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The Coonawarra

This is a region that has come ahead in leaps and bounds in the last few years. True one can still drive four hours from Adelaide (or Melbourne) and whilst their is plennty of good wine along the way is has to be said that the food along the way is basically roadhouse and petrol station straight from the box deep–fried. It must astonish tourists from Europe or China used to finding little gems along the way. We totally recommend the GARAGE GALS at the Shell garage in Kingston where a crayfish sandwich is a true sanity saver.

Riddoch Highway runs the full length of the Coonawarra and it is important to point out that the road signage doesn't mention the Coonawarra until Keith which is somewhat confusing even for South Australians. Therural Australian vineyard views starts with Padthaway, and the Padthaway wine region, and the beautifulhistoirc padthaway homestead. Revitalised as lovely regional accommodation their cellar door is also picturesque and we are articularly fond of their vintage Padthaway Estate Eliza Pinot Noir Chardonnay, which we think is one of Australia’s best sparkling wines and we lament it doesn’t appear and more Australian wine lists. Not the most important factor, but it is also such great value for money…CLICK HERE to read more.

The stunning Padthaway homestead and opportunity to see some of South Australia’s most beautifully maintained history and drink some fab wines at the same time.

There is a ton of really great accommodation that ranges from historic cottages with National Trust classification to ultra–modern so it is basically a matter of deciding where your passion lies. There is also a brod range of prices and if you don’t mind icy mornings there are some good deals to be had in winter time.

This is Cabernet country and in fact some of Australia’s best Cabernets come from this region and whilst there isn’a bike track but our guest from Shanghai Rose Lu (T8 Shanghai) in South Australia for work experience and to help us with Wynns Day discovered a genuine friendliness and in two days mamde a lot of new friends, even to the point of PENLEY ESTATE cellar door driving her back to the Penola Memorial Hall where I was prepping for two big days of dinners and lunches for WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE. On the second day I dropped Rose at another end of the highway and picked her up some hours later; and to be truthful my only complaint about the terrific hospitality was that no one taught our lovely Rose how to spit! Rose had lunch at UPSTAIRS AT HOLLICKS and visited a number of wineries including PATRICK OF COONAWARRA. In two days, basically on foot Rose also visited DI GIORGIO PARKER WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE HOLLICK ZEMA ESTATE and barely started TOto investigate the many wonderful wine brands there are to explore along the Riddoch Highway. If you’re not afraid of a bit of a walk we decided it was a great way to do it or better still you might ask your accommodation to drop you off and walk your way back!

The very stylish Rymill Coonawarra cellar door…RYMILL COONAWARRA

This is a region that has a real sense of community and the community dinner on last Friday of the month is an indication of just how strong that sense of community is. Basically you have to bring a salad, kitchen is rostered and all meals are well under $20 AUD. You can BYO or buy a bottle of wine from their bar and toruistas are welcome. The night we went they were absolutely packed and the spread was really fabulous. The hall is situated on Memorial Drive on your right heading in to Penola the sign posting is for Wynns you can’t miss it!

A smashing spread, a really friendly welcome and a chance to meet some locals…starts around 6.30 pm

Breakfast there is only one place to go in Penola and that is diVine! The owners Peter and Catherine Robinson have clearly defined roles in their business. Peter makes really fantastic coffee and had a good laugh at my specific instructions about how I liked my coffee “double restretto” especially when I had a nervous breakdown thinking they wouldn’t understand it meant two shots! They understood perfectly. Catherine runs the kitchen and makes the best Portuguese tarts I have ever tasted. They are positively scrumptious…and, Catherine, we apologise that we ate almost all you had made for the day. Stick to the fresh daily specials and things that have come straight from the oven.

If you’re a larger group we suggest you give Catherine some warning as to just how many Portugues tarts you’re likely to consume, she might like to make a few extra! And Caherine…we’d love to have the recipe!!!!!

Lunch, well there is no better place than Upstairs at Hollicks. To read their full review please… CLICK HERE

Pettitcoat lane and the national Trust community garden are just gold. Kate Spencer is a cook herself of some great fame a student of le Cordon Blue when it was a seriously cooking school and herself no unfamiliar with Constance Spry and other luminaries of that period. A passionate gardener Kate is a mine of information; put a pelegonian leaf at the bottom of a chocolate cake and it imparts a wonderful flavour. Make a mix of tobacco leaves and it will kill many bugs, the list and generosity with which she rattles of her wisdom is just amazing and I am determined to go back again and listen to more…maybe around Christmas when everyone tells me KateÙs mince pies are legendary because I’m always up for a lesson. Kate also joins local farmers’ markets and anyone in penola will be able to tell you were the next one is!

top to bottom, left to right…an overview of the garden, the entrance to the garden, the sweetest bunch of violets for sale, Kate Spencer at the Penola National Trust community garden, Stella the cat beautiful but dangerous, the gorgeous Rowena Fennell in the community garden (Rowena also works at the Di Giorgio cellar door)

top to bottom, left to right…Johnno, Rowena Fennell’s son is just one of several children who come to help in the garden, Viveka Dayal (Galaxy Guides front of house supervisor) and Kate Spencer, and more of the garden

The John Riddoch Centre is an astounding achievement for a small community and is loacted in the visitor information centre so it is very easy to find. Local historian Evelynne Bowden is credited with having played a very large role this remakable centre. For anyone looking to explore the fascinating history of the region further there are marvellous fascillities and much of the information has been digitised. If you’re starting out with research Evelynne would be a fantastic place to start.

A very special thanks
to Karen Ronning, Zema Estate Wines for her generous help with sourcing material and making connections for this revamped Coonawarra section…AO, 28 August 2011

to visit Robe, Kingston and NaracoorteCLICK HERE

cellar doors for a complete listing please…CLICK HERE


  • Padthaway…CLICK HERE
  • Accommodation…CLICK HERE
  • Cellar doors…CLICK HERE
  • specifically Penola
  • Last Friday of the month community dinner everyone welcome…CLICK HERE
  • Breakfast…CLICK HERE
  • Lunch…CLICK HERE
  • Dinner there is no better place than Piper’s of Penola…CLICK HERE to go straight to their review
  • Petticoat Lane and the Penola National Trust community garden…CLICK HERE
  • Take a serious look at the region’s history and visit the John Riddoch Centre…CLICK HERE

february 2012
we’ll be adding Mayura Station Tasting Room a very unique dining experience and Kalangadoo and Burma Organic another really wonderful story! All recommended without hesitation and watch out for their produce at farmers’ markets especially the fabulous Kalangadoo peaches just coming into season and their seasonal apple juice due in March (season depending!)

Jill’s Vintage
and other very cool shopping…details next week

the people behind Galaxy Guidesfood editor and publisher
Ann Oliver

champagne editor
Kaaren Palmer


Jan Bowman
Political comentator, briliant photographer…farmers’s market obsessed…Brisbane based.

Olivia Stratton Makris
Masters of Gastronomy, NYC, Spain and constant assistance and editorial suggestion…Adelaide based.

Michael Martin…Northern America 2016.Photographic assistance Kym Martin…Adelaide based.

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copyright © text, recipes and images Ann Oliver & Kaaren Palmer 2016.