Adelaide Convention Centre. 21 Feb 2015
On arrival at the Cellar Door Wine Festival there is a friendly greeting and the gift of a canvas bag (to collect your goodies) and a take home tasting glass. The first impression is perhaps more of an exhibition than a festival, but on closer inspection there is so much to see and do and as the crowd grows, so does the vibe.
The venue is divided into regions, including the Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, Barossa Valley, Riverland, McLaren Vale and more. Within each section, long rows of tables showcase wine from different producers offering samples of their fare and plenty of informative conversation.
One lap of the room reveals several wine makers of interest, but with empty stomachs and the promise of a ‘Farmers Market’ for lunch, something to eat is high on the list of priorities.
Expectations for the aptly named food zone are high. The space is adorned by long share tables decorated with colourful bursts of potted ornamental chillies in red and yellow. The menus are clear, and there is a reasonable selection available, although one does find oneself wishing for a few more options.
I try the 'Two Murray Valley Beef Sliders with Spiced Tomato Chutney and a slice of Cheddar Cheese in Brioche Buns, served with Rosemary and Sea Salt Chips', My guest, who is vegetarian, has fewer choices (something she is entirely used to) and settles on a 'Chickpea, Roasted Pumpkin, Feta and Baby Spinach Salad with Sweet Chili Dressing'. It is catering food en masse at convenience prices, but it actually tastes really good.
As we sit enjoying our meals, in the still relatively quiet dining area (we got in early) one could not help but wonder if there was a missed opportunity in getting some local food cart owners in to cook up a variety of their own inspired dishes; perhaps next year? With bursting bellies it is time to hit the floor and get tasting!
We circle over to the Eden Valley region and immediately tuck into a few Rieslings. The cool, crisp flavours are refreshing on the palate, but we are soon enticed into some hearty Shiraz, and never look back. It isn’t long before we are tasting selections from Langhorne Creek and stumble over a new favourite from a winery previously unknown to us. The Winehouse is on hand and one taste of their ‘Ben Potts 2012 Fiddle’s Block Shiraz’ has me reaching for an order form. Similarly, the ‘Kim Bolton Sparkling Bella Montepulciano’ has my guest heading back for seconds.
With our ‘Meet, Make and Eat’ Masterclass experience shortly ahead we keep moving and find ourselves in the crowd pleasing Beer and Cider section. There are selections from the likes of ‘Vale brewing’, ‘Three Oaks Cider’, ‘Barossa Brewing’ and ‘Prancing Pony’ - even ‘Coopers’ is on hand offering hints and tips on DIY home brews. A personal favourite here is the ‘Three Oaks Crushed Apple Cider' with its light fragrant flavours and another new discovery in the 'Lemon Ed', also by ‘Three Oaks’ which is a sweet and punchy alcoholic lemonade that drinks way too easily!
We wander into the Tastes of SA section and discover a panoply of beautiful little independent and boutique local producers who are sampling their hand-made and crafted ranges of nuts, chutneys, dips, cured meats and cheeses. Speaking with the vendors about their produce is intoxicating. Their passion for their products is inspiring.
After trying some ‘Hughsli’ home-made smokey almonds and deliciously salted cashews, and tucking into a delightful selection of chutneys and relishes by ‘The Gourmet Entertainer’ it is time for our ‘Meet, Make and Eat’ experience to begin.
Gathering at the entrance to the commercial kitchen we are greeted by Adelaide Convention Centre staff, who offer to fill our glasses with some choices from ‘Paxton Wines’. As we are escorted into the kitchen, Paul Baker, head chef at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, introduces himself and explains that he will be demonstrating a ‘Seared Cleanseas Hiramasa Kingfish, Avocado, Pickled Kholrabi, Miso and Puffed Wild Rice' recipe.
We are slightly relieved to learn that we won’t be doing the cooking ourselves, particularly since so much wine has come before, but we are very excited to try the finished product. Baker launches into the menu giving the group of 12 keen cooks plenty of tips and tricks to take away. Questions abound as the participants share cooking secrets with Baker and each other.
The ‘Master Class’ is also a great advertisement for the ‘Botanic Gardens Restaurant’ who source a lot of their ingredients fresh from the surrounding Botanic Gardens for preparation and cooking in the evening meals.
Immediately following the demonstration we are escorted to a reserved table in the ‘Farmers Market’ to sample Bakers dish. Accompaniments have been laid out by way of local cured meats and hams, cheeses, olives, grapes and crackers. There is also plenty more wine to keep our glasses full.
After retiring from the ‘Master Class’ and with our belly’s full for the second time today, the only thing missing was a casual chill out zone with some live music playing to while away the day. This really would have added to the festival vibe.
The Cellar Door Wine Festival is great value with tickets from $33 per person for a single day, and on such a hot weekend I can’t recommend a visit strongly enough – you will be grateful for the amazing air-conditioning.
If you weren’t already considering a visit, tomorrow is your last chance for this year, but there is no doubt it will be back again, bigger and better than ever in 2016 so put it in your calendar now!
When: 20 to 22 Feb
Where: Adelaide Convention Centre
Bookings: cellardoorfestival.com or at the door.