Cellar Door Fest: Insider Sneak Peek

Tidswell Wines
Tidswell Wines’ Norwood Cellar Door

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the event

Now we’ve all forgotten about Christmas and New Year, Festival season is well and truly kicking off in Adelaide. I can read through my Facebook feed without tripping over events, street parties and must-see acts.

One event which South Australian wine lovers should look forward to is the Cellar Door Fest, held every February at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

This year, the Fest kicks off on Friday 26 February and, as a sneak peek, a few of Adelaide’s food and wine lovers were treated to an urban cellar door tour.

The beauty of the Cellar Door Fest is that, in one weekend, you can (try to!) visit 180 wineries covering 15 of South Australia’s wine regions. Every year the Fest adapts and changes, and this year sees a strong focus on experiences. Alongside the masterclasses and long table lunches (an extended program) 2016 also sees the introduction of a beer garden. There’s a strong emphasis on food (especially cheese) so you’ll also be able to taste new products and chat to producers.

Charcuterie and cheese
Charcuterie and cheese by Bottega Rotolo

We started at Tidswell Wines, on Sydenham Road in Norwood. Tidswell’s vineyards are on the Limestone Coast and when they were planted in 1994 they were part of the Coonawarra. Unfortunately, when the Coonawarra GI was established in 2003 the vineyards fell outside the boundary. Today, Tidswell produces a range of red and white wines, all of which we could try (unfortunately I was driving – something of a fail for a cellar door tour). We also snacked on a lovely plate of charcuterie and cheese, provided by Bottega Rotolo.

Signature Wines
Lots of oohs and aahs when the door was thrown open to reveal the setting at Signature Wines

Next stop, and literally across the road, was Signature Wines. You’re unlikely to find Signature in a big bottle shop – Dan and Bec focus on on-trade sales, partnering with many of Australia’s top restaurants, as well as sales through the Norwood cellar door. Here we enjoyed a flight of four wines, accompanied by a pulled beef burger, put together by Jackie Singh of Ruby Spice.

Chocolate – from bean (far right), through nib, cocoa powder and finished products

Finally, we moved on to Tomich Wines‘ cellar door on King William Rd. We were greeted with more bubbles and wrapped up the evening hearing about chocolate. Marcus, from Stirling’s Red Cacao, took us through the chocolate production process and we enjoyed coffee and truffles (his raspberry ganache chocolate I HIGHLY recommend).

Throughout the evening we heard from people who have been involved in the Cellar Door Fest for many years. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming it’s all about wine but there is so much more on offer. And really – you can either take a week or two off work and spend a LOT of time driving, or … you can high-tail it to the Convention Centre and spend a couple of days checking out the best our state has to offer.

As something of a Cellar Door Fest veteran (I remember the very first one!) here are my four top tips:

1. Book online. Sure – you can buy your tickets at the door but you’ll save money and queuing time by booking online.

2. Get your timing right. That means – go early. The Friday evening session is usually quieter than the full weekend days so it’s a good option. If you are going on Saturday and/or Sunday – arrive early. As in, arrive when the doors open. There are fewer people so you’ll have the opportunity to talk to producers who aren’t faced with a phalanx of punters and who haven’t yet said the same thing over and over and over.

3. Make use of the pick ‘n pack service. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. Sure … you can pretend you’re not going to buy wine but you are and pick ‘n pack will look after your goodies and deliver them safely. Who’s to argue with a whopping 75% of last year’s Fest-goers?

4. LEAVE THE CAR AT HOME. This is a Cellar Door Fest and there’s never an excuse for drinking and driving. The Adelaide Convetion Centre is immediately adjacent to the train station and North Terrace is well served by buses and trams. There are also plenty of taxi ranks for the journey home.

Cellar Door Fest runs from 26-28 February at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

2014 Cellar Door Festival – Bigger and Better


Late last year I was asked to be a social media ambassador for the 2014 Cellar Door Festival. There have been a few events for the ambassadors, including a session at OzHarvest and a cheese and wine matching class (I missed that one as I was ham and wine matching in Spain at the time).

