On the Move: A Day in the Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills, only a 20 min drive from South Australia’s capital, has been a darling wine region for a couple of years now. Lauded as the breeding ground for the natural wine movement, the ‘hipster winemakers’ are a collection of innovative, retro and alternative winemakers producing some of the most exciting and divisive wine in the country. They are also affectionately known as the “basket cases” given they tend to gather in the subregion known as the Basket Ranges.
However, on my most recent trip to the Hills I wanted to refocus on the more traditional winemakers: the guys who have worked tirelessly for decades to make the Adelaide Hills one of the finest wine regions in Australia.
The region is so diverse, and the reason is the climate and geography. The Adelaide Hills is one of the largest wine regions in Australia geographically, with a wide range of soils and altitudes. The region has many different ‘pockets’ or subregions within it, making it an ideal place to grow many styles of wine. Overall, when compared to its neighbours, the Barossa and McLaren Vale, it is distinctly cooler (temperature wise) and produces quite different wine styles.
Each time I visit the Hills I am taken aback by the quality of wine, especially by these traditional wineries I have recommended.
Starting Point: Shaw + Smith
To me, there is no better place to start than one of the gems of the Adelaide Hills, Shaw + Smith, one of the most well-known and highly regarded vineyards of the region. Founded by cousins Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw in 1989, this vineyard makes wines which reflect the Hills cool climate such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and, most famously, their Sauvignon Blanc. Their Shiraz is also an outstanding example of the spicier Australian cool climate styles.
To me, they are at one with their region, creating bright and beautifully balanced wines which have become hugely popular. In fact, they are Australia’s biggest seller of Sauvignon Blanc, giving the Kiwis a run for their money. The M2 Chardonnay is also a killer wine.
Not only are their wines delicious, but their winery/cellar door is a beautiful place to visit. You can sit back and enjoy the wine with an astute selection of cheese pairings.
Michael and Martin have certainly done their time in the Hills and their dedication has gone a long way in placing the Adelaide Hills as a quality region in the minds of many Australians.
Lunch: The Lane
If the cheese and wine tasting of Shaw & Smith serves as an appetiser, then The Lane, located just down the road, is a brilliant next course. Founded only a few years after Shaw & Smith, The Lane also produces a collection of delicious wines that reflect the high quality of the cooler region. Their three tiers, Heritage, Occasion and Block Wine Series offer diversity for all who visit.
The family behind the Lane, John and Helen Edwards, and the next generation Marty and Ben are all-round great people. I have had the opportunity to get to know the family and their drive and passion is inspiring. You feel it when you are standing on the deck of the restaurant and tasting room, giddy from the view across the beautifully maintained vineyards.
I have been treated to some truly magnificent meals here, particularly with their blending of local food produce with the wines of the vineyard. As you will begin to learn I am a big fan of the ‘feed me’ menu, where the chef creates a menu based on what is in season at the time. They have the Chef’s Table, where a menu will be created by the chef on the day with matched to wines specially selected to suit each dish.
You have to allow at least three hours for the Chef’s Table experience. If you don’t have time to indulge in this menu, the a la carte menu will certainly not disappoint.
The Block 5 Shiraz and Block 3 Chardonnay are standouts in a very smart line up in the Block series. The Reunion Shiraz shows real class as a cool climate Shiraz, and its partner in the Occasional series, the Gathering, a barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is a textured, delicious wine.
Afternoon: Wicks Estate
After your feasting at The Lane, keep some energy for the afternoon. A leisurely ten-minute drive along Onkaparinga Valley Road will see you arrive at Wicks Estate, located just outside the village of Woodside. A family owned and operated business, the Wicks family purchased the land for the vineyard in 1999.
Your first impression is how clean and modern the winery looks. Two generations of the Wicks family run a very tight ship. They not only make their own collection of wines, but they also offer their skills to many of the smaller wineries to process and make their wines.
I find their wines to be extremely fresh, bright and clean to the palate. Their Sauvignon Blanc sits very closely behind Shaw & Smith as Australia’s most popular Sauvignon Blanc, building on the regions reputation for being our answer to the Kiwi domination of this grape variety.
I was also very impressed by their Shiraz; both the Estate Shiraz and the higher tier CJ Shiraz. Both wines are full of spice and pepper with a velvet texture and a lovely freshness, with the CJ showing more concentration in flavour.
The Wicks family have been quietly growing grapes for many years, and the reputation of the Adelaide Hills has been built on the back of families like the Wicks.
Last stop: Nova Vita
I highly recommend you visit Nova Vita. Although the vineyards are located near the village of Gumeracha, the family make their wines in the Revenir Winery near Lenswood. They teamed up with another family to purchase the Nepenthe winery some six years ago.
Mark Kozned and his family pride themselves on not just growing grapes and making wine, but also on being very committed to preserving their land. They apply environmentally sustainable farming and keep chemicals to a minimum to try and encourage the use of naturally occurring biological systems in the vineyard to control pests and diseases.
Nova Vita offers up some of the best examples of Chardonnay and Shiraz the Hills have to offer. Mark prides himself on showcasing the cooler elements of the northern parts of the region, which vary staggeringly to the wineries mentioned above. The Kozned family has a long tradition of growing grapes and making wines, dating back to before the Second World War in Southern Russia, oddly enough. This tradition and quality wine is carried on in the Hills through Mark and his drive and dedication.
My personal favourites are their Firebird Chardonnay and Shiraz Wines. The Chardonnay in particular, really resonated with me. It was a wine I could sit down and drink. It made you think. It has loads of flavours and textures with a beautifully balanced freshness.
Grapes were first planted in The Adelaide Hills in 1890s but it was not until the late 1970s the expansion of the wine region occurred. The Adelaide Hills has built up a reputation of as one of the best cool climate regions in Australia, producing wines with grace, finesse, and a real personality. The region would not be where it is now without the hard work of the winemakers and growers that have been working there for decades to build its reputation. Now, with the newer more funky additions to the community, it has become an even richer and more enticing region to explore, both in person or through the wines at home.
If you want to stay longer…
While Adelaide is very accessible to the Hills, for those looking to stay longer and escape the big city, there are multiple lodging options available, especially around the towns of Stirling and Hahndorf. I would recommend The Manna of Hahndorf, located within the town of Hahndorf itself. It is a wonderful hotel to stay in, and also bolstered by its close proximity to The Haus Hahndorf, an exquisite dining experience that tailors to the German roots of the town. Secondly, The Stirling Hotel in the eponymous town has some of the best fitted rooms in the entire region. This accommodation is ideal, not just because of their proximity to the wine regions, but also to the towns themselves. Hahndorf, Woodside and Gumeracha have many adventure activities, food tours, and shopping experiences.
Head to www.adelaidehills.org.au for more information.
Until next time,
Your Wine Hunter, Jame Gosper.