Cruising Through One Of Australia’s Oldest Wine Regions

DRIVEN

Issue 1/June 2013

 

Life in the slow lane… take your time, savour every drop and discover the delights. Words by Tatyana Leonov Photography by Richard Fürhoff.

 

START anywhere. Just over an hour’s drive north of Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine districts. It’s another world out there – a picturesque region where every experience needs to be relished. As you drive into the valley you’ll pass cute sandstone cottages and small villages scattered amongst jawdropping beautiful rolling hills. Depending on what time of year you visit, you’ll be lost in a sea of brilliant greens and dazzling yellows. And with so many experiences on offer – ranging from interactive wine tastings, sitting down to a classic bistro-style meal, to visiting the thriving Barossa Farmers Market early on a Saturday morning, or learning how to make your own pasta (and then eating it… of course) – the way you see the Barossa, will depend on how you decide to approach the destination. Our advice? Take your time to savour everything on offer.

 

DRIVE If coming from Adelaide there are two options. The first is to follow Port Wakefield Road and turn off on the new Northern Expressway. You’ll be there within the hour.

If twists and turns are more your thing (and with the new 208 Allure Sport model they are a huge thrill) take the scenic route up North East Road to Tea Tree Gully. You’ll cruise amidst patchwork vineyards, historic churches and charming villages with stone buildings and cottages. You’ll drive through Williamstown via Little South Para Road, then through to sleepy Lyndoch and historic Tanuda.

There’s really no route to follow once you’re in the heart of the Barossa – your drive will be led by the experiences you want to pursue. Tanuda, then Lyndoch, then Tanuda again, perhaps a cruise to Angaston, then Williamstown. If you haven’t got it yet, you soon will – the Barossa is not an A-B-C kind of driving destination. It could be an A-C-C-B-D, or you could spend a whole day at point A, then drive to D. It’s not a road trip – it’s a journey of discovery.

Take a drive along the Barossa Scenic Drive, the Gawler Self-Drive Tour and the palm tree-lined Seppeltsfield Road, affectionately named Avenue of Hope and Dreams, leading to the winery of the same name, founded by the Seppeltsfield family in the 1850s. Tall palm trees line the majestic street, seemingly out of place, yet so much a part of the district, as you’ll quickly discover. One story about how the palm trees got there suggests that the Seppelt family had workers plant them during the Great Depression, rather than leave them without jobs.

For a panoramic view of the Barossa Valley, head to Mengler Hill Lookout and Sculpture Park. The sculptures are made by artists using local marble and black granite and provide an unique backdrop.

 

EXPERIENCE The wine, particularly the shiraz. The shiraz vines flourish in the warm conditions and it’s the signature variety the Barossa Valley district is globally renowned. But the variety of other wines on offer – riesling, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, mataro, merlot, moscato, viognier, semillon and tawny port are just some of the other options and illustrate the diversity of the region.

Seppeltsfield (seppeltsfield.com.au) is a must-visit winery for everyone. Walk through years of living history in some 24,000 barrels – this is Barossa’s most historic operational winery – the only winery where you can taste 100-year-old wine, as well as wine made in your birth year, which is as special as it sounds.

The tradition of laying down a barrel of the finest wine each year first started in 1878 and is still going today. Book in for a centenary tasting where you take a tour through the historic village, grounds and gardens, walking alongside the longest lineage of single vintage wines in the world – it’s a truly impressive history lesson that ends in a once-in-a-lifetime tasting. Last year Seppletsfield celebrated its sixth perfect score in a row from James Halliday for its ‘Para’ 100-year-old vintage tawny (the 1912 vintage), and we’re sure the 1913 will be just as good.

If you prefer a more interactive modern-day approach to wine tasting (though it’s highly recommended to do both), pop into Penfolds (penfolds.com.au) and make your own! The ‘Make Your Own Blend Experience’ is a fun way to explore wine making, and offers a glimpse into the detailed precision involved in the process. During the hour you formulate your own blend of shiraz, grenache and mourvedre, and the good news is you get three attempts, after which you create your (by then) perfect concoction to take home. Once you start blending the varieties you start changing the structure of the wine, so the experience offers wine lovers the chance to explore their taste palette.

Wolf Blass (wolfblasswines.com) also offer a make your own experience, ‘Blend it like Blass’. It’s also worth visiting the Wolf Blass Visitor Centre just to understand how huge the winemaking industry really is. Designed by Drew Dowie, the centre is a vast, modern blend of indoor and outdoor space.

To experience wine in a truly spectacular setting, pop into the gorgeous grounds that is Hentley Farm (hentleyfarm.com.au). Despite its relative youth (Keith and Alison Hentschke purchased Hentley Farm in 1997 as an old vineyard and mixed farming property), it has quickly stamped its presence in the wine industry. Oh, and two of the wines are named ever so appropriately – The Beauty and The Beast.

Keith explains: “The Beast name came first after we turned some D2 block shiraz grapes into wine in 2003. It was a monster of a wine in terms of appearance; thick and black, but had this soft velvety mouth feel. It was a Beast – like in the fable. The year after we turned some D block shiraz into wine and noticed it had amazing elegance; it was lighter with lifted aromatics, we added a tad of Viognier and it was clearly a Beauty compared with the Beast.”

 

EAT Luscious food paired with award-winning wine – one of life’s simplest, yet most profound pleasures. A Barossa visit is a taste of the good life, and the food, often locally produced or sourced from within a small radius, is just plain tasty. You’ll quickly discover that the Barossa is truly an exquisite dining destination.

