South Australia is full of hidden secrets – even in well known areas like the the Barossa Valley. When people think of the Barossa area, naturally those amazing Borossa wines come to mind. But on our recent stay there, we very quickly discovered that the Barossa is so much more than wines. Speaking of wine, you won’t be able to visit them all. And that’s because there are over 150 wineries in a radius of 50 kms!
We timed it so perfectly by travelling to the Barossa Valley in May. And this is because May is the Autumn season in South Australia. You are pretty much guaranteed of getting clear and sunny days. Plus the Autumn reds and golds are absolutely stunning. Do try to stay here during the mid-week – that way, you won’t find many other travellers around.
Intro into the Barossa Valley
For our first day in the Barossa Valley, we hired a boutique company with a private driver guide. And that is such a great way of ensuring that you have a wide range of choices. In fact, it is this strategy that we recommend to all our guests – it really is a great way to get an overall layout of the grid in any given area. Wendy, our guide gave us so much information, especially as she knew our interests beforehand.
And by learning some of the history of an area, you get a sense of the people – the history of the Barossa is so colourful and rich. We love boutique wineries and tend to stay away from where all the tour buses go. So this blog contains some key highlights we experienced will travelling the Barossa Valley.
Travelling to the Barossa
The Barossa Valley is only about 1.5 hours drive from Adelaide Central City. If you prefer to travel independently by getting a rental car, you will find that it is an easy drive along the highway. Many travellers do a guided day tour from Adelaide as well. Another good option is to take the train to Gawler. The train trip takes 1 hour and eliminates any driving stress. Once you arrive, you will be collected at a chosen spot by your local driver/ guide.
We met our guide, Wendy, in Tanunda (view map) – this is the central hub of the Barossa Valley. Overall the Barossa and Eden Valley region has only about 25,000 souls. Now the great thing about such a small population, is that everyone seems to know each other. So if you are touring with a local guide, you will feel as though the locals have accepted you as one of them!
We had our first wine tasting at Chateau Tanunda Winery. And although it it is certainly not in the boutique category, it is a grand, red brick Chateau that really must be seen for its sheer sense of history.
The Château Tanunda was built with bluestone which was quarried from nearby Bethany in the late 1890s, So with its Glasgow cast iron fittings, and French oak decor, it is not surprising to find that Chateau Tunanda is protected by the Australian Register of State Heritage places.
Our second stop was at the Mengler Hill Lookout Sculpture Park. Now, if you are into those panoramic shots, here is your opportunity folks. On a clear day, the views of the Barossa Valley are fantastic.
Angaston and Eden Valley
It was not until we arrived at this area Barossa, that we became aware of the fact that there are two parts to the Barossa. One part sits in the Barossa valleyitself and the other, is to be found in the Eden Valley. The Eden Valley has a higher elevation and is much cooler. So it stands to reason that it will produce a different type of wine. Yes, there are those famous luscious red wines in the Barossa, but this area also has Rieslings. And as most wine lovers know, Rieslings generally require a cooler climate.
One of the many enchanting aspect of the Barossa, is its beautiful leafy villages. One such village is Angaston. Angaston, is a small settlement right on the edge between Barossa and Eden Valley. And it was at Angaston that we spent a great time at the Taste Eden Valley tasting room – a gorgeous little villa that showcases 14 Eden Valley wine producers.
With so many hidden spots, it is of great benefit to travellers like us to have so many beautiful wines available in just the one place. After a few serious moments of blissful tasting, we chose the wines that really hit the spot.
The Barossa Valley Cheese Company
Still in Angaston and just up the road from our tasting, we came across the Barossa Valley Cheese Company. The owner, also a winemaker from Bordeaux in France, found another passion – the art of cheese making. Naturally, as a winemaker, she enjoyed the pairing of wine with the cheese. When she returned from France to the Barossa Valley, she began making cheese at home in the kitchen with her mum in 2003, Mother and daughter opened The Cheese Cellar in the main street of Angaston. The shop itself is so welcoming and as for the cheese, every last one is made with love.
Now here’s a handy thing to know – if you happen to be in the Barossa on a Saturday, try to include a visit to the Barossa Farmers Market. The market is opened between 6.30am and 11am every Saturday morning. So, if you are interested in the local produce, try to get there as early as you can.
Lunch at Z Wines in Tanunda
After a pleasantly exhausting morning with wine tasting and sightseeing, it was time for a platter lunch! In central Tanunda we came across a very interesting wine company called Z WINE (the Z stands for the family name Zerk). Z Wine is the creation of sisters Janelle and Kristen Zerk. These two ladies have grown up together in the Barossa Valley on a vineyard that has been in the Zerk family for 5 generations. At Z Wines they make amazing lunch platters to match the various wines that you will taste.
They have a very cool Manager called Luke, who darts around to all his customers explaining the different superb wines and how the platter pairs so perfectly with them. We felt ‘at home’ straight away.
Nuriootpa and Seppeltsfield area
You will find these two places in the north-western part of the Barossa Valley. And it is an absolutely beautiful area with a strong tropical vibe. Plus there are a number of unique places you really must see and particularly in Autumn, they are spectacular.
