By Max Anderson
City dwellers have been known to enter the Adelaide Hills wine region and never come out. They’re amazed to discover three things: 1) It’s just 20 minutes from the centre of Adelaide; 2) It’s a world away from city life, a place of spectacular rolling hills and gentle villages some 700 metres above sea level; and 3) The cool climate terroir produces some of Australia’s very best wines out of wineries that are almost entirely boutique in scale. Suitably enlightened, many have been known to buy acreage, swept up by the charm of the charismatic region and emblematic lifestyle that comes with the territory..
If you haven’t discovered the region for yourself, there’s no better time than during Crush, the annual food and wine festival that sees 40+ wineries and cellar doors raise their collective glasses in a celebration of Hills-y goodness.
In 2017, Crush is on January 27 to 29 and invites everyone to “play it cool” under the summer sun. The three-day program is packed with food, music and a few experiences you don’t normally associate with wine. It’s also when the winemakers come out to play, their last chance to do so before the March-April frenzy of vintage, and as such, it is a great time to mingle among industry stalwarts and meet some famous names.
The region’s signature varieties of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir will be flowing at several well-known wineries including Shaw+Smith – where a “long table” will be set within the winery; Petaluma – the new cellar door deck will host a lively dinner with one of the finest views in the Hills; and Bird in Hand where back vintages will be broken out for a special paired dégustation.
In mid-2016, the region counted the number of producers making méthode champenoise sparkling wine and was surprised to discover it is now the mainland’s largest producer of fine-quality “MC” fizz, eclipsed only by the Apple Isle.
For the champions of champers, you might get along to Deviation Road where winemaker Kate Laurie will be mixing “bubbles with blues”, and Honey Moon Vineyard where Hylton McLean will offer a master class on pinot and chardonnay, the grape varieties that have flutes hitting the right note.
But it’s not all about wine. Crush is putting the culture back into viticulture with a slew of performances among the normally peaceful trellises. Mordrelle Wines has a distinct Latin beat going on thanks to salsa dancing lessons and South American guitarists. Robert Johnson Vineyards will sound to ARIA-winning musician Taasha Coates, ex-lead singer of The Audreys. Barristers Block and O’Leary Walker will be screening movies. Deviation Road is going “full thesp” and staging Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at dusk.
Perhaps Crush’s most renowned art-meets-wine event is The Piece Project held at Longview Vineyard outside Macclesfield. Each year, street artists battle it out with aerosol cans for the honour of illustrating the label of Longview’s iconic shiraz, The Piece. After five hours of spray action, judges select something suitably rad/street/dope to grace the year’s vintage. The competition will take on a feminine edge in 2017 with all entrants being female artists.
Grounded in agricultural heritage and very much a place of farming families, the Adelaide Hills have never stood on ceremony and is very open to rugrats being part of the fun. If you’ve got kids in tow, try Golding Wines’ Life is Sweet event with kids activities (the lawns are prime spots for chasey and backyard cricket; Anderson Hill, a place of good cheer and farmdogs; or Sidewood Cellar Door at Maximilian’s ( if the activities don’t keep them amused, the resident emus will).
Sporting events? Actually, yes: the Tomich Cup Horse Show is on again at Tomich Wines, and Sidewood Estate is reissuing its $2000 golfing challenge. For the latter, all you have to do is score a hole-in-one on the floating golf green to win two grand. Partaking of Sidewood’s wines and ciders may (or may not) help your aim.
Finally, there’s food, without which wine would only be half of the story. Expect gourmet picnics to take place across the region with ingredients sourced from growers and producers based in the Adelaide Hills such as Udder Delights gourmet cheeses, Max Noske’s home-grown lamb and handmade chocolates by Red Cacao. And just in case it should get too parochial, there will be Thai Street Food at Artwine, an Argentine barbecue at Nepenthe and a Spanish feast at Ten Miles East.
If you’re going to do Crush you might as well do it properly and stay for the long weekend. And to this end, several places come recommended to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
Four-star Mount Lofty House is a whopping English-style mansion perched high over the Piccadilly Valley. It has a new fine dining restaurant (Hardy’s Verandah) and Stables Day Spa, and it’s also hosting a four-winery event during Crush. This Accor hotel is close to several fine Hills attractions including Mount Lofty Botanic Garden (next door), Mount Lofty Summit (looking down to the city of Adelaide) and Cleland Wildlife Park.
The Manna is a four-star motel-style property with 50 rooms and a courtyard, located in the heart of Australia’s oldest German village, Hahndorf. The historic main street was established in 1839 and is still home to dozens of fachwerk cottages built by the original Prussian settlers. The Manna is perfectly located to enjoy restaurants, cellar doors, pubs and shops that sell artisan goods, all of which will be buzzing during Crush.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the Hahndorf Resort offers caravan and camping sites as well as a range of quality self-catering cabins (sleep up to three) and family cottages (up to six). The 50-acre resort is perfect for kids, complete with a lake, a pool and a jumping cushion. The attractions of are just a short walk away.
And finally, there’s the upmarket self-catering properties operated by Adelaide Hills Country Cottages. Beautifully restored and appointed, the five cottages are located behind Oakbank village among rolling countryside.
Virgin Australia has regular flights to Adelaide from all major cities. Most major hire car companies are represented at Adelaide Airport.