Adelaide, the capital of the South Australia state of Australia, population of 1.3million people, is rarely on the top of the list of travel destinations as compared to other Australian cities. However, this is a hot destination for wine lovers, so that's why we were back here in April 2017 after our first trip in 2003.
We took the direct red eye flight from Singapore, and flew into some spectacular scenery. As the flight lands at about 0730 hours, and since it is a lovely small airport with only ONE luggage belt for the international "section" (can't even call it a terminal!), we were out and walked over to Hertz to get our rental car pretty quickly. It was STILL early (barely 9am), so we decided to drive to Harbour Town, which is a collection of factory outlets and a large Woolworths, located just on the other end of the airport. After fueling up on some coffee we were raring to go! We managed to walk away with some bargains as well as some of our favourite Australian produce. You know, important stuff like Tim Tams, which make good gifts for people at home. Gotta love Tim Tams!
From Harbour Town we checked into our hotel the Hilton Adelaide, only 15 minutes away from the airport. The rooms are very decent, and what I liked the most was the view from our rooms. Although it is not really the most picturesque view, Adelaide city is pretty flat so we could see all the way to the St. Vincent Gulf, and the airport, with the planes at their gates at the airport. From my room window! The next morning I even saw the outbound SQ flight flying overhead the hotel past the city. From my room window! And the Hilton Adelaide is located in the centre of Adelaide CBD.
The Hilton Adelaide is right next to the Adelaide Central Market which was a great walk for us. Who doesn't love fresh Australian produce? Cheese and fruits galore! Unfortunately it also closes early on Saturdays, so I'm regretting not buying that (small) wheel of cheddar and other goodies. I hear the Smelly Cheese Shop there is the place to go for wine and cheese classes.
Our first stop was the Penfolds Magill Estate which is only about 20minutes from the city centre.
As it was late afternoon, we only managed to do a short tour of the Magill Estate before a wine tasting, followed by dinner at Magill Estate Restaurant. Even Prince Charles and Camilla have visited this estate and eaten at the restaurant! Pity we didn't even have time to make it to the cellar door. Food and wines were of course stellar. They also operate Magill Estate Kitchen, which is a more casual eatery.
Wine tip: if you are wanting to invest in some good wines, especially old ones, you might want to buy them at the vineyard's cellar door. Our friend purchased his over 40-year old Grange here, and what is amazing is that the bottle has never left the estate. In all those years! So you can be assured that it has cellared well and has not had to suffer any transportation, exposure or manhandling.
There are plenty of food options all over Adelaide city. Orana is highly recommended but we were not able to get any seats there because I'd not made any arrangements until a week before leaving. Whoops. For one of the dinners we ended up going to Khla, a carnivore's paradise. The bar at 2KW has a wonderful view of the city and great cocktails, even in the day time. Like many Australian cities, there are plenty of amazing brunch and coffee places to check out too such as Sean's Kitchen, and Hardy's Verandah. Other recommendations from an F&B contact include Peel Street Restaurant, Maybe Mae, La Rambla, La Buvette, Bibliotecha Bar, Book Exchange, Bank Street Social, Blackwood Restaurant, Andre's Cucina & Polenta Bar, Red Octre Grill, Jollie's Boat House, and Exchange Coffee. I'd probably need a month to cover everything!
The second part of our trip we were off to the Barossa Valley. An hour's drive from the city (or the airport), Barossa is famous all over the world for the wines they produce, particularly the robust Shiraz that I am fond of.
Our first stop was Artisans of Barossa, which carry a few labels of wines, and we were here to try out the John Duval wines. There is a lovely restaurant here, Harvest Kitchen, which is apparently very highly rated and have a very nice view of the sunset from here, but are only open in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays.
We also had dinner at Appellation, which is touted to have the best sunset view of the Barossa, but we got there too late (or it was a cloudy day?) so there was nothing to see! We heard good things about their restaurant but decided to have something more casual at Bar Louise.
