The perfect, frost-free Mediterranean climate and a sympathetic soil mix made it inevitable that a wine industry would flourish in the Southern Vales, within an hour’s drive of Adelaide. And so it has - built by such families as Reynell and Hardy whose names like their wines have stood the test of time. Every year in October the district celebrates its heritage with the Wine Bushing Festival when the wineries release their new vintages and individual winemakers are honoured. The climate also lends itself to the production of avocados, olives, almonds, stone fruit and berries, but wine remains the essence of the vales. A number of historic homes have been converted into tearooms, galleries and, naturally, restaurants where fine food complements the nectar of the noble grape. Not that the pace-setting winemakers laboured exclusively in the vineyards. Opened in 1857, the region's first hotel, the McLaren Vale was subsequently bought by the patriarch of Hardy's Wines, Thomas, who insisted that his innkeeper always kept a room for him.