Wednesday morning dawned sunny and warm, no clouds in the sky. (Temperature is measured in celsius. The rough translation to farenheit is to double the current temp in celsius and add 30-so 20 C would be 70 F.) The van picked us up around 8:30 for the tour I had been waiting for since leaving Georgia.
The Barossa Valley is about an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide, with about 70+ wineries located in this region. It was first settled by German Lutherans, who came to this area in the 1840s to escape religious persecution. The architecture, Lutheran churches smoked meats, fruit preservation and sweet breads reflect the unique culture of these people. The charm of the culture was somewhat marred 1915, when a wave of anti-German sentiment swept through the area. This sentiment was reflected in the changing of many of the town names. For example, Gnadenfrei (meaning “freed by the grace of God”) was changed to Marananga. Later some of the names, but not Marananga, were changed back.
Our guide told us that this area has some of the oldest vines in the world. This is a result of three things, never a war on Australian soil where bombs would destroy the crops, never a time of prohibition, and the absence of a certain fungus present in other parts of the world. In recent years, with the popularity of olive oils, farmers have begun planting olive groves in the area, as well as wine. They also grow sheep and alpacas. One interesting fact about the alpaca. When attacked by other animals, they gang up and fight together against the predator.
Australia is known for its “big” statues found in various parts of the country. One of those is the rocking horse at a toy factory located in Gumeracha. The Big Chicken in Marietta has nothing on this fellow.
In the town of Birdwood, we passed the Herbig tree. It seems that Friedrich Herbig lived in the hollowed-out area of this redgum tree with his wife and two children. When the third child arrived, they decided to move into something bigger. It was probably a wise move, since they went on to have 16! Today the tree is estimated to be 300-600 years old and old Friedrich has around 600 descendents in the area!!
Our little van stopped next in Angaston, named after Englishman George Fife Angas, who founded the town and sponsored many German and British immigrants who came to the region. The town is full of jacaranda trees, that were showing their spring beauty.
The German culture is reflected here in the stately stone buildings and tiny shops like the one selling 17 varieties of wurst (German sausage) for 67 years. We stopped at the Angas Park Fruit and Nut Company, where several of loaded up on the same, as well as some spiced mustards. I hope they make it back to Metter.
As we rode along, our guide explained certain highway signs about the size of our mile-marker signs. These indicate a location where there have been deaths and/or injuries. Many of these accidents are caused by kangaroos, similar to our deer problems in South Georgia.
Our first stop was at the imposing and upscale Wolf Blass Winery, part of the Fosters Group. In our “structured” wine tasting, we sampled several wines started with light whites and moving all the way to heavy dessert ports. We were given the opportunity for just $5 extra, to taste the $135 dollar/bottle 2003 Cabernet/Saugivnon/Shiraz/Malvec and the Platinum Label 2004 Shiraz. He got one and I got the other, then shared. After tasting “ordinary folks” wine, this was quite a treat. And, there really was a difference!
We are told that the Wolf Blass Presidents Selection is imported into the US, as well as the Red Label, in case some of you wine folks are interested. We were also told about the switch to screw caps on wine bottles. The only ones that are still corked from this winery are those exported to the US. Screw caps allow for upright storage, keep freshness when a wine bottle stays open for several days (can’t imagine one lasting that long), and are good for the environment, saving the cork tree.. So there you have it. Form your own opinion about screw vs. cork!
About this time, we needed a bit of food, so we stopped at Nuriootpa (Aboriginal for meeting place) at the Vine Inn Restaurant, where we were served a three course meal. We both decided on Barumba (a fish) and steamed veggies. We had a choice of several dishes, including kangaroo, which we politely refused! As we were leaving, I spotted the bar off to the side. A sign directed patrons to remove their caps/hats when entering the bar. I asked the waiter about this. There are security cameras in the bar. If a person gets rowdy, they want to be able to clearly identify him/her. We also found out that only law enforcement folks can carry pepper spray. Glad we don’t have that in the US.
After lunch, we were ready for wine again. Vinecrest is a family-run winery. They bottle only their won grapes, but sell some to Penfolds for their premier wine, Penfold’s Grange at over $100 per bottle (some as high as $880). We learned the importance of decanting red wines to allow them to breathe, thus releasing the full flavors.
From this winery, we took a side trip to Menglers Hill for a beautiful view of the Barossa Valley, only stopping long enough for a few photographs.
From Menglers Hill, we journeyed down to
Barossa Vines. This time, there was not a structured tasting. They just poured what you wanted. It was here that we learned about the winery dogs. There are all kinds of breeds and even a calendar featuring these wonderful pets. By this time, I was a bit tired of wine (can you believe that!) so started photographing the grapevines. Since it is still early spring, most had few if any leaves.
Our last stop was at Kies Family Wines. While not as impressive as some of the others, I did find one bottle of 2004 Klauber Block Shiraz to buy. It has a strong hint of black cherries, but is not sweet. We will finish it before leaving Adelaide. I was quite fascinated with the vines themselves. While I tried to capture the essence of the vine, I just can’t quite do it like Matt. He has the right camera and quite the creative eye!
After this last winery, we were off to the Whispering Wall, a dam constructed in such a way that it creates an acoustical wonder. You can stand on one side of the dam, speak softly, and can be heard on the other side.
Finally, we journeyed about 45 minutes in traffic back to Adelaide. Being quite exhausted by this time, we stopped at Coles (Adelaide’s answer to Bi-Lo), got a frozen “gourmet” dinner and made our way back to the YHA. All was not lost, since we added a delicious garlic bread to our meal. Great meal! Great day!