Supply and gourmand

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Just a short drive south-east of the capital is an easy-to-navigate trail of gastronomic delights, writes Max Anderson.

The Adelaide Hills are a happy accident of soil, landscape and cool climate - an eyeful of scenery and a basket of premium produce. They're also some 30 minutes' drive from Victoria Square in the heart of Adelaide and lay claim to being the world's closest wine region to any major centre.

Not that the Hills region is a small one. In the past five years, the number of cellar doors has nearly doubled to more than 50 and you can spend days getting lost on long country roads winding through valleys famous for their fruit, dairy and market gardens.

But if you're looking for a quick city escape, Hahndorf and the Onkaparinga Valley deliver a rich taste of what's on offer in the region, laying on a scenic string of villages, food producers, restaurants and cellar doors. Think of the following 35-kilometre route, from Adelaide's central business district to Lobethal, as a road map crossed with a menu of possibilities. Keep in mind some Hills establishments are closed on Mondays. If you need to be sure, phone first.

Bridgewater

Leave CBD for South Eastern Freeway, exit at Bridgewater turnoff - 25 minutes.

This small town is mostly known for the Bridgewater Mill, something of a South Australian signature restaurant that resides in a delightful old stone building set beside a creek. Time your visit for lunch (Thursday to Monday, book ahead) and you may find yourself ensconced happily on the deck listening to the old "Rumbler" waterwheel turning to the waters of Cox Creek.

If not, you can always take to Petaluma's impressive cellar door, housed in the same mill and open all week.

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Across the creek is the 1850s Bridgewater Inn, which has recently completed landscaping of its waterside beer garden (great for children). The inn has appointed a new chef, Gary Rule, who proved himself at the excellent Stirling Hotel.

Verdun

From Bridgewater, head over German Town Hill and under the freeway - five minutes.

Before entering the hamlet of Verdun, you'll pass Maximilian's vineyard with its restaurant perched at the top. This is the place for fine views, pet emus and a definite epicurean time warp, with 1970s dishes variously done au vin, a l'orange and stuffed with camembert.

The nearby Stanley Bridge Tavern combines an atmospheric front bar, a modern light-filled restaurant serving contemporary dishes and a program of visiting musicians. Its wine list features fine drops from across the state.

If you like handmade beers, seek out Grumpy's Brewhaus, serving from a laid-back cottage that also does gourmet wood-oven pizzas. Beware the goat at the rear.

Hahndorf

Heading back towards the freeway, follow the signs to Hahndorf - 10 minutes.

For about 50 years, Hahndorf has been a colourful curiosity, a "German village" that turned on some Bavarian Alpine lederhosen kitsch for visitors. The good news is the town is rediscovering its real history - Lutheran settlers from Prussia (present-day Poland and north-east Germany) who brought farming and artisan skills to the fledgling colony in 1836. Their remarkable story is being told at the newly opened Tourism Information Centre in the lovely Hahndorf Academy, where you can also collect a walking guide to the heritage-listed buildings and a touring map to the Hills' cellar doors.

Part of Hahndorf's reinvention has also focused on premium food and wine, with the same colourful street now aflutter with more than 30 epicurean outlets, restaurants and cafes.

Artisan chocolates are being made at Chocolate @ No.5 (beware the lethal chocolate tiramisu in raspberry coulis), there's fresh smoked salmon at Harris Smokehouse and outlets specialising in German pastries (don't miss the bienenstich) and handmade wurst. Udder Delights Cheese Cellar stocks gourmet cheeses and will also sell you a map and a specially chosen cheese selection if you fancy doing a wine tour of local cellar doors.

Restaurants are also rising to the occasion, with newly opened The Haus serving great, locally sourced dishes in a contemporary, relaxed setting. The White House is likewise focused on local producers (including the superb meats of Richard Gunner) and is known for its intimate ambience in a lovely old settler's cottage.

On Main Street, the welcoming Moody family has opened a new cellar door, where its Somerled wines can be sampled. Across the road is One Planet, which sells its wines in eco-responsible (and rather nice) cartons.

At the back of Hahndorf, you'll find a group of four superb wineries, all offering quintessential Hills experiences (use your cellar-door map).

