visiting noela & the mclaren vale wineries

My friend Noela moved back to Adelaide in the New Year. We miss her! So much so in fact that I went to visit her for the weekend about a month after she had moved there. 

We ate at an amazing Italian restaurant in the city, Rigoni’s, where I was actually served one of the best Spanish paellas I have ever tasted. This Adelaide institution has been open for almost 30 years and it is a real institution.

Next day we spent the evening at the market – what a civilised way to do your weekly shopping. Strolling aisles through cheeses, deli items, good coffee and fresh fruit and vegetables, followed by a fantastic and ridiculously cheap dinner of noodles in the laneways of Asian restaurants surrounding the market.

The highlight, of course, was the day spent wandering the wineries of McLaren Vale on the Saturday. In Noela’s little Fanta can of a car, we buzzed down the freeway to the McLaren Vale region – only about an hour away from the city and overflowing with good wine. Starting at the very first place we came across, the wine flowed and the people welcomed us.


Simon Hackett is a great little winery with a friendly lady in the tasting room who pressed an open bottle of red wine on Noela for free because she loved it so much and it was the last one. We could have stayed there all day in the cool air, putting the world to rights. The crowds of weekend tasters had not yet descended and it seemed like we were the only two people in the McLaren Vale. We left with about six bottles between us, which is not too alarming until you remember that the car was TINY, we were only at the first winery and I had to carry all my purchases onto a plane later that day…


My favourite winery had to be Wirra Wirra, where the red wines just kept coming. For months now, my mid-week regular has been Wirra Wirra’s Scrubby Rise – a shiraz cabernet petit verdot which should cost lots more than the $17 they charge me at Dan Murphy’s. The Church Block cabernet shiraz merlot is a slightly more robust and sophisticated wine, but my heart still goes back to the Scrubby Rise again and again.

At Dowie Doole (how could I drive past with a name like that) we sat in the courtyard in late afternoon, five glasses in front of us, and tasted our little hearts out accompanied by some rather good cheese. Marvellous.

Dowie Doole glasses

A coffee and a nice sit down in Market 190 finished off our day, along with the purchase of some wonderful condiments such as a decent chilli jam as we paid our bill. How sad that I had to run back to Melbourne so early. But I am already looking forward to my next trip.

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