posted August 26 2009
A vineyard at Skillogalee in Clare Valley
Clare is a hidden gem in South Australia.
Just a bit farther than Barossa, and without the benefit of being anchored to
Adelaide city it doesn't reap the same
wine tourism traffic that Adelaide Hills or McLaren
Which is too bad because its a beautiful region with a very small town feel and
plenty of treed sub-valleys which open up into broad plains. Clare is actually a
plateau at the northern portion of the Mt. Lofty Ranges. Located about 140 km,
almost straight-as-the-crow-flies from Adelaide and receives the benefit of cool
nights to elevate the brightness in its grapes as well as the hot days to ripen
them. What you find here are multitude of varieties but Riesling, Shiraz and
Cabernet dominate - the terroir lends a distinct character that differs from
lower altitude and warmer climate versions.
Settlers first arrived in Clare in the 1840s from England, Ireland and Poland
and many of the buildings from that early era are still standing and in use in
Clare, which lends a quaint air to the region. I was also intrigued by what I
had read of
the Riesling Trail. The Riesling Trail is a 27 km stretch of highway along Main
Road North that dissects the North-South running Clare Valley. Basically it runs
from Auburn in the south to Clare city in the north. Although I was hoping it
was a lineup of Riesling for me to sample, it turns out it's an easy, outdoor
biking and hiking trail that take visitors past wineries, artist studios and
And although I would have loved to had hopped onto a bike and ridden through
Clare Valley, I had a short time to visit, and a lot of wine to taste...
read about Skillogalee, Taylors/Wakefield
and Pikes below
Skillogalee Trevarrick house cellar door and restaurant
Not only did I visit the Skilogalee winery and vineyards I also stayed at their
fantastic, luxury bed and breakfast called Skillogalee House
located in a quiet corner, adjacent to the vineyards.
This is the place you want to bring a loved one and relax. Unfortunately, I had
little time to enjoy the grounds, the kitchen and the spa bathroom, so I am
yearning to return.
Skillogalee wines popped onto my radar upon arrival into the BC market a couple
of years ago. The Riesling, sparkling Riesling and Shiraz impressed me with
Dave and Diana Palmer purchased Skillogalee and it's 50 acres of land 20 years
ago after discovering that the winery, making the wines they so loved, was up
Coming from a life of international residences (Dave worked for an accounting
firm and Diana was a teacher) the Palmers thought Clare would also be a good
place to raise their children and slow their pace.
on the western side of Main North Road between the villages of Penwortham and
Sevenhill, the building that house Skillogalee's cellar door and restaurant was
originally built in 1851 (you can tell by the low heights of the roof and
doorways) by a Cornish miner who called it Trevarrick Farm. Planted in the early
1900s with a mix of fruit trees it was not until 1970 that grape vines were
planted by the previous owners. Now, from a total of 125 acres, primarily
Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc Chardonnay, Malbec and
Gewurztraminer (with a number of other varietals scattered), Dave and his grown
son Daniel make wine in their small boutique winery. Meanwhile Diana Palmer, who
retrained as a chef and opened Skillogalee restaurant (the first winery
restaurant in Clare Valley) oversees the
restaurant and the accommodations and daughter Nicola runs the cellar door and
works in the restaurant.
A real family operation.
After my night in the Skillogalee house (it has the quaintness of a cottage and
the luxury of an inn) Dave toured me through the meandering, rolling vineyards
carved between gum tree forests. We visited drove by the Palmer's home,
adjacent their small hilltop winery where we tasted some barrel samples then
back down to the restaurant where Diana was waiting to meet us for lunch.
A lovely patio with a view of the vineyards is exactly what you want to see in
wine country - anywhere. We tasted wines and then enjoyed a very fresh lunch
before I scooted off to my next appointment. Such is often the situation when
you are traveling to write about wine (rather than holidaying). You are
constantly moving from one place to the next and every time you feel like you
have just settled into your chair, its time to move on....
Dave, Diana, Nicola Palmer
Some tasting notes
Skillogalee Trevarrick Riesling, 2008 is
part of the premium Skillogalee range, only 250 cases made and it's bottled
under Vino-lok glass stoppers...gorgeous stone fruit, white blossoms, green
apple loads of mineral and citrus with lively acidity. It's taut and bright with
a long, fine finish. Fantastic.
Skillogalee Gewurztraminer, 2008 The nose is fragrant rose water, orange
blossoms, sweet spice, exotic citrus and lychee. The palate combines a smooth
creamy texture with snappy acidity. Great Gewurztraminer character and a tight,
bright finish with plenty of sweet spice.
"Lees Stirred" Chardonnay, 2006 was lees stirred and one-third put through
Malolactic fermentation. Creamy pear/apple, a hint of melon and lemon curd, warm
spice and a full, creamy texture but it maintains a crisp finish.
