Reillys Wines cellar door and restaurant

Reillys Wines cellar door and restaurant

Tues, 20 Oct - Bungaree Station

Yesterday the temperature was in the low 30s and we were tired after the long drive on Sunday so we took it easy driving to Clare to buy a few provisions and then visiting one winery, Taylor's, in the afternoon. Paul bought a half dozen bottles of wine and managed to negotiate a good deal which included the online only special of an ice bucket. Just as the salesman was tallying the bill he mentioned he had his Senior's card and got an extra 10% discount.

Today we decided to go to Bungaree Station a working farm that dates back to 1841. After that we thought we'd visit a couple of wineries but Bungaree was so interesting we stayed until early afternoon. The Station was originally 267 square miles (approx 160,000 acres) which is some big, huge farm. Today most of it has either been divided among family members or sold off. The part we saw today is run by 5th generation members of the founding family. Now they have only a mere 7,000 acres. In the 1880s they ran 100,000 sheep for fleece.

The station was the most Northerly settlement in South Australia which meant it had to be self sufficient. It needed to grow its own food and at one point had over 50 workers employed in varying roles including shepherds, boundary riders, carpenters, housekeepers and gardeners. Add in the family members of staff and the station was like a small self contained village.

In the early 1900s it even built its own Anglican Church which is still there. In the 1960s the wool industry contracted hugely and these days the property produces mainly crops of canola and wheat. They still have some sheep but nowhere near the numbers of yesteryear. There is also a herd of fallow deer and a small herd of beef cattle.

Many of the historic farm buildings have been turned into accommodation and because of the church the Station is also a destination for weddings. It's fantastic the family is doing so much to preserve this historic farm not only for their own descendants but also for the rest of us. Australia once "rode on the sheep's back" and it was a privilege to visit this historic but still working farm. It took me back to high school and university geography excursions.

We left Bungaree and returned to Clare to have lunch at Mr Mick's, a winery and food establishment. It was a tapas style lunch and the waitress recommended we start with five dishes. Mistake. We don't eat that much food for lunch.

On our way back to Auburn we took a detour to Quarry Hill lookout. That was a good idea because the view was spectacular.

Map of Clare Valley wineries

Today's photo gallery


Wed, 21 Oct - Mintaro

Today dawned crisp and cool, a little damp and overcast. We were told yesterday at Bungaree it hadn't rained for seven weeks. It seemed to have been raining gently most of last night in Auburn so I hope there was rain at Bungaree too. It was quite cool today and I was able to get some more use of the poncho I bought in Kingscote.

Our first stop this morning was Martindale Hall in the hamlet of Mintaro which is about 12 kms from Auburn. This historic house was built in 1879/80 and was a sheep station under the original owner, Edmund Bowman. To begin with he was extremely prosperous but was forced to sell in 1891 after a drought followed by a depression saw the collapse of the wool price. The house was then bought by William Mortlock who was married to his cousin Rosina Tennant. They had six children but only two survived infancy and of those one was killed in accident when he was 35. Life was tough in those days.

Mintaro is a special hamlet as it has a lot of its original historic buildings, many of which are in good repair. Mintaro’s historic character was shaped by two important mining industries in nineteenth century South Australia. In the 1840s and 1850s it became an early staging point for transporting copper from the Burra mines to Port Wakefield. From the 1860s onwards it was South Australia’s leading producer of high quality slate. The surrounding farming districts of the fertile Gilbert Valley were able to reap the rewards of excellent wheat and wool prices during South Australia’s rural boom of the 1870s and early 1880s.

We had a very good lunch at Reilly's winery which is in the heart of the village opposite the pub. After lunch and some wine tasting by Paul (while I scoffed an affogato) we wandered around the streets photographing the old buildings. We have been enjoying the local gardens of the district which are mostly in abundant flower. The gardens in Mintaro are no exception.Clearly the soil is perfect for roses as well as wine. The other plant that is laden with blossom at the moment is the bottle brush. The abundant gardens mean there are lots of birds. As a consequence there is an amazing amount of birdsong, the likes of which you don't hear in a city.

Today's photo gallery


Thurs, 22 Oct - Lunch at Skillogalee

Today is our last day in the Clare Valley and we have had a relaxed time of it. For starters it was the most glorious weather. The temperature was about 20 degrees and the sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky.

Our first stop was about 300 metres down the street where we had a mid morning coffee. We sat outside and a massive semi-trailer laden with bales of hay rumbled by. Life is different in the country.

We visited Kilikanoon winery where we had an entertaining pitch from the saleswoman, Glen. We were the only ones there at the time so she was able to give us her full attention. Paul bought some wine and arranged freight to Sydney. He's been enjoying the cellar door so much more than the routine shop at Vintage Cellars or Dan Murphy that he's stocked up. The big wine retailers won't be seeing him for a while to come.  It's not that the wineries are necessarily cheaper, but that they often have wines not readily available in retail stores.

We drove from there to Skillogalee winery which is almost next door. Both these wineries are in a hillier part of the valley and are surrounded by a lot more native bush which makes them more rustic and informal in appearance than some of the bigger wineries like Taylor's. Skillogalee has a very nice restaurant where we stayed for luncheon. Our waitress was highly entertaining in both her delivery and her choice of jewellery; licorice allsorts earrings and an iced vo-vo brooch.

Skillogalee also has a very pretty cottage garden complete with an abundance of sweet scented roses. These bushes are so laden with blooms at the moment that you can smell the fragrance a metre or so away.

Our last port of call for the day was to be the Rising Sun pub in Auburn. However, we are still full from lunch, don't like the look of the sample menu, don't feel like going out again and can finishing our packing if we stay in. Mind you supper is going to be extremely piecemeal as we've run down our supply of groceries. We might have to have breakfast on the road.

Today's photo gallery


Fri, 23 Oct - Homeward bound

This morning we started the day with a stop (I love writing that) at Cogwebs the bike hire establishment in Auburn. Cogwebs also claims to have the best coffee in town. Maybe they do.

After our morning tea we set off for Adelaide via Balaklava and Port Wakefield. Once over the hills and out of the Clare Valley the landscape changes dramatically. It is very, very FLAT for miles and miles in every direction. The main crop changes to wheat which means the landscape ceases to be green. The roads are long, flat and straight.

As we approached the coast, areas of salt bush started to appear as well. It's quite an alienating landscape because it is unrelentingly FLAT and wheat yellow. Balaklava is a small town apparently servicing the grain industry judging by the huge silos on its edge. We had a short stroll around the town centre. I had a look in the real estate agent's window and it seems there is plenty of "affordable housing" in this part of the world.

Next we drove to Port Wakefield. As far as I can tell there doesn't seem to be a port at Port Wakefield. There is a boat ramp among the mangroves. It isn't possible even to see the waters of Gulf St Vincent. After taking some photos of a heron and cormorant who were sitting on the bank we drove on towards Adelaide stopping briefly in the funny little hamlet of Dublin.

The traffic through Adelaide was as busy and tedious as it was last weekend. Right now we're on the plane about 30 minutes out of Sydney. All in all we've had a very enjoyable and interesting holiday.

Today's photo gallery


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