Eat and drink your way through the Clare Valley

Long synonymous with the crisp, dry Rieslings and flavourful, aromatic reds produced by its many wineries, the Clare Valley is coming of age.

Less than two hours’ drive from Adelaide, the Clare Valley is growing as renowned for its regionally inspired quality cuisine as for its grapes. Wineries are opening restaurants, new eateries are creating a buzz and farmers are diversifying into boutique produce. And, naturally, the Clare is still turning out its award-winning wines.

Among those spearheading the new trends are the younger generations of long established Clare families – often returning after spells away, drawn back by the valley’s unspoiled rustic charm. Others are newcomers who have fallen in love with the picturesque area and recognise its rich potential.

Clare Valley food – Terroir Auburn

Housed in a historic 1860s building in Auburn’s main street, this restaurant has won rave reviews, with its owner and chef, Dan Moss, the only South Australian to make the finals of the 2015 Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur national awards.

Dan, who opened the restaurant after stints in Germany, Canada and the UK, runs Terroir  with his brother, Rohan, a butcher. With a strict locavore philosophy, and committed to using seasonal, quality produce, he sources “92 or 93 per cent” of his food locally.

Terroir’s menu changes weekly, and is always concise – three starters, three mains and two desserts – in order, Dan says, to keep it “fresh, relevant and contemporary”.

Three generations of wine making – Jim Barry

Jim Barry played a leading role in establishing the Clare Valley as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. His three sons, Peter, Mark and John, helped to grow Jim Barry Wines, just outside Clare. Now Peter’s two sons, Tom and Sam, work, respectively, as the winemaker and commercial manager.

The pair released their first independently developed wine, The Barry Brothers Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, in 2013. That year, Tom was named Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s Young Winemaker of the Year. “You love the valley, and what it’s so good at doing is making beautiful Rieslings,” he says.

Wood-fired pizza is the brothers’ latest venture. According to Sam: “We’re just doing it for something different, using good local produce.”

Three generations of wine making – Jim Barry

Jim Barry played a leading role in establishing the Clare Valley as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. His three sons, Peter, Mark and John, helped to grow Jim Barry Wines, just outside Clare. Now Peter’s two sons, Tom and Sam, work, respectively, as the winemaker and commercial manager.

The pair released their first independently developed wine, The Barry Brothers Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, in 2013. That year, Tom was named Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s Young Winemaker of the Year. “You love the valley, and what it’s so good at doing is making beautiful Rieslings,” he says.

Wood-fired pizza is the brothers’ latest venture. According to Sam: “We’re just doing it for something different, using good local produce.”

A vineyard lunch – Bush Devine Cafe

After 32 years of winemaking, and with a cellar door famed for its spectacular views,  Neil and Alison Paulett realised a long-held dream when they opened a café  in June.

Inspired by and drawing ingredients from the couple’s own native bush garden, the menu features dishes such as Coffin Bay oysters with “a fragrant bushie’s nage [broth]”.

The property in Polish Hill River – named after the Polish settlers of the mid-1800s – has been producing wine for more than a century. And the tradition looks set to continue, with Neil and Alison’s son, Matt, managing the Paulette Wines vineyard and his wife, Ali, involved in marketing.

A vineyard lunch – Bush Devine Cafe

After 32 years of winemaking, and with a cellar door famed for its spectacular views,  Neil and Alison Paulett realised a long-held dream when they opened a café  in June.

Inspired by and drawing ingredients from the couple’s own native bush garden, the menu features dishes such as Coffin Bay oysters with “a fragrant bushie’s nage [broth]”.

The property in Polish Hill River – named after the Polish settlers of the mid-1800s – has been producing wine for more than a century. And the tradition looks set to continue, with Neil and Alison’s son, Matt, managing the Paulette Wines vineyard and his wife, Ali, involved in marketing.

Regenerative farming – Savannah Farm

When Phil and Michele Lally round up their flock for a weekly weigh-in at their Hill Valley farm, they don’t need dogs or motorbikes. Lambs which they have personally hand-reared lead the way into the weighing shed.

Caring for needy lambs, and the bond that instils, is part of the Lallys’ free-range, stress-free ethos for raising livestock – orginally lambs, now also chickens, cows and pigs. Their meat, grown without chemicals, hormones or antibiotics, can be bought online and is prized by the Clare’s chefs.

Embracing regenerative agriculture, which aims to create or restore healthy soil, has won the couple a swag of sustainability awards. Customers, says Michele, “want to know where the food is from and how it’s raised.”

Regenerative farming – Savannah Farm

When Phil and Michele Lally round up their flock for a weekly weigh-in at their Hill Valley farm, they don’t need dogs or motorbikes. Lambs which they have personally hand-reared lead the way into the weighing shed.

Caring for needy lambs, and the bond that instils, is part of the Lallys’ free-range, stress-free ethos for raising livestock – orginally lambs, now also chickens, cows and pigs. Their meat, grown without chemicals, hormones or antibiotics, can be bought online and is prized by the Clare’s chefs.

Embracing regenerative agriculture, which aims to create or restore healthy soil, has won the couple a swag of sustainability awards. Customers, says Michele, “want to know where the food is from and how it’s raised.”

The Finest Small Winery – Mitchell Wines

Each May, visitors converge on the Clare Valley for its Gourmet Weekend – a 48-hour celebration of the area’s food and wine, washed down with live music.

Jane Mitchell founded the event in 1985. She and her husband, Andrew, fermented their first vintage in a rubbish bin around the same time. Mitchell Wines grew into what leading wine critic James Halliday has called one of Australia’s “finest small wineries”.

Now their children, Angus and Edwina, are working in the award-winning family business – Angus as vineyard manager, Edwina on the marketing side. Both are steeped in winemaking. Angus has vivid memories of their mother bringing them down “in our dressing gowns … to watch the first crush of every vintage”.

The Finest Small Winery – Mitchell Wines

Each May, visitors converge on the Clare Valley for its Gourmet Weekend – a 48-hour celebration of the area’s food and wine, washed down with live music.

Jane Mitchell founded the event in 1985. She and her husband, Andrew, fermented their first vintage in a rubbish bin around the same time. Mitchell Wines grew into what leading wine critic James Halliday has called one of Australia’s “finest small wineries”.

Now their children, Angus and Edwina, are working in the award-winning family business – Angus as vineyard manager, Edwina on the marketing side. Both are steeped in winemaking. Angus has vivid memories of their mother bringing them down “in our dressing gowns … to watch the first crush of every vintage”.

Kathy Marks - Published March 2016
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