Wineries and Autumn Leaves (And More Cheese)

McLarenvale had me at the tourist information centre carpark.

The sight of Autumn leaves and the smell of the rosemary bushes being raked into order make me fall in love with the place immediately.

After days and days of drizzly dreariness, the sun was out. The light was that clean Australian autumn light that makes everything seem crisper and clearer.

Finally, the Australian Autumn I’d been hoping to show Darling Man. The rolling hills of vineyards I’d been dreaming of, and the most perfect clouds you could ever imagine.

Darling Man had stayed in the carpark with the nippy little hire car that had jiggled and jostled Miss M to sleep on the 20 minute drive from Adelaide south to McLarenvale. The drive was not as scenic as I had expected and so I was not prepared to be stopped in my tracks by the view from inside the charming sandstone tourist information centre.

McLarenvale Tourist Information Centre cafe

I had intended to run in and pick up a map but within seconds of stepping inside, I spun around and went back to the carpark to retrieve my little family.

“Wake her up,” I yelled, hopping from foot to foot on the gravel drive. “Bring her, bring her, you have to see this!”

I dragged Darling Man around the side of the tourist information centre, past lemon trees, lavender bushes and roses, onto the back verandah, covered by a vibrant autumn-red ornamental grape vine.

McLarenvale Tourist Information Centre

McLarenvale Tourist Information Centre

The building, the verandah, the swathe of emerald green grass and the vine-covered hills – the view was more than what I’d hoped for. I was so excited I couldn’t stand still.

I grabbed a tourist brochure, ordered a coffee, then rushed over to look at the garden. I rushed back to look at the map, then rushed back inside to ask where to go for lunch. The volunteer behind the counter suggested we eat at their café but I said we couldn’t eat at the first place we visited.

I demanded views and grape vines and a cellar door. The volunteer recommended Coriole and our unbelieveably wonderful day got even better.

Stone terraces, daisies, hollyhocks, roses, pencil pines, green green grass, orange and yellow and brown vines, ivy-clad old buildings, barrels full of flowering colour. Coriole was just perfect.

McLarenvale Vineyards, South Australia

I’d told Darling Man how vineyards grew rose bushes at the end of every row, a beautiful early warning system against fungal disease. And here were the rose bushes, protecting the not-so-beautiful almost-dormant vines.

We chose a wooden table under another autumn-coloured ornamental grape vine.

Coriole Vineyard lunch

The baby’s milk was placed in the cool comfort of a stone fireplace. Here, in this rustic and romantic setting, we were presented with a platter of regional specialities, a selection from Coriole, some from surrounding farms – smoked kangaroo, chorizo sausage, roasted beetroot, carrot and mushroom, triple-cream cheese, goat’s cheese, goat’s cheese dip, bread drizzled with locally-produced olive oil, chicken salad, frilly lettuce, olives.

We didn’t know where to start.

Lunch at Coriole Vineyards

We ate in shifts, taking turns to chase Miss M across the lawn and through the terraced garden. Around us, couples and families tucked into similar platters (the only item on the menu) and sipped glasses of the winery’s wine.

After lunch, Darling Man embarked on his first-ever wine tasting. As the designated driver (and only member of the team with a car driving license), I sat out the first session. I returned from a baby-chasing episode to find Darling Man taking possession of a bottle of dessert wine.

We drove 50 metres down the road to Rosemount Estate, a big commercial venture with an international export operation. This winery was large and slightly impersonal. I tried one of their new range of “botanical” wines, Sauvignon Blac with Lemon and Elderflower, which did not please my palate in the slightest. Blerch. Darling Man bought a bottle of the Crisp Chardonnay with Green Apple and Cucumber.

Miss M was looking a little sleepy by now but we wanted to squeeze one more winery into our day. On the same road as Coriole and Rosemount is d’Arenberg. More views, more lawn, more vines. Gum trees touching over the road. And magpies, the native Australia bird that has a song that sounds like water dancing down a mountain stream.

Darling Man is not a confident taster. Still. I roll my eyes and give him a friendly shove. This is his third cellar door, surely he’s got the hang of it by now. But no. He doesn’t know where to start. I ask for a sauvingnon blanc, my favourite variety of wine.

