A trip to The Barossa in pursuit of some of the finer things in life.
A trip to South Australia’s Barossa wine region is a treat for the senses, blending a celebrated wine culture with world-famous food and accommodation.
21 June, 2023
This is not a job interview fortunately for us, but rather the chance to learn from a master at Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm
Sleeves rolled up, apron tied, hands at the ready, our eyes glued to chef Tim Bourke. This is not a job interview fortunately for us, but rather the chance to learn from a master at Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm near the South Australian town of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. Bourke is making perfect pasta at the Farm Eatery Cooking School and making it look ridiculously easy to us mere mortals gathered around.
“It’s all in the hand action, see roll and push gently,” he says as he works with a precision born of time and repartition.
In no time he’s made pasta from scratch then turned it into broad pappardelle strips and perfect ring-shaped tortellini as well as whip up two tasty seasonal sauces. Nothing to it.
Tim, a former executive chef at Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge, joined the famed Maggie Beer team in 2017 and loves sharing his culinary skills.
It’s a fun few hours of culinary education as we tackle our menu at well-equipped cooking stations with sharp knives, cooking gadgets and prepared ingredients.
“Everything is based on local, seasonal produce,” says Tim, as we slice, sauté and quickly come to the realisation that we are probably well advised to keep our day jobs. Nevertheless it is a fascinating and hugely enjoyable insight into just what is required to elevate one’s skills to that next level.
Later our diligence is rewarded as we dine on kale pesto pappardelle and tortellini with pumpkin and rosemary and verjuice butter sauce served with rustic homemade bread, a salad plus a good Barossa drop, of course.
Even though our dishes don’t look quite as good as Tim’s, they taste sensational with flavours that pop in your mouth.
The Barossa Valley, 60 minutes from Adelaide, is all about fabulous food and wine and our first stop is lunch at Fino at Seppeltsfield, where renowned chef David Swain and front-of-house personality Sharon Romeo star.
We dine on shared platters of fresh regional treats including king fish crudo, prawns, Hampshire pork, ricotta agnolotti, sugar snap peas, baby potatoes and radicchio and orange, hazelnut dressing salad.
After lunch we head upstairs to Seppeltsfield’s historic centennial cellar with chief winemaker, Fiona Donald, the custodian of these barrels of single-vintage tawnies that are aged for 100 years before release.
The cellar lined with aging barrels is filled with rich aromas, the legendary tawny has a rich luscious taste with the ground spices evident.
“I love going up to the centennial cellar with someone for the first time,” says Fiona of her visits to what is hallowed ground for lovers of tawny.
The Barossa Valley, 60 minutes from Adelaide, is all about fabulous food
The magnificent 2000 Canary Island date palms that line the approaching roads are as famous as they are impressive
“You tell the story and you see the slight disbelief, the wonderment and the awe of founder Oscar Benno Pedro Seppelt laying down that first vintage and the fact you can eyeball an unbroken collection of tawnies from 1878 to now. It’s not just my workplace – it is a very special cellar,” she says.
Seppeltsfield, located on the western side of the Barossa, combines 169 hectares of ancient vineyard, gardens and heritage-listed architecture. The magnificent 2000 Canary Island date palms that line the approaching roads are as famous as they are impressive. The fact that they were planted by winery workers during the Great Depression only adding to the sense of history as you arrive.
After lunch and tasting it’s a short walk to our accommodation passing the Greco-Roman inspired Seppelt Family Mausoleum built in 1927, perched atop a quartzite ridge overlooking sweeping manicured vines.
It’s a fitting tribute to the pioneering family who established one of Australia’s oldest wine estates and has played such a pivotal part in this region’s history.
Our base for this stay is the recently revamped The Louise, part of the Baillie Lodges Collection and just a stroll from Seppeltsfield. A long-standing favourite in this part of the world, the property has received a three-million dollar dusting of James and Hayley Baillie’s magic, working with South Australian architect Max Pritchard.
The 15 luxurious villas are clustered around a lavender and rosemary hemmed central walkway and overlook rows of shiraz vines.
The spacious suites have gas heating for those chill South Australian nights, a lounge area, comfortable bed and an ensuite bedecked in marble. As well as the bath and shower, there is also an outdoor shower and for those feeling active after long days of relaxing or taking in the surrounding wine country, there is also a pool and gym a short stroll from your suite.
Sunset drinks and canapés are served in the lounge and you can choose a selection from the impressive curved ‘wine lantern’ filled with 800 fine labels.
Taking pride of place is the much-awarded Appellation restaurant with bucolic views of vines and gently rolling hills.
Dinner is a five-course degustation with matching wines, created by Executive Chef Asher Blackford and his culinary team. Asked to describe his culinary style, Blackford says his mantra is ‘earthy, witty and wise’.
“It’s all about transcribing sights, scents, tastes and emotions of the Barossa to the plate,” he says of the menu which includes such delights as a kipfler and yuzu éclair, avocado, riblet and ice plant entree, tender quail. This is followed by Barossa beef and oyster mushrooms topped off by a finale of burnt mandarin meringue, all served with paired wines.
Taking pride of place is the much-awarded Appellation restaurant with bucolic views of vines and gently rolling hills
Freshly picked goodies from the kitchen garden are a highlight of every menu along with the finest regional ingredients and fresh seasonal produce
Freshly picked goodies from the kitchen garden are a highlight of every menu along with the finest regional ingredients and fresh seasonal produce from local farmers and growers.
For casual dining, Contour restaurant serves classic dishes such as tender roast chicken and a great steak along with burgers and grazing plates with charcuterie, spicy prawn toast or buttered mussels.
Breakfast is served in Appellation and with offerings like Mehl Sourdough crumpets, served with fresh juice and great coffee, it is the perfect platform from which to launch another day of exploring the Barossa.
For a final treat on our visit, it’s off to the Barossa’s newest art gallery and cellar door, Wonderground, founded by artists Renee de Saxe and Kirsty Kingsley. A former farmhouse, it is now the venue for eclectic exhibitions and offers the perfect aside from visiting wineries and indulging in the local culinary gems.
It is just one of the many ‘backstage pass experiences’ The Louise offers to guests, allowing them to discover more treasures of the world famous region during their visits.
Certainly there is no shortage of attractions for those lured to this stunning region, but visits are best kept relatively short and indulged in often. That rich bounty is not a friend of restraint, and those on a diet need not apply.
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