A while ago I promised you all a hint of how you might go about refreshing yourself on Kangaroo Island – after all, good food deserves and needs good drink – and you’ll find plenty of it on the island. Vines have been grown on the island since the mid-1800’s, but Kangaroo Island is a relatively new wine producing region. It’s mild winters and slightly cooler growing seasons, combined with sandy soils and limestone, make it the perfect spot for viticulture. While it is still relatively early days for most of the local winemakers, there is no shortage of skill or passion and some of the local wines are already being exported to the UK and Europe. Many of the cellar doors have simply breathtaking views and often the winemaker is lurking quite nearby, ready to bend the ear of eager aficionados, giving visitors the opportunity to leave with the inside view, as well as a bottle or three.
Dudley Winery is one of the island’s first wineries and is family owned and run by Jeff and Brodie Howard, fourth and fifth generation islanders, respectively. They produce a 100% handcrafted, Kangaroo Island product ranging from the happily named Dudley Bubbly to their fine, award-winning 2009 Hog Bay Cabernet Sauvignon. Their cellar door has utterly spectacular views from it’s deck and is one of the most popular on the island, often being used as a venue for wedding receptions and parties. I loved the cosy little corners and suspect that many an hour could be whiled away here with a glass or two of whatever you fancy and their regional produce tasting platter.
On the other side of the island, I also popped in to Bay of Shoals Winery – again located on the coast and boasting yet another stunning view. Bay of Shoals is a labour of love and the grand passion of Barossa opthalmologist John Willoughby, a keen sailor and boat collector – although I didn’t need to mention the collecting bit as just a quick glimpse around the outside of the cellar door will tell you that. John’s father used to sail with another well-known South Australian wine name, Tom Hardy, and John first caught sight of the Bay of Shoals area when he sailed past in the 1960’s. He put his first vines in in 1993, producing his first vintage in 1998 and now produces seven varieties of multi-award winning wines under the careful hand of wine maker Jonathon Ketley. These can be tried at the cellar door which was built in 2006, with much of the work completed by John himself, and that is where you will buy them too – as 95% of his sales are made on the island, with 75% at the cellar door.
For those of you who fancy something a little stronger Kangaroo Island has yet another secret – a boutique micro-distillery producing stunning vodka, seasonally flavoured liqueurs but, most especially, gin. *Happy sigh* Tucked away down a dirt track and owned by John and Sarah Lark, Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) produces an aromatic range of “slow spirits” using fresh seasonal ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible. Using native Australian botanicals, no oils and sustainable practices, John and Sarah have developed an internationally award-winning, small batch, premier Australian gin that can be found on the mainland, but you’ll have to hunt for it. If you are lucky enough to get there, you’ll also find a KIS product at the prestigious Southern Ocean Lodge who commissioned a specially blended gin, The baillies 9, which has gone on to win several international awards. Failing that you can catch a nip or two at the charming KIS cellar door, where you might even catch up with one of the Larks and brush up on distilling talk.