Everything is FINO at Seppeltsfield

David Swain and Sharon Romeo of FINO (Photo: grapegrowerandwinemaker.com)

Some believe that one’s destiny is written in the stars. For Sharon Romeo and chef David Swain, owners of FINO Seppeltsfield, it was all in a name.

Before their Seppeltsfield venture, their original Fino restaurant was in Willunga, McLaren Vale, where fine regional food and a snappy wine list of fifty labels put the venue on the map. Award-winning Swain was heralded for his food. And from 2008 to 2010 Romeo’s list was awarded Australia’s Best Small Wine List, after which it entered the Hall of Fame for excellence.

Aside from ‘Fino’ being the catchy name of their acclaimed restaurant, it is also, of course, is a pale, dry sherry made from palomino grapes grown in southern Spain, and matured in a fractional blending system known as a solera under the nurturing cloak of flor yeast. Not normally a beverage associated with McLaren Vale, except when enjoyed as an aperitif by local winemakers and visiting wine lovers.

Fast forward to 2014, when Romeo and Swain were lured to Seppeltsfield, a winery with a fortified legacy spanning centuries. As well as being famous for their Para Tawny, Seppeltsfield produces a stunning collection of wines using a solera system, including DP117, a Dry Flor Apera, initially inspired by the famous dry finos of Spain, but now a local style with its own signature.

The historic Seppeltsfield winery underwent a multimillion-dollar remodelling orchestrated by owner Warren Randall, with the 1890s-bottling hall becoming the location for the restaurant and cellar door.

FINO Seppeltsfield has an elegant simplicity, with its bare oak tables, classic bentwood chairs and unique tableware created by Jam Factory artisans. Swain’s food has deceptive simplicity, with each mouthful delivering a deliberate combination of flavours and textures. The menu is proudly seasonal and regional, facilitated by strong relationships with local providores. The Hiramasa kingfish, lardo, sprouting lentils and chilli oil is an ingenious dish, with freshness and depth, pairing magically with DP117, drawn from the barrel.

Romeo exudes warmth and authenticity thus it is no surprise to learn that she has been the recipient of the South Australian Maître d’/Manager award twice in three years, awarded by the Savour Australia, Restaurant & Catering, Hostplus Awards for Excellence. She also presides over a wine list of small local labels like Spinifex and Cirillo as well as international treats. It is a larger list than at the original Fino, with a few hundred listings, though with the same flair and attention to detail. And, of course, there is a fine listing of sherries and aperas.

On sunny days, request a table on the terrace, complete with the sounds of wind in the palms and laughing kookaburras in the distance. Though be sure to peek at the dining room in the old cellar, with walls made of traditional wax lined fermenters with the Centenary Cellar perched above.

If dining on a Friday, order ahead on +61 8 8562 8528 to secure a loaf of their more-ish house-made sourdough to take home after lunch.

On October 13, the restaurant is holding a special evening in celebration of the great solera styles of Seppeltsfield, where you’ll have the chance to taste the Seppeltsfield Apera straight from the barrel. After a walking tour of the cellars, try some traditional sherry and local apera with a selection of tapas for AUD $60pp. For an extra AUD $30pp stay for dinner (not including drinks over dinner). Limited tickets are available to book here. An early arrival is advised to enjoy the adjoining Jam Factory craft and design studios, shop and gallery.

FINO Seppeltsfield is open for lunch seven days; Monday to Thursday between 12–3pm and Friday to Sunday between 12–3.30pm. Dinner is served Friday and Saturday nights between 6–8.30pm. Bookings, as always, are recommended as it is always lovely to be expected.

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