Coonawarra is smack bang in the middle between Melbourne and Adelaide. The region is one of many from the Limestone Coast Wine Zone in South Australia; giving Coonawarra wineries an intricate maritime influence that cascades personality and flavour.
There are 36 Coonawarra wineries, but Wine Regions Australia has compiled a list of ‘6 Wineries in Coonawarra That Will Tickle Your Fancy’. If you’re travelling to the region, you’ll want to know all about the Coonawarra Wine Trail, and the best Coonawarra wine tours and tastings. There’s no point visiting a region known for its exquisite wine without trying AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – which is why wine tours come with a designated driver…
Let’s look at the top wineries in Coonawarra, but first a few facts and ‘need to knows’ about the region.
The Coonawarra Wine Region
The Coonawarra Wine Region is a symbol of quality. Known for the rich, rusty Terra Rossa soils supported by the ever famous limestone foundations; Coonawarra is a pinnacle for viticulture. The limestone retains water well throughout the dry season, keeping the grapes moist. The red soils hold rich minerals and nutrients that shine through the tannins and complexities in the Coonawarra wines; it’s one of the reasons the Cab Sav is so famous.
Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the market taking up 53 % of the total distribution. The quality and complexities of the Cab Sav grapes also come from the lengthened ripening period due to the ocean winds that blow from the south. The Maritime winds keep the grapes cool, prolonging their vine life and allowing them time to soak up the abundance of nutrients that the Terra Rossa soil holds.
With over 120 years of grape growing experience, winemakers carefully nurture the ancient Terra Rossa soils and spend their time patiently ageing their impeccable wines in their historic cellars. Through their commitment and hard-work, high-quality without compromise, being passed down through generations, has helped shaped Coonawarra into the famous region that it is today.
How to get there
Coonawarra is an easy four and a half-hour drive from Melbourne and a four-hour drive from Adelaide. For those with more time on their hands, we suggest taking the scenic route via the world-renowned Great Ocean Road when travelling from Melbourne. And if you’re venturing to Coonawarra from Adelaide, why not take the scenic route via the Coorong National Park.
Coonawarra has an airstrip available for private flights or book a flight through RossAir Travel. Mt Gambier Airport, is serviced by multiple daily flights by Regional Express Airlines.
By Bus and Train:
Make your way to Coonawarra using bus service, Premier Stateliner. There is a daily service to Penola/Coonawarra via Premier Stateliner Services from Adelaide.
Catch the train from Melbourne to Warrnambool, and then you will be taken by bus through Port Fairy and Portland on to Mt Gambier via the V/Line.
Coonawarra Wine Tours
The best way to navigate the stunning region is by wine tour. You can tick a few more wineries off your list if someone else has to drive! Personally, we don’t see the point of holidaying through a wine region and having to use a spittoon, swallow the darn wine and jump on a Coonawarra wine tour.
Well known as one of the most informative and personal wine tours in Coonawarra, you’ll learn all about the history and taste the region’s premium wines. Coonawarra Experiences will take you behind the scenes to meet with some of the top winemakers! Taste wines that haven’t been released yet as the winemakers take you through the process of creation.
Experience the region’s full potential driving in style with the Private Chauffeur BMW full-day wine tour of Coonawarra. Visit up to 8 wineries with an extravagant lunch at ‘Upstair Restaurant’, and plenty of wine tastings! Custom pick the wineries you want to visit (from the list below if you like) or let your driver surprise you with some crowd pleasers!
The Coonawarra Wine Trail
You can choose to travel along the Coonawarra Wine Trail by tour with the previous companies mentioned, or you can walk the trail and guide yourself! There are six wineries along the route, each equipped with extraordinary experiences. While going to all six might be a bit of overkill, have a go at three of Coonawarra’s best and walk through the countryside all in one day!
When you visit the region, be sure to check out a few Coonawarra wine tasting tours. Most cellar doors will provide a wine tasting because it’s the perfect way to show off how good the wine is! Combine the Coonawarra wine tasting tour with a gourmet lunch overlooking one of the many stunning vineyards, and you’ll be pinching yourself trying to figure if you died and went to heaven on the road trip in.
1. Majella Wines
Majella Wines is a small, family-owned, award-winning Australian winery. Located just six minutes drive from the local town of Penola with excessive notoriety for their Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, Majella Wines should be at the top of your list!
The Lynn family have been residents of the region for the past five generations. In 1968, Brian and Anthony Lynn started planting grapevines on their Coonawarra property that their parents had purchased back in 1960.
The vineyard size kept expanding until it reached 60 hectares. The first vintage was in 1972 and up until 1991, the family were strictly growing grapes, and selling their produce to larger wineries such as Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate.
Today, the winery produces over 25,000 dozen Majella Wines each year. About 55% of the grapes planted at Majella are Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Shiraz and the remaining – Merlot and Riesling.
Explore this winery and learn all about its history in Coonawarra and discover the excellent wines on offer.
4.9 ⭐️ Google Review from 15 reviews
4.5 ⭐️ Trip Advisor from 63 reviews
2. Penley Estate
A winery worth writing home about. Once an empty plot of land is now home to award-winning wine. Back in its early days of 1989, Penley’s Pheonix Cabernet won a gold medal at the Adelaide Wine Show, and it didn’t stop there.
In 1995, an impressive winery was built at Penley Estate. Numerous vineyards were planted both Shiraz and Cabernet and their wine range was increased. Penley Estate is known for producing classic, full-bodied reds.
Penley Estate is a must-visit when in Coonawarra, you’ll find magnificent wines, exceptional service and a great venue. Learn about the history of their winery and Coonawarra itself while tasting their delicious wine.
