Friday, October 23, 2009

We got up a little later today, since our pick-up for the wine tour wasn't until 9:30 am. We walked around downtown a bit, with everything much easier to see in the daylight. We figured out that we were in the northeast part of the city, just a couple blocks from the North Terrace (the northern edge of downtown) and a couple of blocks from the East Terrace. Adelaide's downtown is bounded on four sides by large parks, and is split down the middle by King William Street, with all of the East-West streets getting a name change on either side of King William. We ate breakfast at East Terrace Continental, which faced out to the East Terrace. The food was very good, and it had a very vibrant and loud atmosphere for a weekday morning.

Our guide, Peter, picked us up from the hotel just after 9:30. We were in a nice VW van, with a rotating table and a cooler. Peter was very animated, high-energy, and originally from the Barossa Valley, so a good choice for being a guide. Barossa Valley is one of Australia's largest wine-producing regions, and is only 60km northeast of Adelaide. The valley was formed by the North Para River. The area is roughly 13km long by 14km wide. The valley has a number of small towns, with the entire area totaling around 20,000 people. The main source of employment for these people are the wineries. Some of the more notable wineries in the area are Grant Burge, Torbreck, Orlando (producers of Jacob's Creek), Kaesler, Penfolds, Peter Lehmann, Wolf Blass, Rockford, Elderton, Glaetzer, Saltram, Yalumba and Seppelts.  Most of the wines are red wines, particularly Shiraz (called Syrah in California). The Penfold's Shiraz is one of Australia's most famous wines. Besides Shiraz, other varieties grown in Barossa Valley include Riesling, Semillon, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We made our way out of Adelaide, going through some of the ritzier neighborhoods to the east of downtown before getting on the highway for the Adelaide Hills. We were barely out of town when we took the exit for Mount Lofty, the highest point in the Adelaide Hills. In the area was a botanic garden and Cleland Wildlife Park (which we planned to visit the next day), but we were there to go to the lookout point. It was a little foggy, so the view wasn't at its best, but we could easily see all of Adelaide and the surrounding areas. The downtown area looked quite small, probably a dozen or so blocks in each direction.


Our first wine stop was just a little bit further east on the highway, still in the Adelaide Hills. We thought we were just driving through one of the small local towns when Peter said "we're here." We were at Bridgewater Mill, a winery located at the site of an old water mill. The water wheel was still working - although presumably for decoration only at this point - and was so big it was hard to fit the entire thing into a picture. We had the following:


After leaving Bridgewater Mill, we went just a bit further to the east, to the city (town) of Hahndorf. From the way the buildings looked, plus the signage, the type of businesses, and everything else, it was pretty clear that we were in an old German town. Peter told us that German Lutherans came to Australia to escape religious persecution, and set up Hahndorf. The area was openly touristy, but it still was nice, and after all, we were tourists. Nearly every shop had sausages or chocolate (sometimes both) for sale. There were also trinket shops, many of them with humorous signs and magnets. One apron stated "I got this apron for my wife. Nice trade I'd say."

After leaving Hahndorf, we went through a number of even smaller hillside towns, first Woodside, then Birdwood (home to a large car museum), then Mount Pleasant. At Springton, we visited a large, hollowed out, Gum tree that housed an early settler and his family for a couple of years.

After Springton we went through Eden Valley and Angaston before coming to our second winery, Yalumba. Crystal had requested that we go to Yalumba, after having some of their wines at home. It is still family run, unlike many of the larger wineries in the Barossa Valley. All of the wines we had were really tasty - we had the following:

We were running a little late, so when we got to lunch at Saltrams Winery, we ordered first, then did our wine tasting while waiting for our food. Here we had only three wines:

Lunch was good. Crystal's first sight of a kangaroo in Australia was on her lunch plate.

After lunch we went to one of the largest and most famous wineries in Australia, Penfolds. It is no longer family owned, and the winery and the tasting area was much more vanilla than any of the other wineries we visited. We had the following:

Right near Penfolds was the last winery we visited, Seppeltsfield. The winery is more known for the grounds and the surrounding area than the wine itself. In the 1930s, when times were tough and there was not much wine producing going on, the owner planted dozens upon dozens of Canary Island Date Palms, lining driveways and roadways all over the grounds. Justin commented that it was very impressive looking, to which Peter responded "no, it's fucking fantastic." Perhaps he was correct.

As for the wines, they were "fantastic" as well:

So when it was all said and done, we had 36 glasses of wine - good times. We took the shorter, less scenic road back to Adelaide, arriving at the hotel just after 6. We tried to connect to the internet in our room, only to repeatedly fail, so we gave up and just started walking around the city. We walked west down Rundle until we reached the West Terrace, then came back east on Pirie street. We ended up eating at a Thai restaurant right next to Jasmin, where we had eaten the night before. The food wasn't that great - it was noticeably lacking in any spice whatsoever - but the music was good, as there was a young lady playing traditional Thai music. We would have stayed out later, but we were both very sleepy (the 36 glasses of wine certainly couldn't have anything to do with it), so we just came back to the room and quickly fell asleep watching TV.