Just prior to Xmas it was my Mum and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Now that’s a much more impressive 50th anniversary than my 50th blogging post that I wrote about recently – and we went somewhere suitably special to celebrate: Skilogalee Winery Restaurant in the Clare Valley.
Skillogalee vineyards were planted in the early 1970’s and the property had a history of grape growing for dried fruits prior to that. The cottage that houses the tasting area and restaurant was built in 1851 as the home of a Cornish miner turned mixed home farmer John Trestrail whose wife gave birth to 17 children (13 of whom survived)! Skillogalee is named after the creek that runs through the property and is the Irish/Celtic name of an unappetising sounding starvation dish of thin gruel that an expedition party looking for suitable land to settle on in this region (led by John Horrocks after whom another Clare winery is named) was forced to resort to eating after misfortune befell them on their expedition. Nothing could have been further from the delicious food that we were served the day we visited Skillogalee!
While I am no wine buff I can attest to their consistently pleasing wines and universal approval (we’ve been buying them for years and never miss a visit to buy up when we go to Clare). A constant truck load of awards must tell you something too :). According to their website “The vines are hand-pruned and the fruit is mainly hand-picked. The wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown on our own vineyards and styles include crisp dry whites (riesling,gewürztraminer and chardonnay), a full flavoured rosé, rich, full-bodied reds (shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and blends) and some luscious fortified wines.”
For our lunch we had a couple of bottles of the 2010 Riesling and the 2006 basket pressed The Cabernets. Both fabulous! We had to be modest with our consumption given that we all had to drive home afterwards but they do have three accommodation options within walking distance if you’d prefer to indulge further (and of course this would allow you to do some more exploration and wine tasting at the many other excellent wineries in the Valley).
The restaurant, started in the 1990s out of a desire to provide food to customers who came to try the wines, and has become an attraction in its own right with a reputation that encourages people to readily make the 2 hour journey from Adelaide. We most recently came here in April last year for a delicious afternoon tea (warm home-made scones with jam and cream anyone?) and were provided with soft woollen knee rugs with our pot of Earl-Grey tea that allowed us to sit on the verandah despite the crisp Autumn weather.
It was a rather rainy and wintry day when we left Adelaide (although officially summer) to head north through the Barossa – with a stop at my parent’s place to drop off a cake from Providore in the Central Market (some of the best cakes to be had in Adelaide) that we were to have later that day – and then on to Clare. Mum had (optimistically) booked an outside table under the gnarled olive tree overlooking the lovely terraced garden with a view that is backed by vines and then native bush rising on the hill beyond – absolutely lovely setting.
Because it was raining pretty heavily the morning of our celebratory lunch the staff helpfully relocated our booking into one of their cosy rooms inside the little cottage. There was a good range of dishes on the menu but our party of eight homed in on three dishes – one entrée and two mains that we just couldn’t go past. Skillogalee has a constantly changing menu and the chef attempts to source as many ingredients as possible locally. They also have some fruit trees and other produce on the property that they feature on the menu when in season, including figs, loquats and artichokes. I had never seen artichokes growing before (they look rather like giant Scotch Thistles) but saw several bushes forming a hedge that were all in flower when we were there with bees busy at work on the intensely bright purple flowers.
For entrée I, along with pretty much everyone else, chose the twice cooked goats cheese souffle served with a rocket salad, walnuts and roasted capsicum (or at least that’s what I remember it being – I was relying on the online menu to remind me but having just checked the menu has already changed – how inconsiderate :)). The souffle was a little pillow of light but rich cheesy warmth rounded out perfectly with the peppery salad.
Vying for the most popular order for a main dish was the confit of duck leg (very generous serve of two legs) on a bed of black sticky rice in a coconut milk broth and onion chilli jam (again I can’t be completely confident I’m describing this dish accurately without the menu to look back on). The meat was tender and moist and flavourful and the sticky rice in coconut milk was a lovely surprising, creamy accompaniment. The onion jam added a sweetness (very minimal heat) that brought it all together nicely.
The other contender for most ordered dish for our party was the thick fillets/medallions of lamb wrapped in prosciutto and served with caramelised onion and a mustard white wine sauce, steamed asparagus and smashed potatoes. Lots of praise for this dish including for the very tender, perfectly cooked meat. Both mains were hearty country sized serves.
As I mentioned earlier we all trooped off to my parents house for cake and coffee after lunch so we didn’t get to sample the dessert menu. However we lingered for quite a while in the garden as it had fined up and was actually quite warm after lunch. Lola ran around like a mad thing, burning off some energy from being cooped up for the car journey and her enforced confinement inside during lunch.
It was a lovely afternoon and it seemed the perfect way to celebrate a long-lasting relationship with great food, great wine and great company in a setting that is good for the soul – my parents certainly deserve such days. Congratulations Mum and Dad!