When winemakers Ben Caldwell and Mauricio Ruiz Cantu decided to open a tasting space for their minimal-intervention wine brand Somos, McLaren Vale was the obvious choice.
“Somos is focused on alternative, climate-appropriate, sustainably grown varieties and McLaren Vale has been a champion of those [practices],” Caldwell tells Broadsheet, “[also] it’s just a beautiful spot.”
The cellar door, which will officially open on Saturday June 3, is a relaxed character-filled space in a converted 1920s homestead decorated with murals by Melbourne artist Eddy Sara.
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Caldwell and Ruiz Cantu have attracted a devoted following of lo-fi wine fans. The pair’s tongue-twisting arsenal of curious creations includes Somos Los Melones Dinamicos, an orange wine made from biodynamically farmed French variety viognier; the Somos Naranjito, made from biodynamically farmed Portuguese variety verdelho; a smashing Somos Mencia and the likes of Italian oddballs barbera, uva di troia, and aglianico.
The winemakers hail from diverse backgrounds. Caldwell comes from the small country town of Molong in New South Wales, while Ruiz Cantu is originally from Mexico. The pair met in 2010 while studying viticulture and oenology at Adelaide University. They quickly became friends and, realising they shared a winemaking ethos, together registered the company name Juguette Wines in 2013.
Juguette, which means “toy” in Spanish, is exclusively available in Mexico, where the pair are pioneering providers of classic Australian wine. More locally, the pair run Seven Eves, a label which uses grapes from Saint-Clar Estate Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills to explore traditional French varieties.
Their newest label, Somos, focuses on the thoughtfully eclectic wines that personally please the pair. “These are the wines I want to drink, made from sustainably grown and climate-appropriate varieties,” says Caldwell. “This is important as we move forward into a changing climate; varieties that grow using less water, retaining more natural acidity, and using less resources can only be a positive change.”
Fruit is sourced from a variety of growers, mostly in McLaren Vale and the Adelaide
Hills, but small parcels also come from Langhorne Creek and the Riverland growers, all of whom are certified by the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia. Wines are made in the large winery shed behind the cellar door, meaning you’ll often catch a glimpse of the pair.
“There are a few different ways to taste here,” Caldwell says. “There’s a bar, a table for an intimate tasting with friends, and comfortable armchairs.” A turntable spins a selection of vinyl and there’s a wood fire to keep visitors warm when the Vale air is crisp. Verandah seating and a shady lawn area make it a family-friendly space. There’s no food offering but the pair encourage visitors to bring their own snacks, often recommending a takeaway pizza from nearby Pizzateca.
It all makes for an enlightening tasting experience. “At the cellar door, we’ll have six to eight different bottles open,” Ruiz Cantu tells Broadsheet. “Obviously, if someone comes in and says they’re a huge fan of something and want to try it, we’ll always oblige – but the idea is to [taste] a selection of different wines from both Somos and Seven Eves so you get a glimpse into what we do. It’s a diverse range, so you might get a pét-nat, an orange wine or skin contact wine in the mix.”
Somos Cellar Door
333 Foggo Road, McLaren Flat
Fri to Mon 11am–4pm
Tues to Thurs by appointment only