Tuesday, 4 November 2008

We’d already decided that the day’s activities would kick off with a stroll around Henley Beach since our post-nightfall arrival had precluded sightseeing. 

Down the road and just around the corner we passed the former headquarters of the Australian Cricket Academy before heading along the jetty for a look back down the coast towards Glenelg. 

We headed back to base through the restaurant quarter, where Madam spotted Stella, where she’d hoped to dine the previous night. 

Changes to flight schedules between the time we booked in April and actual departure combined with Monday evening to put an end to that option. 

I suppose we could have looked more carefully, but I didn’t recall lights the night before, and Madam had forgotten the details of the name of the place (other than it started with S).

But there’s always next time.

And there almost certainly will be a next time. 

There’s plenty of South Oz left for Hughesy to explore.

Meleden Villa is conveniently located as far as late-arriving flights are concerned, but your mileage as far as the accommodation is concerned may vary. 

Before booking Madam carries out extensive research, and she’d found that the place had attracted a variety of ratings. 

That’s understandable. It’s not the place to go if you’re looking for something brand spanking new that shines and sparkles. Some might also be put off by the lack of a cooked breakfast. 

On the other hand, a request for advice on the best route to link up with the Main North Road to Clare produced the clearest and best-directed mud map I can remember along with instructions which turned out handy when we found ourselves surrounded by semi-trailers at a key intersection without a road sign in sight.

As stated, opinions may vary, but we found the place comfortable, and I would have absolutely no hesitation about going back. I see no point in looking further if we’re after accommodation close to the airport on the way in or out of Adelaide.

After some excitement at that critical intersection, the journey was uneventful except for a slight incident that involved alternative routes through and around Gawler and some road-works where the alternatives reunited.

Since we were just inside the limits of the street directory, we were able to backtrack without much trouble.

Auburn is located at the southern end of the Clare Valley. We arrived there about eleven-thirty and found our base for the next three nights without much trouble. We found the proprietress on site, which led to a guided tour of the facilities along and advice about the neighbourhood.

Working on the principle that Melbourne Cup Day might see places open 363 days a year (with Christmas and Good Friday being the exceptions) involved in some race-related function we started off with a stroll around Auburn, passing a Cup function which might have attracted a number of the local proprietors.

Of the two wineries located in the town, Grosset (according to my iPod notes, Australia’s leading Riesling maker) opens for approximately six weeks from early September until stocks are sold out.

I figure it’s eight or nine weeks from early September to Cup Day, so it wasn’t surprising to find the sign at the entrance suggesting we’d better come back in ten months if we wanted a taste. 

Still, it was worth going for a look, and I was hoping that somewhere along the road we’d run across one of the wines at an eatery and, with a bit of luck, it’d be available by the glass.

I knew that the other winery in town (Mount Horrocks) was only open on weekends, but there’s a cafe in the old Auburn railway station which I thought might just be open on Cup Day (wrong!) 

Anyway, it lay on our way back to the centre of town, where we expected to find lunch.

Back in downtown Auburn, we found the cafe (Cygnets at Auburn) had gone racing, so it was a case of lunch at The Rising Sun pub.

An insufficient perusal of the menu resulted in disappointment for Someone who forgot advice to ignore anything described as schnitzel unless you’re sure that it’s freshly made.

But my trio of sausages on a bed of mash with a red onion jelly filled the void nicely and provided a bed of blotting paper that would become important once tasting started.

As previously intimated, Auburn lies at the southern end of a string of townships with Clare lying at the northern extremity, so I’d planned a strategy that worked on covering the south end on the first day and going on to Clare and working south on the other two. 

One day would include the eastern side of the Main North Road with a trip through Polish Hill River to Mintaro, and on the second day, I planned to work along the western side of the highway. With that idea in mind, we started by heading off to Taylors which I figured would be less liable to be affected by Cup Fever. 

As usual, the tasting room attendant offered us two glasses, and I explained since Madam was the designated driver one glass would be sufficient. She would, however, be taking a sip if I identified something she might like.

Of the five ranges on offer, I ignored the Promised Land ($13) and 80 Acres ($15). Both are widely available and frequently discounted. Instead, I worked through the Estate ($18), Jaraman ($24.50 whites, $29.50 reds) and St Andrews ($35 whites, $60 reds) ranges. The whites were all good, with the Riesling offering everything you’d expect from quality Clare Riesling. I particularly liked the Estate Gewurztraminer and the two Chardonnays.

But the reds were outstanding. 

Madam was particularly taken with the St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon which she liked more than a certain nameless, but quite pleasant drop we’d encountered at twice the price. 

We don’t get to try a lot of $60 wines, but from our limited experience, the St Andrews reds punch well above their weight.

Back in the car, we headed past Eyre Creek (closed, as expected) towards O’Leary Walker, only to find it closed for renovations, which I guess have to be done some time. So we moved on to Mintaro Cellars (closed, racing suspected) before deciding we might as well head back to base to catch the race.

As it turned out, we should have checked the starting time and turned on the TV in time for the end of the presentations. 

At least it gave me some time to work on the trip diary before a stroll along a section of the Riesling Trail, a sauna for Madam and a light supper washed down with the complimentary bottle of Annie’s Lane Riesling that was waiting for us on arrival.

© Ian Hughes 2017