“It’s not what you know” is an expression that rang true on my recent family trip to Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills as the Venue Managing German husband was able to organise an amazing visit at the cellar door of Shaw + Smith’s Balhannah estate on only day two of our 8 day sojourn around South Australia. This was only the tip of the iceberg however as day three saw the seven of us (four adults – the niece had been joined by a ‘friend’ who was conveniently also staying in Adelaide and three children) taking a Bums on Seats Barossa wine tour and where “It’s who you know” that really began to play out.
We were the first to be collected by Bums on Seats’ Peter in in the boldly branded mini van but were quickly joined by a mother and daughter from Sydney who were also staying in Henley Beach. Having some ‘time to kill’ before the remaining 6 ‘tourists’ needed to be collected Peter gave us a brief tour of Adelaide using his local knowledge to fill us in on a little bit of the history of the city. Coming from Christchurch, New Zealand I was already aware of the fact that Adelaide is Christchurch’s sister city as Colonel William Light was the man responsible for the grid-pattern layout of both city centres. What I didn’t know was that Colonel Light was buried in one of the central Adelaide parks, marked with a significant monument and that it was his futuristic forethought that accounted for the exceptionally wide city streets. When the Colonel initially proposed the layout for South Australia’s capital he was questioned about the necessity of four and five lane roads during a time of horse drawn carriages. His response was “They may not need it now but they (Adelaide residents) will in 300 years”. The result of his vision is of wide, uncluttered and fast flowing central city roads. If only the Colonel’s influence had extended to the now regularly congested cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
The hour drive to the Barossa Valley vineyards flew by as Peter opening chatted about his German heritage (his great grandfather was an early Barossa Valley settler). Stealing his thunder only a couple of times (I may not have been to the Barossa but I’ve learnt quite a bit about it in the last few years) Peter explained that the land now known as the Barossa Valley was settled in the 1840s by German Lutherans escaping persecution in Europe and that the vine cuttings that they brought with them were initially planted to produce communion wine. It wasn’t until about 60 years later that the Lutheran ministers realised the outstanding quality of their wines and that the now world-renowned Barossa Valley wine industry was born. Peter also quite proudly explained that some of the oldest vines in the world (including the 170 year old Shiraz/Syrah vines which we had the privilege of visiting) are now there due to the 1970s outbreak of phylloxera (a vine disease) that wiped out much of France’s vineyards. (Interesting fact: the rose bushes seen in many vineyards are not there for aesthetic reasons but because the bug that causes phylloxera will attack the roses first giving the viticulturist ‘a heads up’ before the bug diseases the vines).
Langmeil, meaning long mile, was the first stop on our tour. The ladies in the cellar door were more than happy to let us try a multitude of wines including Peter’s favourite the ‘Orlando’. Descriptive black and white photographs on the wall outlined the history of the Orlando Vineyard founded by Johann Gramp at a little place named Jacob’s Creek (now owned by Pernod Ricard who in 1976 made the brand name world famous).
The husband, niece and I were particularly excited about our next stop which was Rockford. Their basket press Shiraz is a wine that most connoisseurs will be familiar with, so much so that there is a three bottle per person limit at the cellar door; it is not unusual for staff to witness groups of friends dividing up money in the car park then taking turns to buy three bottles at a time. It was January and their latest release had already sold out. Fortunately the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was just as delicious so we were able to take a few bottles of that instead. Having a private tasting room within the heritage building accompanied by an intriguing and knowledgable presentation from a highly passionate cellar door employee made the experience at Rockford live up to the anticipation. The amusement factor was further added to when the two British members of our tour discovered both the unique taste of a sparkling Shiraz and the fact that it is affectionately known to locals as the ‘Barossa Berocca’.
The greeting that we received at out third and final cellar door was beyond the normal warm welcome as Tina (Kies Family Wines’ founder’s granddaughter) and the German husband instantly recognised each other (the restaurant that we know well stocks Kies wines, due to the German husband and Tina and her husband Michael are regular guests when they are in Melbourne). In stark contrast to Shaw + Smith’s modern and pristine look or Rockfords 19th century heritage buildings Kies wines Is like stepping into your grandmother’s house; purchasable knick knacks and country kitsch fill every possible space and fortified wine is available in 2 and 5 litre bottles. The familiar feeling didn’t end there though as Tina eagerly recounted some of the fabulous stories associated with her family business. First there was the tale of her late grandfather who, fearful of being caught drink driving, instead flew a small plane everywhere followed by the story behind the name of the 2015 ‘The Dedication’ Shiraz (the same vintage as the 3 year old so we had to buy some) that after the death of said grandfather the family discovered that he had been stashing barrels of wine for himself for years (which is now used as the base for the ‘The Dedication’ wines). The label and background image on the ‘The Suit’ are in honour of Tina’s real estate husband Michael who is regularly witnessed personally tending to the vines in his suit, sleeves rolled up. Being ‘in the know’ again proved prosperous for us as our prearranged lunch at the adjoining Monkey Nut Café (fabulously ‘home made’ and value-for-money steak sandwiches and a ploughman’s ) was complimented by a bottle of Cabernet generously provided by Tina.
While the rest of the tour group visited the date tree lined Seppeltsfeld the children had a run around and an ice cream, supervised by the niece and ‘friend’ the husband and I had a Coopers Ale at the Tanunda Hotel (after a LOT of wine we needed a beer). Speaking of beers, we then regrouped and visited Maggie Beers’ Farm Shop next door to her home and where ‘The Cook and The Chef’ TV series was filmed. Not usually a fan of ‘celebrity chefs’ I couldn’t resist Maggie’s home made horseradish or her quince paste (perfect with cheese and of course more wine). Our tour ended on the driveway of the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre, home to their premium wine brand St Hugo Wines (named in honour of Hugo Gramp, the grandson of Orlando/Jacob’s Creek Johann Gramp) which is lined with an avenue of 40 cork trees, planted by Hugo’s son in the 1970s.
The late afternoon drive back to Adelaide was a mostly quiet one; even us seasoned professionals get tired after a whole day of ‘wine tasting’ and the evening spent at the Air BnB was a relaxing one of mostly nibbly things and of course some newly acquired wines….
To be further continued …..
If you liked Part 2, perhaps have a read of Part 1 here…