When visiting South Australia's famed Clare Valley wine region, be sure to stop in at Sevenhill Cellars. It is the oldest winery and vineyard in the region and one of the most attractive and unique.
Sevenhill Cellars merges modern and traditional techniques like no other to produce award-winning wine. Not only can you sample some of the region's finest wines, but you can also participate in a winery tour that provides much information about the history of winemaking in the Clare Valley and the significance of Sevenhill.
The tour visits the vines, a shrine, an old cottage and finishes by the lawn outside the winery
The town of Sevenhill was named after the Seven Hills of Rome by the Society of Jesus who settled in the area in 1851 after escaping political and religious oppression in Europe. They purchased 100 acres of land, built a church, college and winery from stone quarried on the property, excavated a cellar by hand and began producing sacramental wine.
As the only remaining Jesuit-owned winery in Australia, Sevenhill Cellars still creates sacramental wine, but it has advanced to also produce an extensive array of table wines that vary in price (from $12 to $75) and style and are named to reflect the winery's heritage.
After seeking advice from the helpful cellar door staff, I purchased a 2010 bottle of Inigo Merlot as a gift for a friend, which was very well received. The Inigo range is named after the Jesuits' founder, St Ignatius, and also includes a Riesling, for which the Clare Valley is renowned. The premium flagship wine is a Shiraz called the Brother John May Reserve. There is plenty more to choose from with the College, Four Buckets and Saints series, as well as a selection of fortified wines.
Taste and purchase wine at the cellar door after a tour of the winery
Tastings and sales are available from the cellar door (purchases can also be made online), which also accommodates a small museum of memorabilia and artefacts collected from over 150 years of winemaking at Sevenhill.
It is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Visitors are welcome Monday to Friday from 9 am until 5 pm and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10 am until 5 pm.
See the original slate storage tank and visit the museum and cellar
There is a guided tour that costs $7.50 and takes place at 2 pm every Tuesday and Thursday. The size of the group varies, there were about 20 participants of all ages when I took the tour.
There are 13 landmarks to visit on the tour (the nearby cemetery isn't included, but is recommended for more insight into the history of Sevenhill). It is an easy 1.5 kilometre walk that takes just over an hour to complete.
The tour begins where Sevenhill began, in the underground cellar that is used to slowly mature fortified wines. Some of the more intriguing stops along the way include the old vines that still produce some of the best grapes at Sevenhill. There is also the freestone shrine that seems to have defied gravity since 1870, an old cottage that was once refuge to Mary MacKillop, the almighty St Aloysius' Church and the crypt that lies beneath it.
St Aloysius' church is impressive and has an underground crypt
Outside the winery is a large lawn area with shady trees and park benches that is the perfect place to relax while the kids run around. The lawn is the location of Shakespeare in the Vines in February each year.
Sample some wine, take the tour, browse the museum and relax in the sun for a while – what a nice way to spend an afternoon. But there is more to do in Sevenhill. The Riesling Trail is accessible from Sevenhill and bicycle hire is available at the winery. Spring Gully Conservation Park is not far away either and worth exploring. If accommodation is required, Morella House Bed and Breakfast in the neighbouring town of Clare comes highly recommended.
What a spectacular estate. I will certainly put this on my to-do list for when I visit Adelaide. I love the old buildings. And the tour for $7.50 sounds like a bargain. Not to mention supping on some red wine ;)