Best Wineries In McLaren Vale
I don’t know about anybody else but, I really like wine. I love to check out different wine regions when traveling, whether that be in California or Niagara Falls. When I first arrived in Adelaide after my Great Ocean Road trip, I moved in with a friend that lives in the Fleurieu peninsula, just a stones throw away from McLaren Vale. She was excited to show me the area since she was working as a Sous Chef at one of the wineries here. I was pretty excited to check out some of Australia’s wine regions, and fortunate enough to have a local tour guide show me the best wineries in McLaren Vale!
McLaren Vale is often overlooked in favour of it’s bigger counterpart, the Barossa Valley, but did you know that McLaren Vale is the oldest wine region in South Australia? It’s first commercial winery opened in 1839! With over 150 years of wine making under it’s belt, McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s premiere wine regions.
With the climate of Mclaren Vale mirroring that of the mediterranean, you’ll find many varietals that are found in the Mediterranean region, such as Tempranillo and Zinfandel.
The McLaren Vale region covers over 7500 hectares of vineyards, which means there’s more than enough wineries to explore. Whether you only have one day or want to turn your wine tasting experience into a weekend away, you’ll find way more beyond the cellar door.
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How To Get To Mclaren Vale
McLaren Vale is a 45 minute car journey from Adelaide. Public transport is not an option for visiting this area from Adelaide city centre. However if you are staying in the Fleurieu Peninsula, you may be able to get a bus into McLaren Vale town centre.
Visiting Mclaren Vale Via Tours
If you are staying in Adelaide city or Glenelg, day trips to McLaren Vale are easy to access and you don’t need to have a designated driver – so everyone can drink!
Where To Stay In Mclaren Vale
The nice thing about McLaren Vale is that there are no big chain hotels or resorts here, you won’t find any Holiday Inns, Marriotts or Hyatts. I think this really gives the town a much more authentic feel, you know that when you book a place to stay you are supporting local.
There are many places to stay in McLaren Vale and most of them will be b’n’bs. For that true country experience, I think staying on a vineyard itself is the way to go!
1) Serafino Wines offers chalet style accommodation onsite the estate, which means the restaurant and cellar door are all within walking distance! Even better no one has to drive home and you can wine taste to your hearts content. The rooms at Serafino are clean and modern and look out onto the estates gardens which are perfect for taking a walk and exploring the surroundings.
2) Hotel California Road at Inkwell Wines – If you’re really looking for some peace and quiet during your time in McLaren Vale check out the Hotel California Road. This secluded micro hotel is adults only and each floor is a private king suite. The rooms feature a sharp clean interior and full length windows that showcase the vineyards.
1) Down The Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole is a relatively new winery in McLaren Vale. The moment I stepped foot into this small bohemian paradise I knew I would love it. Everything about this place is just so… me.
As soon as you approach the cellar door you are greeted with an outdoor boho seating area, complete with rugs and pillows on the floor, and small wooden tables that sit about ten inches from the ground. A swing chair hangs from one of the trees and the sound of laughter fills the area. There is an indoor seating area just next to the outdoor area which is just as whimsical. On certain Fridays throughout the month you’ll also find live music here.
Down the Rabbit Hole is owned by Elise and Dominic Cook , and is one is the smaller boutique cellar doors in the region. While you are here you don’t feel like you are at a winery, but more like a friends house who just happens to own a vineyard!
Dom and Elise have done such a wonderful job with the launch of this winery. The cellar door is so unique, it’s an old double decker bus that they have renovated into this wonderful pastel blue bar on wheels.
And I haven’t even gotten to the wine yet.
Down the Rabbit Hole features five wines in their current inventory. Each wine is adorned with an illustration that reflects a prominent part of their journey “down the rabbit hole”. From it’s inception to their very first pop up cellar door party. On the back of every bottle you’ll find a poem written by Dom and Elise:
For Friends & Lovers a Place Exists
Another World of Joy & Bliss
Beyond The Stars, Space & Time
To Enter, Show the Secret Sign
The Moon is Bright, Revive Your Soul
Come Join Us Down The Rabbit Hole
Each line represents a different moment in their journey as well as each bottle of wine in the collection.
What I loved most about Down the Rabbit Hole was it’s laid back vibe. During the wine tasting, everything about the bottle and the background of this winery was explained to us , giving this experience a more intimate feel.
Wine tasting at Down the Rabbit Hole will cost $10 per person and if you choose to purchase a bottle of wine the $10 gets deducted from the price of the bottle.
