Adelaide and McLaren Vale

25 Feb

After a horrendously early start (04:45), I finally arrived in Adelaide, SA.  Here I met John, from the Barossa-Daimler tours (, who took me wine drinking for the following three days!

Earlier, Greg went through the wine regions and highlighted the different vineyards, those that produce great wine and those that have interesting “cellar doors”, as well as those which do good food.

I started in McLaren Vale on the first day and then went to the Barossa in the evening, through the Adelaide hills.  I spent the next day touring the Barossa and then the final day touring the Clare Valley before heading back to Adelaide on Saturday night and Sydney on Sunday evening.

This is the final wine session of the trip and I hope to add to my recently acquired knowledge of Australian wines.


Our first stop was the d’Arenberg vineyards, owned and run by the Osbourne family, the original winemaker being d’Arenberg Osbourne.  The d’Arenberg wines come with a good reputation, with a number of their reds featuring in the Langton’s Auction House wine guide.

View of the d'Arenberg vineyards

View of the d’Arenberg vineyards

This was a good “cellar door” with several delicious wines and their cheeky sparkling wine, DADD, a take on the French MUMM.

Dadd sparkling wine

Dadd sparkling wine

I went on to try their Lucky Lizard, a Chardonnay made from grapes from the Adelaide hills.  Note that this wine, made from grapes that are not from the McLaren region have a different label (the signature d’Arenberg label is a diagonal red stripe) and are the baby of Chester Osbourne, the son of the original winemaker.  He has run the vineyard for the last ten years.

The Dead Arm Shiraz, 2008, was, not surprisingly, the best of the reds on show – clearly a little young but developing well.  I also tried one of the “Amazing Sites” wines, the JRO Affiliates 2010.  The best grapes of all vineyards are blended to give the dead arm.  The “Amazing Sites” feature wines made from the best grapes from each vineyard.

The d'Arenberg wines

The d’Arenberg wines

I tried a dessert wine which was tasty but way to sweet without enough balancing acidity.

Kay Brothers

I loved, loved, loved the Kay Brothers’ cellar door, which was certainly my favourite of those in the McLaren Vale.

View from the Kay brothers cellar door

View from the Kay brothers cellar door

I would say white wines are not their speciality, although I tried a perfectly delicious 2012 basket pressed Muscat Blanc, which would be a good match to seafood, fish or even creamy pasta.  All of their wines are basket pressed.  The stand out wine for me was the 2010 Cuthbert, named after the son of one of the original Kay brothers.  I also found the 2011 Basket Pressed Merlot to be a very interesting wine.  It smelt like tobacco / cigars and was very tannic and structured on the palate – more like a Cabernet in style than a Merlot.  It would be interesting to see how this would develop after a few (ten or more?) years of cellaring.

Additionally, for top ranked Australian wines (again, a number feature in Langton’s), their prices were more reasonable than a lot of the other cellars and for wines which aren’t as good.

Their best known wine is block 6, which sadly was not on the tasting menu.  Fortunately, Greg has a case so…..


Next we went on to the Primo vineyards, which were established in 1979.

Primo Cellar Door and vineyards

Primo Cellar Door and vineyards

They have a number of different labels, with Joseph being the premium one used for local McLaren Vale wines and the Primo label being used mainly for the wines made overseas and experimental wines.

The owner, Joseph Grilli, is Italian and he likes to use Italian grapes such as Nebbiolo (present in the Italian stallion of wines, Barolo) and Sangiovese (most commonly known as the key grape in Chianti), which are not so common in Australia.  They also make olive oil – Joe Grilli has almost single-handedly been responsible for improving the quality of Australian olive oil.  The sample that I had was certainly of a high quality, very olive flavoured, with a tinge of green.

As I asked  about the Sangiovese, so we had two extra bottles added to our tasting – both 80% / 20% Shiraz / Sangiovese, one made in Tuscany and one from McLaren Vale.  These are very, very different beasts.  Apparently 2011 was a rainy year in McLaren Vale, so more of the grape retained its blue colour and remained highly tannic, rather than the black colour that the grapes achieve when they ripen more on the grapes and some of the tannins even out.


I enjoyed these wines and certainly found them quite interesting.  I am not alone in this – the well known Australian chef, Neil Perry, in this month’s Gourmet Traveller highlights Joe’s sparkling Burgundy as his favourite summer barbecue wine. (

The standout wine for me, though, was the 2007 vintage Joseph Nebbiolo, aged for 20 months in French oak.  This wine had fruits and berries on the nose and some muscle-y tannins on the palate.

Bridgewater Mill

After lunch, we went to the BridgeWater mill, the Petaluma Label.

The waterwheel from the original Bridgewater Mill

The waterwheel from the original Bridgewater Mill

They have recently been taken over by Kirin beer.  While there, I tried a couple of sparkling wines.  The first was disturbingly yeasty and a bit rushed and nothing I would recommend or buy.  The rose was gentler and lighter on the yeastiness.  The late disgorge 2000 was clearly a much better made wine and was something I could drink.

Next we tried their 2012 Riesling.  Now, Clare Valley is the key Riesling area with winemakers such as Jeffrey Grosset specialising in this wine.  The 2012 Hanlin Hill had a fair amount of minerality but was not too acidic.  I would say it was a decent Riesling that would get destroyed by the top Clare Valley wines.  I went on to try their Chardonnay (too “oak-ey” for my tastes), a Cabernet Merlot and a Shiraz.  None of them stood up to the wines I had tried earlier.

At this point, as the early start to the day began to wear on me, we made our way on to the Barossa where I would stay overnight, readying myself for my big wine day.

One Response to “Adelaide and McLaren Vale”

  1. Camille February 25, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    Water Wheel looks like the one back home greedygyal

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