Hahndorf Hill Winery does weekend platters on its perfectly placed deck. Try the pioneering gruner veltliner white wine (if it's not sold out). Its new and quirky ChocoVino wine and gourmet chocolate tasting is also proving a hit.

Close by are Nepenthe and Shaw + Smith, neither of which should need introductions. Both are beautifully located wineries, with the latter laying on tasting flights.

The Lane Vineyard enjoys equally eye-opening vistas but has garnered plaudits for its fine bistro, with such servings as pork belly with squid and chilli, as well as confit duck with sour cherries. Lunch bookings are recommended, especially if the sun is shining.

Balhannah

Find Ambleside Road - five minutes.

While you're waiting for lunch to digest, pop into The Cedars (hansheysen.com.au), the home and studio of artist Sir Hans Heysen. Even if landscape art is not your thing, the tour of the evocative house and stone studio will have you looking at the Hills in a new light - specifically the light that Heysen was so masterful at capturing. Beautiful, surreal and a touch moving.

Balhannah is home to a couple of roadside stalls selling seasonal fruit and home-made fruit crumbles. It's also the base of celebrated gourmet chocolatier Cocolat. New Red Door Food Store is tres cute.

Oakbank

Join Onkaparinga Valley Road and continue straight to Oakbank - five minutes.

Next door to the famous racecourse (Oakbank hosts the world's largest picnic racing carnival), you'll find the newly opened Johnston Oakbank Cellar Door. Freshly minted from beautiful and historic brewery buildings, it offers white stable areas, a large courtyard (perfect for a summer-day tipple) and the history that comes with being South Australia's oldest family business. Wines by Geoff Johnston and David O'Leary are on offer, as well as Johnston's 14 flavours of cordial.

If you can spare the time, pop into The Oakbank Weaver. Mary Cassini is a famous peace activist who remembers her family home being strafed during World War II; her wool tapestries, on display, are her campaign banners.

Woodside

Continue straight ahead - five minutes.

At Woodside you'll find a collection of antiques shops offering rustic chic (some of them more rustic than chic) but much of it well priced. The Woodside Providore Cafe is relaxed and friendly, while pie and pastry expertise is highly dependable at the Lobethal Bakery.

On the other side of the village, you'll find two outlets in an old cheese factory. Melba's Chocolates is Woodside's answer to Willy Wonka's factory, while at Woodside Cheese Wrights you can snap up sophisticated exotica such as Edith goat's cheese hand-dusted in ash for $5.

Again, there are cellar doors to explore. Bird in Hand is a little off the route but gives good scenery and art, as well as its acclaimed sparkling wines. Barrister's Block farmhouse recently opened in a 19th-century dairy, delivering a terrific rustic feel (don't tread on the chooks) with its equally terrific shiraz.

Lobethal

Continue for five kilometres (turn left at the signposted junction) - five minutes.

Lobethal is an old town nestled at the bottom of deep valleys. The Lobethal Bierhaus, open Friday to Sunday, is a boutique brewery producing all-grain beers, including the gold medal-winning India Pale Ale.

Brewers Alistair Turnbull and Phil Jones are usually around to explain what all the stainless-steel equipment actually does. There's also an all-day menu.

Next door in the Old Woollen Mill building, Tilbrook Estate opens its cellar door at weekends, with cheese platters available. There's also a studio winery housing Scott Winemaking, Robert Johnson Vineyards and Tupelo Vintners.

Time to backtrack to the freeway or, if you're feeling brave, take the long, infinitely winding road home through the Basket Range. You may get lost forever but rest assured, you won't go hungry or thirsty.

FAST FACTS

Staying there

If you want to be in the heart of the Hahndorf action, take a room at The Manna. Fresh, contemporary four-star rooms have everything you need including electronic and flat-screen wizardry. Doubles from $150 a night.

See themanna.com.au.

Hannah's Cottage in Balhannah offers a self-contained B&B retreat.

The stone cottage is set on its own nine hectares with commanding hilltop views from the verandah. Minimum two nights' stay costs $500 a couple including breakfast provisions plus complimentary Adelaide Hills wines, cheese and biscuits. See hannahscottage.com.au.

For another escape combining stone settler cottages with solace and scenery, try Adelaide Hills Country Cottages. The five (very different) cottages are in stunning country near Oakbank. Prices from $260 a night a couple, less for two-night stay. See ahcc.com.au.

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