Day 7: A love affair with Riesling in Clare Valley

Our last day in Adelaide saw us visiting the least frequented wine region of Clare Valley. Clare Valley is where the best of the Australian Riesling is produced. While with less people, Clare Valley feels less commercial and more like a holiday destination, where wine tasting and eating good food seem to be on everyone’s agenda. Not pressured into buying any wine in any way really shows a great strength of the region: while the quality of the wine can be paramount to the experience, I think the people matter quite a lot, too. And Clare Valley really delivers on making the wine tasting experience a really special one.

Clare Valley is located around 140 km north of Adelaide, and will take up to 2 hours on a good day to drive up north. The trick is to get on the M20 instead of the A20 because the latter has tons of traffic lights and you would be in urban area for most! We made that mistake in the outbound and took a few extra minutes to get there.

But once we arrived into Clare Valley, things turned for the better!

Our first stop is Crabtree’s Watervale Wineyard:

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We arrived quite early, though already in the mood of wine tasting. The lady manning the counter was very friendly and was very keen on getting all of us to try their range of wine. She started off by introducing us to their field and where in the field that they planted the different grapes, and the effects of the sunlight on the wine produces.

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As you can see, most of the vineyard is dedicated to planting Riesling, and most of them are planted on the westside of the ridge. This is because that Riesling tends not to like the morning sun. Out of the two Rieslings we tasted, I was particularly fond of the Hilltop Riesling, which was very fruity and crisp. The Watervale Riesling was not bad, too.

We really enjoyed the wines here, though we did not buy any at this point (we did come back later in the afternoon and grabbed a bottle of the Hilltop Riesling which I was very fond of!) I really appreciated the very detailed introduction to the region’s Riesling production, and the recommendation that we should aim to have lunch in Paulett’s, which was brilliant, too. I would highly recommend Crabtree’s as a starting point, or as a place of very good quality wine.

Next up in Mitchell’s. Uninspiring, in my opinion, nothing to write home about, really.

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The Riesling there tended to be a little too acidic to my taste.

We then carried on and went to Skillogalee, which was another excellent wine producer. As we arrived into the gate of Skillogalee, we saw people starting to harvest grapes for this year’s vintage. I do not remember which type they were harvesting, but I would think that it is Riesling!

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Clare Valley is a very beautiful place. The geography there meant that it is not very flat, the hills and valleys made up a very picturesque portrait of nature.

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There is a huge range of wine in Skillogalee for us to try. The 2012 Trevarrick Riesling was particularly good. It was rich in flavours.

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On our way out, we stopped again at the entrance, and the man in charge of the harvesting came and talked to us about the harvesting. He told us it would take them a few days to harvest (by hand) just the fields in the bottom of the hill. I guess the wine quality in Clare Valley is very good partly because of the lack of mass production in a way.

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Before going to Paulett for lunch, we went up the hill (by car, of course) to the Spring Gully Conservatory Park to see the view of the creekbed of Spring Gully. The park has a bit of the feel of outback with slightly dry ground and barren trees etc.

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Without further a due, we were all very hungry and wanted a lunch. We heeded the advice of the lady back at Crabtree’s and went to Paulett, and it did not disappoint.

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This is our table:

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This view was spectacular (thanks to the weather), and so was the food:

Menu:

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We shared a starter: which was crisps with pate, which was excellent. The pate, in particular, was rich in flavours and went well with the wine.

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The main course was braised beef cheeks with mash potatoes. I don’t think I have had any better beef before – it was phenomenal, and definitely restored my faith in beef after last night’s terrible steak in Glenelg.

I went for ice cream to share with my sister: which again was brilliant (and I am definitely looking forward to the ice cream in the garden party I am about to go to)

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After a fulfilling lunch, I felt much obliged to wash down some wine, and went to the cellar door of Paulett to taste their white range. I think their Riesling was very, very good, but not as fruity and crisp as Crabtree’s Hilltop Riesling. Yet, they have top-notch sparkling whites, and the sparkling red wasn’t bad either. Out of the wines I tasted, I particularly enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc.

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And then, we drove back to Adelaide after stopping at Crabtree’s for its excellent Riesling. It took 2 hours to get back, and just in time to fit some shopping in town for us. We returned to our favourite restaurant in Adelaide: Ding Hao for our last supper (pardon the pun).

Stir-fried Squid with Prawn Sauce

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Clamps in Black Bean Sauce

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Steamed Oyster with Spring Onion and Ginger

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Complimentary Dessert

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In conclusion, Clare Valley is excellent, it is very scenic and the people were very friendly. If you have a day in Adelaide, Clare Valley should be on the top of your list for the wine, the food and the nature.

 

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