The cream of the crop is located at Hentley Farm (hentleyfarm. com.au). The onsite restaurant has been opened for just over a year, but already everyone is talking about it, and that could be thanks to executive chef Lachlan Colwill joining the team after his stint as head chef of the highly-rated The Manse restaurant in Adelaide. Oh… and he’s just 27. In 2009 Lachlan won the national La Chaine des Rotisseurs Chef Competition, went on to represent Australia in the international competition in New York and placed third in the world… so what he does in the kitchen works. Enough said.

The property’s charming old buildings date back to the 1840s and capture the essence of that era and the dining room is no different. The setting is interesting – housed in restored stables – yet unpretentious. Each table is strategically placed so that there’s enough space for you to talk, and yet you don’t feel alone. The degustation journey (there are two degustation options available) is delightful, each mouthful offering something spectacular. It could be delicate puffed tapioca and jasmine rice with pumpkin seeds and mushroom floss, or South Australian squid in smoked leek, linseed and garlic flower broth – whatever you get will be a treat and make up what will be one of the best meals you’ll eat in the country… if not the world.

Another local culinary gem, fermentAsian (fermentasian.com.au), was named as one of the country’s Top 50 restaurants by The Australian in 2012. Vietnamese-born owner Tuoi Do does a fabulous job (with a new baby in tow) on creating tantalising concoctions that are fresh and seasonal. Her partner, Grant Dickson of Rockford Wines, selects the wines to match, and Tuoi’s parents, Bang and Pinh, grow a lot of the vegetables (such as bok choy and snowpeas) and herbs (such as Vietnamese mint and coriander) used in thedishes in their Tanuda garden.

Another place that’s a must-eat destination is 1918 bistro & grill (1918.com.au) and, like with fermentAsian, locals book this place out – so book ahead. The enchanting stone villa was built in 1918 and the interior space features quirky nooks and corners for those looking for an intimate dining experience. Melissa and Christian Fletcher have been heading up 1918 bistro & grill since 2005, and whatever, they are doing it’s bringing the people in. The starter of fresh housemade bread with truffle oil is divine, and the crumbed zucchini flowers come with gooey, melt-in-your moth haloumi cheese, right where it needs to be. Christian says on average they get about 750 customers a week; it’s evident why.

 

DO If you’re into making your own pasta, then eating it (and let’s be honest, who isn’t) then visit Casacarboni (casacarboni.com.au). The Italian cooking school is another newcomer to the thriving Barossa, recently opened by Matteo and Fiona Carboni. Matteo has a background working in restaurants throughout Italy, Europe and Australia, and had a stint as an instructor at the Academia Barilla in Parma; a culinary institution dedicated to Italian gastronomy. His focus is to introduce class attendees to traditional Italian cooking methods. If you book in for a Saturday class, you’ll start at the Barossa Farmers Market (barossafarmersmarket.com).

The markets are where the foodies come to meander their mornings away amongst tastes, smells and textures. Arrive early and join the queue for a country-style bacon and egg roll with coffee for breakfast, then wander around, chat to the farmers and growers, taste the produce – there really is no better way to spend a Saturday morning. Stop in to sample Weich’s Barossa Valley Egg Noodles (wiechs.com.au), Steiny’s traditional Mettwurst (steinys.com.au) and hand-crafted Rehn Bier (rehnbier.com.au). You will also be able to purchase freshly-grown strawberries and homemade ice-cream. Some of the stall holders only sell at the markets so it’s a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the Barossa culture, while indulging in some of the freshest produce around.

Another place to stock up on goods (albeit of the same brand) is to stop in at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop (maggiebeer.com.au). Get there at 2:00pm for an interactive cooking demonstration (no need to book, just turn up), sometimes run by Maggie Beer herself: the cook, writer and founder of Maggie Beer products. At other times it’ll be one of her highly-enthusiastic staff members. Snack on her foodie-friendly picnic fare – think intense pâtés, creamy cheeses, tangy olives, porcini terrine… you won’t go wrong with anything you choose from the bustling providore’s menu.

 

STAY A while if you can. There are plenty of accommodation options in the Barossa Valley. Most are within 10 to 20 minutes driving distance to the majority of the attractions and many come with stunning views – which, lets face it, is part of the magnetism here. Tanuda is where you’ll find a lot of the action, and there are a number of accommodation options smack bang in the centre of town. Tanuda Hotel (tanundahotel.com.au) offers elegant pub-style accommodation in a charming setting. Lyndoch Hill (lyndochhill.com) is a lovely place to stay in Lyndoch. Nestled amongst a rose garden that boasts over 30,000 roses, many of the rooms offer views out to the rose garden, the Barossa Ranges or vineyards. For a private stay, Bellescapes (bellescapes.com) has a number of different cottages you can book, each with their own character and story. And if you’re after luxury and activity options, Novotel Barossa Valley Resort (novotelbarossa.com) has an adjoining 18-hole golf course, heated swimming pool, Endota spa, restaurant, bars and a bunch of outdoor activities on offer.

 

LEAVE With the notion of coming back. A drive through the Barossa Valley can take a day or two, but really there is so much to see it could take a week, or longer, to truly immerse yourself in what the Barossa offers. And each and every character you meet all have their own story – be it the winemaker who will inspire you to start drinking more, the baby-faced chef who whips up the mother-of-all-culinary creations, or the local check-out chick who pulls out a freshly-baked loaf of bread when you walk in the door (yes, the local Lyndoch IGA has a woodfire oven). And somehow you will end up wanting to come back to hear the rest of their story… and perhaps write your own.

 

The writer and photographer travelled courtesy of South Australia Tourism.