Out of town guide: McLaren Vale, SA

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Wine country meets waterfront in McLaren Vale, South Australia, a world-class wine region best known for shiraz, but now with around 80 wineries – many with adjoining restaurants – representing the breadth of wine-making prowess of State.

The views are really something else too. Drink them while enjoying sparse wine, award-winning gin and pizza at a three-in-one hilltop venue; comfortably installed in a luxurious independent guest house (with jacuzzi); or on the penthouse floor of a five-story Rubik’s cube in the middle of a vineyard.

Here are 12 of the best places to eat, drink, play, and stay in the area. They are all within an hour’s drive of Adelaide’s CBD, making McLaren Vale the perfect location for a day trip or even a weekend away.


The Salopienne Inn

Nestled around the corner of the McLaren Vale vineyards, on a renovated 1851 property, is a regional restaurant worth a visit. It’s by Michelin-starred chef Karena Armstrong, an SA resident whose CV also lists Icebergs and the now-closed Billy Kwong in Sydney, and Lake House in Victoria.

Over the past six years, the restaurant’s vegetable garden has grown from a small lot to about three-quarters of an acre, providing much of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs you’ll find on your plate. The menu is, of course, seasonal. But don’t go past the chewy meatballs, often stuffed with pork and kimchi, or the equally airy steamed buns, which might coat red braised farm pork, ginger and hoisin.

As for drinks, descend the stairs into a historic cellar to choose your own bottle in hand, or choose from a long list of over 200 local and international gins.



In 2016, Tony Mitolo, his father Vito and their friend Tim Anderson embarked on the opening of a pizzeria. They created an empire, with a pastel pink and green hanger that became an Instagram sensation.

Here, an imported Italian wood-fired oven produces hybrid “Oztalian” pies inspired by Tony’s time in Italy, the United States and at home. And they are considered by many – this writer included – to be the best in the state.

The almost indisputable jewel in the crown is the Diablo. It is a deceptively simple combination of sugo, mild salami, asagio cheese, dried chili flakes and homemade honey infused with chilli.

For the full experience, gather a group of pals and dive into the fisso menu, which includes a ton of pizza, grilled over charcoal. arrosticini (Abruzzo-style lamb skewers), tiramisu de nonna, and more.


Star of Greece

First, Star of Greece is not a Greek restaurant. (It’s named after a ship that sank nearby in the late 1800s.) But, perched on top of a cliff overlooking the idyllic beach of Port Willunga, it has the kind of views that will make you forget your canceled European vacations – and you can soak in from almost any seat in the house, including the large sun terrace.

Considering the location, it’s no surprise that seafood – often native to Kangaroo Island – reigns supreme here. Go classic with expertly prepared fish’n’chips or salt and pepper squid, or for something more sumptuous, go for Atlantic salmon with mashed white beans, charred cos and anchovies marinated whites.

The adjoining kiosk, a summer favorite that recently got a makeover, is Chef Karena Armstrong’s choice for some of the area’s best fish’n’chips.


Russell’s Pizza

Also in Willunga – although a little more inland – is this casual pizzeria for all occasions in an 1850s Welsh miner’s house. Outside there is a spacious area which is ideal. for eating and drinking outdoors during mild months and has a fireplace for the winter.

You can go a la carte, but for $ 39 you’ll get two well-garnished dishes: expect homemade bread with dukkah, lamb and feta koftas, salads and more – then wood-fired pizzas which will continue until you are stuffed. Fancy a dessert? Just add $ 5 more.

It’s also worth noting that Russell’s is BYO-friendly – you’re more than welcome to let off steam with an esky of tinnies, or a half-dozen bottles you’ve picked up from nearby wineries.



Alpha Box and Dice

Cellar doors can be intimidating at times. But this place, in a rudimentary shed in the middle of a plot of vines, is not one of them. That’s not to say that the start-up team behind Alpha Box & Dice don’t take wine seriously – they are pushing the boundaries with progressive, mostly European grape varieties since 2008.

For $ 10, sip eight “Alphabet of Wine” selections during a guided tasting. (The Dead Winemakers Society’s Dolcetto is our pick.) But it’s really as educational as you want it to be: get the full rundown, or just grab a bottle and a cheese board and sit back on a comfy chair in the sun. .