Include Penley Estate in your wine tour of Coonawarra, and you won’t be disappointed.
4.9⭐️ Google Review from 8 reviews
4.5⭐️ Trip Advisor from 41 reviews
3. Rymill Coonawarra
100% sustainable and 100% estate-grown. The Rymilll Coonawarra’s philosophy is to make wines of finesse, power and balance from pure estate-grown fruit. Rymill Coonawarra is well-known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up over 50% of its vineyards. Thriving in Coonawarra’s unique Terra Rossa soil and cool climate, this winery has handcrafted excellent high-quality wines.
Rymill Coonawarra comprises 150 hectares of sustainably grown vineyards on the unique Terra Rossa soil. Rymill Coonawarra is known for producing excellent wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.
A stunning tree-lined driveway, nestled between luscious vineyards – this is one breath-taking winery you’ll want to add to your list. Set in a gorgeous building, Rymill has an extensive list of unique wines for you to indulge in. The knowledgeable and friendly staff will answer your questions with ease.
4.7⭐️ Google Review from 20 reviews
4.5⭐️ Trip Advisor from 120 reviews
4. Brand’s Laira
The next stop on your Coonawarra wine tour is A hidden gem tucked away in one of Australia’s great world-renowned wine region, Brand’s Laira. The vineyards are situated right in the heart of Coonawarra’s famous ‘Terra Rossa’ region. Brands Laira was one of the regions first wineries, and it’s still going strong today.
Steeped in heritage with a wealth of old vineyards dating back to 1893, Brand’s Laira offers a range of elegant yet richly flavoured premium wines from this distinct region.
Rich in heritage with some old vineyards dating back to 1893, Brand’s Laira offers a wide range of rich, premium wines. Their wines are well known for making an enormous contribution to the Coonawarra red’s reputation. A stunning location with an even better cellar door is what you’ll find when visiting this gem.
4.7⭐️ Google Review from 28 reviews
4.5⭐️ Trip Advisor from 76 reviews
5. Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Wynns Coonawarra Estate, One of the best Coonawarra wineries offered on the Smörgåsbord. Founded in 1891 by John Riddoch, who discovered the red soil’s unlimited potential and began planting vines in 1896. His dream was to create unique wines in a prime region in South Australia. In 1951, the Wynn family bought the winery and Wynns Estate was born. It is now the region’s largest vineyard, owned by Treasury Wine Estates.
Today, Wynns Coonawarra Estate is the region’s largest single vineyard holder, with the longest established vineyard sites in the Coonawarra region. Their wines are famous for being consistent in flavour and having a unique depth of flavour.
In 1954, Wynns Estate first Cabernet was born, the Wynn’s Black Label Cabernet. Today, it is not only one of Australia’s most collected but also one of Australia’s most cellared Cabernets. Some say that Wynns Coonawarra is known as the estate that made Coonawarra ‘famous’.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate is one of the six wineries on the Coonawarra Wine Trail.
4.4⭐️ Google Review from 40 reviews
4.5⭐️ Trip Advisor from 128 reviews
6. Katnook Estate
In 1979, Katnook Estate was born. Winemaker Wayne Stehbens had nearly 40 years of winemaking experience serving impeccable wine to the Coonawarra region. Wayne was known as one of Australia’s longest-serving winemakers before he passed in 2017. In June 2018, winemaker Tim Heath who previously called Cloudy Bay in New Zealand home, took over the senior winemaker’s role. Katnook Estate has an outstanding track record, having won two Jimmy Watson trophies and a double trophy at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2003.
Katnook currently crushes a massive 1,500 tonnes of grapes annually, strictly grown on the estate. They are known for creating complex and intriguing wines, reflecting the uniqueness of Coonawarra in their winemaking approach.
Coonawarra is undoubtedly famous for its divine world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, yet Katnook Estate is also known for producing Shiraz, Merlot and a few impressive white wines.
This winery stands out from the rest; biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, waste management and reducing their carbon footprint are just a few of the numerous sustainable practices that Katnook adopts.
4.5⭐️Google Review from 21 reviews
4.5⭐️ Trip Advisor from 128 reviews
Things to do and places to stay in Coonawarra
Aside from the must-see Coonawarra wineries, there are numerous festivals and events held in the Coonawarra region each year. In April, the ‘Coonawarra After Dark Weekend’ invites visitors to get involved with the bounty grape harvest. Wineries open their doors to visitors to take tours, chat with winemakers and watch the grapes being harvested at the peak of the vintage.
In May, the Penola Arts Festival comes alive, bringing together a fusion of art, literature and the Coonawarra region’s finest wines.
Along with the numerous festivals held each year, the region has a few historical sites for you to visit if it’s a little too early in the morning for a Coonawarra wine tour. Petticoat Lane is located in the historic town of Penola. Petticoat Lane is a quirky, cute cottage with gardens surrounding – discover this cottage and learn all about the history of the family who lived here.
Indulge in the best regional restaurant in South Australia – Pipers. Chef Simon Bowen serves up impeccable culinary experiences matched with the regions finest wines. Eating at Pipers is the perfect way to taste paddock to plate and vine to glass.
If you’re travelling out to Coonawarra, you’ll soon realise how much you long to extend your visit. Georgie’s Cottage located in the town of Penola is a quaint rustic cottage, perfect for couples.
Another great place to reside is the eco-friendly Must @ Coonawarra. This eco-friendly luxury accommodation offers self-contained apartments with spas and other luxury indulgences.
Located in Penola, Menzies Retreat is perfect for larger groups, with multiple bedrooms available. They even have bikes to hire so you can ride to the Coonawarra vineyards!