Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley

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continued from Action and Adventure on Kangaroo Island

While our hotel is clean, convenient, and has all the amenities we need, if there’s one downside it’s the paper-thin walls. It also doesn’t help to be on the ground floor and have the hotel staff wandering the corridors, talking and vacuuming at 8 am. Needless to say, if you’re a light sleeper or a late riser, this isn’t going to work in your favor.

Shoving the sleep from our eyes, we got up in search of breakfast and a decent coffee, heading towards Chinatown and the central market. This area, which had been thriving with activity on Thursday morning, was a ghost town at 9 am on a Sunday. Managing to find the one bakery and the one café that was open, we decided to drive out of the city towards the Barossa Valley – home to South Australia’s (and even Australia’s) most popular and renowned wineries.

Not really knowing which route to take, Lisette plugged the address into Google Maps – which unbeknownst to us, lead us on the windiest route to get towards the Barossa. Great if you’re keen to explore the scenic route, but if you’ve been driving a lot over the last few days, have seen your share of national parkland, and have a blistering migraine-like Michael did, then we wouldn’t recommend it.

World’s largest rocking horse
World’s largest rocking horse

En route to the Barossa, we stopped in the town of Guneracha, home to the largest rocking horse in the world. Australia has a love affair with making the “biggest” monuments of something and this is one fine example. Built in 1981, this tourist attraction is fantastic for little kids – they can scamper up to the top of the horse and get a view of the people below.

There’s also the opportunity to go crazy checking out the various wooden toys and candy at the shop, and there’s a mini zoo (free entry, a bag of food pellets $2) where you can come face to face with native Australian animals such as kangaroos, galahs, and cockatoos, as well as guinea fowls, bantam chickens, ibis, alpacas, and goats.

Alpacas or llamas
Alpacas or llamas?

There are dozens of wineries in the Barossa Valley as well as the surrounding areas. Being autumn (fall), many vineyards had already been harvested; however, there were still hundreds of vineyards that had leaves on the vine, which were a bright and beautiful golden color. Fortunately for us, the day was picture perfect – gorgeous blue skies and warm sun meant that the rolling Adelaide Hills, autumn leaves, lakes, and vineyards were bathed in their best light.

That’s a lot of wine
That’s a lot of wine

While some wineries only offer free wine tasting by appointment only, you can still spend hours upon hours traveling from one winery (cellar door) to another, sampling everything from fruity and refreshing white wines (think sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay), rich reds (think shiraz, cabernet sauvignon), dessert wines and everything in between.

Penfolds Grange – $2499 for 4 bottles
Penfolds Grange – $2499 for 4 bottles

We had decided not to go crazy on drinking wines as a) we had just bought six bottles back in Kangaroo Island and didn’t want to be enticed to buy more, b) Michael was driving and c) we aren’t huge wine drinkers.

We did stumble on McGuigan’s Wines and highly recommend their award-winning 2010 Pinot Gris though, as well as a wander around the beautiful chateau that houses the tasting. With so many other wineries around though (from the highly commercial Penfolds to the more boutique offerings), it’s best to simply drive around and pull into the cellar door that takes your fancy.

Chateau Maldara
Chateau Maldara

Besides wine, another worthy stop was Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. Maggie Beer is a household name in Australia, publishing dozens of cookbooks in our mothers’ generation and now experiencing a celebrity revival thanks to guest appearances on Australia’s MasterChef TV show and appearing on commercials for a major supermarket chain.

Her shop has daily 2 pm cooking demonstrations (cooking with verjuice), offers picnic fare food (no lunches), provides free samples of sugo, jams, chutneys, and other condiments, and sells other gourmet food lover items.

Food demonstration at Maggie Beers
Food demonstration at Maggie Beers

Amidst food and wine lover land, lunch wound up being oily pizza at 3 pm (although it was the gourmet option), before we headed to our last stop on the fringes of the Barossa Valley – a lavender farm. The farm, situated away from the main road, has been around for over 20 years and has over 90 varieties of the flower.

The couple who run it sure love lavender too – they sell anything lavender you can think of (perfumes, lotions, cookies, tea, ice cream, even shots with the ice cream). We settled for a few scoops of the ice cream, which had a little lavender sprinkle on top and had two chocolate sticks in it as well. While lavender food may sound a bit odd, the ice cream was delicious – it was a vanilla ice cream base with enough of a hint of lavender, but not too much that you felt like you were eating a flower.

Lavender farm
Lavender farm

As the sun started to set on our way home, we checked out the changing tones of the hills, plants, and lakes before making it back to the City. Our last Adelaide dinner was back towards Chinatown, which was once again bustling with people lining up to eat at the Cantonese, Szechuan, Thai, Malay, Korean, and other (Asian) restaurant options available (although there is one Italian, one Argentinean, and one burger joint around as well). Pretty much all restaurants were sufficiently packed inside so choose whatever suits your taste and budget – in order to compete, most restaurants prominently display their menus on the wall/door outside.

Refilling our bellies, we strolled back to our rice paper-thin lodgings for our last night sleeping in Adelaide… early start tomorrow before our 12.30 pm flight back to Sydney!

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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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