Skillogalee Rosť, 2008 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec it has
cotton candy and sweet berry aromas, with smoky/spicy undertones. It's off-dry
with cherry and vanilla, citrus and cedary flavours. A tasty, easy sipping patio
quaffer or serve with spicy summer plates.
Basket Pressed Shiraz, 2005 I have always liked this bright Shiraz which
benefits greatly from the cooler Clare nights. Blackberry and blueberry,
fruitcake spices, cedar and chocolate aromas. The palate is very fresh, the
entry provides a spicy lead, bright purple fruit follows with spiced mocha and
powdery tannins on the finish.
Skillogalee Basket Pressed "The Cabernets", 2005 Blends Malbec with
Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to achieve this earthy, spiced wine with
leather, red plums, cassis and hints
dried fruits. The palate is sweet, plush and loaded with espresso lifted fruit,
spice and eucalyptus and a long, spicy and juicy finish. Great acidity and a
smooth lengthy finish.
Skillogalee Trevarrick Single Contour Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 You've
heard of single vineyard but imagine a single contour parcel of a slope being
harvested into one wine. Less than one tonne per acre is the yield and it
produces an opulent, fragrant wine with aromas of cassis, blueberry, raspberry,
sweet allspice, eucalypt notes and cedar. Fantastic, bright fruit, juicy cassis,
sun warmed purple berries and plenty of spice. Supple with an impressively long
Skillogalee Harvest Gold Late Harvest Riesling, 2005 is the ripe colour
of wild honey with aromas of candied citrus, ginger and stone fruits. The palate
is toffee/caramel with hints of orange peel, apricot and sweet muscat-y flavours
with praline and tea leaf flavours lingering. Great acidity cleans it all up and
balances this fantastic dessert wine.
Learn more about Skillogalee wine, their accommodations and restaurant
Pickers harvesting Pinot Gris in Taylors, Clare
This was my first taste of the family owned Taylors
They make wine on a much larger scale than the boutique sized
Skillogalee, and are in the process of building an even larger winery. Taylors
produces a large selection of wine under several labels but if you have
purchased their wines in the Northern Hemisphere you will have purchased them
labeled under the Wakefield label. Taylor's, the famous port house in
Portugal, owns the name in the Northern Hemisphere, but Wakefield continues to
use its original name Taylors in the Southern Hemisphere.
I had a very relaxed dinner at a local pub the night I arrived with Taylors,
Cherry Stowman, a big city gal who was just settling into the much slower Clare
lifestyle. We tasted wines and talked about the region for several hours. When
we got up to leave Dave and Diana Palmer were sitting at the table behind us
Taylors new winery
dining with friends...I told you this was a small region.
But arriving at the Taylors winery, the next day, it was Senior Winemaker Helen
McCarthy who met me. We drove through some of the vineyards and watched some
pickers harvesting Pinot Gris. Before heading back to the winery to taste some
wines Helen took me on a quick spin past their new tanks and winery, still under
construction. It looks like Taylors (Wakefield) is not slowing down.
Moving into their fourth decade making wine in the Clare Valley, the Taylor's
have managed to keep it in the family. Started by Bill Taylor Senior and sons
Bill and John in 1969, it continues to grow with Bill Taylor and his sons.
Some tasting notes
Taylors Gewurztraminer, Clare Valley~Adelaide Hills, 2008 Loads of exotic
floral and grapefruit, a whiff of spice and Turkish delight. The texture is
slick with a snappy edge and flavours of lychee, rose oil and spices pop onto
Taylors "St. Andrews" Bottle Aged Riesling, Clare Valley, 2001 Still
vehemently fresh on the nose - lemon drops, petrol and lime oil with plenty of
minerality that carries through onto the palate. The texture is weighty and
rounded with marmalade and petrol notes lingering. Showing well!
Taylors Riesling, Clare Valley, 2008 expect plenty of green apple, white
blossoms and honey notes. The palate is snappy
and crisp with flavours of
marmalade and minerals.
Fantastic acidity and a long clean finish.
Wakefield "Promised Land" Riesling, South Australia, 2008 is their entry
level Riesling with pretty peachy, honey and citrus peel aromas. The palate is
rounded, quite creamy with citrus and stone fruits and mineral salinity on the
tongue. The finish is mouth-watering.
Taylors "St. Andrews" Chardonnay, Clare Valley, 2005 This wine spent 12
months in French Oak and was lees stirred for eight. Grilled pineapple, creamy,
yeasty notes and buttered toast aromas. Lovely, soft and rounded on the palate,
great minerality and citrus flavours, lees and spice but the crisp citrus-y
Wakefield "Eighty Acres" Chardonnay~Viognier, Clare Valley, 2007 The
"Eighty Acres" has a fantastic label with the "80" written with Clare's Terra
Rossa soil from the first 80 acres Bill Taylor planted in 1969. The
Chardy-Vionier blend smells of peach jam and creamy pears, hints of figs, citrus
and spice undertones. Again, the mineral salinity pops up on the palate of this
wine, its spicy and lush with impressive acidity.
