Aussie Wine Adventures- McLaren Vale (Part 1)

DSC_0074-1A glass of Rosé in hand, a platter of local tapas sprawled across the table, rolling hills of vineyards in full leaf behind me, and sunshine warming every toe. No, this is not a daydream of a trip to Spain. This is right here, right now— which happens to be summertime in the gorgeous wine region of McLaren Vale in South Australia. DSC_0025-1[Shiraz grapes (Syrah) in McLaren Vale, South Australia]

I’m thrilled to have just visited McLaren Vale again to reconnect with some favorite producers and seek out new gems.  Over a long weekend, I visited two of my favorite wine areas in SA– McLaren Vale and Clare Valley.  We had a very full day in McLaren Vale so thought I’d break up the post into two parts as there’s so much to share. All the highlights of Clare Valley will be featured in an upcoming post as well.
DSC_0044-1 [vineyards in McLaren Vale, South Australia]

McLaren Vale wine region or GI (Geographic Indication as it’s known in Australia) is bordered on three sides with Adelaide to the north, the Mt. Lofty Ranges to east and south, and the Gulf of St. Vincent to the west. This close proximity to the coast offers cooling breezes and moderate wind in the afternoons , helping to cool what is considered a warmer growing region. Known for its bold Shiraz (Syrah), fruit-forward Grenache, hearty Cabernet Sauvignon and unique red blends like GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), the region has begun to explore and cultivate Spanish and Italian varietals too such as Barbara, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, and Fiano. The diversity in climate is very similar to that of the Mediterranean,  so these food-friendly varietals are a natural extension of the extreme food & wine culture that South Australia has become synonymous with. We started our day with winemaker & grower Tony De Lisio and his son Anthony (also now a winemaker) at their new micro production cellar.
When we arrived, he was organizing the barrel and tank room in preparation for “vintage” or harvest as we know it in the states. Tony is probably best known for his De Lisio Wines featuring Quarterback Red, a four-red blend of Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Grenache. Tony also crafted the La Testa wines under the Classic McLaren label for many years.  If you ever get your hands on some of his earlier bottlings of La Testa (from the 2000’s), be ready for a treat. I’m fortunate to have been introduced to his wines over a decade ago, and his consistency in winemaking truly creates a must-drink for anyone wanting to experience the terroir of McLaren Vale region in a glass.
DSC_0010-1 DSC_0029-1 DSC_0009

Next stop was Lloyd Brothers Wine & Olive Company.
We sampled their range of wines from the Estate Series and took in the beautiful views of the property. I had visited here many years before when their Alpacas were out in front of the winery,  so we were hoping to see them again. But today, a large collection of Kalamata olive trees sits in their place with olive & oil production now a major focus of their business.
Inside the cellar door you can sample the olives and oils, shop their gifts and foods section, or relax on the back patio with a glass of wine. Oh, and the Alpacas are still there….. they’ve just moved to the back paddock where it’s more secure—guess they had escaped out the front one too many times!
My favorites from the tasting were:
2014 Lloyd Brothers Sauvignon Blanc– crisp, citrusy, and loaded with all the traditional Sauv Blanc flavors. The estate grown fruit comes from their Adelaide Hills vineyard (cool climate) and showcases the fresh, clean style of this wine.

2014 Lloyd Brothers Grenache Rosé- made from Grenache grapes like many of the Rosés in McLaren Vale, this one offered a nice fruit-forward nose and palate, keeping the dry, crisp flavors of a traditionally crafted Rosé wine.  Hints of soft red fruits and spice on the finish. Perfect drop for a summer picnic lunch!

2014 Lloyd Brother Sparkling Shiraz– Living here in Northern California, I don’t often get to indulge in Sparkling Shiraz, so whenever I see one, I have to try it. This was a nicely crafted bottle with fragrant aromas of violets and blue fruits on the nose. Darker berry fruits and fine bubbles filled the mid-palate completed by a lingering finish of baking spice.

To visit:
34 Warner’s Road (PO Box 399)
McLaren Vale, SA, 5171
Open 11am-5pm | 7 Days a Week
Ph: 08 8323 8792 | Email:

Tapas and wine tasting at S.C. Pannell Wines
This was a fabulous lunch stop with a newer—and very busy cellar door & tapas patio that overlooked McLaren Vale. The wines are crafted by highly respected veteran of the wine industry, Stephen Pannell. The family-run winery focuses on classic McLaren Vale grape blends of Grenache and Syrah as well as small lot productions of Spanish and Italian varietals grown from environmentally sustainable vineyards in McLaren Vale, Barossa, and Adelaide Hills.
Stephen’s influence of his time in Barolo is evident throughout the selection of Mediterranean varietal wines, making their offerings fresh and new. Here are the standouts:

2014 S.C. Pannell Pinot Grigio– aromatics of lime & lemon zest with tropical fruit on the palate. Finishes crisp and clean with a good balance of fruit and acidity.

2013 S.C. Pannell Arido Rosé Nebbiolo– this was my favorite of the wines we tasted and is now sold out. And I can completely understand why as the beautiful pale pink color was perfumed with notes strawberries and roses. The palate was an expert balance of lush fruit and acidity, with a slight hint of dust and slate from the Nebbiolo grape. It was a perfect pairing for the amazing tapas we enjoyed that afternoon.

S.C. Pannell Touriga Nacional– this was the second favorite amongst the group. Deep in color and fragrant with blueberry and blackberry, this wine opened up to earth and spice enhanced by a velvety texture. Dusty notes of plum and and cacao carried the long finish.

2013 S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga– with the warm day time temps and coastal influences in McLaren Vale being similar to that of southwestern Spain, it’s no wonder that so many winemakers are making a move towards Mediterranean varietals in their vineyards. This particularly good red blend opened with heady floral notes of baked plum and spice followed by a weighty mid-palate of earth, cocoa powder and more black fruits. The finish was bold and dry. Definitely a great candidate for cellaring as the strong core of the wine will hold up and only improve over time.

This winery is a must-see for the views alone, not to mention the wine tasting & incredible food. Just be sure to arrive between 12-3pm so you don’t miss out on summer tapas on the back deck. And by the way, we polished off two orders of the potatoes–yes, they were that good!
lunch at sc pannel-1[clockwise: Fried Halumi with Pistachio Pesto, Patatas Bravas with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Bucket Of Prawns with Cocktail Sauce & Aoili, Pulled Pork Sliders with Apple & Cabbage Slaw. Above photo courtesy Ian Goldschmidt]
DSC_0052-1To visit:
Tapas menu available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12pm
60 Olivers Road, McLaren Vale (look for the bright red sign)

Open 7 days, 11am to 5pm. Extended hours on Fridays through to 8pm.
For enquiries and group bookings please call (08) 8323 8000.

We’re not done yet. There’s still two more winery visits to go, but more on that in McLaren Vale Part 2…….coming soon!

6 thoughts on “Aussie Wine Adventures- McLaren Vale (Part 1)

  1. Amazing post. Beautifully set out, informative with professionally taken photos. Great work, looking forward to Clare Valley. Regards Ian


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