McLaren Vale, a grapevine-covered region in South Australia that often is confused with Barossa Valley, is in fact a wine growing region with a history as rich and dated as Barossa Valley, yet with a completely different landscape. If you’ve been keeping up with my articles here on Winetraveler, you’ll notice a trend, Australia is full of amazing, historied wine regions. Shockingly, as close as the two well-known Australian wine producing regions are, only 90 minutes apart, they have a completely different landscape, and with that, the grapes and wines are vastly different.
McLaren Vale is located south of Barossa and has a stronger moderating oceanic influence coming in from the St. Vincent Gulf. When viewed in a global perspective, McLaren Vale is considered a moderate Mediterranean climate with their summer and winter moderated by the ocean. McLaren Vale is known historically for their old vine Grenache and Shiraz, yet most recently it has become quite the breeding ground for unique international varietals. The region is compact and is full of smaller, family-owned estates, giving us Winetravelers a great opportunity to meet with the small producers and learn the story behind their wines. The list I have compiled for you, is mapped out to travel with ease, efficiency and can be achievable in a two-day visit.
What Makes McLaren Vale Unique?
Compared to Barossa, which is full of old school, large wineries sticking to their guns and still mainly producing Shiraz, McLaren Vale is different. This is true for many reasons, but one important factor to a traveler to the regions is the plethora of boutique estates found here. These smaller wineries have less of a “brand,” and with that are able to create and re-create their own identity. McLaren Vale certainly has an edgy vibe with vintners not following rules. They are humorous, interesting and experimental. Nonetheless, McLaren Vale is making some flat-out delicious wines.
How to Get There & Where To Stay
McLaren Vale is shockingly close to the Adelaide airport, a short 30-minute drive south of the airport will get you into the outskirts of the region. Onkaparinga, the larger surrounding region, does offer some B&B-style lodging and a few wineries do offer a small number of rooms for rent as well. However, if none of those tickle your fancy with only a forty-five-minute drive to Adelaide, there is a plentiful range of hotels to choose from in the region. On the downside, there is not much of public transportation in the region so your best bet would be to rent a car or hire a driver for the day.
Serafino is the one and only four-star hotel located in McLaren Vale. Serafino offers an outdoor pool, luxury amenities and is surrounded by vineyards.
- Address: 39 Kangarilla Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171
- Phone: +61 8 8323 8911
- Rate: Starting at $109 USD
Alpha Box and Dice
Started 10 years ago with a vision to make and feature a wine for each letter of the alphabet. With that, A B & D produces different varietal wines each year based on availability and quality of fruit, as well as overall interest of the market. I recommend stopping at this winery first as they are quite a hot spot, especially for millennials and hipsters alike. If you get there right when they open, you’ll beat the crowds and get a delicious wine in your hands quickly. The tasting room has a similarly edgy feel, with a walk-up bar offering a complimentary tasting of a rotating roster of wines from the winery’s portfolio. The winemaking team is not shy about utilizing a combination of winemaking technique’s including skin contact whites, delicious rosés and several red varietals from the region that you would not expect like Nero d’Avola.
- Hours: Weekdays: 11am – 5pm
- Weekends: 10am – 5pm
- Address: 8 Olivers Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8323 7750
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Coriole is conveniently located in the Heart of McLaren Vale giving travelers stunning views of the valley and the perfect place to stop for lunch. On offer is an adorable retail store, a top-rated restaurant and winery all in one beautiful setting. They produce all-estate wines with several international varietals mixed into their 80 acres of land under vine. Their Shiraz is able to stand the test of time- I have had the pleasure of tasting some of their 1992 Shiraz, and it is still incredibly fresh and delicious. Go for the wine, stay for the food. Coriole’s Restaurant, Gather, is open for lunch daily. It is a favorite for locals and nearby Adelaide residents, so be sure to book ahead if you are planning on having a meal.
