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The Best Barossa Valley & McLaren Vale Vineyards & Cellar Doors
Plan the perfect weekend or getaway to the best Barossa valley and McLaren Vale wineries, cellar doors and dining venues with our personally curated guide to one of the premier wine regions in Australia.
With more than 200 cellar doors on its doorstep, South Australia’s Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia and is now one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the World, along side the legendary Bordeaux in France, the Napa Valley in the United States and Bilbao Rioja region in Spain.
With over 200 cellar doors to choose from in South Australia, visitors often struggle to experience the best cellar doors on offer, especially if they’re flying into Adelaide for a weekend or short getaway.
To assist you in the planning of your trip, this travel article and the accompanying video will highlight some of the best Barossa valley and McLaren wineries that you can experience over a long weekend, which will ensure that you have the best cellar door experience, once you arrive in Adelaide.
The Barossa is an internationally acclaimed wine region that offers in excess of 80 cellar doors, allowing visitors to taste some of the most awarded wines in the world and indulge in exceptional local produce.
McLaren Vale is world known for its Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Chardonnay varieties. McLaren Vale is less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide, with stunning beaches and magnificent local food on offer.
So, grab a glass of delightful Barossa Shiraz, sit back and join us as we spend three days exploring some of the best cellar doors in South Australia’s outstanding wine regions.
Day 1 – Barossa Cellar Doors
Karen and I flew out of Sydney on Virgin Australia’s direct flight to Adelaide at 8:40am and once we arrived and picked up our rental car, we were on the road heading towards Gawler by 11:00am.
At midday we decided to have lunch at Murrays BBQ & Bar inside the Exchange Hotel at Gawler. The lunch menu at Murrays was great and we were really surprised how good their “on tap” wine tasted.
At 1:00pm we continued our drive to Barossa Valley and arrived at 1:45pm for at our first cellar door. Built in the late 1880s, Château Tanunda is a stunning building on a beautifully maintained property and offers a wonderful cellar door experience.
After leaving Château Tanunda, it was a short drive before arriving at St Hugo. We have been huge fans of St Hugo’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wines for a very long time and we were really excited to visit their home in the Barossa.
The celebrate the occasion, we had pre-booked St Hugo’s Past, Present & Future Wine Tasting Experience. This tasting experience aims to immerse you in the St Hugo story with a fully guided tour of the property & private tasting experience.
We were really impressed with the tour of the vineyards and cork trees and our tutored tasting experience in the private underground tasting room.
Following the tasting, we headed into the main township of Tanunda to check into our Airbnb and to get ready for dinner.
Dinner tonight was at the highly acclaimed FermentAsian restaurant, in Tanunda. The food at FermentAsian has its roots firmly entrenched in the chef’s Vietnamese heritage and serves up delicious Southeast Asian cuisine that is heavily influenced by locally sourced produce, particularly the pungent herbs that this restaurant has become known for, from the chef’s own personal garden.
With a very comprehensive 99 page wine list and a so many outstanding dishes to choose from, we opted for the Chefs Table 7 Course Menu. As you will see in the video, each course was beautifully presented and delicious .
Day 2 – McLaren Vale Cellar Doors
As Karen and I have been to the Barossa Valley several times previously we were keen to explore further afield during this visit and decided to do a day trip to the McLaren Vale wine region.
The McLaren Vale vineyards and cellar doors are a 110km drive from the Barossa Valley, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our Airbnb and left Tanunda mid Saturday morning and arrived our first destination just before 11:00am.
Hugh Hamilton Wines is celebrating 180 years of unbroken winemaking tradition in South Australia and the family planted some of the first vines in South Australia making the Hamilton’s the “oldest surviving wine family” in Australia, growing grapes and producing wine for six generations.
Hugh Hamilton Wines stunning cellar door is located in the heart of McLaren Vale and is made with jarrah and is the largest wooden vat ever built in the southern hemisphere and enjoys stunning 270 degree views over their vineyards.
Karen and I had pre-booked the Flock Tasting Experience, which provided us with a comprehensive 90 minute overview of their red, white and rosé varieties. We enjoyed our experience so much at Hugh Hamilton Wines, that we even became members of their “Black Sheep” wine club.
