Sunday, March 6, 2011

South Australia Trip - The Barrossa Valley

The Barossa Valley is a major wine-producing region and tourist destination of South Australia, located 60km northeast of Adelaide. It is the valley formed by the North Para River, and the Barossa Valley Way is the main road through the valley, connecting the main towns on the valley floor of Nuriootpa, Tanunda, Rowland Flat and Lyndoch.

We drove up the Sturt Highway, by-passing the City of Gawler and into the Barossa Valley. Our little Toyota Seca hire from Budget Hire performed excellently, hardly using any fuel and easily doing the 110kph speed limit on the Freeway (even if its large front windscreen did allow heaps of sunlight and UV into the driver's compartment). 'Ellie', our trusty Garmin 3700 Sat-Nav system was very reliable and as equally forgiving when we failed to take an indicated turn or direction and quickly 'recalculated' another route for us.

Tanunda. surrounded by vineyards showing early Autumn colour.

We lunched at "The Bakery" in Nuriootpa and must say that lunch was the best part of our stay in that town. Our visit to the iconic cellar showroom of the famous Penfolds winery was very disappointing as we were completely ignored by the four staff members present and we walked out after standing around for several minutes without any form of acknowledgement while the two young counter staff 'gushed' over some younger tourists.

Penfolds Tasting and Sales at Nuriootpa S.A.

Nuriootpa, itself, we found to be a very quaint town with several older buildings featuring in its main street.

We drove down the road about 9kms in a vain attempt to locate the Tourist Information Centre so that we may find some directions to vineyards that were open but were without luck.  Despite having gathered lots of tourist brochures we learnt that for the next day's trip we needed to gather as much information from the Adelaide Tourist Information Centre as we could before we set out.

By chance, we came across another wine making icon, Chateau Tanunda Vineyard but were unable to locate their Disabled Parking Area and faced with a climb up a steel ladder of fifteen rungs to the Cellar Tasting Rooms, we drove on.

We stopped at a motel and the receptionist was kind enough to supply us with a map of the region that showed all the wineries. Before long we arrived at the Rockford Winery Cellar Doors where we were made very welcome, so much so that as a responsible driver I had to work hard to resist the frequent offers to enjoy more and more tastings. We did purchase a very nice Semillon which we hope to have with our baked dinner tonight.

Entrance to the Rockford Cellar Tasting Area

The Tasting Room itself is located in an old stables area at Rockford with barrels of wine now stored in the loft where over a century ago 11 children once slept.

The loft at Rockford

Currently, the Barossa Valley has a population of about 20,000, most of whom live in Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Williamstown and Lyndoch, each having over 1000 people, with a few smaller towns such as Moculta and Springton. All of these towns are part of the Barossa local government. Many facilities not available in these towns are usually supplemented in nearby Gawler. In recent years, increased development in the area has seen opposition from the local communities. The area is also a Lutheran stronghold with many residents identifying themselves as Lutherans. Some towns have more than one Lutheran church. Tanunda, for example, has Langmeil, Tabor, St. Paul's and St. Johns. Nuriootpa has St. Petri and Holy Trinity. Angaston has Zion and Salem (Penrice). Each major town also has a Lutheran primary school. Tanunda has Tanunda Lutheran School, Nuriootpa has Redeemer, and Angaston has Good Shepherd. St. Jakobi, the Lutheran primary school at Lyndoch, hosts the Barossa Airshow annually as its fundraiser.

Despite our long hot drive and a trifle disappointing day at Barossa, we looked forward to the next day and a drive to the seaside resorts of Glenelg and Victor Harbour.


Sharon said...

What charming old churches! That winery looked like it was from the middle ages, though, of course, it was not. Fun little trip you had! That picture of Tanunda, really shows the vastness of all the vineyards.

JohnD said...

The Tasting Room at Rockwell was over 100 years old (that's 'old' for Australia) but the surrounding buildings were recently built using old techniques and naturally available materials. "Yes!" the Valley is vast, much more so than we expected as our 'cold climate winerie' at home are developed in very hilly country.

Jim said...

So much I do not know about Australia.Thanks for this 'tour' John, very interesting. Australian wines are very popular her in Nova Scotia.

JohnD said...

Ooops! I said 'Rockwell' and meant 'Rockford'. It was a pity we were ignored at Penfolds as I had my heart set on a triple bottle package of Penfolds' selected port wines for $38AUS. We both lost out their! South Australian wines are very good but the best whites come from Margaret River in Western Australia and Hunter Valley reds and Mudgee reds in New South Wales are the best in my book!