One forgets the beauty of Australia when the endless repetition of home, train, office and return consumes every waking hour of the modern adult. Recently I escaped from this treading water by driving 45min north of Adelaide to the world famous Barossa Valley. It was not my first visit, as a teenager I had driven up through its winding roads, and in my twenties I did the booze fuelled wine tour in a mini bus. On neither occasion had the rolling green hills of vines interspersed with fluffy white sheep been so picturesque, the breaking of the drought may have something to do with the change, or perhaps it is my changed perspective one doesn’t see the big bright blue (so much brighter in SA than anywhere) burgening green hills and lisping valleys in the cold concrete glass and steel of Melbourne.
We flung through Gawler one of the oldest towns in South Australia and in an instant the vista had opened wide to bright blue sky lazy clouds waking from their slumber on the distant hills and the first winery slunk by on our left. We swept through bends heading toward Lyndoch and decided to pull into a winery at random to get the tasting underway. First stop was Chateau Barossa which was really an all purpose establishment with accommodation, rose gardens and rockery ponds, a function room which was being prepared for a wedding and a tasting room that sold brick-o-brack local fashions and of course wines and liquors. We sampled the reds, a sparkling Shiraz (syrah), Shiraz and Cabernet Merlot. The Shiraz was a bargain at $18 so was also the first purchase of the day.
On through the little town of Lyndoch over Jacobs creek and past the monolithic Jacobs Creek wine centre which from the road seemed to spread over more than a kilometre and into the bustling but quaint town of Tanunda for lunch. The towns in the valley are beautiful old villages typical of South Australia with stone buildings and big verandas lining the main street.
For lunch we finally – after getting some directions from a dreg haired friendly local – sat ourselves at 1918 a converted house set back off the main street. The local giving us directions even recommended the beef cheeks and that’s what one of us ordered. We sat at the white linen clothed table in the grassed front yard under a large tree, the sun light dappling through its leaves. The restaurant was quite busy with locals and day trippers alike sipping wine and enjoying the local produce. The greatest thing about lunch was the country speed at which everything was done. We were seated, then 10 minutes passed and menu’s were presented by the young waitress who was proficient without being pompous, then 10 minutes passed and water arrived, another 10 and bread and olives, another 10 and wine, and so on and so one, eventually I slowed as well and felt completely at home in the little front yard of the 1918.
After lunch we headed north out of Tanunda but turned off before Nuriootpa onto Seppeltsfield which has the classic visage of the Barossa. The road is lined with old palm trees and so many wineries making a choice of which ones to stop at the hardest decision of the day. We ducked into Whistler which had the unique oddity of corrugated iron sculptures at its gates and a family picnic atmosphere with playground equipment for the kids to play on. Then we visited the modern tasting room of Barossa Valley Estate which supplied the wine of the day – a delicious Grenache – and more sumptuous views over the valley. In between we passed the Greco mausoleum of the Seppelt family perched high on a hill which topped off the feeling of being in far from home.
A wonderful little escape which took far less time than expected, we left just before eleven and were back in Salisbury by four, even at country speed there is so much to see and taste in a short little hop from Adelaide, and most importantly one is reminded that when we slow down we become nicer to our fellows.
David J Campbell