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From the rolling hills of the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Rockpools of the Eyre peninsula, the crescendo-ing vineyards of the Barossa Valley; they all have nothing on the wineries of Mclaren Vale.
This south-central state of Australia is home to world class vineyards, wineries and cellar doors alike.
Nestled within the southern Mount Lofty Ranges lies the Mclaren Vale wine region, home to more than 80 cellar doors.
The breezes of the Fleurieu peninsula’s west and east coast allow for the perfect year long yield of fruits, warmed by the summer months producing the finest vintage of wine anywhere in the world.
Where is Mclaren Vale?
The Fleurieu Peninsula is the first of three main Peninsulas along South Australia’s southern coast line, with McLaren Vale sitting 45 minutes south of the capital city of Adelaide.
Getting here is no problem at all; with both public transport and self-drives available from Adelaide airport if you’re arriving both internationally or domestically.
Often overshadowed by the well-known Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley or the Adelaide hills, the wineries of McLaren Vale certainly hold their own. McLaren Vale is best known for Shiraz and other reds like Grenache and Mediterranean varieties like Sangiovese and Vermentino.
The Barossa Valley is most famous for some of Australia’s richest and heaviest reds like cabernet sauvignon. The Clare Valley is most famous for wonderful Rieslings and the Adelaide Hills for Sauvignon Blanc. So if you love red wine but like something medium bodied and love say a Malbec then McLaren Vale is for you.
For more information on the region outside of the winners, head over to the Mclaren Vale & Fleurieu Peninsula centre to learn more about what to do here.
Your guide to the Wineries of Mclaren Vale
There are literally more than 80 wineries and cellar doors here in the Mclaren vale region so getting to all of them is going to prove a challenge.
Making sure you allow yourself enough time to explore the ones you’re most keen on visiting is crucial to making the most of your time and having a good time as opposed to a quick time!
1. Down the Rabbit Hole
First and foremost from our top pick of McLaren Vale wineries, Down the Rabbit Hole.
You might recognise the owners Dom & Elise from Instagram when they travelled Australia in their VW Kombi ‘Scout’.
They have since returned to their home state of South Australia, popped out a child and opened Down the Rabbit Hole wineries.
Nestled amongst the rows of trees and vineyards, you walk into a beautifully lush green grass field lined with patterned throw rugs and cushions.
Your backdrop to the evening behind a bright orange sunset is a aqua blue double decker bus where the friendly staff host a half hour wine tasting session for you to sample the variety of wines on offer.
The wine tasting costs $10 per person however if you decide to purchase a bottle of wine then the tasting is free.
Friday evenings you can find live music on the decking outside the bar and as always a pumping and lively atmosphere with some well known musical guests to the region.
Down the rabbit hole also offers exceptional a la carte options for their guests, like the longboard assortment of cheeses, biscuits, crackers, quince paste, and of course a bottle of red.
No bookings are required at any time you feel like coming down during the week, but of course if your party size is larger than 5-10 people, best to book ahead to ensure space on the lawn.
If you’re a fan of architecture and wine, then this is the place for you
The original design of the building, which looks like a weirdly shaped cubed, levelled structure came from the concept of a puzzle; the intricacies and mystery of a puzzle evoked intrigue and curiosity, hence this peculiar but beautiful art work.
If you visit here then you are visiting one of the oldest generations of wine makers anywhere in South Australia, 4th generation to be exact.
D’arenberg history goes back to 1912, and the family legacy and history carries on to this day.
Inside this sculptured D’Arenberg cube you will find a wine-sensory room, a virtual fermenter and a 360 degree video room.
This one of a kind winery certainly ranks high as one of the best wineries of McLaren vale.
Aside from producing an eclectic mix of reds, whites, fortified and dessert wines, they also allow guests to book an interactive wine making experience where you can learn the subtle art of wine-making and even get to take your own blend home at the end of the day!
Their featured product of the month is a Cenosilicaphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault 2013, a harmonious blend of two interesting varieties.
Not to be overlooked is the sustainability target and outcomes D’arenberg hopes to achieve.
D’arenberg winery is able to reduce their carbon emissions by 30% through their solar power network.
As well as a wide range of other strategies such as natural pest and disease control, NASAA certified organic & biodynamic processes that keep their yields low whilst caring for the soil and land.
D’Arenberg also allows visitors the chance to be a wine maker for a day with their Blending Bench Experience.
3. Dowie Doole
Chief winemaker turned owner Chris Thomas has and his team have created a winery of different sorts.
