An easy short drive (just 60 km) from the city centre, the Barossa, with its German heritage and superb terroir - so good the government even passed a “Character Preservation” Act in 2012 to protect the region and keep its wine country character - will reward any casual roadtrip.
Don’t think that the Barossa is just big reds either. Apart from the iconic Shiraz, there are superb Riesling, Semillion, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon wine varieties that keep winning awards and pulling international attention. There are wine festivals, food festivals, and 2017 has been a knockout vintage year for Riesling and Shiraz. Hit the road and head into the vines.
Setting a base that’s comfortable, easy and different, you couldn’t do better than Dairyman’s Cottage. Michael is a generous host, working this dairy and pig farm with a joy and love of the land that’s infectious. It’s centrally set in Lyndoch, where you can explore the wineries and motor back to comfort. The food here is truly paddock to plate. Close by Dairyman’s is the Lou Miranda Winery, where the exceptional Old Vine Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley made from hand-picked grapes from over 100 year old vines, is a great example of Barossa family, heritage and history.
Smack in the centre of the valley, Chateau Tanunda rules over the countryside like a grand dame. Rescued from dilapidation by John Geber in 1998, the restoration has brought this once proud beauty back to life. The tasting hall is incredible, and you’ll be invited to swirl around the grand ballroom, the sunken garden, and possibly hit a croquet ball. But you’re here for the wines, and the Terroirs of the Barossa Greenock Shiraz 2015 demands attention. Though a new Heritage Label, The Old Cooperage Malbec 2015 at $30 beckons. Heck, here, you’re spoilt for choice.
Across the valley in Tanunda, Robert O’Callaghan hails from Barossa wine family royalty, and is an icon in the true sense. Home of the Basket Press Shiraz, the 2013 was a standout and 2014 coming up for release in March is looking the goods. Join his newsletter if you want to keep the memories going as Robert is famous for his wit and ebullience. His wines are only available via cellar door, mailing list and a very few outlets, so if you’re in the area, please don’t miss it.
Head into the valley, and up at Seppeltsfield you’ll need to stop at Hentley Farm. The ideal terroir here of red clay loam, limestone and rocky slopes produces amazing single estate wines that read like a must drink list for the Barossa. The Quintessential Barossa Valley Shiraz Cabernet 2015, matured in French Oak with blackberry and plum topped with cassis and herb notes is a must try, as is The Beast 2015 Barossa Valley Shiraz, and 2016 The Beauty Barossa Valley Shiraz. And then, there’s “The Restaurant” with a fine dining degustation menu set in an 1880s stables. Ahh, Barossa.
Along the Seppeltsfield road, while you’re in the Nuriootpa area, Maggie Beer, beloved tv cook and celebrity, runs a farm shop on her Pheasant Farm where you can lunch, watch the geese and peacocks, taste the paddock to plate products and of course her Beer Brothers and Pheasant Farm Wines. The Pheasant Farm Rose, 2017 at $25 or her Sparkling Ruby Cabernet might just hit the spot and provide some welcome relief from all the Barossa giant reds. Pick up some picnic basket provisions while you’re here – her pâté is to die for.
A young wine company with an energy and vibrance that permeates their wine, the meeting in Beaujolais and ensuing partnership of Brian Conway and Craig Isbel was fortuitous. Check their cellar door times before you go, but a visit here to taste their small batch boutique wines will reward you. They stick to organic growing, solar energy, and the focus is on red table wines, sometimes with unusual grape varieties. It’s a young philisophy with a mature product. The 2016 Izway Mates Aglianico Mataro is a cracker, and at $25? What’s not to like?
A truly magnificent historic winery, that’s been family run since 1849, on the far side of the valley in Angaston, the Yalumba cellar door drips history and style. The home of the ‘big red’ the Hill-Smiths take their curatorship of this vast operation seriously. The wine room is glorious, the gardens worth a stroll, and the vintages? Well, serious study would take a lifetime, and the Y series command strong prices, but there are also some standout value for money options: and one is a French white – Samuel’s Garden Collection Eden Valley Roussanne 2015 has the fruit you would expect, but woodsy spicey tones to balance. And at $24 it’s a bargain.
Further along the Barossa loop, in Marananga, Torbreck, now owned by Californian vintner Pete Kight, produces prestigious reds recognisable by their label category. The Laird is always a single vineyard Shiraz, Descendant a Shiraz/Viognier cofermented, and so on. At the moment? If you’re looking to cellar, the Run Rig 2014 Shiraz will reward and hold, with spice and deep plummy flavours. But at $255, it’s not cheap.
Another small single vineyard wine company that you won’t find in many guidebooks, Travis Earth O’Callaghan comes from generations of winemakers and has made his stand – working with nature, the region, and the passion. Hand crafted Australian wine doesn’t get much better than this, his 2013 Krondorf Mataro Shiraz at $37 is a standout and if he has some coming up, his Semillon Viognier blend is all that it should be – from soft oak to the slight honey at the finish. Just check his cellar door opening times as well – he’s small, but deserves a visit.
History, premium fortifieds, supreme table wines and terroir will roll around in the brain as you drive through rows of towering date palms to enter the grand statement that is Seppeltsfield. Seppeltsfield Road is known locally as “Palm Avenue” and well named. Warren Randall takes his commitment to the property seriously, with renewed vigour in developing still wines and extending the reach of his fortifieds. The 100 year old Para Liqueur 1917 has a rating of 100 and at $700 for 100 ml takes that spicy, fruity Christmas pudding mouth feel to a whole other level. The Para Tawny 1996 at $88 is still a massive high flyer, but if you yearn for a red, the Barossa Grenache 2017 is a bargain and delivers all the dark fruity goodness you’d expect from the hallowed halls.