A line-up of Reserve and Estate wines greets us at the Coriole cellar door.
The Vita Sangiovese has an aromatic punch of chocolate and fennel; and sharp flavours of dusty cherry, softened with age and a hint of licorice.
The Dancing Fig is a Shiraz Mouvedre combination, a tribute to the fig trees planted across the estate. This ready-to-drink soft and youthful red excites the palate with tastes of blackberry and a hint of savoury herbs.
Our wine guide, Velvet, is a charming and cheeky seductress, shocking us with bunny-hunting stories and entertaining the patrons tasting their way through the fruits of the Lloyd family’s labour.
We haven’t made a reservation, not realising that the Saturday lunch service gets so busy. It seems the word of Coriole’s new Head Chef Tom Reid has spread, and the atrium courtyard is full to the brim with people ready to tuck into a spread of foraged fare. A table on the enclosed restaurant balcony serves as a more than suitable saviour. Without too much fuss, the table was set while we wandered the kitchen garden.
Lush with all kinds of herbs, greens and edible garnishes, the once overgrown patch has since been lovingly tended by the estate gardeners and now kitchen apprentices spend their mornings gathering the freshest ingredients and trimmings for the dishes of the day.
Seated with some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding hills, lunch is a simple but gourmet affair. House-made sourdough – served with lashings of cultured Woodside Cheese Wrights butter, alongside Coriole olives and extra virgin olive oil –makes for a greedy start and we order more bread before main course even lands.
The follow-up platters du jour feature piles of pickled and roasted vegetables and salads, accompanied by all kinds of meats, cheeses and kitchen specialties. The salmon is prepared using more of the olive oil and scattered with capers and crunchy leaves from a locally grown succulent commonly known as ‘pigface’. From pigface to a pork-hock terrine; a meaty little dish that works perfectly atop a crisp lavosh, piled high with kohlrabi salad that has good tang and a mustard seed kick.
The pickled and roasted beet salad is a clear favourite, classically paired with fresh goat’s curd and presented like a little piece of artwork on the plate. A nettle salsa verde is smeared across slivers of beef carpaccio, and pickled heirloom carrots add colour, flavour and some necessary crunch.
A central pile of cucumber ribbons scattered with pine nuts is perfectly acceptable, though perhaps unnecessary and nothing compared to its delicious neighbours; though I’m quickly distracted by a corner dedicated only to cheese, including a ripe Woodside Cheese Wrights Pompeii, a subtle jersey-cow Cheddar, and a soft and oozy Brie.
A wicked case of over-ordering comes next, with two dessert options artfully presented on some very sexy flatware. A thin slice of vanilla pannacotta snakes between crisp shards of delicate pastry; a sprinkling of fresh mint adds fragrance without overpowering; and a small pile of poached apple and perhaps pear is lightly spiced and adds balance to a dish of contrasting flavour.
The last hurrah arrives in the form of a better-than-traditional chocolate fondant pudding, sitting on a mound of biscuit crunch. Edible flowers add a touch of colour and a quenelle of house made vanilla ice cream takes this dish to a place of sentimental pleasure.
The trail ends with another stroll around the grounds to stretch our weary legs and drink in the rolling views, along with a finishing glass. Spoils of the day are loaded away and with little but the feeling of sated comfort and tales of culinary adventure, we make our way home along meandering country roads.
Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale
Open Friday to Monday, 12pm to 4pm