up than the dawn chorus provided by the avian residents of the majestic redgums just metres from the deck.
A large part of McLaren Vale’s appeal is that it fits so much into one compact region. In the centre of the valley, kangaroos and sheep nibble at blades of grass shooting up between dense rows of vines, while further west ochre-coloured cliffs loom over beaches of glittering white sand. And the million-dollar views from every room in this cosy hideaway let you take it all in without having to get up from your seat.
The well-stocked Vintec wine fridge means sundowners are taken care of, whether you’re lounging on the roomy deck or curled up by the giant double fireplace that opens onto the king bedroom and living room, while the 10 trees planted per booking help to make Australia’s greenest wine region even more beautiful.
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Chooks Little Winery Tours are legendary.Local identities, local knowledge, impeccable service. Integral part of McLaren Vale experience.