Until now, the Fleurieu Peninsula has largely been a tightly held secret among local holiday-makers.
But the recent opening of the d’Arenberg Cube – a show-stopping five- storey Rubik’s cube-like cellar door rising from mourvèdre vines – looks set to put McLaren Vale on the map of quintessential Australian weekend destinations.
Winemaker Chester Osborn’s $15 million cellar door on steroids features a raft of interactive experiences, from a “fog room” of wine to inhale to an ambitious fine-dining space that promises to stimulate all the senses. Those in the know are banking on the Cube having a “Mona effect” on McLaren Vale, boosting visitor numbers and awareness of one of our most charmed food and wine regions.
Fortunately for the peninsula, it already has all the hallmarks of a classic weekend escape. Located 45 minutes’ drive from Adelaide and sandwiched between escarpment and coastline, there are dozens of cellar doors to explore, including Primo Estate (pictured at top) with its Italianate courtyard and tastings of Joseph wines and olive oils; picturesque Samuel’s Gorge; and Alpha Box & Dice with its quirky design and innovative wines.
The Saturday-morning farmers’ market in Willunga sells exceptional regional produce as well as kransky rolls and corn fritters for breakfast. Rustic and fun, Russell’s Pizza (13 High Street, Willunga; 08 8556 2571) opens Friday and Saturday nights (and Thursdays throughout January) and is always busy and boisterous.
Up on Sellicks Hill, the Victory Hotel is an old bikies’ haunt reborn as a gastropub with an 8000-bottle cellar and a surprisingly strong list of wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. Glamorous by day or night, Star of Greece serves Mediterranean-inspired plates above the glittering Gulf St Vincent.
There’s no destination hotel yet but holiday rentals and B&Bs abound; we recommend The Vineyard Retreat’s four guesthouses (thevineyardmv.com.au) next door to the d’Arenberg Cube.