Mr. Mick and Wunderbar Lamb offered a special menu with some notes of spice for this year’s Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb.
Mr. Mick’s chef, Carrie Flood, tells me she took inspiration from her kitchen assistant Simi to create the menu. Two of Simi’s favourite curry recipes from her Indian heritage, Lamb Madras and Lamb Saag, showcased Wunderbar Lamb’s ethical, humane choice certified lamb.
The Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb is all about bringing people and community together to engage with farmers, chefs and producers. Natalie Chivell, Mr. Mick’s Sales and Marketing Manager notes that the festival creates more awareness around produce and develops partnerships with producers, butchers and the community – Mr. Mick and Wunderbar Lamb’s collaboration for the festival being a prime example.
Natalie explains that Tim and Pam Adams bought the property in late 2010 and opened Mr. Mick in 2011, choosing to name the wine label after Tim’s mentor, Mr Mick Knappstein, who inspired Tim from a young age. Their slogan, ‘wines for everyone’ comes from Mr. Mick’s own philosophy of wanting people to be able to eat and drink affordably. In line with this philosophy, the food at Mr. Mick is all about shared, tapas style, Modern Australian dishes.
Chef Carrie Flood is originally from Alice Springs and has worked in hospitality around Australia. She admits she has always loved the Clare Valley, living on and off in Clare since the age of 16, and settled here almost a decade ago. Carrie says the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb inspired her ‘to do something different to showcase lamb and its flavours’.
I love there’s a story behind everything at Mr. Mick, including the one about Mr. Mick’s beloved Mercedes Benz. Some years after he passed away his old car was found, by coincidence, in a car yard in Sydney. Tim Adams seized the opportunity to purchase and restore the car, which he now drives. A painting of Mr. Mick’s Mercedes Benz, painted by staff member Stephanie, hangs on the wall. Another point of interest is the huge, old copper brandy stil from 1919 which takes pride of place in the corner.
Mr. Mick also has a private function room available which caters for up to 45 guests. ‘The Murray Room’ is named after the late Murray Edwards – a renowned, local artist. The space is ideal for a special occasion or business meeting. Weather permitting, the outdoor lawn area is used for casual dining around the fire pit.
These elegant, handmade, timber wine flights at Mr. Mick cellar door are purchased from the local men’s shed. The men’s shed is a place where retired, community minded people can be creative – and Tim Adams kindly donated a bandsaw to assist them with their projects.
And now the delicious curries! Wunderbar Lamb Madras Curry – an aromatic spiced succulent lamb in a rich and thick coconut gravy. This full of flavour dish lives up to its promise. Suggested wine pairings for the dish are Tim Adams ‘The Fergus’ Grenache/Tempranillo/Malbec or Mr. Mick Cabernet Merlot, both 2016 vintages.
The second Wunderbar Lamb curry dish is Lamb Saag – north Indian style, slow cooked lamb in a deliciously rich tomato, spinach and broccoli sauce. Suggested wine pairings with this milder curry are Mr. Mick Tempranillo 2018 or Tim Adams Cabernet Malbec 2017. As we chat over dinner, Emma from Mr. Mick talks about the value of the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb and the importance of heroing our local produce, given that ‘food creates a sense of place and identity.
Farmer Ben Heinrich, owner of Wunderbar Lamb, has taken some rare time out from his farm to dine at Mr. Mick for the festival. It’s a fabulous opportunity to talk about what the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb means to Ben and why it’s important to know where our lamb comes from. Ben is pictured below on his farm with Kerry, an agronomist, and their children Emmison 11, Archer 9, Frederick 8, George 6 and Macartney 4.
Ben tells me the name ‘Wunderbar’ Lamb is a reflection of his family’s German heritage. The word translates as ‘Wonderful’, and it’s a fitting word, with Wunderbar Lamb being Australia’s first and only humane choice certified lamb producer.
As a humane choice certified lamb producer, Wunderbar raise their lambs ethically, which reduces stress and allows them to experience the most enjoyable quality of life – as close to nature intended as possible. The lambs are completely free range with no feeding lots, they are hormone free, and there is no tail docking, with minimal transportation. As Ben explains, ‘people like to know where their food came from, how it was raised and how it was processed’.
Ben grew up shearing on his family farm in Black Springs, near Auburn, and owns Wunderbar Lamb with his father Ken, now in his 60s. In the mid 2000s when the volatile wool industry suffered a sharp decline, Ben and his father researched breeding ‘shedding sheep’ so they could stop shearing. They chose Australian white lambs and now have over 1500 ewes over two properties totalling 800 hectares, where they also grow several types of grain.
Technology plays its part in running a farm and Ben explains that traceability is important. All his lambs have electronic ear tags. Ben admits that running a farm is not without its challenges, and droughts and frost are two of the big ones. At times like that, Ben shares, he reflects on the words from his grandfather Jack, a great mentor, who would always say to ‘honour the struggle’.
Ben sees the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb as not only an important way to grow the region and showcase lamb, but also as a terrific opportunity to network and engage with the community. Wunderbar Lamb supplies butchers, restaurants, country IGAs and most recently, an Adelaide Central Market butcher. Check their website for a full list of stockists. When I ask Ben what the future holds for Wunderbar Lamb he hesitates, looks thoughtful and shares, ‘my pipe dream is to convert an old shearing shed on the property into a farm gate experience’. A truly great vision which I have no doubt will happen.
What a brilliant Festival of the Lamb experience I enjoyed at Mr. Mick! Thank you to Mr. Mick and the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb for your hospitality, as well as to Ben from Wunderbar Lamb for taking time out of his busy farm life to chat about all things lamb.
Where: 7 Dominic Street, Clare, South Australia
When: Lunch: from 12 pm daily | Dinner: Friday and Saturday
When: Cellar Door: 10 am – 4.30 pm daily
Contact: Bookings: Phone 08 8842 2555 or Book Online
Where: 388 Heinrichs Road, Black Springs, South Australia
Contact: Phone 0448 332 678 or Email Wunderbar Lamb