Adelaide – Day 4 : Barossa

a glass half there

Now to the final words on Adelaide, and what a time it was. This day sees us in that holy land of wine country… the Barossa valley. So often lauded as Australia’s greatest wine growing region, and I can now see why… Which is of course because everyone from the Barossa keeps telling you that so often, you eventually start to believe it :)

However, there is something about the Barossa and the people of the Barossa Valley area that is very unique. They are bound together in their love of food, wine, and the life gastronomic. Many times throughout the day of travelling through wineries, tasting delicious wines, did I hear stories about how people in the Barossa stick together. There was no bad mouthing of other wineries, and a helpful suggestion of other places in the area who we should definitely go and check out was often offered. Having been a fan of the tv show “The Cook and the Chef” for a while now, I’d been making stupid jokes about dropping in to have lunch with Maggie Beer (as well as how she can’t go 5 minutes without mentioning how much she loves the Barossa Valley), but I should probably have shut my mouth. Not only did I meet someone who sang in the local choir with her, but her daughter (who runs a catering company) was setting up for a cellar door managers dinner at one of our last stops of the day. It’s two degrees of separation in that neck of the woods. Cocky food bloggers beware, or there’ll be a Beer Lynching squad after you in no time… :)

So we whisked our way through Trevor Jones / Kellermeister wines, Charles Melton, Rockfords (managing to snag a tasting of the Basket Press Shiraz), Rolf Binder / Veritas (meeting Rolf the wine maker and purchasing a bottle of his Hanisch Shiraz), and finally Torbreck.

The lineup

My impression of the day and the wines can be summarised in one simple statement.

“Shiraz is not just shiraz”

The quality and depth of flavour from the different styles we tried was remarkably varied across all the wines we tried, which was barely a smattering of the wineries the Barossa has to offer. From spicey and peppery styles to smoother more fruit driven styles of the cooler Eden Valley, there really was something for everyone.

My only regret being that I didn’t have enough time or enough money to get all the wines I wanted. But with a few essentials under our belts (mainly the Charles Melton Nine Popes), it was a wonderful day. Very nearly surpassed by a great night to follow.

So following up on more website comments and suggestions, we’d given Melting Pot a call earlier in the day to try and get a reservation for Saturday night. Unfortunately they were completely booked that night, and so it looked like we were going to miss out. I figured I might try and put on my important / desperate voice for one last try though, and on calling back, found out there was a table for 2 available for that evening, Friday night. We booked it in, and hastily made our way back from the Barossa to be dropped ever so graciously by Serena (our chauffeur and future wine connoisseur) right out the front, and just in time.

Melting Pot

Melting Pot is hard to describe. I suppose you’d have to settle on Modern Australian (whatever that means) if you needed to find a label. The menu is centred around the degustation style that so many haute cuisine restaurants prefer these days, with matched wines for each course. We chose a 6 course tasting menu with wine, and a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Now while I’d love to write a glowing review about how every dish was a fantastic revelation of culinary amazement. The sad reality was that the majority of the courses were average at best, and just strange at worst. The popcorn quail in particular (which featured actual popcorn strewn across the plate, along with some “popcorn” quail pieces, reminiscent of KFC’s efforts at using up the left overs).

The wine matched with each course was mostly nice, though we’d been far too spoilt over the last three days of oenophilic
indulgence to get a lot of enjoyment out of run of the mill wines. Plus a day of tasting intense Shiraz had left my palate cleft of all love for subtle light wines that chefs like to serve with their dishes.

Still, by the end of the 4th course things were starting to pick up. The culmination of wines throughout the day and with each course started to work it’s magic, and as a light headed fuzzy feeling of mild intoxication came over me, everything started to taste a whole lot better.

By the end of the meal we were quite merry indeed, and can honestly say we enjoyed the experience. Though perhaps not as fully as I was hoping for.

The night still being young however, we decided to try our luck getting a taxi into the city and checking out the other “must go to” place on my list, Apothecary 1878.

Apothecary 1878

Now if you’re familiar with Adelaide, you’ll know all too well what Hindley Street is known for. It’s essentially the nightclub, late night, red light, anything goes district in the city centre. Bars, pubs, and clubs are full of people who have had too much to drink, and not enough clothes to wear.

