Cycling the Riesling Trail

It’s a glorious sunny morning in Clare, two hours north west of Adelaide as my husband and I set off on bikes to explore Riesling country. We’re taking a path along an old railway line that cuts through the length of the Clare Valley.

Riesling trail
The Riesling Trail, South Australia

The Riesling Trail, as it’s known, runs for 36 km, but we’ve got our sights set on Auburn, 25 km away. Just as train travel offers an intimate view of life along the railway line, so does the trail. At various times it borders bush land, vineyards and farms.

We cycle past cellar doors, kangaroos, chook runs, duck ponds, through eucalypt avenues and along hedges of lavender and pine – the perfect country scene. But it is only after we stop for lunch in Auburn and begin the journey home that I realize that my bottom isn’t going to make the 25 km back to Clare. And when I dismount to push my bike I realize that virtually the entire return journey will be uphill and that my legs aren’t going to make it either.

I push and pedal as far as O’Leary Walker Wines, some eight kilometres up the track. There, I admit defeat and do the only reasonable thing.

While the weather closes in and my husband presses on to finish the ride, I head for the cellar door. I find a comfortable sofa, a magazine, a glass of wine, and I wait for my husband to return with the car.

Of course, it’s not as rewarding as cycling uphill in the rain, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made!

Skillogalee winery and restaurant
Skillogalee winery and restaurant

The following day the rain has set in, so we head, by car, for the Skillogalee Winery. I wonder if we are the only people crazy enough to be out in this winter weather. But when we enter the quaint old farmhouse that doubles as a restaurant and cellar door and ask for a table for lunch, we are met with a surprising response from a member of staff.

‘You have a reservation.’

It’s not even a question. The restaurant, which seats eighty – between its cosy interior and picturesque verandah, is fully booked.

Anyone who knows to visit Skillogalee for lunch knows to book in advance (apart from us, it seems).

Skillogalee is a South Australian institution and weekends at the family-owned boutique winery are busy no matter how wet it gets outside. As luck would have it, the restaurant can seat us for an early lunch, which gives us ample time to admire the view over the cottage garden and the misty vineyards, enjoy a beautiful regional meal and taste a selection of Skillogalee’s wines. A fire is roaring inside, and even on the verandah we are well protected from the weather. Heaters are warming the slate floor and just in case we get chilly – there are knee rugs on offer.

By the time we finish lunch, it’s still wet outside and our Tour de Vallé Clare has been completely washed out. My husband is disappointed. I’d also love to see the sun shining on the Clare Valley, but I’m quietly relieved. Cycling is magical, but how comfortable is it to tour the wineries by car!

Julie Fison’s travel stories are featured in the Australian Good Food & Travel Guide

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