- Hours: Weekdays: 10am – 5pm
Weekend and Public Holidays: 11am – 5pm
- Address: Chaffeys Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8323 8305
- Restaurant open 7 days. Reservations can be made from 11:30am
- Tasting menu 5 courses 55$ all savory
Samuels Gorge is the single most recommended winery in McLaren Vale from locals. Seriously, I had at least 10 different people tell me that it is a must go! After spending a lovely afternoon there, I can see why. The atmosphere is relaxed, and in the summer, they welcome you to lay out on their lawn overlooking the beautiful views of the region. It is easy to lose track of time and feel like you never want to leave. Their wines are equally delicious. The Tempranillo is on fire at the moment, so it is a must-try. The team of winemakers and cellar door staff are extremely friendly and hospitable, if you ask, they may even let you tour their winery!
Winetraveler Tip: The winery is situated behind Chapel Hill Winery just off Chaffeys Road. Don’t be surprised when your google maps directs you through a parking lot, just keep heading up the road!
- Hours: Daily 11am – 5pm
- Address: 193, Lot 10 Chaffeys Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8323 8651
RELATED: Why is Australia So Synonymous With Shiraz?
I will be honest- Yangarra is a bit off the beaten path and is hard to work into a day of wine tours. They are located at the north-eastern tip of the region, so plan for a 15-minute drive from the center of Mclaren Vale. With that, many people do not make the trip, so you are able to beat the crowds and get a more specialized experience. Yangarra is a biodynamic, organic winery with some of the most interesting and complex wines in all of Australia. With a cooler aspect near the ocean, and a combination of sand (almost 100% silica), ironstone, and clay, this winery is situated on an extremely unique piece of land and the winemaker Peter Frasier does a great job at allowing the terroir to speak for itself. With aptly named wines like “High Sands” and “Ironheart,” you are able to visualize the very place the grapes are grown. They also have an impressive amount of maps, soil samples, and visuals to really allow each visitor the whole Yangarra experience.
*Call to book your experience ahead of time and the cellar door team will have your wines ready and poured for your arrival.
- Hours: Daily 11am – 5pm except Sunday
- Address: 809 McLaren Flat Rd, Kangarilla SA 5157, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8383 7459
RELATED: A Wine Lover’s Guide To Exploring Australia’s Yarra Valley
D’arenberg literally sticks out in the region with its five-story Rubik’s-cube-like structure that is home to their tasting room, restaurant and museum. The Osborn family, a fourth-generation family-owned McLaren Vale Winery, has teamed up with the State Government Regional Development Fund to create this designation-worthy cellar door and art Museum in the heart of McLaren Vale. “The Cube” is not the first major influence the Osborn family has had in the region during their 150+ year history. Back in the 1970’s during the South Australian vine pull scheme, the family saved several old-vine Grenache vineyards from being ripped up by purchasing them themselves. The D’arenberg Cube is like walking into the mind of Chester Osborn, the Fourth Generation of the family who has a very creative and expressive personally. There is a $10 fee to enter the cube itself, this allows you admission into their Alternate Realties Museum and a tasting of their wines. The restaurant onsite is designed with an equally artful design in mind. d’Arry’s Verandah restaurant is open for a degustation menu during lunch hours. Seek out their website to find other epic offerings such as a helicopter tour, plane tour, blending of your own wine, and more. Also be sure to use their toilets… thank me later…
- Hours: Daily 10 – 5 pm
- Address: Osborn Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8329 4888
The Salopian Inn
Arguably the best restaurant in McLaren Vale, treat yourself to a nice dinner here to seal off an epic two-day trip to the region. The restaurant features several local and Australian native delicacies like kangaroo tail, and has an extensive gin selection for those of you that are tired of drinking wine (highly recommend their gimlet). If you are not tired of wine, or even if you are, ask to visit their red wine cellar. This restaurant is unique in the fact that there is no by the bottle red-wine list! The downstairs cellar is open to guests, with each of the wine bottles on display with their price listed for all to see. They welcome you to bring your selection back to your table and they will open it for you on the spot.
- Hours: Lunch every day and for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday
- Address: Main Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171, Australia
- Phone: +61 8 8323 8769
Whether you incorporate a few of these wineries in a larger trip around South Australia or you just plan a weekend away in McLaren Vale, this region will not disappoint. As a wine-professional I find the wines of McLaren Vale truly incredible. They are drinkable now and can still age in your cellar as well. The greatest part about the region though, its people! Sit back, relax and enjoy the moment.