So coming across a place like Apothecary, in the midst of the debauchery that is the rest of the street on a Friday night, was like a breath of fresh air. Walking in to what seemed like near silence, as the door closed behind us and our eyes adjusted to the subdued lighting and the relaxed mood that only truly cool places can so effortlessly attain.

The name comes from the fact that the place is fitted out to look like an 1800’s style chemist. All of the cabinets and bar had actually been bought and shipped over from the UK, so they do actually date back to 1878. No ikea style renovations for these guys.

The wine list was similarly impressive. Around 20 pages or so of every major style and region around the world. With plenty there to keep the wine geek in me flipping back and forth for a good 10 minutes before finally settling on something. If you live in Adelaide, you had better be making the most of this place, because it really deserves it.

Chorizo from Apothecary

But wait.. what’s that you said.. you serve food too ? Well, we have just had a 6 course meal with wine, and dessert… but what the hell, lets have a look. So after another couple of glasses of wine, some meatballs, chorizo, and olive tapas dishes, another chocolate pudding for Sharon, and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine, we concluded what was possibly the most gastronomically extravagant days of my life.

Before I could start thinking about whether it was possible or reasonable to have three dinners in one evening, fatigue start to set in. Still, it was a great day, and great night, and a wonderful trip all round to Adelaide, with some very memorable experiences with good wine, good food, and good friends.

Kara and Paul were married on Saturday to a wonderful reception. I didn’t cry once… but some dust may have got into my eye at one point. Anything is possible in Adelaide.

Adelaide Day 3 – Handorf and the Hills

Thinking about bubbles Reidel vampire bat glasses

This will be a short one. Day three in Adelaide was spent trekking up to the hills to check out the venue for the weekends wedding. The wedding and the reception both being held at Mount Lofty House, and everyone we met all said “Ohhh, Mt Lofty… it’s lovely up there”. They were right, it was.

So after doing a prerequisite tourist stop at the lookout nearby, we made our way through the hills to the small town (?) of Bridgewater, home to the famous Bridgewater Mill restaurant and Petaluma wines.
We didn’t have time to stop for lunch, which did look appealing despite the price. But a sampling of the wines was definitely on the cards. I particularly liked the Reisling and the Croser Sparkling White, and the Bridgewater Mill Shiraz was a very decent drop too. So a couple of bottles later and some shabby photos from the window of the car because it was raining and I didn’t want to get wet, and we were back on the road.

Now getting close to lunchtime, what better place to get your fill than at a pub in a German tourist town ! I’m still trying to make my mind up about Hahndorf. It has a certain shabby charm that is quite interesting, and the town is clearly clinging to it’s German settler ancestors roots as hard as it possible can. But there was a certain lack of sincerity about it, and a far too blatant feeling that it was all a big joke on tourists for me to feel entirely comfortable.

Certainly if I’d known the pub we went into for lunch had a spruiker out the front (who we had somehow avoided) we probably wouldn’t have stopped there at all. But still, the food was ok, if not cloying after three mouthfuls, and it was nice to sit down and chat to some apparent German enthusiasts who had driven four hours from Mt Gambier to get a bratwurst hotdog. But then who knows, maybe they were onto something. Perhaps bratwurst is the perfect fodder for a travelling wine taster to stock up on precious fat stores to absorb the alcohol. Or perhaps not.

Trio of Wurst

The final stop of this day was Nepenthe. A winery I’ve really enjoyed in the past, and maker of one of Australia’s best Sauvingnon Blancs. Not that I really like Sauvingnon Blanc that much, but I’m always willing to pretend I do if it makes me seem more in vogue :) I did quite like their Fugue, which is a Bordeaux style cabernet blend, and the Charleston Pinot Noir went a long way to convincing me I should try to get back into Pinot, after a prolonged spell of not trying any that I’ve liked.

NePenThe

Happy to have conquered another South Australian wine region (albeit briefly), we headed back into the city and did a little wander down the east end of Rundle St. Stopping by chance (or perhaps because of my preoccupation with lane ways), at East End Cellars, to be greeted by the affable Michael Andrewartha, who sold me a bottle of aged Henschke Gew├╝rztraminer (1999), and gave me a few tips on where to check out in the Barossa.

