On tour in Coonawarra

By Halliday Wine Companion

With its compact cluster of cellar doors pouring exceptional wines, Coonawarra is one for the long-weekend bucket list. Here is a potential itinerary, including a practical map.

Coonawarra is an ideal place to tour in that most of the wineries lie in a neat strip along the Riddoch Highway, so you can cycle from one to another or, depending on how many you plan to visit, even travel by foot.

To delve into the region’s wines, base yourself in Penola. From there, head to Raidis Estate, where winemaker Steven Raidis champions white varieties such as riesling and pinot gris in what is typically red wine territory. The cellar door is surrounded by fruit trees, and if you come at the right time of year, you could end up taking home a haul from the garden. 

Next stop is Parker Coonawarra Estate, with rich red wine borne from those famous red-earth soils the calling card. 

From there, pop across the road to Hollick, where you’ll find all the Coonawarra heroes, plus a couple of surprises. If you’re hungry, Upstairs at Hollick is a favourite restaurant in the region.

Next, make your way to five red-star winery Balnaves of Coonawarra, a regional stalwart that stays true to tradition by focusing on exceptional cabernet sauvignon.

Up the road is the historic cellar door of Katnook Estate, pouring a range of exciting wines. If your palate is beginning to tire, now would be a good time to refuel with a regional cheese board.

Head across the highway to Majella, where Bruce Gregory has been making the wines for more than 20 years. Don’t miss the label’s luscious shiraz. 

Continue on to Zema Estate for stellar red blends and Italian hospitality. Not only can you fill up the boot with great wines, but also with tasty produce from Zema’s store. 

Coonawarra icon Wynns is up next. Winemaker Sue Hodder’s single vineyard cabernet sauvignon and complex blends are must-try wines while in the region. You’ll also want to track down the nearby railway siding, which is a popular spot for a photo. 

At Brand’s Laira, either continue on your quest for the best cabernet in town, or give the reds a rest and sip a smart riesling.

Next door at Redman, a founding winery in the region, intense shiraz and cabernet wines are crafted from mature estate vines, some of which are more than 100 years old. 

Rymill is your penultimate stop, an ancestral winery with a long history in Coonawarra. Despite generations of winemaking tradition, Rymill is moving with the times, employing sustainable vineyard practices and offering a range of alternative wines. 

Finish up at Sue Bell’s Bellwether Wines. The winery and tasting room here are housed in a 150-year-old shearing shed, which has been reimagined using its original materials. After a long day of touring, you’ll be pleased to know that here, you’re encouraged to taste sitting down.

At night, check out Pipers of Penola, Fodder or the Mayura Tasting Room for a top-notch dining experience. Or, if you’re too tired to head out, visit the Penola IGA for an impressive selection of local produce to enjoy with your cellar door haul.

Find more on Coonawarra in our essential guide