Chalk Hill Collective

After a long-awaited opening in early 2020, this three-fold beast is now the common home of three South African greats: the family-owned Chalk Hill winery, the award-winning Never Never gin distillery and the pizzerias behind Pizzateca and Madre. In addition, it offers a lush and uninterrupted view of the surrounding area.

It’s kind of an adventure to choose from here, but our recommendation is: start with a wine tasting at the Chalk Hill Cellar Door, upgrade to Never Never for a G&T flight, then finish on the Lawn with a crispy focaccia hybrid pizza (with a side of mozzarella and arancini sticks) from the discreet Italian canteen.


In the rabbit hole

At this McLaren Vale winery – which is bohemian chic in the best way – it’s as much about the wine as it is about the experience that comes with it. For most intimate and relaxed tastings, it all happens aboard an old-fashioned, sky-blue double-decker bus with a transparent roof and space to comfortably seat 10 people.

Visitors are invited to roll out a mat on the grass, purchase a bottle of light rosé or silky shiraz, and dig into a pasture platter filled with local meats and cheeses. Just be sure to hang out during the golden hour – it’s pretty spectacular here.


Gemtree wines

Perhaps best known for its deep reds, this organic and biodynamic vineyard now has a comfortable tasting room at McLaren Flat with sea views and beautiful vineyards. Plus, just like the wines, this place is environmentally conscious – built from recycled materials, powered by solar energy, and relying solely on rainwater.

Take a seat on deck and familiarize yourself with the etiquette during a personalized guided tasting. (It’s $ 20 for a flight of five wines.) But if you’re looking for something a little more casual, grab some picnic supplies and a bottle of wine inside, then find a spot on the large open lawn.



Container 65

A tiny house may not hold all of your trash, but this converted shipping container – on a secluded dirt road in the middle of wine country – is a perfect base for a minimal McLaren Vale weekend.

It was built in 2018 by Saffy Ossa and her husband Dom, co-owner and manager of local coffee roaster Dawn Patrol Coffee. Exposed pine and industrial finishes are very present overall, but it still feels remarkably welcoming. (There’s even a kitchen so you can make your own breakfast.)

You are assured of peace and quiet here, especially when relaxing on the spacious deck. Although you may come across a sheep named Dorothy, an alpaca called Alf, or a few stray sheep.


The vineyard retreat

Want to splash out? Dotted across a lush 15-acre vineyard – not too far from some of the area’s best restaurants and wineries – are six luxurious, self-catering guesthouses (with options for two or four people).

Each has a private terrace with stunning vistas, a log fire and luxury linens, plus locally sourced breakfast staples and a fully stocked free mini bar. .

In addition, all guests also have access to a Jacuzzi which sits on the highest point of the property, overlooking the imposing Arenberg Cube and the Gulf of St. Vincent.



Arenberg Cube Museum of Alternative Realities

On the ground floor of the breathtaking five-story Arenberg Cube is the oddly named Museum of Alternate Realities.

“The idea is that when you have a glass of wine and I have a glass of wine, we have a different reality, we think of wine differently,” said Chester Osborn, chief winemaker of Arenberg. Large format in 2018. The interactive screens are meant to awaken your senses before heading to the bright and sunny penthouse for a tasting.

Expect a “wine aroma room” covered in flowers on one side and fruit on the other, an immersive 360-degree video room, and another room with thousands of VHS tapes from floor to floor. ceiling.


Willunga Farmer’s Market

If you’re in McLaren Vale for the weekend, switch to Saturday by visiting the sunny Willunga Farmers Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon.

These were the first farmers’ markets established in the state, with dozens of stalls set up in the town square every week. There are loads of vibrant, locally grown fruits and vegetables; meat from surrounding areas; staple foods such as olive oil and honey; and more.

Also keep an eye out for regular merchants such as Small World Bakery, Woodside Cheese Wrights, and Fleurieu Milk.


This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Australia. Whether you are looking for a quick getaway, a lazy vacation or an epic trek, Australia is a land of endless adventure. There has never been a better or more important time to get out and explore. Take a vacation here this year.

About John A. Provost

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