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The team at Watervale Hotel are passionate about fresh local food and Clare Valley produce.
Clare Valley – Our food bowl and wine glass
Watervale is an amazing and unique region to build a paddock to plate culinary experience. Located in the centre of the Clare Valley – one of the most diverse wine appellations in the world – itself surrounded by free range grazing of chickens, sheep and cattle, as well as grain and bean cropping pastural farms. This food-bowl is located between the Spencer and St Vincent Gulfs that provide South Australia its fresh seafood, and the red earth of the Australian outback. Such natural diversity provides access to incredible foraging opportunities to compliment the farmed produce.
The diversity of the Clare Valley and its surrounds is largely due to the seismic activity that occurred 500 million years ago which created the ranges and valleys of the region. This not only lifted the Clare ranges in altitude, but ensured that the geological structure of the soils and rocks in each of the ranges and valleys were completely different. The diversity of terroir is why so many grape varieties can grow well in the Clare Valley.
The high altitude relative to surrounding plains and lack of maritime influence makes the Clare Valley cooler at night than other regions such as the nearby Barossa Valley. Our warm days mean that grapes have ripe rich flavor whilst the cool nights ensure that the grapes retain natural acidity. This combination delivers a powerful yet elegant style of wine that goes so well with food.
What we have discovered at Penobscot Farm is that this large diurnal temperature difference has the same effect on our fruit and vegetables. Citrus is ripe but with sharp acidity, tomatoes similar. I guess it is why the Clare Valley was Adelaide’s preferred market garden and orchard before wine-grape growing became the preferred cash crop.
Clare Valley History and Heritage
The Clare Valley was home to the Ngadjuri first nation for 40,000 years before European settlement. Ngadjuri Country is a rich and diverse region extending from the Barossa Valley in the south to the Southern Flinders Ranges in the north.
The Ngadjuri were seasonal migrators moving food bowls each of their six seasons. They migrated to Watervale each year to give birth to their children. Watervale was chosen as this most important place of Women’s business because of the weather, fertile soils and most importantly the abundance of fresh water springs.
Bush foods foraged by the Ngadjuri are still present across the region and provide a great compliment to food introduced by Europeans.
Warndu are producing wonderful native teas in the region which we serve both as hot beverages and as part of our mocktails.
It should be no surprise that the Clare Valley was a desirable address for the wealthy pastoralists and miners when South Australia was first settled by Europeans. The region was prize sheep country and copper mines. This legacy is there for all to see by visiting Martindale Hall, only 10 minutes from Watervale, the working farm Bungaree Station to the north, and Anlaby Station near Kapunda.
The Clare Valley became the food bowl to feed the burgeoning population of Europeans which reached around 10,000 by 1850, not far short of the 14,000 Europeans living in Adelaide at the same time. Watervale, founded in 1847, was one of the first towns settled north of Adelaide.
Copper being discovered all around the Clare Valley in the 1850’s – Burra to the north east, Kapunda to the south east and Wallaroo, Kadina and Moonta to the west – brought wealth and increased population. Walter Hughes who discovered copper in the copper coast settled at Hughes Park in the Skillogalee Valley. Miners would leave their families in homes in the Clare Valley and work in or manage the mines. Bullock drivers would eat, drink and rest in Watervale, Leasingham or Auburn on their treks between Burra and Port Wakefield. This created a tapestry of stone home villages throughout the Clare Valley, notably Mintaro 10 minutes to the east of Watervale, and Auburn 10 minutes to the south; as well as lovely cottages in the Skillogalee Valley that house cellar doors and restaurants.
No trip to the Clare Valley is complete without visiting Burra which was one of the biggest mining towns in the world in its prime.
The Clare Valley has a European genealogical history quite different to the rest of South Australia. The state was settled largely by British Protestant’s, but with the building of the Sevenhill Monastery by Austrian Jesuits in 1851 the Clare Valley became a preferred settlement for Catholics from Ireland, Poland and other nationalities. Sevenhill Cellars was the first winery in the region, and is still the most visited winery in the Clare Valley.
Springvale Winery which became Quelltaler was the second winery in the region soon after the Jesuits.
We will do out upmost to help you with your visit but the real experts are at our award wining regional visitor information centre. They can help you book accommodation as a first step. Just remember to tell them that you want to build your visit around Watervale!