For a heritage experience the Seppeltsfield Winery, built in 1851 and located on the palm-lined Seppeltsfield Road, is a must. The Seppelt family were significant players in the Barossa’s early history and the land features some of the country’s oldest and most beautifully gnarled vines, while a tasting might include the 100-year-old Para Vintage Tawny. Just down the road is the family mausoleum.
A favourite among aficionados is picturesque Rockfords on Krondorf Road, where traditional methods and equipment produce rich, soft, earthy wines. The 2010 Basket Press Shiraz is produced with small parcels of old, dry grown Barossa Shiraz from nearly 30 of the valley’s finest grape growing families. The wine is hand made using equipment from the turn of the last century, then aged in American and French wood for two years. This all contributes to making the highest quality traditional soft deep coloured earthy Australian red wine that will bottle age. I also try the famous Black Shiraz, a fizzy red that tastes sublime.
Also on Krondorf is Charles Melton, a delightful place to stop for lunch on the veranda overlooking the vines. Charlie is one of the Barossa’s characters and his motherlode wine is the Rhone-style Nine Popes, a Shiraz/ Grenache/ Mataro blend named as an Ausssie twist on Chateauneuf du Pape (he thought the name meant â€œhome of the nine Popesâ€). His Rose of Virginia, named after his wife, is one of Australia’s best dry rosÃ©s, while a new wine is the Father in Law, a smooth, muscular Shiraz made with fruit sourced from Virginia’s father.
As for Barossa whites, the Eden Valley Riesling is a world-class white that’s crisp and citrusy, and Mount Adam, its imposing entrance gates flanked by stone eagles on High Eden Road, is home to Australia’s oldest Chardonnay.
Aside from the wineries there’s lots to explore and the winding trails can reveal unexpected sights â€“ a cemetery in the midst of the bush, a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere or a sudden panorama at the top of a winding route. That’s how I found the sculpture park on Mengler Hill, near Tanunda. Arriving just in time for sunset, the half-light may be the best time to view the art, which is a bit hit and miss.
Anyone looking to stretch their legs after a morning’s tasting should head to Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park, near Tanunda. It’s a good place to spot kangaroos, particularly in the early morning. There’s also the wonder of Australian nature, with seed pods a constant marvel. Another walk makes a circuit of a gold rush mountain, where you can still look down into mine shafts dug by desperate prospectors in the 1860s. The mountain is a warren of old shafts so the path has been very carefully routed so you don’t drop down one unexpectedly. At one end of the Barossa Valley’s reservoir, I also found a curved dam nicknamed the Whispering Wall because what is whispered by someone at one end is crystal clear to anyone at the other.
While you’re out and about, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Maggie Beer’s place. She’s a big name in food here with cookery books, TV shows and a whole live-work-cook philosophy to her name. She and her husband have a farm and cafÃ© not far from The Louise and it’s a nibbler’s paradise with jams, chutneys, olives, oils and fruit all set out to sample. Maggie presses her own olive oil, and makes Verjuice, too, a gentle acidulate made from the juice of unripened grapes. It heightens the flavour of any food it is added to. As Maggie says, â€œWhen in doubt, add more Verjuice!â€ She runs courses so you can learn how to cook with it.
Talking of food, dinner back at The Louise does not disappoint, and the menu echoes the traditions transplanted to the Barossa by its settlers from Silesia, but has evolved to reflect contemporary lifestyles and utilise the best of local produce, as well as the restaurant’s own kitchen garden. During my stay the menu featured rare breast of Eden Valley pigeon, pickled Satsuma plums and black rice; line caught South Australian snapper, roasted shallots, thyme and red wine sauce; and Fillet of Coorong Angus beef, beetroot puree, peas and lardons.