adelaide hills

“People want depth to their experiences,” says Sean Delaney, the former HR manager turned vigneron who with his wife Sue established Sinclair’s Gully, the only eco certified cellar door and vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. “We remember genuine emotional responses to people and places, and so seek these authentic experiences out. Our customers are looking for an experience, not a drink.”


In 1997 the couple purchased the 26-acre property in Norton Summit after many years of searching for their dream bush block. Their love of nature and the environment turned into a passion for restoring and protecting the endangered candlebark woodland on their property. “When you live in a candlebark woodland, and you understand how rare and special these places are, you feel a very strong sense of custodial responsibility to care for it,” the vigneron explains. Over the past 11 years the couple have discovered more than 150 plant species and 66 bird species – many of which are endangered or rare.


As well as protecting the fragile and endangered candlebark eco system, the Delaneys also established a two-acre vineyard on the property. Using sustainable organic land management practices, they ensure the vineyard and the bush land coexist in harmony. Achieving advanced eco certification of their operation – only one of two cellar doors in Australia to receive this accreditation – confirms the boutique winery’s ‘triple bottom line’ commitment to sustainability: economically, environmentally and socially. As Sean Delaney states, “the eco certification was a way to differentiate ourselves as a business that is sustainably managing the natural environment, is an active part of the Hills community, and provides an authentic wilderness experience.”


While the business has a zero waste program and implements biodiversity conservation and biodynamic vineyard practices; the cellar door really comes into its own when it welcomes visitors to enjoy the precious and endangered bush land over a glass of wine. Every Friday evening at dusk (until the end of March), the Delaneys invite visitors to experience the thrill of black cockatoos flying in at sunset – and to listen to the sounds of the gully – while tasting their fine wine and nibbling on regional food platters from local producers. It is a way to discover the Australian bush like never before.


Recognising that spring time in the Australian bush is a very special time of year, the winery combines a guided wild flower walk with a wine tasting of their estate grown wines in the pristine bush land setting. These spring season ‘wine and wild flower tastings’ offer visitors the opportunity to explore and learn about the fauna and flora in this rare and endangered eco system, and the relationships that exist between them. Authenticity as it’s expressed at Sinclair’s Gully means letting visitors experience the natural and human aspects of the gully for themselves.


But it’s not just the couple’s conservation and landcare efforts to admire; but also the quality of the wine itself. Their hand crafted Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines won silver and bronze medals at the Australian Small Wine Makers Show, and the Adelaide Hills Wine Show.

“Our customers relate to what we are doing. They are interested in the place, its history, and the birds and animals that live here. But most of all, they get a friendly insight into us. It’s a very personal first hand experience of meeting the family who is doing their own thing, their own way, on their own patch of land.”


The Adelaide Hills communities are still very rural in nature (though only 20 minutes from the central business district), and as Sean Delaney explains, “the country fire service, landcare, church, sporting groups and local pub are strong cultural threads that tie the Hills community together. In my view, these are weakened – or cease to exist – in a more suburban environment. Our local Hills community is fiercely proud and supportive of us. It’s been amazing and quite humbling to be given such support.”

However, the geographic descriptions of locality miss a key aspect of what makes this cellar door experience unique. As the vigneron emphatically states, “you don’t have to live local to feel the same bond. We have customers who regularly travel from all over the world to Sinclair’s Gully. They share exactly the same bond with the place and our family, as do our geographic locals . . . though they just have further to travel!”


Surprising personal experiences and magnificent scenery are all part of the wine tasting experience – just recall the film Sideways. But finding a cellar door that embodies the ideals of sustainability, authenticity and community . . . well . . . in the words (and actions) of this couple: “the rewards are there for those that show the tenacity.” Plan your trip to Adelaide with Expedia and experience Sinclair’s Gully and the scenery yourself.

This is a new post by David Report contributor Kristina Dryza.

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