September 27, 2023
Wine & Dine

A fine dining favourite in Adelaide’s south re-opens as Varney Wines Tasting Room

Nine months since closing their awarded fine dining restaurant Victor’s Place amid major roadworks, winemaker Alan Varney and his wife Kathrin Dressler have reopened their Port Noarlunga winery and rustic stone barn as a dedicated tasting room for Varney Wines.

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The husband-and-wife duo closed Victor’s Place restaurant at the end of 2022, saying they were unable to continue trading amid the disruption of the state government’s $685 million duplication of Victor Harbor Road.

Located at the gateway to McLaren Vale, the restaurant had been awarded two chef hats by the Australian Good Food Guide, while Alan’s boutique on-site winery was named Halliday’s Best New Winery of the Year in 2021.

This week, Alan and Kathrin have re-opened the doors to their historic limestone shearing shed as a dedicated tasting room for Varney Wines.

Although there isn’t any food on offer – aside from the odd function here and there – it’s now Alan’s boutique wines that do the talking.

“The last few months have given us a chance to sit back and think things through – refocus on what we’re really passionate about,” says Alan.

“We concluded that the wines deserve and demand our full attention.

“A cellar door can mean so many things these days, so we have decided to call it a tasting room to be clear about what the offering is – a showcase of our wines.

“When you come into Varney Wines, you’ll be served by one of us. We’re looking forward to providing that grounded, intimate experience.”

Guests are likely to be greeted by Kathrin, a school teacher from Germany who has worked in the Fleurieu wine industry for many years.

From the verandah and tasting room, visitors can spot Alan going about his winemaking duties in his modern winery next door.

Alan Varney examines a Mclaren Vale grenache at Varney Wines at Port Noarlunga. Photograph: Ben Kelly.

Although he laments the fact that his restaurant became “collateral damage” as part of the roadworks, Alan says the silver lining has been the opportunity to improve the landscaping and a safer entry from Victor Harbor Road.

“The [duplication] project had to happen and the road really needed work – it was very unsafe,” says Alan.

“We’ve been able to create a nicer property than what we started with, and with a safer and more prominent entry with a turning lane from the McLaren Vale direction, which will be a major improvement. That was a win.”

Alan founded Varney Wines in 2015, having previously made wine for d’Arenberg for 11 years. It was during his time with d’Arenberg that he built connections with many of the region’s growers.

Alan and Kathrin began planning to establish their own winery and tasting room and serendipitously discovered an old stone shearing shed for sale.

“It was this dilapidated old 1870s limestone shearing shed with a roof that was caved in, a dirt floor, no services, no power, no water, no sewerage, nothing,” says Alan.

“I often drove past and thought it would be the perfect place for a little cellar door. It was just waiting for somebody with the right vision to come along.”

The couple extensively restored and insulated the stone barn and built a modern winery facility alongside, all with sustainability as a focus.

Varney Wines was awarded Best Grenache Predominant Blend at the 2022 McLaren Vale Wine Show, while the GSM has received rave reviews from critics.

Alan says his connection with growers has been the key to the brand’s success so far.

“It’s a bit like being a chef, if you don’t have access to amazing ingredients, you’ll never produce amazing food. And winemakers are the same. Wines are made in the vineyard,” he says.

Alan’s modern and approachable winemaking style comes from working many vintages in McLaren Vale but also in Portugal and California and even at an urban winery in New York.

Varney Wines’ entry-level Entrada range starts from $27 a bottle, with the name and style inspired by Alan’s time working vintages in Entradas, Portugal.

“I’ve worked in wineries that produce 5000 tonnes per year, but Varney Wines is a very limited production. The maximum we’ve done here is 40 tonnes,” he says.

“It’s very hands-on. I don’t have any assistant winemakers or cellar hands. The beauty of that is if I find a really impressive barrel in the winery, I’ll hand-bottle 60 or 70 bottles and hand-write some of our blank labels.”

Having previously enjoyed running the former restaurant’s front of house, Kathrin is excited to see guests return to the tasting room.

“It has been a little bit empty here the last six months so I’m really looking forward to seeing the little barn filled with guests again,” she says.


Varney Wines is located at 62 Victor Harbor Road, Old Noarlunga, open 10am to 4pm, Friday through Sunday and some public holidays.

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