A novel guide helps you make the most of McLaren Vale, writes Kate Jordan-Moore.
'Annabelle" is a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide with a lovely warm voice and a good feel for geography and gossip.
She makes sure visitors to McLaren Vale wine region experience a range of wineries from small to large, new to old and introduces them to other attractions and features.
And she does all this while perched on the dashboard.
The dash is her natural environment - Annabelle is the tour guide with the new, free Fleurieu Way iPhone app.
The Fleurieu Way is a 235 kilometre loop around the Fleurieu Peninsula, the rich countryside and coast region that begins about 30 minutes south of Adelaide. There's an Adventure Coast Loop and a Food and Wine Loop. Annabelle leads both, thanks to GPS-triggered audio.
There's a detailed map showing the routes, which are dotted with speaker icons and information icons. A tap on a speaker icon and Annabelle gives clear directions and often some background information. A tap on an information icon pulls up a screen about a suggested stop, with a description and contact details.
For the McLaren Vale leg of the food and wine loop, the app gives directions to and commentary on about 30 wineries and attractions. In the town of McLaren Vale, Annabelle recommends Blessed Cheese, the excellent purveyor of all things fromage and where the McLaren Vale Cheese and Wine trail begins. Nearby Artel has works by local artists. As a guide, she really comes into her own when talking about the countryside and allowing a guest to share some local knowledge.
On the approach to Wirra Wirra Winery on McMurtrie Road, winemaker Samantha Connew explains why the winery has a bell-tower and how the ringing of the Angelus Bell has become part of the region's vintage traditions. From Wirra Wirra, Annabelle describes the McMurtrie Mile - seven other good McMurtrie Road neighbours, including Dowie Doole Wines, which shares premises with the legendary restaurant the Salopian Inn; the art gallery and cafe Red Poles; the beautiful Primo Estate cellar door that's also home to the Joseph range of premium wines and olive oils; and Hugh Hamilton Wines, where the cellar door hovers above the vineyards with a magnificent view of the ranges and mesmerising rows of vines.
Willunga is well covered, with the focus on the brilliant local produce of the region, especially at the weekly farmers' market.
Of course, Annabelle doesn't have to stay on the dashboard.
She is a useful planning tool and the audio is available without being in the region or the car - from iTunes or southaustralia.com.