Which is where we’re heading to next :) (oh the suspense!)

Adelaide Day 2- McLaren Vale & Tapas

Nice Legs Tapas @ Mesa Lunga

In what may prove to be the most drawn out explanation of a week long holiday ever… I present day two of our trip to Adelaide. Cleverly titled to reflect the main events of said day.

The beauty of Adelaide (or one of them anyway), is that it’s a stones throw away from a handful of Australia, and indeed the worlds, best wine making regions. Just how close I had no idea until we got into the car to go to McLaren Vale, and a mere 20 minutes later were standing in a tasting room swirling Reidel glasses daubed with inky red stuff like nobody’s business.

McLaren Vale is unique in that it is actively promoting itself as a region that produces excellent Grenache. With a special regional label of sorts called Cadenzia being created especially for McLaren Vale winemakers wanting to display the best that their grenache has to offer. It’s an interesting initiative, and one that I think is a great idea. It gave us a real focus for what the region did well, and also made it possible to compare and contrast styles of wine that were different and special in their own ways.

So we had the best intentions of going everywhere, but I think time slows down when you’re in wine country, or should that be speeds up. It felt like we’d been to a lot of different places, and perhaps if the tourist map we were following had of been accurate we would have (nb: never trust tourist maps ! The giant grapes next to the giant knife and fork is not to scale !!), but by the end of the day we found that we’d only made it to 4 places !

Still, quality not quantity as I always (read: sometimes) say. We started off at Coriole, one of my favourite wineries, and making of some fantastic Italian varietals. The Sangiovese is an old favourite however we really loved the Fiano, which is a rather rare (for “new world” plantings) Italian white wine from the Campania region.

Next it was on to Chapel Hill, another great winery and recent recipient of some big awards. Of course, not knowing any of this, I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of their wines, although a trend that emerges over the day was that Tempranillo is becoming one of my favourite wines. We took a bottle of the Il Vescovo Tempranillo and sauntered onwards.

dArenburg

After that it was on to d’Arenburg, another of my favourite spots, and maker of some stunning Shiraz blends. Their “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz Viognier is one of the nicer styles of that wine I’ve tried recently, and the Stump Jump GSM is nearly an institution in cheap but tasty drinking. We splashed out a little and got a bottle of the Dead Arm Shiraz, the Cadenzia GSM, and the Laughing Magpie.

On to the final spot of the day, Mr Riggs and Pennys Hill. Pennys Hill is the vineyard and Mr Riggs (aka Ben Riggs) is the winemaker, who also runs his own label from the same location. Plenty more great Shiraz and Grenache blends as well as a little Clare Valley Reisling sneaking it’s way in, but what we came away with was a chocolaty and smooth bottle of fortified Shiraz.

Escaping McLaren Vale with a small cache of wine, a light wallet, and almost a wine dog (a super friendly jack russell terrior from Paxton), it was back to the big smoke for the evenings entertainment.

Now there are times when running a food blog really pays off. These are such times. Coming back from a long days wine tasting with little idea of where to go for more great eating that night, I paid a brief visit back to the comments section of my “I’m going to Adelaide, nah nah nah” post, to find an excellent, detailed, and ultimately very helpful comment from Zams who as well as confirming some of my other ideas, put forward Mesa Lunga as a restaurant well worth checking out. It took two seconds for me to see funky and tapas, and know it was up my alley.

Mesa Lunga is situated on the corner of morphett and gouger (now officially pronounced Goo-gah) streets in the centre of Adelaide, and looks and feels every bit the part that Zams described. Chilled out, refined, with a sexy edge to it, perhaps exacerbated by the door chick calling me babe… “Yeh sorry babe, all we’ve got is tables in the tapas section tonight”.

That’s cool, tapas is why we’re here babe… (I wish I was that clever).

So we grabbed some menus, opened a fine bottle of wine supplied by Kara (at a measely $15 / bottle corkage !), and went down the list ordering anything and everything that looked tasty.

A short run through included the tortilla, the patatas bravas, the whitebait, the baked mussels, the turkey meatballs, a goat meatballs pizza, crab croquettes, and some truly great salt cod balls.

