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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Friday 14th August 2015

rain 18 °C

We have had an interesting couple of days having left the bustle of Adelaide behind us and driven up to the Barossa Valley. We picked up our first hire car yesterday. This went smoothly, and Nigel volunteered to do the first days driving. Although we had the maps, it was also good to have the 'sat-nav' to help us. The traffic was busy in the suburbs and so it took us quite a while to get out into the countryside. Some parts we drove through were a little reminiscent of Wales or the Peak District, others less so but the scenery was was very pretty either way.

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We stopped of at a lovely place called the Inglewood Inn in a town of the same name and had coffee and shared a piece of delicious orange and poppy seed cake. We also stopped a couple of times to take photographs and then made our way past a couple of reservoirs about twelve miles or so short of the Barossa. The smaller of the two has a dam known as the Whispering Wall because of its acoustic properties. It was great fun standing an opposite ends listening to each other's voices travelling along the wall, and observing the time difference between the making and the hearing of the noise. It was also quite funny watching a group of young people shouting at the wall so loudly that their voices would have easily travelled without any acoustic aid. They clearly had missed the significance of it being a 'whispering' wall. As it was a bit drizzly we decided to eat our picnic in the car, after which we continued to make our way to the Barossa Valley.

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Check in at our B&B wasn't until three o'clock and so we had a little time to spare and used this to drive around and look at some of the vineyards. We also saw that there was a lookout which we thought might afford us good views of the area so we drove up to have a closer look. The weather was incredibly changeable, so although there was thick cloud in the valley when we first arrived this soon passed. Despite this there was still an almost continuous passage of heavy rain clouds passing by, sometimes overhead at other times a little further away. When it cleared a bit the views of the vineyards and the valley in general were beautiful.

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Once it had gone 3pm we drove the short distance to Whistler Farm where we were staying for the next two nights. We really liked our room with its view out to the garden and a small vineyard beyond.

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We relaxed in our room for a few hours, and our host Jayne kindly rang Vintners, a restaurant we liked the sound of, and also offered to drive us there later and pick us up afterwards. The restaurant had the option of either ordering a main dish each or having a number of sharing dishes that were brought out as and when they were cooked. The food was very good but we found the it a little lacking in atmosphere and a bit pretentious. Neither of us really wanted to drink much wine, partly for financial reasons and also because we had been given a complimentary bottle of their own wine at Whistler Farm. Once we had finished the restaurant rang Jayne and shortly after we had settled the bill she arrived to pick us up. Once back in our room we just relaxed for a while before turning in for the night.

For today we had booked a wine tour for the afternoon. After breakfast, which was made by us from the provisions in our well stocked fridge, we decided to go for a short walk. This gave us a chance to look around Whistler Farm a little more en-route to a well known local farm shop called Maggie Beer's. It was only a short walk across the fields. For some reason a rather aggressive Magpie seemed intent on swooping at us, although not low enough to cause any real problem. Once at the farm shop we bought a few supplies and had a cup of tea, walking back just in time to avoid the next shower of rain. We had a little bit of time to relax before Tony came to pick us up on a Harley Davidson trike for our wine tasting tour. When he arrived we were kitted out with waterproof trousers, a thick biking jacket, gloves and helmet with intercom. We were very grateful for all the gear as the weather was pretty wet and it got quite cold travelling on the bike. Initially it was a bit daunting as we were sitting up quite high on the trike and you felt quite exposed. We had a bit of a chat before we set off to agree the schedule for the afternoon. Both Nigel and I felt that it would be good to have a proper look at Whistler Vineyard which was a couple of miles up the road from the farm. We had agreed before hand that Nigel would drive us to a restaurant that evening and so he was primarily 'spitting' whereas I was happy to drink all that was offered to me! We brought two bottles from Whistler to compliment the remnants of what was left from the bottle we were given the previous day.

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We also wanted to try a couple of wines that we are also able to purchase in the UK so Tony then took us to the 'cellar door' of Penfolds and Wolf Blass and again we bought one and then two bottles of wine respectively. It was interesting to see the massive scale of production at some of these larger productions.

During the tour Tony also took us to another couple of vineyards just so that we could look around and also see the grand architecture of some of these buildings. Many of the wine growers came over to Australia from Prussian Germany in the mid 19th century and were Lutherans trying to escape persecution in their own country. They would have all started growing grapes on a small scale, but some but by no means all, have now been taken over by larger international wine growers. The Lutheran presence is very evident in the area with the names of the people and the large number of Lutheran churches. Both Chris the owner of Whistler Farm and Tony our guide had German ancestry.

At one point Tony suggested that we went out on the highway where the speed limit was higher (120 kilometres an hour) but we declined and I told him that I wasn't a confident rider. To his credit he totally respected this and we never went faster than about 45 miles an hour after that. I started to feel more confident on the trike and was really enjoying the experience. Despite the fact out that I was only drinking small amounts of wine at each cellar door I was starting to feel a little squiffy and so next we went to a cheese producer where we tasted and then bought some of their soft Camembert type cheeses. Finally we went to another smaller label called Bethany, partly because Tony recommended them as one of the best small labels and also because we were attracted to their having a granddaughter of the same name. The wine was lovely and we purchased a really nice red and a lovely warming bottle of fortified wine.

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The trunk was getting quite full as we had by now bought seven bottles of wine, one more than we had intended to buy and it was time to go back to the farm.

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It was nice to get out of the gear and no longer feel really chilly on the bike and hot and sweaty when we went inside the buildings. We had some free time before going out for dinner. We had been ringing round places during the day trying to book a table and during the afternoon Nigel had taken a call from our preferred option fermentAsian saying that they could give us a table for 7pm. We much preferred this restaurant to the one we had been to the previous night. The chef was Vietnamese and they made suggestions as to the best way to order, how the food would come out and how the best way to eat them. We went for pork in betel leaves, Hanoi spring rolls, a yellow snapper curry and a duck curry with purple potatoes all served with Jasmine rice. My favourite was the snapper, but it was all delicious. As we had been tasting wine all day I went for a local wheat beer to drink and Nigel stuck with bottled water as he was driving. By the time we had eaten all the food we were completely stuffed and weren't sure how some people could manage the seven course chef's table. We ended our meal with a traditional Vietnamese coffee to remind us of our time in Vietnam (strong coffee served at the table with condensed milk and then poured over ice), not very healthy but lovely all the same. Considering the popularity of the restaurant (no. 1 in the area on TripAdvisor) we were pleasantly surprised that the bill came to a reasonable $120 (about £55). We drove the short journey home and relaxed for the rest of the evening and I did some blog writing as I was now pretty behind with this after being in the red centre for several days.

Posted by Gill's Travels 22:47 Archived in Australia Tagged australia wine barossa

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