The d’Arenberg Cube
The five-storey, semi-spun Rubik’s Cube in the middle of a d’Arenberg vineyard started as a figment of chief winemaker Chester Osborn’s imagination. Then, 14 years ago, it materialised into a half-metre-high model. Now a towering replica is arguably McLaren Vale’s most defining piece of architecture.
The $15 million cellar door, fine dining restaurant and "Alternate Reality" museum opened in December 2017 and visitors have poured in daily since.
The Cube is not only unrivalled in form, but in function. Its exterior is just the tip of the iceberg. Osborn has been likened to Willy Wonka, but his ground-level “Alternate Realities Museum” surpasses pure imagination.
There’s a method to (or at least an explanation for) his madness. Get a look-in via the museum app, which uses “beacon technology” (get closer to an art piece and its beacon gets bigger; tap to learn more) like that at Hobart’s MONA.
On level three you’ll find premium tastings, masterclasses and blend-your-own experiences. Calling level five a “cellar door” doesn’t quite cut it. It’s not a rustic shed or a converted homestead. Rather, a shiny, sun-drenched penthouse crowned with double-tempered glass (mimicking the cube’s sides) and 16 retractable umbrellas – 15 black and one red – of different heights and angles. Patchwork, multi-coloured lounges feel suitably out of place.
A winery with 500 acres of vineyards to its name (Australia’s largest biodynamic grower, says Osborn) needs a hub of similar proportions. Clad with 112 screens, the glass-topped, lip-shaped bar has seven times the space of its predecessor. 40-odd wines are on tasting.
All of this, it should be said, can be experienced with a measly $10 entry fee.
A staircase in the cellar door leads down to the restaurant. Here's where you need your wallet. The kitchen is presided over by Michelin-trained husband-and-wife duo Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Dürr (Leonard’s Mill).
The vision is ambitious, boundary pushing, and its own art form, really. In line with the ground-level museum, things aren’t always as they seem.
A washed-rind cheese (or what appears as such) is actually a fromage blanc and stracciatella draped in a hay-infused yuba (tofu skin). Port-jelly-coated foie gras mousse with duck crisp masquerades as a pair of grapes and their tendrils.
To accompany a scallop dish, Wessels has recreated an intense seawater which, when boiled and poured over dry ice, replicates the unmistakably salty rock-pool scent. Two 3D-printed elements – one of them a white-chocolate, Japanese-style ganache – feature in his deconstructed lemon-meringue pie. It’s one of the first restaurants in Australia using the cutting-edge technology.
You’re afforded two degustation options: long, or extra long. Matched wines can be d’Arenberg-only, or international drops – handpicked by sommelier Josh Picken (ex Orana, Shōbōsho) – poured alongside their d’Arenberg counterparts.
It’s a lot to take in. We’d say come prepared, but not a lot could prepare you for this.
Entry $10 (includes tasting, waived if you’re dining or doing a premium tasting, masterclass or blending experience).
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