Wineries are pulling the corks from some of their best vintages this month as the annual Cellar Dwellers festival is reinvented in the Coonawarra under COVID-19 restrictions.
Coonawarra Vignerons events and marketing officer Heidi Eldridge said more boutique events with a multitude of outdoor tastings are giving visitors the opportunity to taste some of the region’s treasures.
“It really is an opportunity to taste wines 10 or more years old, wineries are going to the effort to pull out something visitors often don’t have an opportunity to taste,” Eldridge said.
“The wineries are moving into larger spaces for tastings or putting in heaters or firepits so people can move outside to taste wines. Raidis Estates moved its tastings into the barrel hall before Christmas last year, so it has a larger space for visitors.
“Bellwether Wines have bell tents for visitors to stay for the weekend and they are offering soup, chowder and cabernet weekends where you can be under the stars and around the open fire.”
There are 20 wineries delving into their cellars to showcase the exceptional cellaring abilities of Coonawarra wines, from its renowned Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the rich Terra Rossa soil (Italian for red soil) along with its sparkling reds and Rieslings.
The region has built a fine reputation for red wines in particular, grown in the red clay soil produced by the weathering of limestone over many thousands of years that creates a unique influence on vine vigour, ripeness and flavour.
Held throughout July, the Cellar Dweller event encompasses wine tastings at cellar doors, the opportunity to sip museum release wines as well as savour a rare 50-year-old tawny port.
Feature events include the Raidis Estates’ Back Vintage Bar opening in its rustic cellar door with pizza canapes and live music.
Eldridge says the winery “is known in the region as being the socialites, putting on a shindig in spring and summer and this is its first in winter”.
The Blok Coonawarra is adding a twist to its sought-after High Tea, switching to a takeaway version of its homemade savouries and scones alongside its other museum wine tastings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Riesling at the cellar door.
“This is one of our quaint cellar doors that usually serves the high tea in fine china, but now you can take the packs home and actually pull out your own teacups and saucers inherited over the years and make an afternoon of it,” Eldridge said.
Koonara Wines is transforming its cellar door into a restaurant setting later this month to host an intimate dinner with owner Dru Reschke on July 24.
And Di Giorgio Family Wines are offering a flight of six of its premium wines matched to regional produce or a tour of the property, showcasing its famed Terra Rossa soil profile, oak trees and 100-year-old vines.
The tour takes in the wine barrel hall and ends with a shared produce platter and handmade Italian meatballs, a nod to the winery’s founding father Stefano Di Giorgio who arrived in Australia from Italy in 1952.
Eldridge said the program was pared back because of restrictions, and wineries that usually hosted many visitors from Victoria hoped this year more South Australians would arrive for the festival.
“Our wineries are thrilled to be welcoming back guests to their cellar doors and are seeing a notable increase in South Australians travelling from Adelaide and surrounds to discover and explore our region and the greater Limestone Coast,” Eldridge said.
“At this time of year, our wineries are going out of their way to make visitors feel welcome and to keep them warm with roaring fireplaces and outdoor fire pits – ideal conditions for red wine tasting.”
Eldridge advised those interested in specific events to make bookings.
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