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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 years ago