I’ve done it. I’ve finally escaped Adelaide city, and headed out into the
regional areas of South Australia. And now I can add another wine region to the list of ‘been there, done that, going back again’ experiences. Three years ago, on our last trip to SA we’d cycled the Reisling trail in the Clare Valley; we’d dodged old railway tracks and rabbits, and wobbled between some of the country’s oldest wineries on a cold, but very memorable day. With 50% of Australia’s wine produced within 200kms of Adelaide, we couldn’t exactly ignore the rest of the vineyards. Why, it would practically be rude not to! McLaren Vale is nothing short of glorious. It’s a tiny region that saddles the back of the Adelaide hills, and the sea. The locals have the option of drinking themselves silly in vineyards and then relaxing in some of the state’s best beaches.
We’d decided that again, the best way to have a guilt-free booze fest was to disguise it with exercise, so we’d picked a mountain bike tour of the region. Our fellow byclers for the day were Crispin and Jane, with guide Ian; while his wife Deb and 7mth old Charlotte followed us in the van to make sure no one became the latest roadkill. I thought I was clever wearing black jeans and layers on the trip to beat the chill in the air. As soon as we drove to the forest at the top of the hill, the rain and the mud indicated that my jeans would soon be covered in muddy skid marks, and I’d have the all over smell of ‘wet dog’ following me in my lovely damp woollen cardigan all day with a hair style to match.
The emergency poncho (bright coloured plastic thing resembling an oversized garbage bag) was just a tad too hideous to break out in public. Freezing on a bike in the middle of a forest in a new state where no one knows me simply isn’t a good enough reason to commit a crime of fashion!
With the smell of pinecones, we headed down the forest, making our way to the valley below. Cycling through the area is a great way to get out, take your time between wineries, get some exercise and escape the confines of more rigid tour bus operated tours. Not only do you earn every drop you drink, but you get to see and experience views that aren’t possible on the main roads, like the group of friendly alpacas who wandered up for a closer look when we tried to take photos! EXTREME CLOSEUP!!
Our wineries for the day were Kangarilla Road and Pertaringa; Kangarilla is particularly well known for its reds – the Zinfandel is nothing short of amazing. A bottle of that, and a few others were loaded in the back of the van, while we all took off with much more bravado and much less common sense, hooning down the streets debating the quality of Glee and Justin Bieber. I think it’s fair to say that once you have a bunch of 30-somethings getting deep and meaningful about the Beiber, a long ride and a big lunch to soak the tastings up is probably needed. Ian and Deb didn’t disappoint, with a fabulous antipasto spread laid out at Pertaringa,
while the tastings came to us at our table to save us the hassle of joining the crowd inside: how’s that for service!!!
More wine in the back of the van (a white, and a dessert), and we headed to into the main town of McLaren Vale, for coffee and cake and a big lie down. The boys zipped off ahead of us again, leaving Jane and I to take in the countryside and negotiate the ultimate ‘hill of death’ at a slow and steady pace – my experience on bikes meant that taking a hill at steep and gravelly as that would more than likely lead to certain injury (and embarrassment). We hit the town, and had completel
y lost them. Riding towards the main road, I was really pleased to see the final destination, and to have had the most successful bik
e ride yet!
But I should have known better.
Just as we were about to reach the road, I decided it was the perfect time to disengage ‘watch where you’re going’ mentality, and I turned to have a chat to Jane, while my bike continued to move forward. As I turned my head to look out in front, I heard Jane yell ‘watch out!!’ in slow motion behind me, and saw the front wheel slide into the embankment (I say slide; it was more like ‘cycle furiously into the embankment’). With my lightning reflexes (who’s got tiger blood now, Charlie?), the bike went down, while I hopped off and avoided total humiliation.
Crisis averted, coffee wasn’t going to cut it: so once at Oxenberry Cafe, I opted for a glass of fortified wine to wash down the cake (and calm the nerves).
A fabulous day out complete, Ross and I finally had a stash of local vino in the cupboard, and a new experience of South Australia under our belt!! McLaren Vale has been elevated to one of the two best wine region experiences I’ve had so far (the other one was in Victoria, so we won’t mention that here). I made a great new friend in Jane, and as a bonus, the poncho decision turned out to be an excellent prediction of sorts: I found out when I got home that Ian had been sneakily posting photos of the trip on facebook while we were out. I think everyone that saw them would agree the helmet, silly riding gloves and woolly fringe would have clashed completely with my gorgeous raspberry plastic bin liner.
Next time you’re in SA in June, make sure you hit Sea and Vines in McLaren Vale.
The local wineries open their doors to entertainment and gourmet cuisine, with special and celebrity guest chefs cooking for the public.
Details on the 2011 event below:
It wouldn’t be fair to pick one, so here are both cellar doors we visited:
Wine of the week: Kangarilla Road 2009 Zinfandel; Pertaringa Full Fronti fortified Muscat (gold medal wine)
Book of the week: Chai for Beginners, Jane Ainslie. I got to spend a day cycling with the author, so make sure you check it out on Amazon!