Driving from Adelaide, the new highway curves gently and the Barossa Valley’s rolling hills stretch out ahead of us; symmetrical green lines of grape vines march over the hills. The vine yards are bordered by rows of tall, grey green eucalyptus trees. Red roses bloom at the end of each vine trellis by the roadside. The summer sun is burning in a clear blue cloudless sky, casting sharp black shadows across the rolling hills, and a heat haze is starting to blur the distant blue horizons.
Starting our day at Barossa, we first visit the Artisans of Barossa (https://www.artisansofbarossa.com/ ). Artisans of Barossa is a cellar door which is made up of five separate, small boutique wineries and the tasting room is in the town is in Tanunda, a larger town in the Barossa Valley. At Artisan’s, we can try a wide range of reds without moving from the tasting room in Tanunda. Mark gives me a taste of his current favorite, Sons of Eden. Knowing that our 10 year son (Toby) gets bored of the tastings easily, we walk down the main street and head towards the best coffee in Tanunda, at Darlings Café – Food with Passion – the coffee is smooth and the breakfast pastries are fresh and buttery. Knowing that Darlings is really a morning and lunch café (open at 6am and shut at 3:00pm).
Rockfords Winery https://www.rockfordwines.com.au/ is a very small, very pretty winery which makes two of my favourite summer drinking wines; Alicante Bouchet (a rose) and the South Australian speciality, a sparkling red, Black Shiraz. The tiny tasting room at Rockford is in one of the original settler’s stone buildings built in the 1800s. Unlike other newer wineries, Rockford’s focus on their wine. They don’t have to offer any extra services (like food or art). They don’t need too; their wine speaks for itself. While Toby sat outside in their courtyard, under the dappled shade of an old beech tree and distracted with an iPad, Mark and I lean against the serving bar in the crowded, cool, dim tasting room, and tried the new vintages. The rose never disappoints; it’s a light fresh rose which has become a South Australian classic. It’s zippy enough to be welcome in a warm evening and nicely balanced (so it’s not too acid or sweet). Sitting next to Toby under the beech tree’s leaves, the rose tasted wonderful. Next is the Rockford’s Black Shiraz, a style of wine unique to South Australia (I think). It’s a red sparkling wine – not blush or rose – but an honest to goodness dark red bubbly wine. It’s served cold, like any sparkling and in our hot and dry Mediterranean climate, it makes sense. A good sparkling red, and Rockford’s Black Shiraz is one of best, is well balanced (not overly sweet, nor too much acid from the tannins) with bubbles of rich distinctive red fruit that dances in my mouth. It goes down far too easily so I end up looking at the bottom of my empty glass, and wondered where I could more from? Black Shiraz is a limited release and is only available from the winery.
We stop for lunch at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and Farm Eatery. The Farm Shop and Eatery are set next to a small man-made lake, and the Farm Shop is a cornucopia of goodies: cheeses, breads and sauces. I stock up on my favourites like chocolate and vino cotto sauce, and lots of other temptations. We can picnic by the lake, and enjoy the shade under the shade clothe and large shadey trees. Their pizzas are delicious, and Toby scoffs about ½ of a whole meat pizza himself.
Next, we go to another small, bouquet winery; Two Hands ( https://www.twohandswines.com/ ) outdoor patio and sitting in the shade, looking over their green vineyards lining the rolling summer-burnt brown hills. Sitting under their red umbrellas, I watched the flurry of white and yellow cockatoos settle onto the huge grey-green eucalyptus trees. Two Hands winery is a favourite of ours since it offers well crafted red wines as well as a fantastic and well-thought-out visitor experience. Toby, (who is claiming to be bored already as we walked in the winery door) was asked if he’d like to try their ‘ice-cream tasting plate’ (a range of local gelatos and ice-cream presented as a flight, $XX for a tasting plate). The ice-creams kept Toby happy as Mark and I focused on the wines. After polishing off a whole lot of flavours, Toby decided that the strawberry was the best (the selection which included chocolate, vanilla, purple yam and salted caramel). I favoured the salted caramel, and Mark voted for the salted caramel. (Later, we end up hunting down the ice-cream producers in the town Tanunda and bought a tub to take home https://beansandcream.com.au/)
We pay a small cover charge (around $10) and tried a range of their white and reds. At Two Hands, we sit down at a table (with Toby is eating his ice cream) on their patio and relax as the hosts come to our table and talk us through each wine as they pour a taster. The staff are knowledgeable and attentive, yet give us space and time to enjoy their wine, the sun glowing green and gold over their vineyards, and each other. With the hum of cicadas in the warm summer afternoon and the screeching cockatoos, I settle into my chair and swirl the red wine (‘Lily’s Garden’ Shiraz). I can taste a hit of almost-chocolate amongst the rich tannins. Don’t get fooled by my mentioning chocolate, this is not sweet or bitter. The tasting notes put it better describing it as “toast, cocoa and black tea”. The Barossa Valley is world-famous for its big bold red wine, especially shiraz. This winery makes some absolutely ripper red wines. Their mid-range (~$20? Bottle) “Gnarly Dude” Shiraz is one of our favourites; we regularly buy a dozen for keeping in our wine cellar/fridge. Their top of the range, Ares Shiraz, is a brilliant example and I’m loving it. Feeling very mellow in the warm afternoon sun, and appreciating Ares Shiraz’s complexity, rich flavours (and recognising that it will only improve over time), Mark and I weaken, and buy a bottle for some special occasion in about 10 years (maybe Toby’s graduation?).
Mark and Christina are long-term Adelaide residents, Barossa valley patrons, avid wine collectors and foodies. Toby is a budding footballer and dreams of playing in the English premier league one day.