Monday, May 19, 2008

Cari's Bday at McLaren Vale

After an hour of driving or should I say of being driven, (Peter was the designated driver for the day) we jumped out at the main street in McLaren Vale ready with umbrellas to shield us from the pelting rain. We stopped at Blessed Cheese to grab a hot drink to help get us going. White chocolate in a mug - yummo -a cup full of heaven!

Next we popped over to Yummy Nuts to pick up some snacks for the ride... well we needed an excuse to buy stuff!
I am totally obssessed with these steep hill slopes, so not used to this kind of terrian. Just love it - totally blows my mind that we effortlessly drive up and down over such large hills!

The first winery on the agenda - Samuel's Gorge. Look at the valley from up here....

The cellar doors open to a fascinating world that takes you back in time with an ancient olive press and a beautiful stone hearth that provided us with much needed warmth on that cold, cold day.

The Grenfell is what Samuel's Gorge is known for and attracted much of Cari and Pete's attention.
Luca, the Belgian lady who worked there was so pleasant and was not only knowledgable but just so easygoing we ended chatting with her for ages - long more than we planned on! Personally the wines at Samuel's were far too dry, but what I liked was the finish on them was smooth unlike a lot of the Aussie reds.

Since we lost track of time spending two hours at Samuel's Gorge with Luca, all of a sudden it was 2. 15 pm and that made finding a place to eat lunch quite an adorous task. Initially we planned on eating at Coriole's winery which is supposed to have a super-cute little restaurant attached, but to our bad luck the rain shut the place down. So, we decided to well, taste some more wines.

The garden outside Coriole is so well maintained and pretty.

I picked up a Semillon (dessert wine) from Coriole, Peter some fortified wine, and then we headed off. Getting back into our comfy Mitsubishi rental car, Cari had a look at her map and her guide and we stumbled upon Salopian Inn a beautiful little mom and pop place. We had been nibbling all morning long on nuts, chocolate and wasabi peas so we decided to get a couple of entrees, some crusty bread and olive oil as well as some sides to share. We opted for the lamb brain that was crumb fried - a typically Aussie dish that all of us were pretty eager to try. On recomendation, we also tried the baked Roquefort tart dressed with local fig on a bed of rocket with pear slices and walnuts. Both were delicious the lamb was really, really good! A squeeze of lemon though would have lifted the flavour.

The views from McLaren Vale were just breathtaking and I couldn't stop clicking away. Inspite of it being a horrid day in terms of gloomy overcast skies and buckets of rain, the landscape was just gorgeous.
After our lunch and a bottle of red selected by Amy and Peter from the cellar below the restaurant we resumed our wine tasting, heading to Marion's boyfriend, Tim's winery Primo Estates. We were served up some of their splendid Joseph Olive Oil - don't be alarmed by the neon green oil. This oil was pressed and bottled in the last two weeks and had a rather overwhelming robust flavour to it. If used in cooking the oil would overpower the dish so it would need to be used carefully to drizzle just to finish salads and to eat with bread. I somehow really felt this could be used very well in a mayo suspension with seafood very effectively.

Primo Estates Winery was distinctly different from the wineries we visited in the morning. Upmarket and sophisticated it oozed elegance and had this ultra chic - glam feel to it. The decor was really up my street and the contemporary furniture, smooth angles and suave lighting and fixtures was contrasting against the rustic appeal of Samuel's Gorge and Corioles cute old world charm.
The outside courtyard really caught my fancy. Tim says they hold open house style BBQ's and pot lucks out here - you can just picture it. Really is the perfect spot!
Before heading to Victory Bar for a pre-dinner drink (coz we were running low on wine - haha!) we made a pitstop at a nearby beach to catch the surf hitting the shore.

A bottle of white Pinot Gris was enjoyed under the warm outdoor heaters. The plastic tarpulin almost blew away with the rain getting really aggressive while we sipped our wine.

The Hundred Eaves - Caris pick for her birthday dinner is an old chapel that has been restored and revamped into a little restaurant tucked off of the main road. The interiors have been paid special attention as well as the antique chandeliers.

Cheers to Cari on her big day - she only reminded us it was her birthday about a zillion times!!! The Beetroot Roulade was the entree special of the day that was rather dissapointing! Nothing special there... sorry ! The chook = Aussie for chicken, pate was well not good. I'm anyhow not a chicken liver pate fan, so this was no fun for me! My main was the prawn and fish chowder pie that was pretty good. The roasted sweet potato though had me absolutely floored. What a thing of marvel, the chef actually got this piece of vegetable to taste like a piece of smoked meat. Wow - it was just beyond brilliant! Peter's Kangaroo Steak was really cooked to perfection!

Marion invited us to her home in the hills for some exqusite French cheese and more wine. We would be insane to say no and marched up after dinner and stayed up scarving this addictive cheese down till 2 a.m! The creamy one with the spoon in it was divine: L'Edel de Cleron.
This was a work of art - Opera - layers of chocolate cream, coffee cream and sponge cake made by Amy for Cari. She pipped it and just made it look so pretty and it tasted so good!!!

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