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In the last year, I have developed a serious appreciation for wine.  It’s grown substantially from a preference for white and an affinity for sweet German wine to a real interest and growing understanding of grapes and regions and vintages.

In the fall, on a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake as we drove past beautiful lakeside vineyards, it occurred to me that while I lived so close to some of the best wineries in Canada, I didn’t know a whole lot about them.  I’d never been to one except by driving by and wasn’t even sure how to go about visiting a winery!  A shame, really.

Fortunately for me, and for lots of South Australians, some of the best wineries in the country are located only a short drive from Adelaide.  On Easter Sunday, Andrew and I headed out for a cellar door tour and a drive through McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s renowned wine regions.

If you’re like I was a year and a half ago, you’re thinking, “that isn’t saying a whole lot, Heather!”  Prior to dating an Australian wine aficionado, I too was under the impression that Australian wine = oaky chardonnay from a bottle with a kangaroo on the label.  Not so.  The vast majority of Australian wine that’s available in Canada and the United States is produced for export only.  And it’s pretty crap.  

If you know what you’re looking for, a good restaurant’s wine list may feature some excellent Australian bottles.  Andrew was able to spot some gems at different restaurants in Toronto and it became pretty clear that the better wineries send wine through trade only.  We couldn’t find anything half-way decent at the LCBO.

Every bottle of Australian wine I’ve had since coming to Australia has been excellent.  Yes, I’ve had a bottle or twelve.  So sue me.  It’s all in the name of blogging!  The wine we sampled as we drove from cellar door to cellar door did not disappoint.

McLaren Vale is beautiful with its rolling hills and never-ending sky.  Grape vines blanket the region and in autumn their colours range from pumpkin orange to gold.   I loved how different wineries posted signs along the road beside their vines.  Some even noted the type of grape.  Having just finished a bottle of Scrubby Rise sauvignon blanc the night before, driving past Wirra Wirra’s Scrubby Rise vines was pretty cool.

After sampling the wine at a couple of cellar doors we went back into the town of McLaren Vale and stopped at a cheese shop.  A few wineries had restaurants or a bit of a mezze to enjoy but as it was Easter they were pretty booked.  I never consider cheese a compromise, however, and two delicious selections later we were back on the road. 

Wirra Wirra’s winery is not too far from the town and we took our cheese to their cellar door to find an appropriate companion.  We tried a few options and in the end picked a sparkling moscato called “Mrs. Wigley”.  Quite delicious, the Mrs. Wigley Moscato comes in a 500ml bottle and it isn’t exactly a bargain at $18.  When we saw that it’s alcohol content was only 4.5%, Andrew pondered value for money but I was pretty sure I didn’t care.

We enjoyed our cheese and moscato on the patio where there was prime people-watching.  It was a lovely end to a really excellent day.  The more I see of South Australia the more I love it and sitting under the sun with a sampling of local cheeses and wine practically poured from the barrel, I felt very fortunate.  

“After two glasses, wine is wine.”  Several years ago, my grandmother rather infamously made this statement over Thanksgiving dinner.  It stuck in our family and while  I’m still inclined to believe her I’ve become much more interested in those first two glasses.  As we drank our moscato and surveyed our surroundings, a large piece of carved stone sat next to us.  It read:

Never give misery an even break, nor bad wine a second sip.
You must be serious about quality, dedicated to your task in life,
especially winemaking, but this should all be fun.
  
– Greg Trott

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