Thursday, 9 August 2012

Wine Tasting in the Barossa

On a fine (but freezing cold) Queen's Birthday weekend (which inconveniently coincided with the weekend I decided to be hit with bronchitis), I took a trip back to South Australia to visit my friends Jody and Mary. It also served the purpose of crossing another thing off my 101 Things list, and of course, a girl needs to treat herself to a weekend away once in a while.

Jody turned out to be locked in to commitments with the in-laws so there was no trip to McLaren Vale for us, though we did fit in a lovely lunch down at Glenelg. I had salt and pepper squid, the sun was shining and we did a wee bit of shopping afterwards. I ended up with this top and this top from Brown Sugar, and we also visited an awesome handbag and accessories shop where I demonstrated my incredible skill for falling in love with the most expensive bag in the place. But at $480 that just wasn't going to happen. Sigh.

After shopping Jody dropped me at my friend Mary's place where I was to stay the next two nights, and I finally met her man Ian. For dinner we made gnocchi from scratch (pretty much using this recipe). The gnocchi was a little gluggy, probably because we skipped the refrigeration step, but was delish nonetheless with its dressing of hot roasted pumpkin, fresh basil wilted in melted butter and blue cheese stirred through. (This combination later inspired a polenta dish which I promise to share with you one day!)

For dessert Mary whipped up some poached pears basically made by pouring a bottle of sticky white wine over peeled pears and baking them for an hour or so (= toffee!) in an enamelled cast iron pot, served with double cream. It probably wouldn't surprise anyone to learn that Mary and I bonded over our mutual love for food and wine! We tried some 30 year old port that Ian had picked up at auction. It wasn't bad considering the cork shattered, but we declared 1982 to be a mighty fine year (no prizes for guessing why). This was actually Ian's birthday so a day visiting wineries was a nice way to celebrate. I also bought Mary a bottle of port from Kellermeister that should cellar fairly well, which we intend to open on her 40th birthday.

We were up in a timely fashion the next day, which began with toasted crumpets at home then a quick stop at Cibo in Prospect for a coffee for the road (hot choc for me!), then we were off to our first stop in Tanunda via the awesome road that I built (cos, yaknow, I built it all myself. And in the unlikely event that you're interested in what a beam lift looks like, there is a time lapse video of it here).

First stop was Grant Burge and we discovered it was their last day of operating at that location (next door to Jacob's Creek) before moving to Krondorf. It's sad because it's such a beautiful place.

I bought three bottles here - a 20 year old Tawny Port, an Age Unknown Liquer Muscat and a bottle of Moscato (this was to become a theme. I guess my tastes are somewhat predictable, and, shall we say, sweet and girly). The taster-man was knowledgable and interesting (and cute!) and we were a little surprised to discover that we were the first through the door that day. Then again, it was the same day as McLaren Vale's Sea and Vines festival, so we probably avoided a lot of the wine tasting crowd - huzzah!

I wish I'd taken a photo from the inside - you'd kill to have it as a kitchen/lounge/dining but that's not gonna happen cos Penfolds bought it during the GFC and will likely use the asset as a more boutique (=expensive) function venue than they already have. But I DO have a few random pics from outside - and note that they are my own work, so if you want to use them then please ask! Note that they are basically straight out of the camera, the only alterations being cropping and compressing.

Grant Burge - from the car park
Grant Burge - out the back
Grant Burge - coming around the back
Grant Burge - getting tricky with focal points!
Grant Burge - the back courtyard

Grant Burge - amazing autumn colours
Grant Burge - a new view of the fountain
Grant Burge - for some reason these pot plants make me think of some sort of desert oasis
Grant Burge (duh, really?) - guess that sign's probably not there anymore
Grant Burge - the offices and cellar door

Such a gorgeous day - and there are still five more wineries plus lunch to go!

Next stop was St Hallett. I continued the trend of the sweeter wines here and bought a bottle of something sweet and a little fizzy (my memory is awesome isn't it) which comes with a pop-top cap, much like an old-fashioned bottle of soft drink. I didn't feel like taking photos so I didn't, but, like the ensuing visits to Rockford and Turkey Flat, that is a point of regret - lots of massive, beautiful red gums, and, in the case of Turkey Flat and Rockford, interesting buildings, fences etc.

At Turkey Flat I bought a Pedro Ximenez, a fortified wine (surprise!), and at Rockford I bought... hmm, I can't remember. Oh well. The good ol' 2008 Alicante Bouchet is long since sold out, though, and the 2011 (or was it 2010 they had on sale?) just doesn't cut the mustard. Boo. But speaking of mustard, I bought an olive/herb tapenade type thing from the adjacent shop whilst I was waiting for the crowds to disperse in the tasting room (which always makes me think of the stable Jesus was born in, but with a counter and lots of wine).