As it was now after midday, we were getting hungry and we excitedly drove to our next destination for lunch.
Pizzateca has become a “Must Do” for guests visiting the McLaren Vale wine region. This unassuming restaurant serves up some of the best home made, wood fired traditional Neapolitan style pizza, in Australia. Their Arrosticini (skewers of lamb, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and cooked over charcoal) are also incredible and as you will see in the video, the service is extremely friendly and efficient.
After enjoying a delicious (and filling) lunch, Karen and I drove to our next cellar door at d’Arenberg.
D’Arenberg winery is a family-owned winery producing internationally renowned red wines in McLaren Vale, where you will find the cellar door on the top level of the architectural masterpiece, d’Arenberg Cube.
The d’Arenberg Cube is also home to the Alternate Realities Museum, located on the ground floor and Karen and I both enjoyed touring this very eclectic space.
The Alternate Realities Museum really does set the scene for your entire experience at d’Arenberg as it prepares you for a very “non-conventional” cellar door experience.
Once you arrive on the top floor (wait to you see the elevator) you discover that d’Arenberg’s cellar door has taken full advantage of its panoramic views over McLaren Vale and offers tastings from the vast range of d’Arenberg.
Karen and I had pre-booked the two hour, Amazing Sites Flight and Cheese Tasting Plate Experience and we enjoyed the in-depth overview provided on the wines tasted, the vineyard and the region.
Of special note, when we visited d’Arenberg they were hosting a stunning six million dollar exhibition showcasing some of Salvador Dalí’s most iconic imagery, including a 5 metre tall monumental sculpture and three life size sculptures. Also on display were paintings by Australia’s own surrealist Charles Billich, whose artworks hang in the Vatican, The White House and the United Nations.
Make sure to watch the video, to fully understand how “different” d’Arenberg is to your “normal” cellar door.
As it was now late in the afternoon, we started the two hour drive back to the Barossa Valley to ensure that we would make our very special dinner reservation, that night.
As I was celebrating my birthday today, Karen and I had decided to book a “special” dinner while we were in the Barossa Valley.
We had long read the accolades about the Restaurant at Hentley Farm, however we have never had the opportunity to dine there and this was mainly due to the normal three month wait for a reservation.
Since opening in May 2012, the restaurant has been awarded the following:
- Awarded two hats in the National Edition Goodfood Guide 2018 & 2019
- South Australia’s Restaurant of the Year in the 2013 & 2016 Advertiser Food Awards.
- Awarded four forks in The Advertiser Food Guide 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016.
- Best Regional Restaurant in the 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016 Advertiser Food Awards.
- Consecutive Best Restaurant in a Winery category at the SA Restaurant & Catering Awards, 2014 & 2015.
- Named Best New Restaurant at the SA Restaurant & Catering Awards 2013
With a pedigree like that, expectations were high, and we were definitely looking forward to a very special night.
On arrival, our dining experience commenced with a private wine tasting in their beautiful cellar door. Our hostess enquired what our favourite varieties were and then proceeded to pour generous tastings for us to try their fine selection of premium wines.
Once we were finished, our dining room hostess greeted us at the cellar door and accompanied us to the restaurant, whilst provding an overview of the restaurant’s food philosophy.
She explained, that Head Chef Lachlan Colwill offers two set menu options each night, which are created according to what is abundant, fresh, and currently of the highest quality.
The restaurant has a strong focus on harvesting produce from the farm’s 150 acres, including foraged ingredients growing wild, as well as fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in their garden beds and orchard. She then added that the wines are matched with the nightly menus from the Hentley Farm portfolio.
After being seated in the restaurant and having both menu’s explained to us, we decided on the seven course, Discovery Menu & The Luxury Wine Pairings.
The restaurant prides themselves on offering a very guest focused experience, connecting diners with the people and the produce of the farm, whilst being both memorable and educational.
We must say that the three hours we spent over dinner was one of the best dining experiences that we had ever had.
As words cannot do this meal justice, so please watch the video and see for yourself what this incredible restaurant team, offers to its valued guests.
Day 3 – Barossa Cellar Doors
As we were planning to visit a lot of local cellar doors today, we pre-booked a car and driver for the day, to ensure that we both had a great time and that neither of us ended up at the local police station.
