The Clare Valley is at the North end of South Australia’s Epicurean Way. It includes the towns of Clare, Sevenhill, Mintaro, Penwortham, Leasingham and Auburn and produces some of Australia’s best wine. It is particularly known for its Riesling. The local tourist office produces an extensive list of dog-friendly establishments.
As a dog, I find winery regions a bit hit and miss. Personally, I’ve never tasted wine. I don’t mind licking a bit of beer off the Silverback’s finger, but I just can’t get past the sniffing of wine to actually taste it. It’s just not in my breeding somehow. That said, some wineries have great restaurants and I decidedly like food. We had a great time in the Margaret River area some weeks back, so I entered the Clare Valley with mixed expectations.
The Clare Valley Wine Food Tourism Centre is in the middle of Clare. It has information on walks, bike riding, art, pubs, restaurants and wineries and more. It also has a comprehensive list of dog friendly establishments. Just what the folks needed to help them decide where to go for lunch. The old train line is now a bike path and you can ride all through the area.
We decided to stop at the Auburn Community Caravan Park. This is a small, shady, very friendly caravan park with about a dozen powered sites, some lovely unpowered areas and good amenities. There are no jumping castles or pool and it’s in a wine town, hence not particularly kiddie attractive. When we were there, there were four dogs, two cats, a bird, some goldfish and a handful of grey nomads. Two of the nomad vans come here every vintage to help with the harvest. On my morning walk most days I saw a fox. That was interesting, he didn’t come over for a chat, but it was cool to see him just the same. The campsite is next to the cricket ground, where good boys can chase a ball off lead if they behave. We assume this is not allowed during a cricket match. Listening to the happy hour conversations, most people seemed to be return customers.
First day, down to business. Wine tasting at Mount Horrocks winery, the folks were so impressed they bought a riesling and a shiraz. Dogs are allowed on the verandah. A bit of driving about followed then dinner at the restaurant Terroir Auburn. Again, dogs allowed on the verandah. It was a bit cool that night, so the restaurant got the folks a table next to the window. I sat outside and they sat inside (see the lead photo). That’s not quite how dogs allowed on the verandah is supposed to work. I gave them the stare for a while then went to sleep. Apparently the meals were awesome: seared kingfish, roast mulloway, handmade gnocchi and salad with Mount Horrocks Riesling. I got none! When we got back to the van they must have been overwhelmed by guilt because I got the whole bacon doggy bag from North Beach Kitchen as supper! It all comes to those who wait, I love bacon. In wine towns the folks stick to the one tasting and one restaurant per day formula. It’s a tough job being a travel journalist sometimes and you need to keep your wits about you!
Day two, back in the saddle. The folks did the Kilikanoon Revelation Tasting, apparently you pay for this one. Dogs allowed in the patio area. I was out there with Deano the manager’s Italian Water Dog. We chatted about out Italian names and stuff while the folks and the manager spent an hour talking about wine. The tasting included a shiraz voted best in the world a couple of years back. I didn’t notice them spitting too much out during the session. They seemed to enjoy themselves.
Lunch was at Skilogalee Winery and Restaurant. Dogs allowed on the patio, under the table. Two other dogs in attendance, both Labradors. The patio is under the shade of a giant olive tree overlooking a small valley of vines. Asian Confit Duck Salad for the Sparrow, Vine Pickers Platter for the Silverback. I sat at the silverback’s feet looking as thin as I could. [It’s a classic dog trick, just suck in your tummy a bit and look sad]. A very successful lunch, I got some cheese and ham and a cracker. Nice!
A different start to day 3. A walk around the historic Sevenhill Cellars vineyard established by Jesuits in 1851 to make sacramental wine, apparently they still make a major portion of Australia’s communion wine. The folks went for the history and didn’t visit the cellar door.
Today’s winery tasting was at Jim Barry’s, back in Clare Get this; dogs allowed inside the Cellar Door area! I went straight to sleep on the cool slate floor. The winery was James Halliday’s winery of the year this year, apparently that’s a major achievement. [A bit like the first time a dog gets all the sheep in the pen]. By the time I woke up, the folks had been through all the premium reds and we were off to lunch at Reilly’s Wines in Mintaro.
Mintaro is a tiny historic village a few km off the main road. The main street is full of lovely old buildings. At first I thought they were the reason we had gone there but turns out it was the food. Filet Mignon and Shiraz for the Silverback, Stuffed Chicken Breast and Riesling for the Sparrow. I got a sliver of the Silverback’s lunch. Eye Fillet and Bacon in the same mouthful, now that’s special. Ah, Enzotraveldog, living the life.
Back to the caravan park for happy hour. Really liking this place. It’s going to be hot tomorrow, so we’re staying an extra day. The folks are going to sit in the air conditioned camp kitchen and help me with the blogging. They’re good like that. Not sure how I’d manage without them sometimes.