One of our lunches was at Hentley Farm, highly recommended by a friend who lives in Adelaide. It was an amazing experience. The food was impressive, and very artisanal. We loved their seafood dishes and I was so taken by the idea that one of the dishes was hand reared Berkshire pigs that they had on the farm – in fact the chef who presented us the dish said they were all feeling a little emotional in the kitchen while doing the plating! I'd be emotional if it was me too. But that just goes to show how amazing the produce is in the Australian restaurants. I would love to go back again, but do allocate time for a long lunch – ours took almost 3 hours! For a party of 4, we had 2 meals with wine pairing so that we could share.
Both The Louise (where Appellation is) and Hentley Farm are listed by Relais & Chateaux.
After that huge 3 hour lunch, we just grabbed some quick bites for dinner from a nearby supermarket and headed back to our room at the Novotel Barossa, where we'd stayed on our previous trip. The hotel is decent, looks the same as it did in 2003 (although I don't remember much of the rooms), and includes a small microwave and kitchenette area with no cooking facilities.
Our next morning started bright and early at Yalumba, who are one of Australia's biggest exporters and Australia's oldest family-owned winery. They are 167 years and 5 generations old. They have a lovely warm cellar door.
Yalumba also have their own cooperage, and make their own wine barrels, either from American or French oak. They are the only winery in the Southern Hemisphere to have their own in house cooperage so that was indeed interesting to see.
As we were there in early April, which is harvest time, what they call "vintage", we were even able to "help" plunge some fermenting grapes. The remember the first time I wiffed fermenting grapes I was taken aback, but once the mind realizes that it is only wine making in the process, it becomes a scent of hope and happiness. And perhaps also a scent of longing, since it will require some patience before good wine is ready.
Wine tip: Although wineries are extremely busy during vintage, it's also more interesting to see the processes of harvesting, fermenting, and overall the vines are also more photogenic since it is full of leaves, often still with fruit left on the vines. As compared to winter there is nothing to see and and in spring the vines are just starting to grow.
After tasting many of Yalumba's wonderful wines (vertically, horizontally, diagonally…just kidding), we headed to lunch at Vitner's Bar & Grill, as recommended by the good people at Yalumba. Some of their dishes were real winners! But if you are Asian, I'd suggest to avoid the Asian dishes. You know what I mean lah.
Last but not least was our visit to Henschke, who are one of the pioneer families in the Barossa region.
We took a short drive to their famous Hill of Grace vineyard. The vines here are from around the 1860s, and yes still being harvested! Their cellar door and some of the equipment like the underground vats from the 1800s are still being used today – those are the circles (like a Pokemon ball) in the pano shot below. The winemakers are still living in the original house from when the family first settled here! With some extensions and improvements, of course. You can find out more information on the Henschke VIP tours here.
We then had a tasting of their range of wines and we were lucky to have a short chat with one of the Henschke family members, from the 6th generation. It is amazing how passionate these families feel about the wines and have been able to continue on for so many years. The Chinese have a saying, 富不过三代 which means that family wealth can never survive three generations, but it is fascinating that there are so many family-owned vineyards still thrive today. Perhaps any job would go down easier with a little wine a day? 😀
There are many vineyards in Barossa (and we haven't even touched the vineyards in the other areas!!), but we had come to the end of our trip. Although we only visited 3 vineyards, we learnt so much and had such amazing experiences from each. We would love to be back, but then again, it was such an epic trip for us, I don't think we want to repeat it (and disappoint ourselves!) for a while to come 😀 Perhaps next time we'll be back with the kids since it's an easy destination. We travelled in April, and had wonderful cool, sunny weather. In fact, we thought the landscape rivalled that of places like Tuscany.
Lastly, special thanks to ours dear friends for and epic trip and contributing some of the photos for this post (obviously the not professional looking ones are mine!!).
This trip we travelled with out children. For more adventures in Adelaide with kids, you might like to head over to Growing With the Tans.