Monday, 30 September 2013

Big rich reds and warm hospitality in the Barossa

The Barossa Valley is one of the best-known wine regions in the world, rated up there with Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley in terms of high-quality wine tourism.

Home to globally-known wine producers like Penfolds, Henschke, Yalumba and Jacob’s Creek, the Barossa has been named on the New York Times’ list of “must-see” destinations in Australia – and is just a short drive north of Adelaide.

Schild Estate vines
The entire Barossa region, which also takes in the cooler Eden Valley, is a gourmet’s delight with its superb wines, food and German heritage – and while it is a popular destination it remains a friendly one.

The Barossa is synonymous with big, gutsy red wines of style and substance, usually made from shiraz and grenache, while the Eden Valley is best known for stellar, long-lived rieslings. 

Some of the grape vines here are among the oldest surviving anywhere - many of them planted several years before Abraham Lincoln began his political career.

The Barossa was established in the 1800s by German-speaking families fleeing trouble-torn central Europe. A successful commercial wine industry was established by the late 1800s - Penfolds was founded in 1844; as visitors are reminded by a large sign as they enter the valley, and many of today’s winemakers can track their heritage back six generations.

That heritage can be seen in the several small towns that make up the Barossa region; Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Greenock, Angaston and Lyndoch are among the more prominent. In many of them, the region’s German roots are underlined by the bakeries and sausage shops, as well as in the names of many of the wine producers; Glaetzer, Schulz, Kalleske, Lehmann, Kaesler, Tscharke, Teusner and Schwarz among them.

While history lives on there is plenty of new tourism infrastructure to meet the demands of the growing numbers of tourists from around the world. the Butcher, Baker, Winemaker Trail guides visitors to stops including the Lyndoch Lavender Farm and Café, Maggie Beer's Farm Shop and the Barossa Valley Cheese Company.

Leading wineries include Penfolds, Hardy’s, Wolf Blass, Yalumba, Jacob’s Creek, St Hallett, Peter Lehmann and Grant Burge along with smaller, boutique producers like Elderton, Turkey Flat, Charles Melton, Schild Estate and Torbreck.


Among the cellar doors that should be on any wine lover's list is Artisans of Barossa (above); a co-op tasting facility shared by some of the region’s most talented winemakers, many of whom have not previously had a tasting/sales outlet. The Artisans of Barossa are Hobbs, John Duval, Massena, Schwarz Wine Company, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Teusner and leading regional chef Mark McNamara is behind the food offerings. There are also several art installations.

Penfolds winery and cellar door at Nuriootpa allows guests to put on white coats and enter the Winemakers' Laboratory where they can blend a wine from grenache, shiraz and mourvedre grapes. The wine is then bottled for them to take home with their name on the label as assistant winemaker.

Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre demonstration vineyard at Rowland Flat features rows of several different grape varieties and it is fascinating to see their similarities and differences. Inside, enjoy a casual or structured wine tasting or participate in a sensory workshop, learn more about the history of Jacob’s Creek in an interpretative gallery or lunch at Jacob’s Restaurant (below).

Seppeltsfield Estate at Marananga is one of the region’s iconic wineries with a collection of fortified wines dating back to 1878. There is a collection of historic buildings and immaculately tended gardens here and the team from much-vaunted restaurant Fino at Willunga in McLaren Vale is soon to open on site. In the meantime, local produce platters are on offer.

The Peter Lehmann cellar door is set in lovely grounds on the banks of the Para River. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful and local produce platters can be enjoyed on the veranda.
Pindarie, where an old stone farm shed has been beautifully restored, was recently named best regional cellar door and is set on a working farm. 

Also try wines from Charles Melton, Elderton, Grant Burge @ Krondorf, Henschke, Langmeil, Irvine, Chateau Tanunda, Yelland and Papps, Murray Street Vineyard, Schild Estate, St Hallett, Sorby Adams, Rockford, Tscharke’s Place, Two Hands, Kellermeister, Yalumba Wine Room, TeAro Estate Tasting Room, Thorne Clarke, Rugabellus and Rolf Binder @ Veritas Winery.        

There are several good eateries in the Barossa, the best of which is probably
Appellation, part of the luxury The Louise complex and is regarded as one of the best regional restaurants in Australia. New head chef Ryan Edwards uses local produce when possible and the wine list has been named as the best in the state. 

The Pan-Asian eatery FermentAsian is a big favourite with local winemakers with Vietnamese-born chef Tuio Do serving delicious dishes like Saigon sugar-cane prawns with peanut dipping sauce.

The boutique Hentley Farm cellar door restaurant offers two set menus for lunch Thursday-Sunday and Saturday for dinner. Both change regularly to reflect what fresh produce is available locally. Chef Lachlan Colwill made his name at Adelaide institution The Manse. 

Taste Eden Valley, Jacob’s Restaurant, Salters at Saltram, Maggie Beer Farm Shop, Roaring 40s Cafe, Vintners Bar and Grill, 1918 Bistro and Grill, Cafe Y at Chateau Yaldara, Lyndoch Hill, Wanera Wine Bar, The Clubhouse, Two Fat Indians are all good options..  

When it comes to accommodation, The Louise (right), overlooking the vines at Seppeltsfield, is one of Australia’s most luxurious vineyard retreats. The resort has 15 suites designed to appeal to lovers of fine food and wine. Rooms feature king beds with crisp linen and soft contemporary furnishings, in-room fireplaces, large dual spa tubs, private outdoor showers, LCD digital flat screen TV/DVDs and marble en suite bathrooms, heated flooring, and intimate seating areas and terraces overlooking the vineyards. 

Kingsford Homestead is a new luxury all-inclusive country retreat on the edge of the Barossa that was once the home of TV program McLeod's Daughters – when it was known as Drover’s Run. It is now a delightful rural getaway with top-notch service and peaceful country ambience. 

Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage is a beautifully appointed heritage cottage in the heart of the Barossa vines. Owners Peter Milhinch and Sharyn Rogers make their own wines and the cottage has an appealing rustic chic ambience. There are also modern luxuries on hand, including a Bose entertainment system, iPod docking station and espresso machine. It even has its own wine cellar. It pays to book well in advance here. From $490 a night.
The Kirche, part of the Charles Melton Wines complex, features vineyard accommodation in the original Krondorf village church, which dates back 145 years. The former Lutheran Church (Kirche is German for church) has been transformed into a stylish two-bedroom retreat. From $370 per night.
Novotel Barossa Valley Resort offers some of the most affordable accommodation in the region and has 140 recently refurbished rooms with deluxe queen or king beds, iPod docking stations, LCD TVs and balconies with views across the valley. Other resort facilities include a swimming pool and barbeque area and outdoor pool table. From $179.

If you enjoy festivals, the Barossa Vintage Festival runs from late March to early April, while the annual Barossa Gourmet Weekend is held each August. Gourmets will also enjoy the slow-paced Barossa Farmers’ Markets from 7.30-11.30am each Saturday morning at Angaston.

The Barossa Visitor Centre is at 66-68 Murray Street, Tanunda. (08) 8563 0600. See www.barossa.com

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