By Julie Bates
Every job has its perks, and I feel like mine has more than most. I’m a wine lover, so of course South Australia is THE best place to live in the world.
We're lucky. Where I live, near Murray Bridge, I’m within a 45-minute drive from wineries in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa and McLaren Vale. All famous South Australian wine regions, and deservedly so. Their wines are immaculate and they’ve worked hard over many years to spread the word globally, continuing to bring interstate and international guests to our shores, just for a tipple of their vintages.
BUT – the wine region that I kick myself for not finding sooner (and you will too by the time you finish reading this) is Langhorne Creek.
Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, and you enjoy wine – it’s time to start Googling (in fact, scrap that … if you seriously like wine, you’ll already know about the best kept secret of SA wine).
Affectionately coined 'Langhorne’s' or 'The Creek' to its regulars and locals, the region is home to a handful of families who make some of Australia’s most generous red and white wines. That’s right – they’re not known for one variety over another – they’re known for being small (only compared to their SA neighbours) but soooooo, so good.
The two main reasons I have fallen, quite seriously, in love with this place is because the wine is exceptional and its only matched by the cellar door hospitality. With 14 cellar doors now placed around the district, it’s fast-becoming the new place for that group wine tour, romantic weekend away, family catch-up or boutique function. Or, if you just want to escape the city for the weekend, it’s a 55-minute drive from Adelaide (yes, you can get to the first winery in less than an hour, unless you hit a breakdown in the Heysen Tunnels … and GO!).
Above: a group picnic outside of The Winehouse.
Unsurprisingly, local Winemaker Paul Hotker has been named the James Halliday Wine Companion Winemaker of the Year 2018.
Yes, yes, yes, this is HUGE for Bleasdale winery (and the region in general), but for people who know Langhorne Creek wines, and drink the Bleasdale drop, they won’t be surprised at all. [Halliday selected Paul Hotker from his list that included more than 1300 Australian wineries. Paul is a passionate ambassador for Langhorne Creek. He knows the nuances of the region intimately, the seasons, the climate, the soil and the varieties and his enthusiasm for making wine is an inspiration to many.] If you happen to swing past Bleasdale, make sure you try 2016 Frank Potts 95 Gold the Sparkling Shiraz … it’ll turn even the biggest sceptics into sparkling lovers.
Above: discover Bleasdale's rich history.
On top of this, Bremerton winemaker Rebecca Willson was recently named as a finalist in the 2017 Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year awards, cementing her position as one of Australia's industry leaders. Rebecca is well known for her skill and passion - she's very much a hands-on operator, who is a passionate advocate for the region and champions it’s strengths as an incubator region for alternate varietals. And because I love sharing my love for wine, I’ll always recommend Bremerton’s premium Old Adam Shiraz, and crisp Mollie and Merle Verdelho – you have to at least try them from the beautiful cellar door (and grab one of their tasting platters for a picnic).
Above: Bremerton's upstairs area.
Another must-see cellar door is Kimbolton - one of the fresher entrants to the scene, but by no means a novice. The local sister and brother duo in charge, have a range of award-winning wines under their belt with special attention given to their range of Montepulciano blends of rose, sparkling and red. If you’re a cheese and wine lover (like me) then you’ll be equally delighted by their curated cheese and wine flights – locally made cheeses matched with four of their most popular wines – a combo made in heaven. It doesn’t stop here, you’ll be just as (or if not more) impressed with the cellar door’s modern and unique architecture (it was constructed from four industrial shipping containers, with additions of natural timber and recycled wood – you have to see it to believe it!). Just picture yourself on the rooftop deck, wine in hand and cheese tastings by your side, taking in the 360 degree vineyard views.
Above: the lower deck of Kimbolton.
Of course there’s a long list of other cellar doors to take a look at, but if I had my pick, I’d also take time to visit Lake Breeze for their Bernoota, Vermentino and Moscato, coupled with the picturesque vineyard views from their second-story deck and delicious cheese platters. These guys are also now home to the award-winning Handpicked music festival – now a firm favourite on the SA event calendar.
Above: wine and a cheese platter on Lake Breeze's second-story deck.
Another, more indulgent stop is with the team from Vineyard Road wines. Here you’ll find an experience of wine tasting and spa pampering. You can’t go past trying their best sellers (my faves are the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and 2017 Moscato). But what makes them a truly unique cellar door is their selection of Vasse Virgin natural olive oil skincare products, which visitors can test out using their purpose built ‘testing bench’. Small groups (five or less) can book in to give themselves a foot pampering pedicure experience using the products available. All of this, and then you can continue the relaxation rolling out the picnic run on the lush grass area, and enjoy your freshly soothed skin, with a glass of wine in hand.
Above: Vineyard Road's wine tasting room.
Of course, there’s always one person who doesn’t drink wine (I’ll never fully understand them), who is dragged against their will to the wineries … well here’s the good news. The views are spectacular, the food is amazing, AND there’s beer tasting! Yes, Meechi Brewing is now open for tasting from The Winehouse restaurant and cellar door. Just like the wines of this region, Meechi beer is growing in stature – and for good reason. It’s the perfect taste for all seasons, and it’s seriously hard to leave a day in Langhorne’s without taking a six-pack of Meechi home – JUST in case.
The region is also home to one of SA’s newest artisan bread makers the Small World Bakery. The perfect accompaniment to a day in the vines, it’s worth ducking in to check out their freshly baked sourdough, rye and seed breads. Husband and wife team Emily and Chris bake to order on Wednesdays and Fridays and (can you believe) deliver the goods to homes or businesses in Adelaide and beyond!? The bakery mills its own flour on site, and in coming years, aims to grow its own grain using specially sourced seeds. Take a look at this brilliant (not-so-little) bakery here.
So if all of this sounds like it interests you, why not head out for a look (or should I say, a taste) at Langhorne Creek this season – and if you want to try before you buy – why not visit the winemakers at the upcoming Cellar Door Fest at the Adelaide Convention Centre in March. I can guarantee you’ll be planning your day trip to the region after your first taste.
See you in the ‘Creek.
About the author
Originally hailing from the city, Julie Bates now resides with her family in the heart of the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region, with property only metres from the world-famous Monarto Zoo. Julie has fallen in love with the region, and has been lucky enough to combine her experience in tourism, with her passion for bringing more people to the region she now calls home. Julie knows every stretch of the region, and the characters who live and work along it. If you ever meet her, she’ll tell you about the great places to eat, play and explore; the magical scenery she gets to see every day (and stars at night); AND with her tribe of three kids, she can fill you in on the most family friendly itineraries for a weekend (or week) away.