Two hours north of Adelaide is one of the country’s oldest wine regions. The Clare Valley has upwards of 50 cellar doors peppered through the towns of Clare, Sevenhill, Watervale, Mintaro, Auburn and Polish Hill River.
It’s known as the heart of Australian riesling – hence the 35-kilometre bike trail named after it. Multi-generational wineries exist a stone’s throw from new-age vintners, whose drops are innovative while still reflecting the region’s rich terroir. In the same way, long-established restaurants work symbiotically with newer arrivals that are pushing the envelope with hyper-local produce and culinary style.
It’s far enough from Adelaide to warrant at least an overnight stay. Book a private, centuries-old cottage with its own dam or go “glamping” and (somewhat) immerse yourself in nature.
Heading to the Clare Valley soon? Here’s where to eat, drink, stay and play.
Skillogalee Winery and Restaurant
This family owned and operated winery makes riesling worth travelling for. It operates out of an old stone cottage built in 1851. In the adjoining restaurant there’s breakfast and lunch every day of the year (except Christmas Day). Pull up a seat under the verandah or venture out to a table in the gardens. Try the wallaby shank cooked in (and paired with a glass of) Skillogalee cabernet.
23 Trevarrick Road, Sevenhill
(08) 8843 4311
Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen
On the hunt for a casual lunch or Friday night dinner? You’re in safe hands with Mr Mick, which is smack bang in the middle of Clare. The menu is always tapas-heavy but changes with the season. Order a handful of small plates to share and experience as many food-and-wine pairings as possible. There’s a tight catalogue of wines, most of which won’t break the bank.
7 Dominic Street, Clare
(08) 8842 2555
Trace back to the Clare Valley’s beginnings at Reillys Wines. Find the cellar door and restaurant in a heritage-listed original stone and slate building. Irish shoemaker Hugh Reilly constructed it in 1856. Meals in the restaurant are earthy, wholesome and often bear subtle Irish influence. There are also stacked-up platters for one or two.
Corner of Hill Street and Leasingham Road, Mintaro
(08) 8843 9013
Seed Winehouse and Kitchen
Seed covers all the bases: it’s half cafe and espresso bar, half relaxed bistro and wine bar. The former serves breakfast and lunch staples such as toasties, granola and pancakes alongside blends from Barossa Coffee Roasters. The latter has a share-style, European-inspired menu. There are small snacks, charcuterie and seasonal small and large plates. Let the chef decide for $65 a head.
308 Main North Road, Clare
(08) 8842 2323
Paulett Wines and Bush Devine Cafe
An Indigenous Australian bush-food garden with more than 80 different species and 1000 plants provides, in part, for the Bush Devine Cafe. It’s attached to Paulett Wines. Walk through the “sensory” garden before settling in for an innovative culinary experience. On the menu you might find native pepper leaf, finger-lime sauce, wattleseed confit or pepperberry pepperonata.
752 Jolly Way, Polish Hill River
(08) 8843 4328
The Little Red Grape
As with any good, quaint country bakehouse, The Little Red Grape makes for a perfect pit stop. If you’re making tracks through the Clare Valley, refuel here. It uses traditional baking techniques and ingredients come from the region and its surrounds where possible.
148 Main North Road, Sevenhill
(08) 8843 4088
Terroir opened as a restaurant in 2012. Since then it’s expanded to include a next-door cafe and on-site accommodation. It’s owned and run by husband-and-wife duo Dan and Annika Moss. The modern-Australian restaurant is a fine diner, minus the pretence. Herbs are grown in the kitchen garden and there’s a strict locavore philosophy. Only some spices and dairy products are outsourced – purely because they’re not produced in the Clare Valley
21 Main North Road, Auburn
(08) 8849 2509
Shut The Gate Wines
Like many of the region’s best spots, this cellar door and providore inhabits a charming old cottage. Stop in for a taste of Rasa Fabian and Richard Woods’s small-batch single-vineyard wines or grab a bottle and plant yourself. There’s a cosy lounge or picturesque courtyard to choose from. Don’t leave without picking up a few items to build your own picnic.
