Personal vineyard tours, tastes of prized vintages and tastings poured by the winery owner are what we all wish for when exploring a new wine region. In the Adelaide Hills and Coonawara wine regions of Australia personal service is expected. While McLaren Vale and Hunter Valley among others get all the attention these two lesser known areas are worth your time.
In each of the places we stopped in Coonawara and Adelaide Hills we were given individualized attention and provided with stellar service. We explored the small towns of Hahndorf near Adelaide Hills and Naracoorte near Coonawara. Each region with the side trips is a full day and will require a car, but you won’t regret it. Below are the highlights of our wine tours in each region.
The delightful little town of Hahndorf is the perfect place for lunch between tastings, to pick up picnic items or to feed that chocolate craving. The main road makes it easy to avoid getting lost and will take you past both Udder Delights and N5 Chocolate Shop. Even if you have no plans to purchase anything you have to stop into Udder Delights for their fantastic samples. The chocolate shop on the other hand is where you want to spend your money with truffles starting at an affordable $2 and plenty of other indulgent treats that are easy on your wallet and divine on your tongue. The Honey Pot truffle, a Belgian milk chocolate “hive” filled with honey and ganache is a must-try.
The Lane Vineyard
With over 20 wines to choose from on their tasting list you’re bound to find something that strikes your palette. If you don’t know where to start just let The Lane Vineyard’s excellent and informed staff guide you. The all glass tasting room surrounded by vineyards creates a beautiful backdrop for their wonderful array of wines. The Lois Blance de Blances white sparkling was particular favorite with a crisp, clean finish.
Our experience at Ekhinda is what you dream of when visiting a winery. The wines were sensational with robust, fruity reds, refreshing whites and even their own craft beer on tap. But what made our visit so special was a hands on lesson from the owner and vintner along with a private tour of the vineyard. We couldn’t help but linger, in part due to the generous pours from the fun, knowledgable and charismatic tasting staff and part because we couldn’t get enough of the “she viper.” This full bodied Grenache, Shiraz blend is to die for, maybe that’s why it’s call the she viper.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is just 28 kilometers from the Coonawara Wine Region and is home to Naracoorte Caves National Park. The bat cave is one of just two caves in Australia that Southern bent-winged bats use to raise their young. During the summer months, over 30,000 bats emerge from the cave at dusk to feed on flying insects. While this may be a turn-off for some, these guys are helping you out by getting rid of those pesky mosquitoes. The park staff lead a guided tour of the bat cave, but if you are just interested in the mass bat exodus each evening you can show up at dusk to see for yourself. They light the cave entrance allowing you a fleeting glimpse of bats flying out of the cave in every direction.
The welcoming woman working the tasting counter at Rymill immediately drew us in and had it not been our first stop we would have stayed much longer. From her detailed wine descriptions to her explanation of cork vs. rubber wine stoppers we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting. My personal favorite was quite aptly named “The Bees Knees” and was a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The laid back tasting at Wynns was made all the more entertaining by the two tasting staff that played off each other superbly. It would be hard to pick a favorite at this red-heavy winery, but the 2009 (54th vintage) Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing.
While all the guidebooks will steer you towards McLaren Vale, opt for a more personal experience in the smaller regions of Adelaide Hills and Connawara. Not only will you enjoy the small town charm of Naracoorte and Hahndorf, but you’ll meet some of the best tasting room staff Down Under.