From Turkey Flat we pressed on to Maggie Beer's for lunch, where we ate thick, hot pheasant and chestnut soup as we froze our bottoms off on the deck overlooking the manky duck pond; and a combination of cheeses, mushroom pates and other bits and pieces such as quince paste that came in these gnatty little baskets for around $15 a pop. When you first look at them you feel a little ripped off, but once that feeling passes and you think about how full you are, it's not so bad. We had the soup and shared two baskets between the three of us and we were pretty well satisfied. I'm not sure I entirely buy into the whole Maggie Beer fuss, but it was pleasant enough a meal, and the presentation was quite cute and rustic.
Pheasant and chestnut soup
Goat's cheese, mushroom & verjuice pate, and some sort of barely-based salad yumminess
Camembert, quince paste, caramelised onions, marinated raisins, apple

After Maggie Beer's we took the compulsory trip to Seppeltsfied for Mary to stock up on their raspberry cordial and me to top up on my Grand Tokay. I didn't taste it first - probably should have, even though I've sampled many a previous vintage - but I didn't want to stuff around with the whole paying-for-tastings caper, even if you get reimbursed for it when you purchase something. If it's a bit ordinary I will probably do the poached pear thing with it. Also compulsory was stopping by the side of the road to admire the palm tree avenue. Again, these photos are mine so don't be stealing them!
Seppeltsfield Road - view towards Tanunda
Vines near Seppeltsfield Road
Pretty autumn leaves and palm trees, near Seppeltsfield Road
Palm trees, along Seppeltsfield Road
Palms and vines, along Seppeltsfield Road

Marananga Lutheran church (and that denomination is a total guess but quite likely to be correct in this area... HAH! I'm right! I just Googled it!) on Seppeltsfield Road

Next we continued on to Hentley Farm, which I felt was a bit on the overpriced side, but then, I'm not a big fan of bold red wines. I'm sure if my palate for reds was more sophistcated I would have happily bought something. As it was, I bought a bottle of something less full-on, partly because I realised that they normally charge for tasting but didn't mention it to us.

The second stop but one was Saltram. I was a bit over wine by then, plus my tongue felt like I'd been eating lollies all day (given my penchant for sweet whites, fortifieds and ports, I'm hardly surprised!). And there was just nothing there that jumped out at me, or at anyone else, it would seem. So we hit the road and headed for the last stop of the day - Kellermeister, which apparently means "cellar master" in German, plus is a nod to the founder's mother's maiden name (Keller), but the family isn't German as one might expect. Apparently they are famed for their chocolate port, but to me it tasted like that cheap chocolate syrup cafes sometimes make hot chocolates out of. But I did enjoy theirnon-chocolate drinkies, and accordingly bought a bottle of it.

We made ourselves a little sober-up picnic atop one of these barrels featuring a local salami/bratwurst type thing, some leftovers from lunch and some of my tapenade.

The sun was setting, and it was time to head home. The Barossa is quite beautiful at all times of year, I think, but the oranges and browns were just gorgeous. I can't wait to head back to SA for a visit to McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. Who wants to join me? :)


  1. I want wine! Though I think we have different wine palates... let me know if you plan a wine trip to NZ ;-)

    1. Well actually I have a free return flight to NZ courtesy of Qantas' industrial action, so you can probably expect me over there next year :)

  2. Vanessa - did you know that Australia is on my bucket list of places to visit? You're beautiful photographs only make me want to go even more!

    1. You should come! It's kind of expensive and a long way to fly but it's pretty spectacular. And you have a willing tour guide (any excuse for a road trip!). As for me, I'm finally headed to the States in October for the first time and I'm so excited! I'm seeing a bit of Vegas, plus seeing a friend in Philly and visiting the Big Apple (and maybe Boston if there's time). Squeeee!

  3. Hi there! I found your site from the SITS site. I recently moved to Virginia and we have so many wineries in the area. I am a lover of wine and having a good time touring them. You have some lovely wineries over there in the land of Oz. I have a blog friend who lives in Adelaide! What a small world. I am following you now! Look forward to seeing more about your adventures.

    1. Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by! I just had a look at your yummy poppyseed muffins - they look fantastic :)

      I find that Australian bloggers are the exception rather than the rule, but we're a steadily growing group. I actually lived in Adelaide for two years so definitely small world!


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