Desserts were a chocolate tart with pashmak (that’s Persian fairy floss to the uninitiated), a creme caramel kind of thing, some stewed figs, and that bastion of Spanish desserts, churros, lovingly dunked in molten chocolate.

All up, the place was great. The food was good value, came quickly, and tasted great. I love it when tapas is done well, and this hit the spot for me. Nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive, but a focus on quality ingredients and a funky atmosphere. The manager Teale even managed to make me a passable espresso at the end of the night, which was from Rio coffee, seemingly the Adelaide roaster of choice for fresh beans.

Stuffed full, and ‘babed’ out, it was then off for a trip around the city, a few more photos of churches that will never see the light of day, and home to bed, ready for the next big adventure.

*stay tuned for more*

Adelaide: Day 1

my last church photo

So yes… It’s a church. What can I say, there really are a lot of churches in Adelaide. Not all of them are particularly photograph worthy, but as a concession to church lovers the world over, here are my first and last church photos. I know I’ve been slack about updating the site with all the news and happenings in South Australia, but if you’re been around for any length of time you’d realise it was completely inevitable… The fact that I had a couple of thousand photos to sift through alone should be a good enough indication as to why my procrastination has been so pronounced.

So after a relatively short flight from Perth on that stunningly cheap (in every way) airline Virgin Blue, we arrived in Adelaide. The basic plan was to spend some time with my friends Paul and Kara (who were getting married), and Sharon’s friends Serena and Chris, as well as fit in as much good wine and good food as was humanly possible.

After being picked up at the airport by Paul and Kara, and bewildering them with my need to bring my entire knife set with me (because you just never know when a spontaneous dinner party is going to break out). We had a quick lunch and wandered around the streets of suburbia. I have no idea where we were as I was still almost completely disoriented, but my initial reaction was that it seemed like a big country town. Which is not a bad thing if you like country towns of course :)

Later that evening, after unwinding and becoming acquainted with Kara’s miniature schnauzer Ebby (who had an unnatural fascination with my feet), we decided to try out the first place on my list of recommendations, Good Life Organic Pizza. This one came from Kam and Louise of Fiori fame, who had many good things to say about reasonably priced tasty pizza, and an excellent list of wines.

Good Life - Modern Organic Pizza

I’m happy to say they weren’t mistaken. We ordered the roast organic vegetable pizza, the Angaston spicy salami pizza,
(with organic kalamata olives, organic red onion, fresh baby bocconcini and basil), and the Free-range roasted duck
with shitake mushroom and spring onion ginger jam ! Oh boy… they were all so very good. My personal fav was most likely the duck pizza, however the roast vege one did a great job of making me forget about my carnivorous tendencies for a while.

Duck and Shitake Mushroom Pizza

We also ordered a bottle of Geoff Hardy’s K1 Cabernet/Tempranillo, starting a trend that would continue throughout the week of consuming vast quantities of great wine (in moderation of course – one after another :) ).

The service was casual and the staff did a good job of sounding genuine in their concern for all things organic, which was also nice. It was also nice to be having dinner with my good friend Paul, one of the nicest guys I know, and one of the few people on this world that I know can eat more than I do. I happily left him the last piece of pizza as we slowly eased our way into holiday mode, ready for the rest of the week.

City of Churches, State of Wine-o’s

Sun on the vines

So we’re headed to Adelaide. City of a thousand churches, and capital city of the state which is home to some of the finest wine producing areas in the world.

So I’ve been hitting up every person I can think of for tips about good restaurants in the city, as well as any memorable winery experiences they’ve had when visiting areas like the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, and Adelaide Hills.

So far on the list of restaurants is :

  • Good Life Organic Pizza
  • Apothecary
  • Melting Pot
  • Bridgewater Mill

and wineries:

  • Glaeztner
  • Rockfords
  • D’Arenburg
  • Nepenthe

and too many more to list…

So for the readers of this blog who may have spent some time and had some great food and wine in South Australia, please drop me a comment or email with your suggestions. We’ll be there for roughly a week, so I doubt we’ll have time to do all the things even on this list, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

Look forward to a round up of the more memorable moments when we get back !