Our driver picked us up from our Airbnb at 9:30am and we headed out to Keyneton for our first tasting of the morning.
We have been fans of Henschke wines for a long time, especially their outstanding whites, and although their cellar door was 30 minutes out of town we were looking forward to see where some of our favourite wines came from.
The Henschke Cellar Door is housed in the original 1860s grain barn at the family property in Keyneton, and is built from field stone and mud. The restored grain barn pays respect to the past 150 years of Henschke family winemaking and the six generations of family who have contributed to the success of the Henschke brand.
Henschke boasts an extensive range, with a focus on ultra-premium, single-vineyard and small parcel wines from sustainably grown vineyards using organic and biodynamic practices in the Eden Valley, Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills.
A visit to the Henschke Cellar Door is well worth the effort and we appreciated the outstanding service provided by. the cellar door team
Out next stop was Rockford Wines that feature high quality traditional wines made from some of the best old Barossa vineyards.
This stunning old winery and cellar door are surrounded by stone buildings our courtways dating back to the early settlement of Krondorf and a visit here is a must for anyone wanting a truly beautiful cellar door experience.
After consuming a fair amount of wine over the past few days, we asked our driver to stop at The Barossa Valley Brewing Company for lunch.
Their Brassiere sources the best local and seasonal ingredients for their tapas, pizzas and hearty comfort food.
We enjoyed our lunch and it was evident that the team at Barossa Valley Brewing are foodies and love creating great craft beer to accompany with really good comfort food.
Our next stop was Grant Burge Wines. We have always enjoyed Grant Burge’s fine wines and they are renowned for their consistent quality and extensive range.
Their knowledgeable Cellar Door staff led Karen and I through their substantial range of premium wines and although this cellar door does not share the same ambience as some of the others that we have visited, there is no arguing that these guys produce outstanding wine.
After leaving Grant Burge we drove to another of our favourite wine producers, St Hallett Wines. The St Hallett Cellar Door is conveniently located in the heart of the Barossa Valley and is nestled between lush Barossa vineyards, and the banks of the Para River.
St Hallett’s friendly cellar door team walked us through a substantial tasting of some of the Barossa’s finest wines, including their flagship Old Block Shiraz and electable Black NV Sparkling Shiraz.
Our final Barossa Valley cellar door for the weekend was Bethany Wines. We have never had a bottle of Bethany wine, never been to their cellar door and to be honest, we had never heard of this winery.
Our visit was recommended by a friend and we were blown away how beautiful this winery is, as they boast one of the finest views overlooking stunning sweeping vineyards in the Barossa Valley and beyond.
The winery specialises in ultra-premium Shiraz and Old Vine Grenache, however we also enjoyed their wonderful Riesling. Another great reason to finish off the day here is due to Bethany Wines being a world-renowned producer of Old Quarry Fronti (white port) and Old Quarry Tawny.
Dinner tonight was at Musque Food & Wine, a busy food, wine & gin space located in the heart of Tanunda. They feature unique sharing style dishes that focus on the local produce of the current season.
After enjoying a few of their impeccable gin cocktails, we decided to try the 7 course Chef’s Tasting menu.
Every small dish delivered to our table was insanely good and the video will demonstrate the art & craftmanship that went into every dish presented.
It was a wonderful way to finish off three amazing days in the South Australian wine regions.
Unfortunately, we had to return to Sydney on the Monday morning, and were unable to see everything that the Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale wine regions have to offer.
However, we wanted to pass on some of our other favourite cellar door and restaurant recommendations if you are visiting either of these two wine regions in South Australia.
Other Barossa Valley recomendations
1918 Bistro & Grill – Restaurant
Peter Lehmann Wines – Cellar Door
Other McLaren Vale Recommendations
d’Arry’s Verandah – Restaurant
Please message us on Facebook, Instagram or through our site, if you have any questions regarding the South Australian wine regions or travelling in Australia more generally.
If you are interested in other wine regions check out our Aging Barrels Coal River Valley Wine Tour video & blog arcticle.
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John & Karen
Important Travel Links Related to this Article
South Australian Wine Regions Guide