I returned recently to South Australia to celebrate both my sister’s birthday and a belated mothers day with my mum. A trip to the Clare Valley would be my treat and a far better gift than chocolates or lavender-scented perfume.
The new book I’ve been going on about begins on a small island in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, on the East Coast of America. Eventually my heroine ends up in Australia and possibly stumbling across the mansion made famous in the iconic film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. The stately pile, above, can be found just outside the historic town of Mintaro in the wine growing district of the Clare Valley in South Australia.
South Australia, with its Mediterranean climate, is the premium wine growing region of Australia (some may disagree…but I am biased!) It would take weeks to taste your way through the nine major wine regions and thousands of words but today I’ll attempt to make a start…and give you a glimpse of the Clare Valley.
The Clare Valley is an easy 2 hour drive from Adelaide, but on this little adventure we take a detour through the Barossa Valley. I mention the Barossa because it was this very sexy advertising campaign that got me thinking about a destination for my next novel. The new book is set in a place that is the combination of the Clare and Barossa Valley wine growing regions. Watch the ad and you’ll get to see a snap shot of where I’m going with the next series…
The Barossa was settled by Prussian immigrants (now Silesia) in the mid 1800s. Our detour took us to the town of Nuriootpa so I could pick up a few treats from Linke’s traditional German butcher shop.
My dad was born in this town (and possibly even went to school with members of the Linke family). Linke’s butcher’s make the famous Metwurst… along with lots of other delicious cured and smoked meats.
We buy far too much but justify our overspend by agreeing a simple meal of smoked meat, bread and cheese would be an easy dinner at our motel tonight.
Loaded up we hit the road and continue North, for another hour, to the Clare Valley.
You know you’ve arrived when you reach the gorgeous old town of Auburn where the Rising Sun Hotel does a great lunch. But we have other plans and are only passing through today.
Our first stop is one of my favourite wineries, ‘Shut the Gate’, in the tiny hamlet of Watervale.
The tasting room is open, logs are burning in the fireplace, and we are very much welcome inside.
The four of us are taken to the third room in this tiny cottage, seated and treated to a little taste of all the wine on offer. The generous host, Rhasa, puts together a cheese platter and we are inspired to buy some yummy food from the range of gourmet products she sells.
My thing is Riesling. Not the sickly sweet rubbish we got drunk on as idiot teenagers… but a gorgeous dry minerally wine that just gets better with age. In fact Riesling is THE specialty of the Clare Valley and restocking my cellar the true reason for the trip! I can’t believe their 2012 Rosie’s Patch is on sale at $10 a bottle. 2012 was a truly great year and this is a very good wine. I purchase 4 cases… two to take back to Melbourne and two to be shipped to North Queensland… ready and waiting for us when we head up there in July.
Next stop is lunch at Mr Mick‘s, Tim Adams stunning wine and Tapas bar in the central town of Clare.
Their ever-changing, seasonal menu is great and I always look forward to trying something new.
A favorite, and always on the menu in some form, is the soft shell crab and salt and pepper squid.
The lamb and lentil dish was a standout…
Or perhaps it was the Arancini?
Or the cheeky little vegetable cups?
Or the crispy pork belly with pineapple salsa?
The lovely thing about this restaurant is that we all get to choose whatever takes our fancy from the huge selection of small plates. A visit to Clare would not be complete without lunch at Mr Mick’s.
Before leaving we go to the tasting room and I can’t resist grabbing a case of their sparkling Riesling! (It was a result of drinking far too much of this, a few months back, that I booked the cruise and ended up going on that solo adventure!)
I’d booked a two bedroom apartment at the Clare Country Club and after a long and very boozy lunch my sister (thanks for being our sober driver!) took us straight to our hotel…
Mum and Dad got the double bed,
My sister and I the two singles… and instantly I’m taken back to family holidays and almost feel the need to bounce on the bed…or maybe that was just the wine talking? The hotel is quite luxurious and nothing like the ‘Flag Inns’ we stayed in as kids.
Mum saw the big bath and decided a spa was in order, then Dad saw how much fun she was having and joined her! My parents live with the constant threat of drought and were quite pleased to be able to indulge in such an extravagant watery treat. My sister thought it was so hilarious that she posted a pic of the splash-fest on her instagram page!
In the meantime I unloaded the hamper, opened more wine and, when the bathers were done, found room for just a little bit more food!
And after way too much indulgence, wrapped up in our fluffy gowns, we watched a bit of TV and eventually retreated to our beds where we slept very soundly that night!
The next morning we continued our little adventure with a quick return trip to Watervale…
To the gorgeous clos Clare, a winery project set up by the Barry family of Jim Barry wines. I could be in Provence…
But a kangaroo hopping between the vines reminds me I’m most definitely in Australia.
Lunch is Mums choice and we settle on the restaurant at Skillogallee.
A veranda table is found and we sit looking out over the gorgeous gardens, eating more delicious food.
After lunch we drive to the historic town of Mintaro.
We stop at Mintaro Wines where I notice these very erotic looking labels on the Shiraz. A sign confirming that this town would be a good setting for the next book?
Sign or no sign, my sister, who has been doing most of the driving, is sick of watching us taste wines and needs a coffee.
We sit outside at Reilly’s, order afternoon tea and look down the pretty main street.
There are so many beautiful renovated buildings.
And again I see scenes like this and have to ask myself ‘are we still in Australia?’
While the family have afternoon tea I walk along the road, taking pics and discover this cottage. It’s just been sold and I wonder if this could be the run down house my new heroine buys?
Would it be possible for her to renovate it? Surely she would need one or two handsome tradesmen to help her fix it up? Even a muscle-bound stone mason perhaps?
Or it could be this little house further along the way?
Maybe she could work in the kitchens of the old pub to earn a bit of extra cash? The story is starting to build and I’m keen to get back to my computer.
We make one last stop at the gorgeous sandstone mansion, Martindale Hall, just outside town. It’s closed for the day and we are only able to see the exterior. It would be such a perfect place in which to find a sexy new hero…a Mr. Rochester perhaps?
Now I really must go and put these thoughts into words…
Thanks for joining me on this little adventure, happy reading and much love, Anna x
P.S.There are many places I love to visit in this gorgeous region but as this was just a quick over-nighter we couldn’t do every thing so apologies to those of you who I haven’t mentioned…will write a more extended post when I return later in the year.
Love you to read my books
The Lost Woman series follows the sexy adventures of Christina as she makes her way through a world of new media, design, fashion, travel, and … men.
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