Barossa & Clare

The Barossa and Clare Valleys are both famous South Australian wine making regions, both are easily accessible from Adelaide, both have charm, character and history – and both have a few more things to enjoy as well as wine.

First, a bit of housekeeping. If you would like to have a wheelchair or scooter for the duration of your stay for a trip to the wine areas, we can arrange that through Walk on Wheels in Adelaide – for a manual chair it is just $35 a week ($95 per month).

Barossa Valley

The Barossa is about an hour’s drive north-east of Adelaide and is the State’s best-known wine region. Apart from the vineyards, it’s a warm, charming and intimate place full of lovely 19th century architecture. There are a number of delightful little towns to stop for lunch, many fine restaurants and around 50 wineries, big and small, that welcome visitors. You can’t miss the early German settlers legacy in the architecture (solid, bluestone buildings and tall-spired Lutheran churches) and even in the food (wurst, sausages, bread and cakes).

Just before you get to the Barossa, southwest of Lyndoch, near Williamstown, is the Whispering Wall. It’s actually the wall of a large water reservoir. This amazing acoustic phenomenon allows whispers to be heard 140 metres away. Now, who was the first one to figure that out, and why? And what was so secret it had to be hushed?

The southern gateway to the Barossa Valley is the town of Lyndoch. Between Lyndoch and Tanunda there are a number of wineries including Orlando and the Grant Burge Winery, one of the showpieces of the valley.

Nearby is Krondorf (terrific whites) and Rockford’s, a boutique winemaker of fine reds.

The tasting rooms at Rockford are in the quaint 1850’s stable and cottage. Photo is the founder and owner of Rockford Winery, Robert O’Callaghan pouring a drop. Hmm, he looks as though he’s done it before…

Tanunda is the heart of the wine region and a good place to head for a base to start exploring, or kick off with a nice brunch or lunch.

The Barossa Wine and Visitors Centre in Tanunda traces 150 years of winemaking and it’s just a grape’s toss from the wineries of Peter Lehmann, Richmond Grove, Jacob’s Creek and Basedows, among others.

June, 2011 saw the end to extensive renovations and staff and visitors can now enjoy a larger, more contemporary space.

The tiny settlement of Bethany was the original German settlement. It has a pioneer cemetery and a medieval-style traditional thatched barn. The Landhaus (once a shepherd’s cottage) offers a unique and rewarding dining experience.

The Bethany Winery has great views and is owned by the Schrapel family, descendents of the original settlers. Johann Gottlob Schrapel and his family arrived in South Australia from Silesia on the ship “George Washington” in 1844, just eight years after the colony was settled.

Turn off on Seppeltsfield Road (halfway between Tanunda and Nuriootpa) to Seppelts, nestled in one of the prettiest corners of the Barossa. Fortified wines are a speciality and this is the only winery in the world with vintage ports for every year from 1878. Penfolds is just before Nuriootpa and for a gourmet nibble (pheasant farm pate, quince paste, etc.), visit Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. The Seppeltsfield Vinyard Cottage won the Hosted Accommodation category in the 2010 Australian Tourism Awards (photo).

It is hard to recommend any particular winery as wine is a personal thing. Having said that, I received a very warm welcome from the Henschke family and staff at the upper end of the valley.

Henschke has a range of great reds (Hill of Grace etc) and they make very fine whites, but don’t head straight there, as there are many delights along the way.

The Henschke family has been making wine since 1862, with Stephen Henschke and wife, Prue, the driving force. In 2011 they were inducted into the Family Business Australia (SA) Hall of Fame and also awarded 2011 Winery of the Year by The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide.

There’s a movie in Stephen’s father, Cyril. A charming, witty and lively man he was also a fine winemaker. He was a local council member, a Rotarian, a Jaycee and elder of his church and was shot by his wife, Doris, in 1979. She was charged with murder but acquitted two months later.

Beyond Angaston is Collingrove, ancestral home of the Angas family since the 1800s.

George Fyfe Angas was responsible for setting up the valley in the 1840s when he invited winemakers to the area.

George was a parliamentarian and played a significant part in the early development of South Australia. He died in 1879, aged 90. Classified by the National Trust, Collingrove Homestead is open for overnight guests and tours. Collingrove caters for five couples, three guest rooms have ensuites which are decorated in black and white tile with chrome fittings, another two rooms share an authentic old style bathroom complete with a claw foot bath.

To get ‘high’ in the region, as opposed to just tipsy, hot-air balloon flights float over the villages and vineyards in the early morning.

The Barossa is big on events and festivals right throughout the year including gourmet weekends, music and film festivals, flower shows and markets.

I find the habit of spitting wine into buckets untidy and, well, a waste of wine, but with strict drink driving laws it can be a necessity. Tours can be arranged through the Barossa and there are information centres in Tanunda, Gawler and Kapunda. You can cycle through the Barossa, do it in style in a limo or take a coach tour from Adelaide. The latest in tour options is Barossa Trike Tours – chauffeured trikes that can take three passengers on a winery tour or for sightseeing or just short joyrides.

You don’t necessarily have to ‘backtrack’ over where you have travelled up the valley. While ‘officially’ in the Adelaide Hills, if you are driving, you can continue through Eden Valley and Mount Pleasant to Hahndorf, the picture-perfect village founded more than 150 years ago by German settlers, and then head back to Adelaide.

Clare Valley

You can head into the Clare Valley from the Barossa through the well-preserved town of Kapunda, Australia’s first copper mining town or go straight there from Adelaide.

The photo is the Kapunda Community Gallery. It hosts about 10 exhibitions each year.

The Clare has many good wineries and charming, rustic villages. There are more than 30 cellar-door outlets in this picturesque region and pioneer heritage is still evident in lovely towns like Mintaro and Burra.

Highlights include: Martindale Hall in Mintaro, a fine example of grand Georgian architecture, and the Heritage Trail at Burra on which you can explore 43 heritage sites across 11 kilometres. The movie, Breaker Morant, was shot here, along with the eponymous hero, as was Picnic at Hanging Rock. Haunted or not? Could be… there’s accommodation if you’d like to find out!

The Clare Valley Riesling Trail has 27km of pathway between Clare and Auburn for walking and cycling. Clare wineries include Jim Barry, Leasingham, Sevenhill Cellars, Annie’s Lane and Knappstein Wines, which is in an historic building that was once a brewery with a distinctive tower reaching through the gum trees.

There are also many art galleries in the Clare Valley that feature works by local artists.


Barossa & Clare Valleys

To enjoy the ambience and heritage of the wineries, I like B & B and cottage style accommodation and they are in abundance in these regions.

A couple of examples – in the Barossa, Merlot Cottage at Tanunda offers the whole house for one couple. It was built in the 1850’s it has been carefully restored. There’s a two-person spa and it is close to cafes and restaurants…

…and at Auburn in the Clare Valley, Wild Olive Cottage (another stunning hideaway for one couple at a time – photo). Quince Cottage and Dennis Cottage are also delightful (Clare Valley).

And, close to the city, in the Adelaide Hills, there are a number of charming cottages for weekend escapes.