Maxwell Wines is a tranquill winery and cellar door located in McLaren Vale. With a unique blend of sophisticated style wrapped in a rustic decor, it’s the kind of place you’d feel as comfortable attending dressed up as you would in a pair of jeans.
Upon arriving, our friendly hostess lead us to a sun drenched table near a far window. It was an incredibly lovely place to sit, watching the wind sweep flower petals across the ground outside in a swirling dance as we waited for our first course to arrive.
As we waited, we enjoyed a glass of their Envious Sparkling NV, which was a delightfully refreshing sparkling wine, with notes of citrus and melon leading into a dry finish.
We weren’t waiting long, as a box of fresh baked scrolls soon landed on our table. Now, normally I am happy to see bread as is. However, the Mushroom Scrolls we ate that day have ruined all other table bread for the rest of my life. Infused with locally grown mushrooms and offered with a cultured butter with fresh thyme, they were deliciously complex.
Lightly crisp on the outside and impossibly fluffy on the inside, each bite floated like a little bread-based cloud in my mouth. An earthiness from the mushrooms grounded the flavours while the salt from the cultured butter elevated everything. Comforting and a little sweet to finish, I was in gluten-full love.
Oh, and when I said local mushrooms, I meant it! They grow them on site. More on that later.
Our next bite came presented on statuesque activated charcoal, with a vegetarian morsel for me and a meat-lovers for Lee.
Crispy Beetroot Tarte
The acidic smell from the beetroot started my mouth watering well before I devoured my bright little tarte. The bitter sweetness from the beets was a delightful pairing to the tomato chutney accompanying it. An added crunch from the tarte shell for a dimension of texture rounded out this beautiful amuse bouche.
Chicken & Chorizo Croquette
Lee’s bite was dry rubbed with a delectable crunch. He notes the smoky chorizo played well off of the sweet tomato chutney accompanying this dish. The only criticism would be in how quickly it disappeared! Although, perhaps this is a compliment after all.
Port Lincoln Mussels with Dill & Granny Smith
I am finding it a great injustice to try to describe this dish simply with words; however, I will do my best. Port Lincoln mussels were delicately nestled amongst ribbons of fresh cucumber, while spoonfuls of a creamy sauce with dill-infused oil connected to small mounds of a transparent Granny Smith jelly. Bright pops of salmon roe precariously sat atop green splashes of garnish, making the whole thing almost too stunning to eat. Almost.
The brilliantly cooked mussels were allowed to shine with their natural flavour, and when married with the creamy, herbaceous sauce were absolutely divine. My favourite part of this dish was the Granny Smith jelly. If I may say so, it was mind blowing. A sweet, tarte surprise I would never have thought to pair with mussels, however, I can now not imagine having them without. Tied together with a burst of salt from the salmon roe, this dish was whimsical.
It was paired with their 2017 Little Demon Verdelho, a vibrant white which was citrus on the nose with flavours of tropical fruits and white pear on the tongue. The dry finish really balanced out all the bold flavours of our Port Lincoln Mussels with Dill & Granny Smith.
In-between our starter and our main, we were brought a palate cleanser. I don’t always write notes about a simple palate cleanser, however, this one was super interesting!
A tomato marshmallow is not something one soon forgets. Dusted with coconut, this mouthful was so very delicate, and tasted exactly of tomato. My brain enjoyed the trick of feeling marshmallow while tasting a savoury tomato, and it did cleanse my palate for the dish to come.
Another small way Maxwell Wines proves they won’t settle for anything other than extraordinary.
Marigold Cod with Crispy Artichokes & Egg Yolk
One thing is for sure, head Chef Fabian knows how to cook absolutely everything to incredible perfection. The Marigold Cod was flaky and melt-in-my-mouth delicious. The skin offered a crispy bite and there was a balance of seasoning to bring it all together. The fish immersion underneath my cod was a delightful addition to each mouthful, along with the occasional swipe of their parsley infused puree. Atop of my cod was a dusting of egg yolk. Yes, a dusting. I have no idea how he created such a yummy thing, except to assume that he is a wizard. Scattered about were sweet and sour slices of pickled onion, which added a beautiful pucker to cut through all the decadent flavours. Along with this, crispy artichoke added a lovely crunch. It was as though Chef Fabian thought of every texture and flavour possible to elevate this dish and somehow made them all dance together in perfect unison.
