On The Move: A Day in the Barossa Valley
In late March I found myself in Adelaide for a couple of days and decided to take a little time out to enjoy one of the oldest, and most recognised wine regions in Australia. So I grabbed a car headed for the Barossa Valley.
I have been coming to the Barossa for many years. My first visit was back in 1992 and I have seen so much change over those years – from all the agriculture, to the wine industry which has been through a boom and a bust. Being one of Australia’s epicentres for wines, the Barossa did not avoid the roller coaster ride of the last ten years, but what keeps it going is that its consistently honest and true to itself and its heritage. German (Prussian Silesia) immigrants where the first to plant vines in the 1840s, and this heritage is never too far away when you start to explore the Barossa.
Licking my lips, I decided to spend a day exploring both the old and new personalities of the Barossa, and I quickly discovered the ‘new kids on the block’ have embraced the heritage in their passion for old school wine making techniques and vineyard care.
Located 60km from Adelaide, the Barossa is in a prime location for a day trip filled with wine tasting and delicious food. Here are a few of my personal recommendations for some of the best wineries and restaurants in the Barossa Valley – places that truly capture the old and new of the region.
Starting Point: Bethany Wines
Where better to begin your day than at one of the Barossa’s oldest and most celebrated treasures, Bethany Wines. Started by the Schrapel family, this 38-hectare property has been around for over 150 years. Located on a hill overlooking the town of Bethany, the Schrapel family have been here for six generations, and I had the pleasure of getting to know Geoff Schrapel, the Head Wine Maker, and his daughter Tanya, who manages the sales and marketing for Bethany Wines.
What I love about their wines is their personality. There is an amazing sense of history behind the wines the Schrapel family produce and as one of the staples of the Barossa Valley, it is a tried-and-true winery that does not try to be anything it is not. The duty of care that Geoff puts into the vineyards including handpicking and hand pruning the vines has led to this old vineyard maintaining its health and stability, something which is reflected in the balance of the wine.
Across the whole range of wines I was pleasantly surprised by their relative elegance. Given this is the Barossa, known for its power, Bethany’s wines have real signature style and grace.
Notably the Old Vine Grenache which comes from vineyards more than 80 years old, yet the wine had a seductive prettiness to it. The LE Shiraz and Cabernet follows with similar style, weight, and balance. Recently, Bethany Wines has also started to earn a good reputation for its Eden Valley Riesling.
This winery is not a flashy, over-the-top experience, but one immersed in history and the vibe of the area, and is an ideal place to start your day.
Lunch: Artisans of Barossa
After the delights of Bethany, I strongly urge you to visit Artisans of Barossa, which shows a side to the region you didn’t know existed. The Barossa has many established wine brands, but recently it has seen the rise of the ‘new kids’. A band of innovative, smaller winemakers producing esoteric wines. Six of these smaller winemakers, determined to protect and promote the heritage of the region through traditional techniques of small batch, sub-regional winemaking, formed Artisans of Barossa. This is must for keen wine tasters as you get a chance to discover hidden gems of the region.
Each winemaker has a different winemaking style, done deliberately to represent the breadth and diversity of the Barossa. Their wine tasting rooms and restaurant are located on the outskirts of Tanunda, and I must stress, it is very easy to lose track of time here with such a wide variety of wines to choose from.
Once you have selected your wine of choice, head on over to the Harvest Kitchen for lunch – a beautiful restaurant designed around the different seasons of the Barossa Valley, but also around many of the wines available in the tasting room. I indulged in the ‘Fed Me’ lunch, where they roll out course after course of extremely delicious local food. Someone had to, right?
For the energetic, you can walk off the food with a scenic trek down the Bethany to Angaston trail, and take in the incredible view of the Valley and explore the place where many of the wines you’ve just tried have come from.
Afternoon: Tomfoolery Wines
It is so temping to roll out onto the lawns of the Harvest Kitchen and have yourself an afternoon nap, but fear not, the next winery stop is a only a short drive away.
Tomfoolery Wines, located in the nearby region of Light Pass, is a cracking wine experience. You will need make an appointment to taste here, so call the day before. Established in 2003 by best mates Ben Chipman and Toby Yap, Tomfoolery Wines is young, funky and one of the most down-to-earth wineries in the region. Their philosophy is simple: they aim to nurture the beauty the vineyard presents them – a very low input winemaking philosophy where the wine responds, and the results are stunning. The wine is balanced and classic in nature, but will stand the test of time if patiently stored. This no-nonsense approach to making world-class wine is typical of Ben and Toby. They are both great blokes and true characters.
All their wines are worthy of note, but for me, the standouts are the 2016 Burla Negra Tempranillo, 2015 Black & Blue Shiraz and the amazingly textural 2015 Monkey Business Cabernet Franc. Be quick though as they sell out every year. They have recently been awarded a five star rating by the James Halliday Australian Wine Competition, so be sure to visit this up-and-coming winery.
To Finish Off: Charles Melton & Rockford
Before heading home, there are two more wineries right next door to each other in Tanunda that are ideal for completing a day in the Barossa. The first is Charles Melton Wines, which has been in the region since 1984 and specialises in producing premium red wines, especially Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. Charlie and Virginia Melton are salt of the earth hosts, so generous and passionate. Their most famous wine is their 2013 Nine Popes, which has an elegantly defined palate of cedar oak, softly sweet Grenache perfumes, Shiraz liquorice spice and cinnamon Mataro.
You can loose yourself in their wines as you sit back on the veranda of the tasting room and enjoy the afternoon sun. There are also open for meals over the weekends – I highly recommended.
Back down the road from Melton is one of my favourite vineyards in Australia, Rockford Wines. This is the perfect place to end your day. Purchased in 1971 by Robert O’Callaghan, a third generation winemaker, I love Rockford for similar reasons that I love Bethany Wines, it has never tried to be anything except Rockford. It’s wines are crafted by hand with traditional methods, attitudes and equipment, with the aim of producing an elegant wine with a rich, earthy soft taste that gets better with age.
Very hard to get hold of is the Basket Press Shiraz, but this iconic Australian wine is worth the price tag. It represents the passion and heritage of Barossa winemaking like no other wine. Join their mailing list for updates on when it’s in stock – you won’t regret it.
The Barossa is where you can try old, new, established and up-and-coming wines all in one place, and as a food and wine destination that’s only a short drive from Adelaide, it’s hard to beat.
If you want to stay a little longer…
For those who wish to stay longer than a day in the Barossa, there is a variety of accommodation available. Firstly, I suggest would the Lanzerac Country Estate, located next to many of the vineyards. It’s ideal for a country getaway, with five self-contained suites and award-winning service. For those looking for a more secluded and romantic escape, Stonewall Cottages and Vineyards is a wonderful option for couples, with four cottages located on an expansive 42 hectare property. For dinner, I highly recommend FermentAsian, a beautiful Vietnamese restaurant that since 2010, has developed a immensely popular reputation with locals, winemakers and tourists.
Until next time,
Your Wine Hunter, Jame Gosper.