The Wine and Pizza Tour down South

Being twenny years and all that since getting hitched, t’other ‘alf and I decided to do something special – as in go away for a couple of days without the little gentlemens.

Living close to the Barossa means it was out of the question. When you are only 40 minutes from a really good wine region, there is only so much before it’s time to go somewhere else.

So we booked a B&B at McLaren Vale, took Friday off on leave, made arrangements with Grandma for the care and feeding of the chaps, and took off for a weekend of food and wine.

First stop, seeing as we had to go pretty much via Adelaide anyhow, was the central market to load up on cheese, bread, a bit of fruit and so on. Somebody had beautiful Roma tomatoes for about $1.50 / kg. A screaming bargain. Shame we were going away or I would have bought a whole lot to do the Italian tomato sauce thing.

We got a very nice mild goats cheese, a strong sticky squashy cheese, salami, sun-dried olives (mmmmmm), and a few other goodies.

Then off through the horrors of the drive South. I’m pretty disgusted at the road system to the South of Adelaide. It’s an unplanned, slow-moving shambles – and this was at midday!

Made it finally to McLaren Vale and just had to try a few wee drinkies here or there. Some very nice wines come from this region and there were no disappointments.

After checking in to the place we were staying at, and mooching around a bit, come sunset we decided to head to Willunga and try out Russell Jeavons pizza’s. This place is a legend. They used to only open Friday nights – but now they do Saturday as well if things are busy. The only sign is a battered bit of metal with something that looks written on in texta. It took 4 drives past to find the place, not helped by the large sign outside saying “Minko Wines”! The vast number of parked cars was a bit of a giveaway, though. Trouble was, without a booking, we had no chance.

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Sun setting over the vines…

Back instead to McLaren Vale, where Oscars diner came to the rescue. They do pizza too! Oscars sorted us out with a small pizza each. Now how is this for a pizza:

  • Mediterranean: roast pumpkin, roast capsicum, eggplant, caramelised onion, rocket and fetta. Gee was this good!
  • Moroccan: braised lamb, roasted eggplant, Spanish onion, tzatziki and citrus zest. Again, very nice.

All this accompanied by a couple of glasses of sparkling Shiraz from the Settlement Wine Company, which went down very well indeed.

She Who Must Be Obeyed was sucked in by sticky date pudding for desert and had to be restrained from licking the plate clean.

And so to Saturday. We’ve been told many times to go to the Willunga farmers market, held every Saturday morning.

I was skeptical but came away surprised and with the wallet a lot lighter. Good olive oil, delicious lemon tarts, and many, many more things for sale. If we had been going straight home we could have filled the car several times over. Perhaps it’s a good thing we had another night to stay. How about beautiful peaches for $1.10 / kg? Freshly made cheeses, freshly baked bread, vegetables… And more.

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(Click to make ‘em bigger)

And then, more wine tasting. After all, it is wine region! Stand-outs:

  • Fox Creek. We tried the entire list from top to bottom. Sascha and her offsider were very patient with us, and also wouldn’t let us skip anything. We got the story of the dog who spends all day running up and down the rows of grapes when one of the wires is plucked, chasing the sound – and then has to be carried home because his paws hurt! And they did great imitations of American customers :) And they have all this cool stuff made from old barrels and bits of wood and things. Wine not cheap, but very, very good.

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(And click these to embiggerate as well)

  • Foggo Road Wines. Small, chosen on whim. Again, very good. Sandi the winemaker was behind the counter. She and Bruce the Kiwi Grape Picker spent an hour chatting, suggesting things to try, talking about what the season was like, how terrible the yields are this year because of drought (now) and frost (spring last year), and how the whole region is suffering. I don’t know if Bruce was his real name, but it made an entertaining afternoon.
  • The Settlement Wine Company. Had to go after the wine with pizza the night before. These folks have a smaller range, all good, and I was blown away by the prices. The standout bargain highlight of the trip. EVERYTHING was about 1/2 the price of everywhere else. These people are crazy – they were underselling themselves.
  • And finally, Beresford, who just happen to run the B&B we were staying in. The local chocolatier is also the barista, so after trying and buying some wine, it was time for coffee and hot chocolate. REAL hot chocolate made with lumps of chocolate, and milk, and steam. SWMBO was in heaven.

So… that brings us to try #2 at Russells Pizza. Our booking was in the courtyard – inside being very very very small, and chock-full. The courtyard was a little breezy, and verging on cold. But so what!

Russells is real wood oven pizza, in a “restaurant” with charm and a LOT of character. Tables have been scavenged from all over, so have the chairs.

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You want a candle outside? No worries, it’s in an old jam tin. The menu is salad, pizza, and a cake of some kind for desert. The cake changes each day, thats about all that does. No cutlery – if you really want that, take it yourself. We were told some people take their own chairs! The place is justly famous though, the pizza was fabulous. We managed a 1/2 and 1/2:

  • Chili Chicken: chicken, garlic, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato and coriander.
  • Lamb: Slow cooked lamb, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato, dukkah and mint.

I’ve never had anything like this, really good flavours on a pizza without cheese (!), and with a crust that was thin, very crisp, and perfectly cooked. And so much we could barely make it through a single large one.

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And that brings us to home day, today. Wine tasting was out of the question. I was beginning to feel like it was oozing out of my pores. Instead, a jolly good healthy walk was in order.

Followed by an ice-cream, of course.

Finally, we decided not to keep going with the ham / cheese / olives lunches of the last two days, but instead stopped in at the Woodstock Coterie, where who should be waiting tables but our host of the previous day from Fox Creek. Her suggestion was the soup – Sweet Potato and Pear (with a bit of ginger and chilli) which was outstanding. The Roo, the Smoked Salman Tart, and the Jazz Trio all made for a very good lunch and a nice way to finish the day before heading off to rescue grandma and head back to normality.

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That be a Smoked Salmon Tart!

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And that be 3 blokes playin’ Jazz

Only one thing about Woodstock was unusual. We must have been close on the youngest people there. Excluding the staff, the average age of the customers must have been about 60. Made us feel young and sprightly!

Tomorrow, unfortunately, is back to normal.

One Comment

Hi, I just started a Facebook group for Russell’s pizza fans, and unable to find any of my own pictures resorted to Googling and ended up stealing one of yours for the group. If you object let me know and I’ll pull it down. If you use Facebook and do stupid stuff like join random groups feel free to join in, the group is called “Russell’s Wood Fired Pizza Addicts United”
Thanks Bert Heathwood
PS GREAT PHOTOS! (they’re making me hungry)

Comment by bert heathwood | September 9th, 2008 3:37 pm | Permalink

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