'So many worlds, so much to do, so little done, such things to be'. (Tennyson)
A Queen's Birthday feast for all ages and all budgets
McLaren Vale SA Bank Sea and Vines Festival 2014 For many of us, the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend in June is a precious oasis in the desert of unrelenting work between Anzac Day in April and Labour Day in October. It's definitely a weekend for doing something special.
If you don't fancy the official opening of the ski season, the rainy season up north, summer crowds in Europe or long, cold nights in your favourite camping spot as the winter solstice approaches, you'll appreciate that 'something special' being relatively close to home.
Cue the McLaren Vale Bank SA Sea and Vines Festival from the 6th to the 9th of June.
McLaren Vale SABank Sea & Vines Festival 2014 logo
Think Adelaide Food and Wine Festival and Tasting Australia on a far more intimate scale, where friends, family, kids, picnics and fresh produce sit comfortably alongside fine wine and food - tastings, long lunches, degustations, culinary master classes and meet the makers events - washed down with music and imbued with the timeless charm of Fleurieu Peninsula landscapes.
There are more than forty formal events to chose from, grouped into four themes:
1. Sunday Experience: think progressive dinner format from 9 am to 5 pm with a concert at each venue. 2. Monday Zest: think McLaren Vale Open Day with plenty for the kids and the adults.
There's no need to be limited by the formal program of course, with plenty of other activities on offer in the region to craft your own special day or weekend.
The Sea and Vines Festival 2014 has a serious side, collecting money to help the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation fund hospital equipment purchases and medical research. 100% of your donation goes to the cause, so bring what you can spare.
$25 for a Sunday Experience ticket buys you entry to three separate events of your choice, an outdoor glass from Plumm Vintage (worth around $10 retail) and discount vouchers for your next McLaren Vale visit.
Each event includes free entertainment and a menu of food and wine to purchase. You can choose your events based on the caterers, the description and cost of the food they are serving, the entertainment on offer or the vineyard location and reputation: it's up to you.
For the breakfast session from 9am to 11.30am I like the sound of Banh Mi (Vietnamese Roll) with sausage, fried egg, smoked bacon and tomato chilli jam by Nigel Rich of The Elbow Room, accompanied by DogRidge and Sabella Wines, with 'young, vibrant, energetic' music from Graham Lawrence and Jackson Veitch to wake me up.
For the lunch session from 11.30am to 2.30pm, I'd find it hard to go past Porchetta with Roman gnocchi and apple vanilla puree ($15) at Oliver's Taranga Vineyards, because wood-oven porchetta is their speciality and their wines are great too. But if I were choosing for the music, and keeping my food cost down, I'd be happy with a surf and turf pie for $7 at the Swell Brewing Co, listening to Gorilla Jones play a blend of 'soul, jazz, New Orleans and Kung Fu'.
Oliver's Tarranga, and the oven where the porchetta will be cooked
The final session runs from 2.30pm to 5.00pm. Would my stomach cope with a Belgian dark chocolate tart, or an Asian-style pork belly salad from The Victory Hotel, with 'brassy bushman punk' from The Timbers at Paxton Wines? If not, I love the sound of The Pigs at the BankSA Sea and Vines Garden Party.
Angoves, Bent Creek, Chapel Hill Winery, Coriole, Cradle of Hills, D'Arenberg, Kay Brothers, Maxwell Wines, Middlebrook Estate, Oliver's Tarranga, Paxton, Tapestry and Wirra Wirra are all participating in the Monday Zest program. You can also visit the new Vale Market at the Visitor Information Centre, and the BankSA Sea and Vines Garden Party.
As with the Sunday Experience, each venue will provide free entertainment and a selection of delicious sounding dishes to tempt you.
Unlike the Sunday Experience, you don't have to book in advance, and there is no cover charge. You can go to as many or as few of the participating wineries as you wish. You do have to purchase a festival glass, as no glass is permitted on festival venues.
A number of the venues specifically list children's activities, like travelling farms, jumping castles, the Velcro Sticky Wall, hay bale races and more.
Cradle of Hills looks like the place for me. Stuffed and spit-roasted lamb leg, mushroom ragout and chocolate streusel cake will all be made using their wine. They're holding a free 'behind the scenes' Barrel Store Tour plus ping pong, hay bale races and loads of toys are promised for the kids.
Here is a sample of the upmarket intimate events on offer. All are fully ticketed, with restricted ticket numbers.
$150 per person buys you a seat at the opening event, 'Dinner with the Vicar and the Devil 2' at Chapel Hill Winery on Friday 6th June at 7 pm. Chapel Hill are promising an all-inclusive five course dinner accompanied by museum and current release wines.
$120 per person buys you a four course seafood degustation lunch at 'The Kitchen Door' Restaurant at Penny's Hill, each course matched with a small pour of one of the award winning wines from Penny's Hill, Mr Riggs or The Black Chook. This special lunch is served from 12 noon on Sunday 8th and Monday 9th June. I can vouch for the food here, and it is the current holder of the 'Best Winery Restaurant' award nationally.
You don't need to be flush with funds to enjoy a Delight session. I'm loving the sound of the Raclette and Wine Day at Dowie Doole on Monday 9th from 11.30 to 4.30. $15 buys you a Swiss style wine experience - hot Raclette cheese served with steamed potatoes, cornichons, Italian style sliced meat and bread. With a glass of red, this would be magic. Whether or not the wine is included in the $15 price is ambiguous in the advertising. The way it reads, it should be. If so, it sounds an absolute steal.
The Relish events are described as having a more relaxed vibe than the Delight events. Again there are many to choose from, from the cheap to the more expensive. Here are some samples.
The monthly Little Berry markets at Rosemount Estate will be open on both the Sunday and the Monday of the long weekend. Rosemount have live music playing to celebrate the opening of their new all-day breakfast bar. There is no entry fee, other than anything you choose to purchase, but a gold coin donation is requested.
In a nice touch that shows the Festival isn't just about eating and drinking, you can buy tickets to see musical legend Brian Cadd perform at Maxwell Wines for $35 at 3 pm on Saturday June 7th. Mind you, $45 extra will buy you a four course meal at noon, plus reserved seating for the concert.