No road trip to South Australia is complete without visiting their excellent wineries to sample the local produce. Located on the South Australian Limestone Coast, the Coonawarra wineries have been producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz for over 120 years.
On our road trip to the South Australian Limestone Coast, a morning at the wineries was not only a pleasant activity for ourselves, but a chance for the “Pawesome Foursome” to enjoy a sniff around a few gardens.
Driving along the last 20 kilometres of the Riddolph highway towards Penola, the rolling green vineyards were reminiscent of our time in the Burgundy region of France. Row upon row of grapevines, heavy with ripening red grapes as far as the eye can see. The vineyards, like the gardens within are meticulously maintained.
The fertile red brown topsoil lying on top of the limestone base has long provided ideal grape growing conditions. Resplendent rose blooms also line the roadside. The colourful blooms are not just for display, they also provide a surprisingly functional purpose.
The roses also provide an early warning system for the wine growers for pests and diseases which could devastate their crops. They are susceptible to the same fungal and insect infestations as the grapevines. If a rose bush shows sign of disease, the growers can take action to prevent it spreading to the vines. A great example of mixed planting.
Over a century of Cabernet Sauvignon
John Riddoch planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vines in 1890. Since then winemakers have been carefully nurturing their grapes in the rich terra rosa soil. Once harvested and wine production is complete, the wines are still patiently aged in the very same cellars. Today the region has become known for producing some of Australia’s best reds and a major tourist attraction for wine lovers.
Sampling the Coonawarra wines
The 20 kilometre stretch of Coonawarra vineyards has smaller, boutique vineyards alongside some of the most well known Australian wine producers.
Not all the vineyards are open to the public, however there are 24 cellar doors available where you can sample the local produce. The region also holds a number of festivals and wine tasting events throughout the year
Many of the vineyards service the larger wine manufacturers and are closed to the public, but many do offer a cellar door where you can taste and purchase the local produce.
The local tourist information centre can provide you with a map, as can all the cellar door operators.
Relax and enjoy the scenery
We spent a pleasant morning exploring the vineyards, sampling the produce and enjoying some of the beautiful gardens.
We are by no means wine conniseurs and don’t pretend to be. But we do know what we like. It was interesting to learn about the wine production from planting, through cellaring to the cellar door and drinking.
The owners are keen to discuss every aspect of their wines with you and the “Pawesome Foursome” were welcome to enjoy a walk on leash around many of the gardens.
The local winemakers seem to have a strong sense of community and were more than happy to recommend other wineries that we should visit that morning.
The wines are predominantly red, which isn’t always to our taste. We were pleasantly surprised to find a few smooth, enjoyable reds and a rose, which I particularly enjoyed. However we did also find a couple of Riesling and Chardonnay worth bringing home as a souvenir.
Like me, Mandy is partial to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc if you don’t keep an eye on her. Today she had to be satisfied with the doggy water bowls provided at some of the cellar doors.
A number of the wineries offer restaurants or cafe’s where you can pair your wine with an excellent lunch. You are also welcome to sit and relax in the sun while you enjoy a bottle of Coonawarra wine.
Even if you are not a great wine drinker, a tour of the Coonawarra wineries is a very pleasant morning’s outing on the Limestone Coast. Learn how the vines are cultivated and wines are produced, then enjoy a relaxing lunch at one of the eateries.