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I’ve always found that there is something romantic about visiting wine regions. It’s not just the free samples of vino at the cellar doors, the sprawling wine estates, the beautifully landscaped gardens or the perfect rows of grape vines. To me it conjures up images of cycling through the vines with your sweetheart and stopping to savour a picnic hamper filled with wine and cheese, just the two of you amongst the vines. Sigh!
This brings me to an absolute hidden gem of a wine region, bounded by picturesque farmland and centuries old vineyards, and only 137 Km’s from Adelaide in South Australia, the secluded Clare Valley.
Sometimes overshadowed by the world renowned Barossa Valley, which is located about 70 km’s east, the Clare Valley is so much more than a vineyard area. It holds many hidden secrets and a fascinating history with old mining towns like Burra and Kapinda, the famous Sevenhill Winery founded by the Jesuits in 1851, Bungaree Station which is one of the earliest stations in the region, the historical village of Mintaro and the regal mansion of Martindale Hall.
The Clare Valley is a region of plains, pastures and valleys. It is 200 km’s long and 100 kms wide, interspersed with country roads, quiet laneways and tracks that are rarely frequented.
You can savour the flavours of the area with a stay at boutique retreats, dine at famous farmhouse restaurants and historic pubs. International wine judges continue to rate the Rieslings and Shiraz as amongst the best in the world. Rest assured you will find plenty of wineries to do some of your own ‘wine appreciation’!
Unlike any winery that I have ever visited, the Sevenhill Winery is an experience in itself. Established by the Jesuits in 1851, it is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley and it originally produced altar wine for the Catholic Church, but is now recognized for its premium table wines.
The historic winery and cellar door, St Aloysius’ Church, the College Building, the large lawn area, the surrounding grapevines and spiritual sites are worthy of at least half a day of your itinerary. You can take one of the guided tours that provide an even deeper understanding of Sevenhill’s religious and heritage significance.
Referred to as the gateway to the Clare Valley, Auburn was established in 1849 when the area was rich with copper mines. Auburn is widely recognized as an historic town with many heritage listed buildings. Some of South Australia’s finest stonework is to be found in the group of public and private buildings in the town.
It is a great place to commence a tour of the local wineries and visit historical villages. The Rising Sun Hotel c. 1850 offers fine dining set amongst rustic surroundings or to enjoy a cold beer out on the verandah.
A stroll through the historical village of Mintaro has been likened to the English Cottswolds or Dales. The beautiful bluestone buildings, stone churches, cottage gardens and the grand old Magpie & Stump Pub all add to the charm of this village and it is only 21 kms from Clare. Otherwise you can challenge yourself in the Mintaro Maze made of green bushy hedges.
A stone throw from Mintaro is Martindale Hall, an exercise in Georgian opulence, built by a wealthy young bachelor in 1880, it was used as the set for the movie ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. You can come and stay in this perfectly restored mansion or take a tour and admire its antique furniture and fittings. It will take you back to those heady romantic days from another era!
The regional centre and main service town for the Clare Valley area, Clare, is a great base for your winery experience. A stay at one of it’s gorgeous B & B’s is mandatory as is a browse through the local handicraft and produce shops in town.
Clare offers a large choice of dining options, including three pubs with live bands performing on weekends. A visit to the old Enterprise Brewery for some beer-tasting, (as an alternative to wine-tasting) is a must do. There are also wineries in and around Clare everywhere, so take your time to see them all.
For a real vineyard experience, walkers or cyclists can follow the Riesling Trail that was the former railway line from Auburn to Clare. My husband hired a bike and rode the 25 km’s of the trail consisting of good quality compacted surfaces with a reasonable gradient.
Along the way it will give you sweeping views of villages and the hills. There are picnic spots and storyboards about the history, the landscape, the Ngadjuri people, the communities and local heroes. But make sure you also enjoy the hospitality of the wineries close by the trail.
The Clare Valley not surprisingly, brought out the romantic in me! Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the historic stone villages or maybe it was the cottage gardens bursting with rose blooms. I could easily lose my head in her postcard perfect vistas!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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