8453 Main North Road, Clare
(08) 8843 4114
One of the most recognisable names in the valley, Pikes was founded on great riesling. But its repertoire has expanded to include a diverse range of wines and beers. The cellar door sits in a restored stone building, originally a shearing shed built by Polish immigrants in the 1800s. Kick back with a grazing plate and a glass of wine or sample a brew made in the 20-hectolitre craft brewery.
233 Polish Hill River Road, Sevenhill
(08) 8843 4370
Now’s the time to familiarise yourself with Koerner Wine – brothers Damon and Jono Koerner are running a pop-up cellar door in Mintaro’s historic Magpie & Stump Hotel. Drop by to sample their dynamic range of wines, which includes a swathe of alternative grape varietals alongside valley staples. The minimal-intervention juice is produced with fruit from the family’s 38-year-old vineyard in Gullyview. Need more convincing? Damon was shortlisted in the 2018 Young Gun of Wine Awards. Find your new favourite drop before the whole country catches on.
Wines by KT
The chance to sample Kerri Thompson’s acclaimed wines is a rare treat. Her Auburn cellar door is shut most of the year. But from September until Christmas, Wines by KT is open each weekend, pouring award-winning, single-site drops such as shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo and more. But Thompson’s signature is riesling – and she released a new one in spring. Off you go.
20 Main North Road, Auburn
0419 855 500
When you’re all wined out head over to Clare Valley Brewing Co. (CVBC) to knock back a refreshing brew or two. Its core range features a classic Australian-style pale ale, malty red ale, dark and delicious extra stout and a sessionable summer ale. Grab a paddle and head out to the deck or take a growler of your favourite home with you. The brewery shares a cellar door with Jeanneret Wines so you can please the whole crew.
22 Jeanneret Road, Sevenhill
(08) 8843 4308
A trip to the Clare Valley isn’t complete without a stop at Grosset Wines. Chief winemaker Jeffrey Grosset is the one of the most influential winemakers in Australia – and widely considered our best riesling producer. His small-batch premium wines regularly top wine lists around the country, and the world. Spring is the time to visit. He opens his cellar door from September to November each year (or until his wines sell out).
Corner of Manoora Road and Stanley Street, Auburn
(08) 8849 2175
The Riesling Trail
Explore one of Australia’s most acclaimed white-wine regions – on two wheels. The Riesling Trail is a 35-kilometre stretch from Auburn to Barinia that’s densely packed with cellar doors to stop off at. Cycle, wine-taste, repeat.
Red Banks Conservation Park
This national park is thought to be one of the richest sites in Australia for megafauna (large, prehistoric animals that became extinct about 50,000 years ago). Follow the paths they once followed on the “Landscapes of Change” walk. Keep an eye out for western grey and red kangaroos, short-beaked echidnas or southern hairy-nosed wombats.
15 minutes east of Burra, via the Barrier Highway
Clare Valley Art Gallery
This is the Clare Valley’s arts hub. The humble regional gallery has proudly represented Indigenous artists – predominantly from Central Australia – for more than 10 years. Find collections from artists acclaimed nationally and internationally, as well as works by small emerging talents. All pieces are sourced direct from the artist to support their craft.
Lot 3 Main North Road, Clare
If you want to immerse yourself in nature without sacrificing the comforts of home, look no further. Each luxury tent on this property is huge, with a queen bed, private ensuite, heating and cooling, and a deck that overlooks the valley’s rolling hills. The best part: Clare’s wineries are only a few minutes away.
88 Stradbrooke Road, Stanley Flat
These self-contained, renovated cottages are sprawled on a 7000-acre property. Each is kitted out with a kitchen, bathroom, wood fire and – importantly for summer – air conditioning. Bungaree Station also offers a number of activities including walking trails that meander through paddocks, guided farm experiences and clay-target shooting.
431 Bungaree Road, Clare
Skillogalee House is perhaps the most luxurious self-contained accommodation in the valley. The tastefully restored residence is bordered by a well-kept garden and looks onto its own dam. Beyond are some of the region’s most-photographed vineyards. Stay here for a romantic getaway or retreat with friends – in complete privacy.
170 Hughes Park Road, Sevenhill