McLaren Vale is where the vineyards meet the sea. Nestled along inland along the Fleurieu Peninsula, McLaren Vale is one of South Australia’s top wine regions, while also being a wonderful tourism destination, only a short drive from stunning beaches and lovely coastal towns.
Sometimes overlooked by the more well-known Barossa Valley, sitting north of Adelaide in South Australia, McLaren Vale offers a completely different experience to it’s visitors. You can combine a couple of cellar door visits with an afternoon at the beach, or a leisurely coastal walk.
How to get to McLaren Vale
Only 45 minutes from Adelaide, McLaren Vale is easily accessible on your own and is best visited by self-driving yourself around the region.
If you’re flying in to SA you can pick up a rental car at the airport, and it’s an easy drive out to the Fleurieu Peninsula. Alternatively, if you’re planning to visit a few of the cellar doors and would prefer to leave your car at home, there are heaps of options for McLaren Vale winery tours, with options to suit all budgets.
If you’re not sure where to start in the region, we always recommend popping into the McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre, where you can find out what’s going on, the different wineries that are around, and everything you might want to know about the region.
Address: 796 Main Road, McLaren Vale || Ph: 1800 628 410
You could literally spend days and weeks visiting cellar doors in McLaren Vale, and you still wouldn’t visit them all. There are about 74 cellar doors in this wine region, as well as more than 160 vineyards across McLaren Vale and the surrounding suburbs or Willunga, McLaren Flat, Aldinga, Old Reynella and Currency Creek.
Here are some of the wineries that we visited and loved around McLaren Vale, which are a great place to start if you’re looking for recommendations!
Down The Rabbit Hole
Without a doubt our favourite winery to visit in McLaren Vale.
Created by Elise Cook and Domenic Palumbo, who you might know from their epic adventures around Australia in their VW Kombi named Scout, this space is truly beautiful. Every little detail has been carefully thought of and planned out, from the way you can watch the sun setting over the vineyard next door and the perfect furniture and cushion choices, to their collection of delicious wines on offer.
And then of course, there is their big blue double-decker bus, also perfectly renovated, where they host wine tastings in the afternoon. Everything about this space is incredible, a place that you really have to experience to understand.
On Friday evenings Down The Rabbit Hole is open late, until about 9:30pm, and there is live music outside, so you can grab a cosy spot and watch the sun go down while you listen to the acoustic tunes. In all honesty though, it is absolutely crazy on Friday evenings, with locals coming down for afternoon drinks, as well as followers of Elise’s Instagram page coming down to soak up a little bit of the magic. For more of a quiet and intimate experience, visit during the day or on a different day of the week.
Down The Rabbit Hole is also one of the only wineries that we visited in McLaren Vale that offered a menu, with options from a tasting platter to full meals to try during your visit. Everything we tried was perfect and delicious, just like the rest of their menu.
Our wine recommendation: Joy & Bliss Chardonnay
Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 11am until 6pm, Fridays from 11am until 9:30pm and Staurdays and Sundays from 11am until 6:30pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
Tastings available from 11am to 5pm on open days.
Address: 233 Binney Road, McLaren Vale
Find out more at downtherabbitholewines.com.au
Hugh Hamilton Wines
This award winning winery was another of our favourites in the region. The cellar door is absolutely stunning, with a circular room, covered in vines and greenery, overlooking miles of vines in every direction.
Part of a family who have the longest continual presence in the Australian wine industry, with his great, great, grandfather starting South Australia’s first winery in 1837, Hugh Hamilton likes to consider himself the black sheep of the family, breaking away to establish his own winery years ago.
Each of the wines in the Hugh Hamilton collection have amusing names, depicting different characters that seem to exist in every family. From the Drama Queen and the Trickster, to the Ratbag, Villain and Rascal, you’ll find yourself unconsciously trying to figure out who is who in your own family.
Throughout the cellar door you’ll also find black sheep popping up all over the place, as well as amongst the vineyards, with the black sheep theme strong throughout the winery.
If you’re not sure where to start, go with a Flock Tasting, where you can sample taste five of the wines from the collection. The best part about this tasting is you can choose the five wines you want to try from their menu, making it completely customisable! The Flock Tasting is only $10 per person, but if you pick up the latest copy of the McLaren Vale tourism magazine, there’s a coupon in there for a buy one get one free Flock Tasting.
Our wine recommendation: The Intruder Sauvignon Blanc and the Drama Queen Methode Traditionelle.
Opening hours: Open daily from 11am until 5pm each day.
Address: 94 McMurtie Road, McLaren Vale || Ph: (08) 8323 8689
Find out more at hughhamiltonwines.com.au
Image found on d’Arenberg’s Facebook page
Claiming that it is ‘more than just a cellar door’, d’Arenberg has created more of a tasting experience, which something new to discover in every room. Located on the top level of the d’Arenberg Cube, the tasting room offers panoramic views over McLaren Vale, as well as a sensory room and piped music that respond to the vineyards weather conditions.
It is truly something else, and an experience for all the senses.
Entry into the d’Arenberg Cube costs $15 per person, which includes a self-guided tour of their Alternate Realities Museum – a contemporary art gallery within the cube. Entry is free though for all restaurant guests and experience goers, so if you’re trying something else in the Cube you don’t need to pay to get in.
Our wine recommendation: The Noble Wrinkled Riesling or The Witches Berry Chardonnay
Opening hours: Open daily from 10am until 5pm
Address: 58 Osborn Road, McLaren Vale
Find out more at darenberg.com.au
Overlooking a stunning gorge in the Onkaparinga River National Park, Samuel’s Gorge offers a serene little place where you can sit back and relax with a wine and a bit of different scenery. Looking over the national park is a welcomed change after countless cellar doors surrounds by vineyards.
Samuel’s Gorge also sets itself apart from the crowd by only focusing on five key red wines. They have no whites or roses on offer . It’s red only here, which was a little bit scary for a white wine drinker, but they won me over in the end!
The cellar door is much quieter than some of the others we visited, but it has a big reputation with the locals, and is a favourite of many.
Our wine recommendation: The 2018 Grenache
Opening hours: Open daily from 11am until 5pm.
Address: 193 Chaffey’s Road, McLaren Vale || Ph: (08) 8323 8651
Find out more at gorge.com.au
Other popular wineries
If you want to extend your visit and check out a few more of the regions best wineries, some of the other top choices include:
- Wirra Wirra – Corner Strout & McMurtrie Roads
- S.C Pannell – 60 Olivers Road, McLaren Vale
- Woodstock McLaren Vale – Douglas Gully Road
- Paxton Wines – 68 Wheaton Road
What’s your favourite winery or cellar door in McLaren Vale?
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