Reillys Wines is a truly special Mintaro experience, and a unique place definitely worth visiting. The Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb is all about coming together to celebrate spring – a gorgeous time of year which heralds the first buds on the vines and is also a perfect time to enjoy the region’s premium lamb. Reillys Wines curated a menu in honour of the festival to showcase their premium, handcrafted wines and treated guests to a delectable degustation experience.
Mintaro’s history is fascinating, and the origin of Reillys Wines Cellar Door and Restaurant is no exception. The building dates back to 1856 when owner Hugh Reilly, a shoemaker from Dublin, Ireland, settled in Mintaro and opened the local shoe repair shop. Fast forward to 1993 when this heritage cottage caught the new owners’ attention as being a great place to open their cellar door.
Winemaker Justin Ardill fell in love with the beautiful town of Mintaro at a young age. Inspired by early years spent with his parents stopping in Mintaro for wine tasting, Justin admits that in his university days in the 80s, he would also often end up in Mintaro. Justin shares, ‘I would come to Clare because of the area’s beauty, and Mintaro always had a magical feel which is quite unique, there’s so much to love about the town.’
Although he studied medicine, Justin’s passion for winemaking led to he and his wife Julie purchasing a twelve acre vineyard in Watervale in 1993. This was followed soon after by their purchase of Reillys cottage in the main street of Mintaro. Seven years onward, in 2000, their estate grown wine production outgrew Reillys cottage. Hence they expanded by purchasing vineyards at Leasingham (adjacent to Mintaro) together with some state of the art winemaking equipment. Julie and Justin produce premium wine with minimal intervention, which extracts maximum flavour from the grapes, and tell me their restaurant at Reillys is all about matching the food to the wine. Justin states, ‘It’s a wine focused experience where the food complements the wine’, as opposed to the more usual way of creating a menu where wines are selected to match the food.
Reillys cottage is charming, rustic and elegant. With an intimate feel, the restaurant pays homage to its history, with a few fascinating black and white photographs of earlier years adorning the walls. Julie says their restaurant menu is very much about, ‘keeping it simple and doing it well’, a formula that has proven to work for them since lockdown. They use local produce as much as possible, except for their seafood which is picked up fresh each week from a trawler in Port Adelaide. ‘Seafood works so well with Riesling, and we have a big Riesling focus’, Justin adds.
Julie and Justin comment that the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb is a great opportunity to link with good friends, John and Pam Mitchell, who are supplying Reillys with their Mintaro lamb for the degustation. Annette Brown, their chef of six years and originally from Leeds, Yorkshire in the UK, tells me she enjoys slow cooking lamb shoulder and lamb shanks in red wine – and for last year’s lamb festival she cooked dukkah crusted lamb racks. Chef Annette further shares her love of working at Reillys. Annette explains, ‘I’m not restricted. I’m given a free range to buy the best ingredients and create a menu that makes the wine shine.’ And that’s exactly what the night brings with our degustation experience – a wonderful menu which showcases Reillys beautiful, handcrafted wines.
Our degustation commences with handmade lamb and feta sausages with house made sour dough, marinated olives and one of the best dukkahs I’ve experienced. It’s a blend they make in-house, accompanied with Mintaro extra virgin olive oil. Our first course is enjoyed with a crisp 2021 Sparkling Riesling and a silky smooth 2015 Sparkling Shiraz.
Guests are spoiled with two Reillys Watervale Riesling vintages, a 2021 and an aged 2012 museum release. They are both divine, and it’s wonderful to enjoy them side by side and appreciate the difference in colour and taste that a decade of ageing brings.
Our second course, a Seafood Plate, is divine and thoughtfully balanced. Fresh Coffin Bay oysters include one with lamb bacon – and only one, which was perfect – the dish would have been too rich with more. A large, fresh prawn with a fillet of beer battered St. Vincent garfish completed our sublime seafood plate.
Chef Annette busily prepares our third course of a 6-hour slow cooked Mintaro Lamb Shoulder with a warm, organic, vegetable couscous salad. The lamb is tender and full of flavour – it’s a wholesome, hearty dish with a base of couscous and vibrant coloured vegetables, which tastes and looks like an expression of spring on the plate. Reillys 2014 the Dancer Cabernet and 2006 Dry Land Cabernet are cleverly showcased with the lamb. As Justin mentioned to me earlier, ‘Lamb is a great match for Cabernet’.
Our fourth course of Shared Cheese is a celebration of sheep’s milk cheese, and consists of an aged Manchego and a Pecorino (I adore sheep’s milk cheese, so I’m in heaven by this stage). A gorgeous, house made apricot almond paste and fresh strawberries add to our cheese joy. Reillys lifts our wine tasting to another level with the next two wines. The first, a limited release 2016 The Epitaph Shiraz, made with grapes from vines over 90 years old. This is a truly special wine inspired by Justin’s late father David Ardill, ‘Epitaph is your final word’.
The second wine with our cheese is a 2012 Dry Land Shiraz, and is elegantly rich and silky smooth. Reillys premium wines are made using minimal intervention to ensure maximum flavour from the vines, and ‘Dry Land’ refers to the vines being exposed only to natural rainwater, which results in a more concentrated flavour from the grapes. This wine is truly exceptional, and the sheep cheese is a perfect match.
The ambience in Reillys is uplifted not only by owners Julie and Justin and their attentive team, but also by the guests. It’s lovely to see people coming together to celebrate the festival. Our diverse group of diners includes members of the community, producers, and visitors, all being welcomed alike to share this special culinary experience.
Chef Annette’s dessert of Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Panna Cotta with a Mintaro Mulberry Compote is a sublime way to finish our degustation. Our panna cotta complements Reillys 2013 Cane Cut Riesling perfectly, and the balance of a dessert that’s not overly sweet highlights Chef Annette’s intelligent cooking.
The night concludes with Mintaro lamb producer John Mitchell, Chef Annette, and Reillys owner Justin, speaking with guests about the menu and the festival. A lively conversation ensues, with Justin agreeing that lamb is a great meat to match wine to. He comments that lamb especially showcases Cabernet and Shiraz varietals, with the sweetness of Grenache also being a good match.
Our Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb degustation included a sensational line up of Reillys Wines. A night to remember, Reillys Wines was an exceptional highlight of my Mintaro experience at this year’s festival. Thank you to Julie and Justin from Reillys Wines and the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb for your hospitality.
Reillys also has accommodation, there are four heritage B&B cottages available. See their website for more information. Reillys ‘Long Lunch’ is the perfect way to experience this highly awarded, unique winery and its regional produce. It’s also fabulous value as the cost is redeemable on purchase of a dozen wines.
Where: Reillys Wines Cellar Door & Restaurant Cnr of Hill Street and Leasingham Road, Mintaro, South Australia
When: 10 am – 4 pm daily, with Reilly’s ‘Long Lunch’ available Friday – Monday
Contact: Bookings: Phone 08 8843 9013 or via Website