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September 8, 2008

Clare Valley

Filed under: Australia 2008, Travel, Wine — anotherheader @ 6:13 am

Pikes in Clare Valley

Pikes in Clare Valley

When planning this year’s trip to Australia, we needed a theme. Biking looked to be problematic with difficult logistics for a shorter trip. Instead, we opted for a wine centered view of Australia for our first visit. While planning the trip, we visited one of our mailing list wineries, Williams & Selyem, a historically famous Pinot Noir specialist in the Russian River Valley to pick up our Fall wine allotment. At the winery, we happened upon the Assistant Winemaker and his wife who were Australian. (It is quite common for us to see Australians working in wine production areas when we visit winery functions. Typically, they have graduated from the oenology program at UC Davis and follow the grape crush in the northern and southern hemispheres for a year and a half before settling in.) One hearing the Aussie accent, the light went on, and we decided to ask for suggestions on Australian wine regions and wineries to visit. He was more than helpful as he gave us a hand written list of places to go. We carried this well-worn, tattered list with us to Australia and it served as a template for our wine country itinerary.

Clare Valley Vineyard

Clare Valley Vineyard

Heading north from Adelaide we drove, more often than not, on the left side of the road, to the Clare Valley (“The Clare”, to the locals). We discovered that the Australian maps on our TomTom GPS did not load correctly. Plan B required us to rely on the BeckBeck system (Confusing Positioning System or CPS, for short) firmly installed in the left seat of the rental car. The always exquisitely detailed hotel and rental car company maps were placed in the BeckBeck system’s hands. Though the navigational guidance from the BeckBeck was not as reliable as the TomTom, we did manage to get to all destinations, at least eventually. The most notable difference between the TomTom and the BeckBeck units is that the BeckBeck system talks back, frequently using “colorful” language with a distinct Southern accent.

The Clare is a gentle valley with gum trees studding the golden fields and vineyards that give it the distinctive, universal appearance that denotes wine country around the world. Though still relatively small and lightly developed, The Clare is one of the older wine regions in Australia. The “rails-to-trails” biking trail that runs along the old railroad grade along the valley floor that is named the Riesling Trail paying homage to the most important grape varietal of the region.

Sunset in The Clare

Sunset in The Clare

On the way to our room in the town of Clare, we visited Pike Cellars, the venerable Jesuit run Sevenhills, and Jim Barry wineries. Jim Barry was our favorite of the three. The Rieslings we tasted were generally not too our liking, but the reds, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were good.

The town of Clare itself is quiet and almost forgotten. There are a few restaurants, the ubiquitous Australian Hotel/Pub serving refreshingly ice cold Cooper’s Ale, and a few shops. If it weren’t for the signs advertising that Jim Barry wines are being served on virtually every restaurant, you might forget that you are in wine country.



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