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    d'Arenberg Winery

    South Australia: McLaren Vale – a most peculiar winery awaits

    Want to have a drink with Dali? Well, obviously you can’t drink with Dali but you can certainly experience his crazy, wondrous world simply by visiting The d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

    We’ve heard about it. Read about it. And finally got to experience it. And yes, by all accounts, it is an experience!

    When you arrive The d’Arenberg Cube you know you’re in for something that isn’t what you’d expect of a winery.

    For starters, there’s a imposing sculpture that stands opposite another equally imposing sculpture. Both are exceptionally tall and both renown Salvador Dali works.  Flanking either side of the entry are “Space Venus” and “Nobility of Time”. Not ringing a bell? The first is a woman’s torso – no head, no arm, no lower legs. She’s sliced in half. A golden egg rests on the torso’s lower body. Large spiders seem to invade her body. Perplexing to say the least. The second sculpture is one of Dali’s melting clocks held upright by branches.

    They’re both original bronze sculptures on loan from Dali Universe in Switzerland and they’re worth millions!

    So, if you think you have arrived at an ordinary winery destination, you’re mistaken.

    Wander down the designated concrete path lined with grape vines, past a collection of gnarly garden gnomes that appear to have just returned from Woodstock, and through the front door and into another world.

    Have we just fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole?  Take a deep breath and let your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, the odd images and peculiar shapes that assault the senses as your journey from one curious cave to another slowly making your way to stairs that will lead you up multiple levels – each one vastly different to the other.

    Although I don’t want to give too much away and experiencing this crazy place is the wonder of it all, I’m comfortable with providing an overview of what to expect.

    Ground level: this is where all the crazy fun begins – the Alternative Realities Museum which includes a “360-degree experience room”.

    Level One: The Kitchen Gallery showcases artworks “from the mind” of Chester Osborn, the chief winemaker. On this level are the bathrooms – peculiar indeed. Especially the men’s! Crazy open-mouthed caricatures swallow up urinals. The women’s aren’t confronting; they’re pleasantly pretty and whimsical.

    Level Two: Dali at d’Arenberg is the designated stop for art lovers and collectors. There’s serious works on show here…bronze sculptures surpass the million dollar mark. Artworks and bronze sculptures on loan from Dali Universe in Switzerland and works by prominent Australian surrealist painter, Charles Billich, are available for purchase.

    Level Three: Feeling hungry? You’re on the right level. Singapore Circus is a kaleidoscope of colours, crazy objets d’art, a gallery of all sorts of bits and bobs. Singapore Circus is also a fabulous restaurant with panoramic views of the grapevines wrapping around the cube building and countryside beyond. The restaurant’s menu boasts South-East Asian cuisine perfect for a shared dining experience. Even when you ask “check please” it is far from the norm… thanks to Alice in Wonderland.

    Level Four: the top and final floor of the building is where the wine lovers head. It’s the tasting room boasting a 360-degree view over McLaren Vale, the Willunga Hills, and the Gulf of St Vincent. Viewing platforms provide “picture perfect” opportunities. The lift’s entry and exit points are framed with multi-coloured hosing used in the winemaking process. There’s nothing left to chance in this imaginative concoction of décor – everything in this building seems to have been given a second life. Even Dali would be smiling with amusement and delight if he were here to see it all.

    Experience concluded and back on ground level, take a stroll around the estate and find a little quiet time in the nearby grassy area which overlooks the d’Arenberg property. It’s a serene spot you can share with ‘tyre’ sculptures, reflect and contemplate what life may have been through Dali’s eyes.

    Good to know:

    There is a lift that will take you to each level should you prefer not to climb the stairs.

    Make sure you bring your mobile phone as there are QR codes throughout the building which give you entrée to important details about the artworks and such.

    The toilets are located on the first level.

    There is another restaurant in the grounds, not located in the main building. D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant is located in a 19th century homestead less than 50 metres from the cube.

    Where is it and How to get there: McLaren Vale is situated between the Mount Lofty Ranges and Gulf St Vincent beaches. It’s about 45 minutes from Adelaide. The d’Arenberg Cube is 42mins by car from Adelaide. You can also get their by train, bus, or taxi.

    Cost: The website lists the entry cost as $20 pp. This includes a self-guided tour of the Alternate Realities Museum and the art gallery. Not quite sure why we were charged $30 pp? I have also since been told that if you dine at Singapore Circus your entry fee is waived. I have emailed and currently awaiting a response from d’Arenberg. Update will be posted soon.

    For all details on d’Arenberg check out their official website.

    Vicki Montague is a freelance writer with a predilection for travel, European fashion, architecture that oozes history and charm, and objects that tell a story. She and her partner John are empty nesters - their three adult children have left the comforts of home to carve out their own paths in life. Vicki’s professional background is in marketing and public relations.

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