As the festival itself is almost upon us (it kicks off next Friday, 14 February) the final ambassador event was held last week at the Adelaide Convention Centre. We were treated to an ‘amazing race’ style evening – charging around the centre, learning more about both the festival and local produce. After we’d built up a head of steam, several of the ‘new producers’ who are being showcased by PIRSA were on hand to chat to us about their foods and participation in the festival.

My partner, Rubina, and I didn’t quite manage to win the race part of the evening (though if there had been a prize for making the most noise, taking it seriously and getting into the spirit of things in an over the top manner, we would DEFINITELY have won that!) we did come in a creditable third (out of five).

For me, probably the most interesting part of the race was trying the alpaca carpaccio. Alpaca is probably not a meat you’ll have come across before. While it’s been eaten in South America for centuries its appearance on Australian menus is still very novel. I had a lovely chat to Perry from Fleurieu Prime Alpaca, and I recommend checking out the meat at the festival. It’s extremely lean, tender and very gently flavoured. You might also find some alpaca on the menu at Pranzo in the CBD.

While the festival is, of course, about wine (and a bit of beer, too!), this year it has a much greater focus on food. Of the producers I met last week, many have a strong emphasis on native ingredients so festival goers will have the opportunity to try plenty of new foods – both at the Farmers’ Market and from individual producers.

This year, the festival’s masterclasses also have a strong food theme. On the opening evening (Friday 14 February) Marion Grasby will be hosting a Valentine’s Day Extravaganza (you can win tickets to this over at McFuzzlebutt’s Manchen – NOTE, you will need to purchase your own Cellar Door Festival tickets separately). Over the course of the weekend she is also hosting two further classes (Summer Entertaining and Asian Favourites) and there are seafood, cheese and, of course, wine focussed classes.

Classes do need to be booked in advance: full details are on the Cellar Door Festival website.

Cellar Door Wine Festival 2014 – Social Media Ambassador


Tasting plate of SA goodies – that rare beef was amazing!

Even before I had a child, a week that involved every night out would have left me feeling a little knackered. Last week was such a week: epic on many, many counts and my sanity (and the long suffering Andy’s sanity) saved quite possibly only by the fact that the toddler spent Friday night at his grandparents’ house.

Every night out was a good night out, don’t get me wrong, but I could have done with them rather more spaced out. Let’s fast forward through the week to Thursday night.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the Adelaide Convention Centre, which is the organisation behind the annual Cellar Door Wine Festival. Would I like to be a social media ambassador for the 2014 festival?

On the one hand, this suggests that I either drink too much or spend too much time on twitter … but on the other, did they really have to ask?!

With Thursday night by that stage the only night free in an already hectic week, I shouldn’t have been surprised when that was the night of the program’s launch. I headed off to the Convention Centre, post Dora the Explorer, feeling a little less than glamorous and wondering what awaited me.

What awaited me was a tiny taste of what awaits everyone come Valentine’s Day 2014 – the opening day of the Festival. Next year you can expect to see the same overwhelming array of wineries but there’s going to be an increasing emphasis on food and local producers. Marion Grasby (ex Masterchef) will be hosting master classes, as will Valérie Henbest of the Smelly Cheese Shop. If you don’t already have a date for Valentine’s Day, consider yourself on notice to find one.

This partnership with the Smelly Cheese extends to a very special cheese themed competition. Details are coming but, in the meantime, if you love cheese, perhaps consider taking a selfie of your next close encounter and keeping it stashed away ready for the competition to open!

The ambassadors were treated to a lovely meal: amazing antipasto (seriously amazing – everyone was so impressed with the pastrami in particular), a seared tuna entrée, served on a melon salad dressed with soy sauce which was genius (and tasted a lot better than it sounds written down!), a tasting plate (shown above) for main course and a Haigh’s flourless chocolate cake for dessert. That also received some rave reviews (unsurprising, really).

We were also spoiled with a souvenir (see the photo below) as well as an amazing goodie box filled with South Australian eats, drinks and treats – and a tomato plant*. I might be pitting the tomato plant against my own seedlings and seeing how it fares.


* Not so random, when you consider that tomatoes were often referred to as love apples. Remember, the Festival opens on Valentine’s Day.