Saturday 14th March 2020
Today we headed south of Adelaide to visit the McLaren Vale area, famous as one of the many wine-growing districts of South Australia. Using the modern highway built around the year 2000, it’s less than an hour south of the city.
We last visited in 2016, and you can read about the wineries we visited that day by clicking here.
Today’s destination, the d’Arenberg Cube, is not your regular cellar-door winery. The brochure says “The design is inspired by the complexities and puzzles of winemaking“. It includes a wine sensory room*, a 360′ video room, a contemporary art gallery, and many other tactile experiences.
* There is a ‘smell-a-rama’ room shortly after entering. Flagons line the walls, each containing a different scent. Squeeze the attached rubber bulb and the aroma is released for you to identify. You know all those things we commonly read on labels? Passionfruit, citrus, berry, etc, etc.
In 2016, construction commenced on the d’Arenberg Cube, a five storey multi-function building set among Mourvèdre vines. It includes a new tasting room, a restaurant, private tasting rooms and state of the art facilities on each level. Source: https://www.darenberg.com.au/the-story/
The family behind this, the Osborns, have been winemakers in McLaren Vale since 1912. There is a detailed and endearing family history timeline on their website.
Today, it is the fourth generation family member, Chester, who not only makes distinctive wines using traditional methods, but whose off-beat artistic flair is rife throughout the complex.
On the 1st Floor, visitors can watch the chefs hard at work in their state-of-the-art kitchen.
The 2nd Floor housed a special exhibition of 23 bronze sculptures and graphic artworks on loan from the Salvador Dali Universe in Switzerland. We did not visit this ticketed event, but there were a couple of taste teasers in the entrance grounds.
The restaurant is on the 3rd Floor, offering luxury degustation dining with optional wine pairings, including back vintage releases. This was heavily patronised on the day of our visit.
We headed to the 4th floor, to enjoy a tasting of various d’Arenberg wines. We were served by one of Chester’s daughters, a delightful young woman. Step outside, and there is a viewing platform showcasing 360′ views over McLaren Vale, the Willunga Hills, and the Gulf of St Vincent.
Scattered throughout the building are artworks, murals, and on the ground floor, an area called the “alternate realities museum”.
Perhaps the quirkiness of this place is best illustrated by the mens’ urinals on the 1st floor:
Aficionados can join the Cenosilicaphobic Club and have their preferred wines delivered to door on a regular basis. I’m very tempted to leave the definition of the club name to fellow blogger Derrick Knight, but in case others would miss his comment, I’ll share. It is the “fear of an empty glass“.
I overlooked to mention the red wines are foot trod during fermentation. There is a video showing how it is done. There was a faint similarity to Lucille Ball’s attempt.
We were lucky to have the chance to experience this unique complex. Since that visit two weeks ago, The d’Arenberg Cube is closed indefinitely due to the COVID19 pandemic.
There are an estimated 74 cellar doors and over 160 vineyards in the McLaren Vale. There are also artisans such as cheese makers and bakeries. Many interesting foods such as flavoured almonds, olive oils, dukkah, gourmet sauces and jams – and yummy chocolates – can be found at the Almond Train. We had a late lunch in the adjoining carriage.
We spent that night together around the family dinner table, catching up on old times, before collapsing into comfortable recliners and catching up on the day’s television news, much of which was devoted to coronavirus, which had only been declared a pandemic a day or two before.
As I’d mentioned in the previous post, our Prime Minister had declared we were to avoid attending gatherings of more than 500 as from the following Monday. Perhaps his message was meant to convey “keep calm and carry on“, as the football season was to commence tonight (Saturday), and his “beloved” team were first up and he was keen to attend.
After all, he back flipped on that idea, but the seeds of confusion were already sown. If it’s okay on Saturday to attend a mass event, how come it’s not okay on Monday? I thought back to my management training in the days I had a job. “Lead by example” was mantra number one. Maybe this was a case of, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say“.
However, comfortably ensconced in the recliner, with the family dog resting at my feet, and conversation swirling around me . . . I think I may have decided to leave such conundrums for another day. I slipped in to the land of nod.