By Kim Lamb
Original post on Eat Play Love Travel
WHERE :: 58 Osborn Road, McLaren Vale, South Australia
CONTACT :: (08) 8329 4888
WEBSITE :: darenberg.com.au
Image Credit :: d’Arenberg
Described as Willy Wonka’s Wine Factory, it’s no surprise I was chomping at the bit to check out the new d’Arenberg Cube while in Adelaide over Christmas.
The Cube is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
If you’ve been to McLaren Vale in the past year and a bit, you no doubt have seen the colossal, glassed rubix cube taking shape on Osborn Road, dwarfing the vineyards below and dominating the horizon.
Well the architectural masterpiece and construction feat officially opened its self-crumpling doors in mid-December 2017, and the only word/s to describe the new d’Arenberg Cube is ‘holy guacamole’.
The Cube is every bit the creation of Chester Osborn – the eccentric, whacky fourth-generation winemaker at the helm of d’Arenberg Wines (and has been since 1984). It’s like a MONA of the wine world – a maze-like, arty experience that at times makes no sense, but personifies its creator.
Every square inch of the Cube’s five stories is chocked to the brim of weird little sensory experiences. Like a peephole that has you watching a 1920s debaucherous dinner party starring Chester and his mates. There’s piped music that responds to the weather conditions in the vineyard, an art gallery on the ground floor and a wine fog room.
The idea of creating a wine wonderland that represents “the complexities and puzzles of winemaking” came to Chester in 2003, and the vision has taken 15 years to bring to life.
Of course, the d’Arenberg Cube couldn’t be anymore different from the old, rustic d’Arenberg cellar door that was housed in a 19th Century homestead. This move up the gravel driveway truly symbolises a changing of the guard, from third-generation, 91-year-old d’Arry Osborn to McLaren Vale’s man-about-town Chester.
Inside Willy Wonka’s Wine Factory
d’Arenberg has always been one of my favourite McLaren Vale wineries, as well as one of my preferred places to long lunch. So when my wine sisters Bel and Ali suggested the Cube be the site for our Christmas catch-up it made pure, logical sense.
Upon entering the d’Arenberg Cube, you’re ushered into the sensory room, which is clad entirely in plastic fruit and flowers, and designed to entice and excite the senses, ready for the wine adventure ahead. Instructed to put your nose up against the various horns and squeeze the coloured balloons, you smell various wine notes, including pineapple, cherries and… prunes.
When we visited in late December, there was a line-up out the door to do a wine tasting. Luckily, we had a booking (thanks wise Ali), so jumped the queue. And while, technically, you don’t need to book for wine tasting groups under five, until the crazy dies down, a booking seems like a smart concept.
A standard wine tasting at the new d’Arenberg cellar door costs $10pp, or there are a number of premium tastings you can do, which take place in private tasting rooms and will set you back $40pp. Breathing a sigh of relief, all my favourite d’Arenberg wines are all still here: the Lucky Lizard Chardonnay, the Hermit Crab Viognier Marsane, the Footbolt Shiraz and the Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana dessert wine. Heaven!
Up in the cellar door, there’s also Mad Hatter-style chairs to lounge about in, plus viewing platforms where you can take in the beauty of McLaren Vale and its surrounds. Because it’s bloody beautiful!
Being the restroom connoisseur I am, I naturally had to check out the bathrooms, and they’re (no surprises) an utter work of art. Who doesn’t like to have a pee inside a rainwater tank that’s been decked out in a forestry of artificial plants, while a life-size superman doll flies overhead?
The only problem was catching the lift back up to the top-floor cellar door. It took a good 10 minutes, and brought back memories of hip and shouldering my way onto the 8am weekday train into Melbourne CBD. You need to channel your inner rugby player for this ascent.
Apologies for the lack of imagery, I clearly got carried away smelling, tasting and staring. Too caught up in the moment to capture it. Oh well, even more reason to give it a whirl yourself!
WHERE:: 41 McMurtrie Road, McLaren Vale, South Australia
CONTACT :: (08) 8323 9304
WEBSITE :: mitolowines.com.au
Image Credit :: Mitolo Wines
Our original plan was to do the degustation lunch in the Cube’s new fine dining restaurant. But at $150 for the long lunch and $190 for the extra long lunch (plus wine pairings starting at $55), I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain to Jude I intended on dropping $200+ on a girls’ lunch.
While no doubt lunch at the Cube is amazing, we went with a more bank balance-friendly option, and ordered Uber von Wine Chauffer to whisk us away to nearby Mitolo Wines.
Mitolo has been in the wine game for a while, but its ultra modern cellar door and restaurant – made out of shipping containers – only opened to the public in November 2017. So it’s another newbie on the McLaren Vale block and definitely worth checking out.
Lunch at Mitolo Wines’s Italian-inspired restaurant Bocca di Lupo had us forgetting about what could have been at the Cube. Instead indulging in the likes of charred octopus, with woodfired potato, paprika and endive; and charcoal maltagliati pasta, with asparagus, lemon and truffle parmesan.
The only downside to my Mitolo Wines dining experience was becoming a lost parrot trying to find the bathroom, which prompted the raucous laughter from my two wine sisters, who were amusedly watching on. Honestly, you would have thought with all my bathroom experience I couldn’t miss the lady in a dress sign. Idiot!
All in all, the d’Arenberg Cube and Mitolo Wines are two more reasons to love McLaren Vale.