Built out of old shipping containers and turned into a modern and unique open style winery, Dowie Doole certainly holds its place amongst the best wineries of McLaren vale and some of the most altruistic architecture around.
An immersive cellar door experience with amazing views; the hidden touch here is the explanation of each individual wine and the process it has undergone to be in your wine glass.
Referred to as ‘the tasting pods’ opened in the Spring of 2019 your options include building your own tasting platter from regionally sourced ingredients local to the wineries of Mclaren vale.
The idea behind Dowie Doole is the experience and journey you take through their unique selection of wines, including Chardonnay, Shiraz and Savignon Blancs.
One great thing about Dowie Doole is if you aren’t satisfied with their selection of foods, they will happily point you in the right direction.
The key varieties of the wine produced here are Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mediterranean Reds and whites as well as a lovely Rose to finish off.
Being so close to the Gulf of St. Vincent, the wineries of Mclaren vale provide the perfect Mediterranean type climate to ensure a long and consistent ripening period.
4. Hugh Hamilton
If you’re any kind of wine-o then you surely must be familiar with the Hugh Hamilton family of winemakers.
Because they hold the oldest, continual presence of grape growing and wine-making anywhere in the country.
Impressively, they are the 5th generation of wine-makers that were the first to plant the very first vineyards in South Australia back in 1837.
If keeping up with the jones’ is a thing, then these guys certainly didn’t listen.
They produce distinctive wines like their iconic ‘Pure Black’ Shiraz as well as their unique blends and varieties of ‘Black Ops’ Shiraz & ‘Jekyll & hyde’ Shiraz..these guys do things a little differently.
A roofed pergola at one end of the vineyard offers 270-degree views of the establishment, designed to heighten your wine tasting experience.
5. Serafino Winery
Of course no article on wine is complete without first giving praise and mention to some of the oldest wine making countries in the world, in particular Italy.
Italy is one of the oldest wine making countries on the planet, reported to date back to 4000 BC in Sicily, Serafino rests on its native laurels.
Serafino holds steadfast amongst its competitors of the wineries of Mclaren vale, with the origin story dating back to 1964.
Steve Magleiri arrived in Australia as a teenager full of dreams and energy.
58 years later Serafino is known amongst the winemakers of the Fleurieu Peninsula for their capacity to hold weddings, conferences and events as well as top-notch accommodation.
Simply put, you can get drunk and not have to drive home !
Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Sangiovese are the draw cards to this delightful winery, as are their Serafino olive oil and hand-crafted chocolates.
Serafino also has a lovely 4 star hotel – a perfect place to stay in McLaren Vale and the shortest walk to the cellar door!
6. Penny’s Hill
Located on the main road between Willunga and McLaren Vale in Ingleburne are Penny’s Hill winery estate and cellar door.
Noted for its historic Georgian 2-storey farmhouse, stables and out-buildings, this stone walled rural property is something to write home about.
Known for their blends and varieties of red wines, their finest quality french oak barrels are all hand picked prior to blending to ensure fresh, vibrant and balanced wines with an intense aroma to them.
Established in 1988, Penny’s Hill spans 105 acres of estate grown fruit of McLaren Vale, and as for their white wines, they outsource their white grapes from the local vineyards of the wineries of McLaren Vale from what they call ‘estates of mates’.
If by this point you’re wined out, then why not try their Flights Gin bar and sample their MadMen gin and tonic on the lawns outside their original carriage house.
7. Bondar Wines
The Rayner Vineyard, home to pristine wine planting regions as far back as the 1950’s owned and operated back then by the Rayner family.
The wineries of Mclaren Vale are best known for their blends of Shiraz and Grenache and Bondar winery are no exception to this.
Having been awarded the James Halliday’s best new winery award in 2017, winning multiple trophies at the McLaren Vale wine shows and been named one of the Top 50 young guns of wine making in 2018, you should probably go here.
From the owner of Bondar Wines, “For me, wine is about food, friends and family and should reflect place and enhance experience. I like my wines to be delicious, but also to be interesting; that little bit different to stand apart from the norm.”
Bondar wines offer a 45 minutes taste teasing session for $10 per person, very similar to the Down the Rabbit Hole counterparts, however, if you purchase a bottle of wine you get the taste-testing session absolutely free.
8. Wirra Wirra Vineyards
Wirra Wirra is all about fruit sourcing. They believe in “letting the fruit shine” and that wines should reflect the vineyard that spawned them. They are famous for the Wirra Wirra Church Block, one of my personal favourite red wines.
⇒ Heading to Melbourne? Check out my posts on the best place to stay in Melbourne and the best Brunch Places Melbourne. Melbourne has some great weekends away – if you love going to a spa read my post on a Daylesford Spa Weekend and for wine and beaches Things to do Mornington Peninsula.