Barossa Valley Chocolate Company
We would have liked to have stayed longer at the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company. It is a huge place and although very touristy, the handmade chocolates are a luxury item. The locals tell us that this chocolate factory is the first of its kind for the area. It would be a fantastic place to take the whole family. And if you want to kick back while your kids choose their treats, there is a large cafe inside. And I can tell you that the cakes on offer do look pretty darn serious.
The Seppeltsfield Winery would have to be the stand-out highlight for us. We found such a fascinating history within its hallowed halls. In fact, Seppeltsfield Winery is one of Australia’s oldest wineries, having been founded in 1851 by Joseph Ernst Seppelt. Their star ‘drop’ is the the 100-year-old Para Tawny.
You can visit the Seppeltsfield family homestead, then follow that by a private tasting of super-premium fortified wines in their VIP mezzanine lounge. But surely their absolute masterpiece of marketing, would have to be a tour of the 1878 Centennial Cellar. Because it is here, you get to actually taste the wine that was made in the year of your birth. How cool is that!
Some recommended tour options at Seppelsfield:
Heritage Tour – Get a behind-the-scenes look through the estate’s treasure trove of historical buildings and spectacular surroundings.
Taste Your Birth Year Tour – This tour offers the rare opportunity for visitors to try their own birth year vintage Tawny directly from the barrel.
Centenary Tour – This tour was awarded the Barossa Trust mark, and is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Lunch at Seppeltsfield
We had the most beautiful degustation lunch at the Seppeltsfield Restaurant. We loved the fact that it was an open kitchen and you could see the chefs at work. This one was turning out the sourdough bread. You would be hard put to find a better tasting bread made in the traditional German way
We chose 3 courses from the menu and each one was a taste sensation. You can really appreciate the harmony that has been achieved between the old and the new. I felt that this would have to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable winery lunches I have ever had
It is widely acknowledged by the locals, that The Jam Factory at Seppeltsfield has a pretty misleading name. Because it actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Jam! On the contrary, this part of the complex has been created to showcase the artists and craftsmen of the Barossa. You will find an interesting variety to browse through. So if you’re into knife-making, ceramics and even hat-making, you will be reaching for your wallet.
Vassa Virgin Barossa
There is a Vasse Virgin shop in in adjacent and separate to the main Seppeltsfield building. Every conceivable beauty product made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is sold here. And it really is a beautiful interior to browse through -the smells are divine. You simply can’t leave without buying something really special – they have a vast selection of specialty products.
Barossa Valley Estate
Now these guys are considered the newcomers on the block, having started in 1985. The winery building is contemporary in style with a mono pitch roof and floor to ceiling windows. But what is so enchanting about the exterior is its garden layout – very understated with a tranquility as an important focus.
What you need to know, is that they specialise only in red wines. So if you love that beautiful peppery wine that the Barossa is famous for, you will be in heaven here.
Maggie Beer’s Place
No visit to the Barossa is complete without a visit to Maggie Beer’s place. In Australia at least, Maggie is considered a national treasure and she is every serious cook’s go-to for wholesome and tasty cuisine. Her Farm Shop is where it all started for Maggie and you really must see it. The whole building really reflects her philosophy of true hospitality – for everyone.
Tscharkes Wines is definitely boutique and quite special. Being German–owned, it has a distinct German feel about it, with little knick knacks dotted around the place. You can also buy lovely pottery here made by one of the owners. Tscharkes definitely had a very special vibe, especially when we descended down a flight of stairs to this gorgeous cellar – it was very atmospheric with its twinkling fairy lights.
Barossa Valley Accommodation
If you plan to visit the Barossa Valley and stay a few nights, you will get a range of options for your accommodation. For those who love self-contained cottages, there are plenty of those to choose from – and there will be something to suit most budgets. Then you get the locally hosted B&B’s and resorts. We visited a few during our time in the valley to check them out for our own guests. The big stand-out for us was the Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage – this is about as boutique as you can get. The owners may refer to it as a cottage, but we felt it was more like a small homestead. And it had such a gorgeous setting on a 4-hectare vineyard.
We consider this accommodation to be a high-end property where quality is at a premium. The interiors are classically styled with wing-backed chairs and French oak furniture features in most rooms. The inclusions of the cottage are incredibly generous, with a fridge laden with goodies. And there is even a beautiful little wine cellar at the bottom of a set of stairs. But what really topped it off for us, was the graciousness of the owner and her staff. Whatever you wish, they will do their utmost to make it happen. And another huge plus, is that you only have a 5-minute walk to the Hentley Farm Restaurant and 1.3 km from the Seppeltsfield Winery.
Summary on visiting the Barossa Valley
For your first visit, you will probably be on limited time. Therefore, I recommend that you use a local private guide – but small group tours can be good as well. By joining a tour, you are bound to learn so much about the region. However, bear in mind, you will need to spend at least 2-3 nights in the Barossa Valley. That way, you will be able to delve so much deeper into the true essence of the area. I guarantee you will create precious memories.
Happy travelling the Barossa Valley!