Wakefield "Eighty Acres" Cabernet~Shiraz~Merlot, Clare Valley, 2008
Plums, cassis and spice, some lifted menthol aromas, spice cake and espresso
with hints of prune. Plums and dark berries reappear on the palate, spice and
A powdery texture with coffee flavoured tannins on the finish.
Wakefield Shiraz~Viognier, Clare Valley, 2006 has loads of dark, ripe
fruit, spice and earth with just a hint of floral. It's juicy and elegant,
fruit, chocolate, spice lingers, it has sweet and salty components and bright
acidity to it that make it a fantastic pairing for savoury dishes.
Taylors "St. Andrews" Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Plush black current and
chocolate aromas, saddle leather and mineral/earthy notes. Vibrant fruit on the
palate, fine spice and cigarbox. Supple and creamy with powdery tannins
For more information on Taylors Wakefield
the slowly rolling hills of Polish Hill River is where you will find a quaint
family named and owned winery. The Pikes come from a brewing background. In 1886
the family made H.Pike & Co. Oak Bank Beer. Henry Pike arrived, as so many
immigrants did, by ship and landed in Oak Bank in the lovely Adelaide Hills in
1878 and started a drinks business called H. Pike & Co. with the Pike fish on
the label. Although it was sold in 1972, making beverages did not stop there.
His great grandson Edgar Pike studied winemaking at the famous Roseworthy
Agricultural College in Adelaide and his sons Neil
(right) and Andrew followed suit and
started Pikes in Clare Valley in 1984. And, as a nod to their great, great
grandfather the brothers Pike have now resurrected the Pikes Oak Bank Beer.
The tasting rooms, cellar door and offices are in a historical brick building
that was at one time a shearing shed, the modern winery is attached out back
where they now produce 60,000 cases per year.
I spent a brief time at Pikes, my entire stop in Clare
seems like a whirlwind but as I tasted with Neil we
talked about the first vintages they made and he pulled a couple of lovely ones
out of his cellar and some of the Pike & Joyce wines the produce in partnership
with Joyce wines in Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills. Together and on their own,
Pikes are making some fantastic wines.
Pikes Clare Valley Riesling, 2008 Quince and
lemon drops, mineral and white blossoms. The palate is snappy, there is citrus,
pear and nectarine flavours with honey lingering on the elongated finish. Very
Pikes "Gill Farm" Viognier, 2008 Fantastic opulent aromatics, exotic
spices, lemon, apricot, white peach with musky/honeyed undertones. The palate is
lush a fruity sweet, pear and quince and juicy acidity. Slick and clean with a
hint of cloves lingering on the finish. Very good!
Pikes "The Merle" Reserve Riesling, 2008 only 800 6packs of this wine are
produced. It has impressive minerality, orchard fruits, citrus and leesy,
honeyed aromas. The palate is almost sweet, it's slick weighty and mineral
laden, absolutely silky but does not lack
acidity. One for my cellar!
Pike & Joyce Chardonnay, Lenswood Adelaide Hills, 2006 Aromas of melon,
pear and apple pie, brown butter, clove spice and leesy/yeasty tones. A
fantastic creamy mouth-feel with plenty of white fruit, citrus, fresh minerality
and warm spice lingering on the finish. Elegant!
Pike & Joyce Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, 2007 Sweet and tart aromas
raspberry, sour cherry, blueberry hints too, tobacco and herbs with a core of
saddle leather, fine spice and cedarbox. A clean, alluring palate, silky
texture, soft spice and juicy red berry flavours, great acidity and powdery
From the cellar
Pikes Polish Hill River Rhine Riesling, Clare Valley, 1988
this back vintage was still under
was a bit off but we c
ould overlook that. Pikes started using stelvin in 2002. Richly coloured with
earthy musky honey tones and dried stone fruit aromas The palate - rich yet
bright - quince, honeycomb/waxy flavours, a soft, leaner finish and just a hint
of tannin on the tail end.
Pikes Clare Valley Shiraz, 1989 Sweet and earthy - saddle leather,
blueberry, cherry, peppery spice and wild herbs with a whiff of ammonia. The
texture silky with bright lifting acidity, forest floor, blackberry liqueur,
orange peel and smoke. Very impressive length.
For more information on Pikes click
a view of Polish Hill River on the Plateau region of
Read about McLaren Vale
Read about Barossa Valley
Read about Clare Valley
Read about Adelaide Hills
Read about Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Read about Yarra Valley, Victoria