1) Friends & Lovers Rosé
2) Down The Rabbit Hole 2017 Shiraz
3) Down The Rabbit Hole 2019 Tempranillo
2) Alpha Box & Dice
Alpha Box and Dice and is another of Mclaren Vale’s quirky wineries. This winery was established in 2008 and you’ll find their wines on plenty of wine lists around South Australia.
The cellar door is an old metal shed appropriately embellished with the Alphabet and pair of dice. Once inside the cellar door the quirky factor gets pushed up a notch. Old mismatched vintage furniture and peculiar wares fill the inside seating area. With such an unusual cellar door, it seems only fitting that the dump bucket here is a vintage bed pan.
Alpha Box & Dice uses the alphabet as their inspiration behind this winery using weird and macabre names such as “Dead Winemakers Society” and “Golden Mullet Fury”.
Wine tasting at Alpha Box and Dice is free and you can try as many wines as you like. Needless to say I left here feeling rather tipsy…
1) Tarot Pinot Grigio
2) Dead Winemakers Society Red
3) Hercules Shiraz
3) Serafino Wines
Serafino Wines is one of the bigger cellar doors in McLaren Vale. Upon driving into the estate you’ll pass by a long perfectly groomed driveway that will lead you to the main building and parking lot. Everything about this winery screams luxury. Sitting just in front of the cellar door is a pond with a fountain and in bold letters the word “SERAFINO”
The winery on the day I visited was empty, this was the week just before lockdown in Australia so we had the entire place to ourselves. The wine tasting room is large, bright and airy. I would imagine on a regular day there would be tables in this area too. We were greeted by a lady at the bar and we dove into the wine varietals on offer.
Serafino has a large collection of wine so it was hard to choose which to taste, the reds were a must and didn’t disappoint.
Serafino offers two tasting flight options; the Discover Flight which is 5 tasting of your choosing for $10 or there is the Premium Flight for $39.
1) Goose Island Rosé
2) Black Label Shiraz
3) Serafino GSM
4) D’Arenberg Wines
Although there are many smaller wineries in McLaren Vale, no wine tasting trip to McLaren Vale would be complete without visiting the famous D’Arenberg Wines. One of the biggest winemakers in the region, and undeniably one of the most recognisable cellar doors in Australia.
The cube that D’Arenberg is famous for houses it’s cellar door along with a casual eatery and alternative realities museum. Entry to the cube and wine tasting experience is $15. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to learn more about wine varietals, D’Arenberg offers the Blending Bench experience where you’ll get to experiment with flavours and take home your very own blend.
There are several restaurants at the D’Arenberg estate. If you’re looking for something extra special, D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant offers a full service menu while Polly’s inside the cube is a casual eatery that doesn’t require reservations.
1) D’Arry’s Original
2) The Sticks And Stones Tempranillo Blend
3) The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc
5) Dowie Doole
Dowie Doole is another new cellar door in the area. What I really love about this place is it’s innovative design. The cellar door is made up of 3 shipping containers affectionately known as “the tasting pod” that have been transformed into a wine tasters paradise. The tasting pod uses solar power and transforms to “open up” on either side.
The tasting options range from curated flights to build your own, from their estate range all the way through to the reserve range.
McLaren Vale is famous for their reds, so naturally my favourite wines at the Dowie Doole cellar door were the C.T Shiraz and B.F.G Grenache.
Tasting flights were around the $15 mark and again if you decide to purchase a bottle this gets deducted from the price.
While we were here we got chatting to Brenda, who just so happens to be from Whistler! Interestingly enough, we both worked at one of the restaurants here in Whis and so she knew my old boss! Talk about living in a small world!
1) Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2) Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
3) 2017 C.T. Shiraz
6) Big Easy Radio
Big Easy Radio is a winery a little further out from McLaren Vale and one to look out for on weekends. This place is really unique, I know I’ve said that about almost every winery on this list but this cellar door is like no other. It has it’s own vibe going on, a bit on the hippy side and if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m really into that. Big Easy Radio aims to bring wine to those who wouldn’t normally drink it. It’s based around the laid back Aussie beach lifestyle.
This small shack sitting just off the highway near Aldinga doesn’t look like much as you pass by but on the weekends this place really comes to life. If you’re staying in McLaren Vale for the weekend, this is the place to to enjoy live music on a Friday night and chill out as the sun sets over this beautiful peninsula.
1) Drink The Sun 2019 Rosé
2) Perpetual Holidaze 2017 Grenache
3) Forget Babylon Touriga Malbec
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