Two enormous glasses are slid over to us and then we hear that now-familiear musical magpie-like sound of wine gurgling into a glass. Like synchronized swimmers, we raise our glasses to our lips and sip. Darling Man’s eyebrows nearly rocket off his head. We both burst out with “wow”. The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc is fantastic.

We carry three clinking bags of wine to the hire car. We go back to the tourist information centre, which also has a cellar door. Miss M is sleepy but still awake, and active. We try to tire her out chasing her through the garden. But she just keeps going.

We decide to do one more cellar door. We choose Dog Ridge because we both love dogs. Of course, Miss M falls asleep during the seven-minute drive to Dog Ridge. We park the hire car near the cellar door, wind the windows down and go play with the curly-coated retriever.

Despite the doggy names of the wines, nothing really jumps out at us. Darling Man likes the white port, so we get a small bottle, even though we may be over Singapore’s duty-free limit.

The afternoon sun is making the vines more golden. Shadows stretch over the road. We decide to take advantage of the baby’s nap and visit Victor Harbour.

The winding road takes us past paddocks full of alpacas and diary cows. We pass signs for whackily-named towns, such as Mypong, Aldinga, Yundi and Wilunga.

The Victor Harbour excursion was a bust. We didn’t know where to go. Everything was shut. Miss M woke up grumpy. We had expensive oily fish and chips and then piled back into the hire car, which was now cramped and cranky.

We should have skipped Victor Harbour and just savoured our wonderful winery tour. And we really really should have bought more cheese.

Woodsite goat's cheese

9 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Andrea says:

    Such lovely photos! The food looks delicious =) We’re missing autumn weather as it has been more like spring here in South America.
    Andrea recently posted..Marcha Mundial de la Marihuana Montevideo- A Day on the Green

  2. Lisa Overman says:

    What a delightful day! I can see why you wanted to explore every inch of the place. What beautiful views with the vineyard, flowers and countryside. It’s gorgeous! I hope you enjoy your special wines 😉

    • The Dropout says:

      Lisa, there were about 30 vineyards in this area that we didn’t make it to. We only chose McLarenvale because it was close to Adelaide. I wanted to take Darling Man to the Barossa, which is divine, but it was a two-hour drive each way. That’s part of the reason I was so thrilled to find our second choice was so wonderful.

  3. Nadine says:

    Great pictures. I’m also a dropout. Got out of the rat race and moved to Costa Rica. Best decision of my life. Couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life in that office.

    I also love your countdown. It was exactly how I felt. Good luck!!
    Nadine recently posted..SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

  4. Mark Wiens says:

    Those blooming flowers paired with a coffee and followed by some wine and a mixed tid-bits platter looks like a formula for a fantastic day!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..Photo Favorite- Moorish High Court in Stone Town- Zanzibar

    • The Dropout says:

      Mark, if we didn’t have the baby to take care of, I’m sure we would have fallen asleep on the lawn for a while. A nap is the only thing that could have made the day more fantastic.

  5. adventureswithben says:

    Wine, Cheese and Bread & Butter. I could live off of all three!

  6. Sophie says:

    Love those curious Australian place names. This looks like a wonderful area 🙂

  7. Sounds like a great visit. I could go for a wine & cheese party right about now.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Photo teaser 6

  8. The food looks delicious! Never had smoked kangaroo, but I think I’d give it a try.
    The Travel Chica recently posted..How to Live Like a Porteño

  9. Aledys Ver says:

    What a fantastic day! I want to move to Adelaide 😀 I would love to live by a vineyard some day, I love everything related to winemaking!
    The food looks great – look at those olives! And the sausages! And the wine tasting … brings back memories of my roadtrip in wine country back in Argentina…
    Aledys Ver recently posted..A Bread Pudding Tale- There and Back Again

  10. Wow, this place looks just amazing. And that food spread! I need a vineyard stat.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Pros and Cons of Living in an RV

  11. robin says:

    I thought this post was wonderful and that was before I even got to the food photos…

    The place looks like heaven. You wrote your excitement beautifully and funnily!
    robin recently posted..Flamenco

  12. Kent @ NVR says:

    OK, first off… anything autumn related immediately resonates with us. Add in cheese AND wine. Perfection. By the way – that goat cheese looks fantastic.

  13. Liv says:

    Wine…cheese..hmmm – you just made me soooo hungry!
    Liv recently posted..Queensland Roadtrip

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