McLaren Vale & surrounds, SA

A wine lover's guide to McLaren Vale SA

By Sophia Collins

September 2, 2020 | 3 minute read

The Weekender recently caught up with Jacqueline Alanne from @pantsoffwineday to find out her top tips for a great weekend in McLaren Vale. Here they are ...

* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.

What do you love about McLaren Vale?

We are seriously lucky! McLaren Vale is a coastal wine region with a Mediterranean climate which means you can stand in the vines, look to the sea and think you're in Italy! I also love the wine diversity you find in The Vale, thanks to both the wide variety of soils and microclimates, and the range of personalities, passions and visions of locals. 

We really have a bit of everything - from Italian varietals made to be drunk with food, to big, bold Shiraz, Spanish grapes, and even a new insurgence of Greek varietals. Winemakers in the Vale can't afford to get comfortable - there's always something new and exciting coming through!

Plus, we're 40 minutes from Adelaide, so we can enjoy the perks of town, and a breezy commute against the traffic to and from our beautiful Vale.

Which are your favourite wineries to visit?

I love spending a slow afternoon ordering small plates and drinking light Grenache on the deck at SC Pannell, and popping in at the Bondar cellar door when Selina and Andre open it up on long weekends. Penley Estate's McLaren Vale wine room on the main street also satisfies my Coonawarra itch with their funky setup and even cooler wines.

I do love to visit Primo Estate and Alpha Box & Dice for some solid banter, and Samuel's Gorge and Kay Brothers for a little Vale serenity. Seriously, I could go on FOREVER!

Any hidden secrets/tips when visiting?

If there's only two of you, consider a guide or the Trailhopper so you can both dodge the designated driver badge. You want to have an equally good time! And it's actually quite fun turning off your maps and letting yourself get a little lost on our long stretches of vine-wrapped roads.

Make sure you grab a wine box from someone along the way that you can fill with with a half dozen (or couple of dozen) mixed McLaren Vale beauties before the sun goes down.

Also take the time to pop to the Willunga main street for a little stroll through the shops. You might find a sneaky cellar door or two among the coffee shops, and there's Pizzateca for the best pizza in McLaren Vale, The Confessional on Foggo road for a little vino education, and the Salopian Inn for a G+T.

Where would we find you on a Sunday morning in the Vale? 

If the sun's out, and it's too 'early' for vino, I'll be heading for the coast, grabbing a spinach and three-cheese triangle from the McLaren Vale bakery on the way through, and heading for Goodness Coffee Aldinga for the best coffee on the coast. They roast it in-house and you can buy bags of beans to take home. 

Sufficiently caffeinated, I'll be nipping down to Port Willunga beach for a walk with the doggo, and a little soul searching. Come afternoon and if I've fallen asleep on the beach (again), it's back through any cellar doors I haven't visited lately. I like to stay on top of who's doing what!

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