New York Times Magazine has proclaimed the term “cellar door” is “beautiful to the ear” and “purely harmonious.”
However, as a Canadian visiting one of South Australia’s nascent wine regions, I say that a cellar door (winery tasting room) is a place you can cycle to, sample wine, get back on your bike, pedal about 200 metres, and repeat.
In McLaren Vale, you can visit more than 75 winery cellar doors within a a few miles’ radius. This includes Red Poles winery, Wirra Wirra Vineyards, Hugh Hamilton Wines, Primo Estate, Salopian distillery, Leconfield Wines, and Pirramimma Wines.
I found this was true with McLaren Vale’s McMurtrie Mile a few days ago. It’s a rural road with a number of very eclectic cellar doors. My host Jared and I didn’t linger at any because, mysteriously, these cellar doors close in the ideal wine-sipping and tapas-tasting hours between 4 and 6pm.
I find this confusing as we in Vancouver have passionately taken to this time we call happy hour as an ideal time to have a glass before you head home after work. But maybe that’s just me.
Cycling to wine
To prove I am no weekend pedal-pushing sissy, I cycled up the Willunga Hill on a borrowed mountain bike. It’s a 250-metre ascent over 3.7 kilometres—challenging enough to be part of the route for the annual Tour Down Under road bike race.
I continued north along the paved, roll-y Range Road and then pointed the bike down a narrow laneway called the Kidman Trail. It was a steep gravel descent, but signs alerting me to the presence of koala bears kept me attentive.
Finally, I rolled onto the paved roads of McLaren Flats. The nearest winery was Kangarillo Road Vineyards and Winery and I had just thirty minutes before the clock struck five.
At the winery I quickly discovered that a “cellar door” is not a musty, rusty place with old barrels and cobwebs. The Kangarilla tasting room was positively arty.
I sampled a rosé with strawberry and poached pear notes, a Pinot Grigio with hints of coffee and fresh cut grass, a Duetto with aromas of citrus marmalade and crystallized ginger, and settled on a glass of ‘Street Cred’ Moscato suggesting ripe pear and Turkish Delight.
After pouring me a very generous glass of the sweet white wine, the cellar door staffer invited me to relax on the sun deck while she and her colleague packed up and went home. I availed of her offer and spent the rest of my “happy hour” slowing savouring Moscato until the wind picked up and pushed me to dinner.