Words Alexis Buxton-Collins
Vintage is well and truly over and the vines have shed their leaves for another year but South Australia’s wineries are far from dormant. Cellar doors are home to some of the states best dining experiences, here are three iconic dishes to try this winter.
Pizza at Saltram Wines, Barossa
An iconic brand in the Barossa’s very beginnings as a wine region, Saltram turns 160 this year. There are plenty of celebrations planned, but one thing that won’t be changing is the traditional brick oven that pumps out wood-fired pizzas for locals and tourists alike.
Chef Scott Lidell says the secret to making the perfect pizza is using a mixture of wood in the oven because each type burns at a different temperature. He pairs redgum and bluegum from a nearby property with dead arm wood from the vineyards that burns “really hot, really quick” to keep the perfect temperature all night long.
The result is an oven that heats up to more than 400C and cooks a pizza in just four minutes. That means a thin, crusty base just the way Lidell wants it – “not too much puff, just little air pockets.” At that temperature, the sauce caramelises slightly and the toppings really crisp up, while two thin layers of mozzarella on either side become “molten and gooey”.
And there’s no doubt about the local favourite. The Barossa Butcher’s pizza uses premium small goods from butcher shops in each of the valley’s major towns. At the moment that means garlic mettwurst, cheese kransky and bacon that cry out for a fruit-driven wine with cherry and blackberry flavours to carry the smokiness and richness of the small goods. Fortunately Lidell knows just the drop – he recommends Saltram’s Mamre Brook shiraz, “a really good definition of the Barossa in a glass.”
Local Lamb at Pikes Wines, Clare Valley
Named after the bed of rock sitting under the Polish River Hill valley, Slate’s stylish contemporary design incorporates the natural stone of the region. It’s not just the fittings that are sourced from close at hand – since opening last October, the restaurant at Pikes Wines has developed a reputation as a champion of super fresh local produce.
When chef Max Stephenson moved to the Clare Valley, he was astonished at how fertile the agricultural land surrounding the winery is and he now takes advantage of that abundance for his menu of “refined comfort food”.
Fruit, vegetables and garnishes come from the Corner Patch right in the heart of Clare, while Watervale’s Little Bunyip provide the microherbs and mushrooms that grace the house made pappardelle. Look hard enough among the rows of riesling, shiraz and tempranillo wines visible from the restaurant’s expansive deck and you might even spot the kitchen garden where a lot of the herbs are grown or the onsite lemon trees.
Restaurant manager Nicole Ramsey says there’s one dish that encapsulates Slate’s paddock to plate ethos better than any other. The Wunderbar lamb rump is sourced from a family-owned property near Auburn and marinated in buttermilk for a week. Served with spiced grains, roasted lemon purée, fried kale, smoked eggplant and puffed rice, it puts a stylish spin on a classic dish while showcasing the best produce in the region.
A Hearty Winter Warmer at Golding Wines, Adelaide Hills
When Rocco Musolino made the long journey from Italy to build a new life in the Adelaide Hills in the 1950s, he found a land of abundance. For decades, he tended his market garden in the Basket Range and today his grandchildren continue his legacy of working the land at Golding Wines.
Lavender bushes surround the picturesque cellar door and the Market Kitchen has a seasonal menu for lunches from Friday to Saturday. And in the best Italian tradition, Golding wines aren’t just for drinking – they get used in the kitchen whenever possible.
Made with fruit from vineyards at Mount Torrens and Macclesfield, the cool climate Rocco Shiraz is one of Golding’s premium wines. In the glass it’s elegant and restrained and in the kitchen it adds an element white pepper spice to a jus for the braised 36 Degree grass fed beef short rib. This winter it’s served with fresh chermoula that adds some zing and mashed potato with Section 28’s artisan Monte Fort cheese melted through for a subtle roasted hazelnut flavour and rich, creamy texture.
It’s a hearty dish and the perfect winter warmer, but if you’re looking for something to do when the weather clears up it’s hard to picture a more romantic setting than Nido (Italian for “nest”). This cosy handmade bower took more than 50 hours to weave from willow found on the property and sits high on the slopes overlooking the vineyards. It can fit up to six people, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxed private dining experience.