I am about to make a bold statement; this was one of the best plates of food I’ve ever had.
My dish was paired with a 2016 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. I picked up a lovely note of grapefruit, with aromas of vanilla and peach. I really enjoyed this bright pairing with my dance of flavour from the Marigold Cod with Crispy Artichokes & Egg Yolk.
Nomad Chicken with Lime Cave Mushrooms & Velouté
Lee enjoyed Maxwell Wine’s Nomad Chicken, using fresh chicken breast from South Australia’s Nomad Farms. This is a farm dedicated to the health and wellbeing of their animals, using no parasiticide, hormones or antibiotics. Instead, they rely on a healthy, low-stress environment to raise their chickens. Which in turn means you’re getting the best product possible. Lee described his dish as: “Moist and succulent, wrapped in a golden brown crispy chicken skin. There was an earthiness from the medley of mushrooms, each offering a different texture. Some chewy, some crunchy, some puréed. The fried basil added a lovely crunchy element. The velouté was rich and full of flavour, and brought together all the elements on the plate. This is how chicken breast should always be served!”
Lee’s dish was paired with their Early Drinking Small Batch Fresca, made from Grenache. I took a sneaky sip, as I love a Grenache, and it had a smooth flavour with notes of raspberry. Very yum!
Oh, and did I mention we sampled not one but two desserts? Just wait for it, things get even more indulgent.
Piña Colada with Coconut & Lime
The Piña Colada Sorbet tasted like a frozen Piña Colada. It was bright, refreshing and delightfully tropical. The freeze dried curd was possibly my favourite element, with pieces of coconut chips adding that perfect crunch.
Paired with their Liqueur Mead, which was richly sweet with a wonderful complex of spice. It’s also 20% alcohol, so don’t be like me – sip sparingly! What can I say? It was just too good not to indulge in.
Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Figs & Maxwell Honey Mead
This one really surprised me! Blue cheese isn’t the first thing I think of when considering ice cream. It was so delicious! Biscuity and comforting, with the perfect addition of light blue cheese. The fresh quince and honey mead jelly brought the sweetness and a brandy jam offering the perfect level of maturity. The crum reminded me of my mom’s apple crumble, while the sweet crispy topping dusted with icing sugar added that needed level of texture. If you’re not one to normally order an adventurous dessert like this one, I urge you to try it!
This was paired with their Fortified & Aged Classic Tawny, which gave off the aroma of expensive dark chocolate. The flavour wasn’t too far off from the aroma, offering cloves and cocoa, with a hint of sun dried raisin. Really beautiful alongside the Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Figs & Maxwell Honey Mead.
Next, owner and winemaker Mark Maxwell took us on a tour of his winery, alongside Sophie, one of his four friendly dogs. Mark himself is exceptionally good company, and Sophie was effortlessly charming. Although, I’m sure I’ve made this clear in previous blogs, I am a big sucker for wine dogs!
As we strolled the grounds, it became clear how important cultivating and supporting local is to Mark. They grow as much as they can right there on the winery grounds. The very herbs on your plate were most likely plucked moments before they’re in your mouth. As well, they have their Lime Cave, a cool and romantic… well, cave! Here they grow all types of mushrooms, as well as host exclusive dinners by candlelight. On top of all this, they’ve also created an ecosystem for bees to thrive within, so they are able to support the creation of their honey based mead. However, they’re also simply supporting the ecosystem of everything around them. Another way Maxwell Wines really, truly supports local.
While we enjoyed our fine dining experience, Maxwell Wines also invites their community to relax with a casual, family friendly afternoon on their property.
“Down there is an area for guests to buy and enjoy a bottle of wine, bring their own picnic and let their kids play in our maze.” Mark says, pointing to a covered area with picnic tables.
I can’t express how much of a joy it was to visit Maxwell Wines. With a menu that is frequently updated, I am sincerely looking forward to returning. If visiting Maxwell Wines isn’t already on your culinary bucket list, it’s time to add it.
Words by Jamieson EileenWHERE: 19 Olivers Rd, McLaren Vale