20140121-185236.jpgI had some good Sydney-friends come to stay while I was home in Adelaide. It was nice to be a tourist again in my own town (even if everything was closed*), and nice to show off all the things I love about South Australia. One of the places I most wanted to take them was McLaren Vale. I love going anyway, and I knew it would be their kind of scene. I just prefer it to the Barossa - it feels more relaxed, more 'all hands on deck' and far less established and touristy. I like how down to earth everyone is. We spoke directly with wine makers and drove along the coast out of Aldinga because there isn't much better than that dry, gold, grassy coast and the sparkly blue gulf. We stopped at K1 in Kuitpo - the nicest drive-way this side of Provence and a lovely Arneis - and then tried Hither and Yon in Willunga. Their reds were fairly heady, pretty rich for my taste, but the wine maker was lovely and I was pretty taken by their cellar door. A nice change to sit around a table with a few hipsters just driven down from Sydney and laugh and taste their range. It felt easy and really homely, which I liked. And because it's a favourite we stopped at Samuel's Gorge for a taste before heading to Coriole for Here's To Now. 20140121-185303.jpg20140121-185325.jpgCoriole is a pretty special place. I love their family wines but mostly I love their sunsets. I've had some wonderful times there, some of the best, from long lunches with friends to giggly tastings and new years dinner parties (circus-like, as it happens). Here's To Now was a brilliantly timed way to show off some of my favourite country to my friends along with a range of local bands (quite a few friends represented among them) and some yummy food (thanks to those playful Happy Motel boys). It was one of those nights where Adelaide plays itself beautifully, everyone smiles and dances and cheers on the night and I  managed the hour night-ride home without hitting a kangaroo (gosh but I came close, and he was huge - I saw him early and slowed right down so we were fine but such an amazing creature).20140121-185346.jpg20140121-185410.jpg20140121-185442.jpg20140121-185506.jpgIMAGES: Hither and Yon moments / Samuel's Gorge nature shots / 'when life is like a painting' and a Coriole sunset

* For the record, I don't mind that Adelaide is the kind of quiet town where all the nice restaurants and bars close down in the new year and take well-earned breaks, or close on Mondays just because it's a day of rest (or something) - I actually respect and appreciate that hospitality folks are professionals too, and maybe they like beach holidays and sleep ins. It's wonderful. It's just MIGHTY inconvenient when you're only home a wee while and all the places you want to try are closed. Sad face. 


MPFrom the always sunny southern stretches of California, we started out on the road again. Heading north, we skimmed LA and the especially grey expanse of Malibu, and set our eyes on Santa Barbara. It was rainy and dusky by the time we arrived, but if ever there was a perfect welcome, Municipal Winemakers must be close. They’re a kind of cellar-door-come-bar, with tastings, wine by the glass or bottle, a big open fire, some board games, and a very kindly server. We started out with a tasting of their range, but stayed for another glass so Jordy could beat me in our third round of checkers (since I don’t know how to play chess). We would have stayed so much longer, but were hungry and very soon ended up at a nearby restaurant for dinner - cracking shells, making a mess and picking our way through half a local crab, a roasted squid salad, a big bowl of mussels and another glass or two of wine. We were pretty happy with that, for a Tuesday. MW

We said goodbye to SB after the best granola and fruit salad ever there was, and a mighty creamy latte from the good people at French Press. Our late start proved for the best, as we ended up wine tasting just out of town at a place called the Wine Ghetto. It’s actually called that, I promise.

FRENCH PRESSThe Wine Ghetto is, essentially, a big group of warehouses where small vineyards and wineries hold their own cellar door for local tastings. It’s a pretty sweet way to bring together wineries that would otherwise be too small, too remote or too quiet to sustain their own on site. And it means you can park the car and wander around for an hour or two, tasting away your afternoon. Seeing as we were driving, sensibly, and hoping to make it up to San Luis Obispo that evening, we tasted just a few and bought some bottles to try later with friends.