The Church Block was the first wine that the late Greg Trott produced under the Wirra Wirra brand. The name comes from one of the original vineyards next to the Bethany Church. The Church Block is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot.
9. Primo Estate
Primo Estate is one of the most well-known of the McLaren Vale wineries. Founded in 1973, Primo champions Italian wine-making techniques combined with a good dose of Australian methods. Unsurprisingly they are well known for Italian varieties like Sangiovese, their sparkling red, and outstanding olive oil.
10. Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards
This 100-hectare winery is located in the north of McLaren Vale and run by the sixth generation of the original winemakers. They grow grenache, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Oliver Taranga’s flagship wine is the HJ Reserve Shiraz and they also have muscat and a fortified grenache.
⇒ Heading to Sydney? Check out my posts on the best Barangaroo Restaurants, the perfect Sydney Itinerary, a day trip to Watsons Bay Sydney and the best weekend getaways from Sydney.
11. Fox Creek
In 1984, Helen and Dr. Jim Watts purchased 32 hectares in McLaren Vale and became winemakers. The vineyards have black clay soils that had previously been used to plant barley. This soil bore some fantastic fruit which led to wines such as Fox Creek’s award-winning Reserve Shiraz.
12. Mitolo Wines
The Mitolo family arrived in Australia in the 1950s from their native Abruzzo in Italy. Their first wine came sometime later in 2000 with the GAM Shiraz (named after Frank Mitolo’s children). Since then, Mitolo Wines have launched 16 more wines utilising their knowledge of Italian wine varieties and techniques.
Mitolo also has a stunning restaurant called the Little Wolf Osteria that is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I love the Let Us Feed you option where chef Vincenzo will just serve you the best of what is on the menu of that day.
13. Samuel’s Gorge
Samuel’s Gorge was established by winemaker Justin McNamee in 2003. The winery is in an 1853 built farm shed and the winery and cellar door sit on a ridge that affords amazing views of the Onkaparinga National Park to the north and the ocean to the south.
Samuel’s Gorge focuses on five key varietals: Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Graciano and Tempranillo. Don’t miss their Tempranillo.
14. Alpha Box and Dice
This boutique winery has an alphabet of wine, with each letter standing for a different wine style. Alpha Box and Dice specialise in alternative and experimental varietals. They are all about small batches, vegan friendly, and keeping things focussed on the fruit.
Alpha Box and Dice hold one hour tastings and also serve cheese platters. The tasting room also has a walk-up bar which offers free tastings of a rotating list of wines.
⇒If you’re heading to Queensland check out my posts on the best Brisbane Boutique Hotels and my Gold Coast Itinerary.
The Wineries of McLaren Vale
No matter where within the Fleurieu Peninsula you are, most of the wineries in McLaren vale offer uniqueness to the region that is hard-pressed to match.
We recommend at least one week within the McLaren Vale region to truly appreciate the level of wine-making mastery that goes into a simple glass.
If you do have the time during your holiday, make sure you do check out the other wineries of the region, extend your horizons to the Eyre Peninsula in the West and the Yorke Peninsula somewhere in between.
Kangaroo Island in the South is also home to a smaller range of wineries and distilleries deserving of your time and attention.
How to Get to McLaren Vale and get around
McLaren Vale wine region is in the Australian state of South Australia. The region is located about 45 minutes south of the state’s capital Adelaide. Take the train from Adelaide station to Seaford station. At Seaford station organise a pick-up or hop on the 751, 751W or 756 bus for 10 minutes.
Personally, I would recommend hiring a car. Alas, Australia is a country where driving is definitely the easiest way to get around. And once you’re in McLaren Vale there is some distance between the wineries.
However, do remember that Australia has very strict drink driving laws that are heavily enforced. It is always hard to find local drivers online before a trip so I would suggest reaching out to your accommodation before you go and seeing if they have any recommendations.
The other option is to take some type of tour. I love a hop-on hop-off bus tour around wine regions and McLaren Vale has a hop-on hop-off wine bus that does pick-ups in Adelaide as well as in McLaren Vale.
There are also a wide range of McLaren Vale day trip options from Adelaide.
This guest post was provided by Chris and Laura Travels. Chris and Laura Travels are Australia’s New Adventure couple! A real couple doing cool s%#t in a responsible way, they have travelled all around the globe seeking adventure, capturing moments and inspiring others to live a life of adventure and happiness!
I covered all of the costs associated with writing this article This wineries of McLaren Vale post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.