Museum shops of the Clare Valley

But first, a brief Aussie activist announcement

We are obviously unsurprised yet disappointed and angry that Malcolm Turnbull has refused to denounce the US #MuslimBan, and Scott “remember that time I oversaw the militarisation of Australian Customs and Immigration?” Morrison has claimed credit for inspiring it.

Dismantling Australia’s policies and rhetoric around asylum seekers is a big job with a lot of facets, and it often feels overwhelming — at least to me. But here is something we can do right now:

A thirty-seven year old Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru is in the final weeks of an incredibly dangerous pregnancy, and doctors are pleading for her to be airlifted to an Australian hospital.

Call Peter Dutton’s electorate office on (07) 3205 9977, or the Ministerial office on (02) 6277 7860, or email him at and to ask him to stop faffing around and bring the woman to Australia.

UPDATE 11:54 Tuesday 31 January: Pregnant Nauru asylum seeker in critical condition flown to Australia: Doctor. Hooray!

Back to your regularly scheduled museum adventures…

I visited my father and stepmother in Adelaide the other week, and Dad took me out to visit the Clare Valley wine region. This is quite close to the better-known Barossa, but whereas the Barossa is a land of giant industrial vineyards, the Clare Valley is full of family-owned and boutique wineries.

I visited Martindale Hall, an historic mansion, and Sevenhills Cellars, which isn’t so much a museum with a shop as a shop (well, a cellar door) that happens to have a small museum attached. WORTH IT THOUGH.

Martindale Hall

img_8586If you’ve seen Picnic at Hanging Rock, you’ve seen Martindale Hall — it’s the location used for the boarding school scenes in that movie. It was built in 1879 for a wealthy pastoralist who wanted to create his own corner of England in South Australia, complete with polo courts and a cricket pitch. It’s now preserved — sort of — as a museum.

As a museum, it’s a mixed bag. It’s meant to look as it did in the late 19th century, with furniture and ornaments used by the residents mingling with odds and ends that I can only assume were picked up at a modern thrift store. If, say, you’re wandering around trying to get an idea of what daily life looked like in X decade, you’re in danger of being misled.

On the other hand, you do get to explore corners that we don’t get to see a lot of in the average historical drama — the butler’s pantry, for example, or the servants’ rooms. Sadly, the kitchen was closed off for refurbishment, but the serving hatch was left open for us to gawk through.

And, here and there, there were photographs and information cards about the people who lived in the house. Most interestingly was a nanny, whose room conveyed a certain status — I think maybe it would have been used by a governess after the children got too old for a nanny. There was no biographical detail about this servant, but she’s recorded in a photo: a young Aboriginal woman staring proudly into the camera.

There was also a room containing all the, ummmmm, cultural artefacts collected by a master of the house in his travels around the world. And by “cultural artefacts”, I mean “shit he seems to have outright stolen”, like an Aztec frieze that looked like it had been chiseled out of its home and installed above the fireplace in the library, right above some ancient Egyptian art, a couple of metres away from a pair of Chinese swords and a full set of Samurai armour. Dad ran around getting photographs to use in his undergrad Intro to Colonialism course.

This was all very interesting, but the messiness of the curation really let it down.

Likewise, the shop was tiny. It occupied three shelves and a spinner in the entranceway, and the range was limited.

The entire range:

  • Postcards (which were offered for free at other sites in the area): $5 each
  • A book about the history of the mansion and its estate
  • Floral soaps
  • Little bags of herbs and dried flowers to make your drawers smell nice
  • Floral handkerchiefs
  • Sets of sealing wax and initial seals, which I totally would have bought if they had my initial and weren’t almost $30

Purchased: Nothing (but only because they didn’t have my initial)

Martindale Hall

  • 1 Manoora Road, Mintaro, South Australia
  • Getting there: the Clare Valley is about a ninety-minute/two-hour drive from Adelaide. But once you arrive in the Valley, you can hire bikes and cycle the Reisling Trail, which is now officially on my bucket list
  • Cost of Entry: $12 for adults, $8 for children
  • Accessibility: Totally inaccessible, unfortunately.

Overall score

One sachet of dried flowers out of five.

Sevenhills Cellars

img_8598Sevenhills isn’t just a winery, it’s a Jesuit winery. It was established in 1851 by a pair of Austrian Jesuits who, with a number of families, fled religious persecution in Europe. They established the very first winery in the region — originally to produce sacramental wine, but eventually branching out into table wine.

Now, as museums go, Sevenhills is pretty meh. There are displays of old wine making equipment, some absolutely ginormous barrels, and a video on a loop about the history of the vineyards.

But as an overall historical site, I adored Sevenhills. The cellar itself was open, so you could see the barrels of wine currently aging, and the church — with a crypt! — was lovely, if you’re into that sort of thing. (Which I am. It even had the same Stations of the Cross as my primary school’s church, so it was all delightfully familiar-yet-new.)

Although it was an incredibly hot day, Dad and I put on sunscreen and explored the grounds. There were originally plans to establish a boarding school on the site, but it turned out to be too far away from Adelaide to be viable, so that building is now a retreat, and there are other interesting sites on the grounds — the ruins of a cottage where Saint Mary MacKillop stayed during the period of her excommunication, a gorgeous shrine to the Virgin Mary, and, you know, generally pleasant surrounds.

(We did not see the winery cat, which was very sad, but apparently she likes to sleep underground on hot days.)

As for the shop — like I said, it’s really a shop with a museum attached. And when I said “shop”, I meant “cellar door”. You want wine? They got wine. All local, all vegan, all great. You could also buy local cheese, jam and crispbreads, and a book about the history of the vineyards and the Jesuit settlement. The woman overseeing tastings was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and I’d be quite happy to go back and give her all of my money.


One bottle of sweet red altar wine (which, if you’re curious, is actually a sherry — it needs to survive transport and potentially long storage) — $18

Sevenhills Cellars

  • 111C College Road, Sevenhill, South Australia
  • Getting there: See above re Clare Valley. Sevenhills is actually on the Reisling Trail, which will make cycling much easier…
  • Cost of entry: Free
  • Accessibility: The cellar door and museum are both accessible, even the cellar itself — although the surface of the floor in there is a bit uneven and might be challenging. The church has an accessible entrance, but the one that’s open outside of services is at the top of a flight of stairs, and the crypt is down a narrow staircase. Much of the grounds are inaccessible, although there are smooth paths from the car park to the main buildings.

Overall score:

Three out of five bottles of reisling.