Three years among the vines

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The view over the Barossa from Mengler’s Hill – 29 July 2017

Three years ago today, a family of four, including two little boys aged three and five, left their motel in NSW, drove through Victoria and arrived in South Australia. In the early afternoon, with two children asleep, they drove into Tanunda, the place they had decided (with only some online research, two friends and a handful of visits) was going to be their new home. Leaving the boys to sleep, they drove by the school (where they were meeting the principal the next morning), and the house they were hoping to rent. The weather wasn’t great and as they arrived at the motel, they were a bit worried about that choice, but it was exciting. Besides, since leaving their house in Hanoi six weeks before, they had already stayed in eight different places. A massive storm hit as they were picking up supplies from the supermarket and as they put together a meal of pasta and sauce on the floor of their motel room, she was grateful they were together – even if they didn’t know what would come next.

That family was us and I still can’t believe it has been three years since we moved here. We have had our share of ups and downs, but I don’t think we have ever regretted the decision to move here. It still surprises me how quickly it all happened. We arrived here on the Tuesday and moved into our house on the Friday, with the stuff we’d had stored in Canberra arriving that same day. The boys started school and childcare that day and Simon started work the following Monday. Suddenly I was at home alone, the reality of my career and lifestyle change slowly sinking in.

I wrote this post a year after we arrived and I think a lot of it still rings true. Probably the one thing I didn’t expect was while you can make friends and feel settled quite quickly, there are still days where it doesn’t come easy. People often joke that you need three generations of Barossan family buried here to call yourself a local. While we have made incredible friends through school, work, the kids and their sport and more recently through Crossfit, there are times when you can’t help but feel like an outsider. I think it’s for that reason we’ve tried extra hard to learn about the history, explore places to eat, find our favourite cellar doors and get involved in the community.

We’ve really appreciated the friends who have provided job opportunities for us both, got our  boys playing hockey and basketball, invited us to social activities and made us feel welcome. When Simon had surgery in early 2016 to have a cancerous tumour removed and 20cm of titanium inserted in his arm, we were blown away by the support that was offered to us. The boys consider this their home, and after we bought our place last year, I have to say that I feel truly at home here.  A wardrobe full of too small clothes is also evidence that I’ve heartily embraced the best the Barossa has to offer, but fortunately in the last year, I’ve started to focus on exercise again and I’ve started running again.

After three years, I still find the juggle of part-time work,  housework, the boys activities, trying to develop a writing career and have a social life can become overwhelming and I think I’m just coming to terms with what a big change it was to leave a 15 year career. Deciding to wind up the consulting business I started was a difficult decision, but it has been great to just focus on  my part-time job in the wine industry while I try and write more. Leaving my career and not knowing what I would do next has probably made settling down more difficult, particularly as it isn’t something my friends here have experienced. I am only just coming to terms that making such a big career change also necessitates a big lifestyle change. There is the odd pang of jealousy when I see a Facebook post from a friend on an overseas posting enjoyable some fabulous travel experience but then I remind myself of the beautiful place we’re living and the opportunities that we have on our doorstop.

One of the highlights of living here has been visits from friends and family as it always provides a great opportunity to explore new places and revisit and share our favourites. It is hard being away from family, especially when they might be unwell or missing important birthdays and other activities, but it has also made me appreciate friends and family more. We couldn’t have made such a massive change without their support.

Reading back over my post from the first year (and a post from one of my favourite bloggers about her tree-change seven years ago), I was trying to think whether there was anything I would have done differently and I honestly can say, I don’t think there is. I think had we thought too much about our decision, the enormity of it all probably would have caused us to chicken out. I feel like three years on, we are all starting to feel settled, having our own house has given us a base to build on and there is no question this is where we want to be.

And while the locals might not see us that way (and the Swans remain my number 1 footy team), this is our home and we’re pretty happy about it.

 

 

My Barossa – Part 2 – all about the food (and coffee)

It’s a couple of weeks since part one of my newcomer’s guide to the Barossa (me being the newcomer). Work, school holidays and the realisation I’d deleted part two has delayed this post. But school is back and thanks to the computer back-up, I have been able to resurrect the post and share some of my other favourite things to do.

One upside is that I have been able to sample a few more places, so I have a few more tips to add.

Fresh Produce and Food

Our first visit to the Farmer's Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
Our first visit to the Farmer’s Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since

It’s probably no surprise that the wine culture and German heritage in the Barossa means that food is an important part of the Barossa lifestyle. If you visit on a Saturday morning, be sure to head to the Barossa Valley Fanmer’s Market to pick up great produce, coffee, treats and even breakfast. I also love that our local supermarket support so many local producers by stocking their products, which means that even if you can’t get to the Farmer’s Market, you can still try products like Jersey Fresh milk, Barossa Roasters coffee, Careme Pastry, Steiny’s mettwurst, Wiech’s noodles, Barossa Valley Ice Cream, and many more. I love the fact our local supermarkets get behind local products and make sure they are available if you can’t make it to the Famer’s Market.

Chicken and Leek Pie made by me with Careme Pastry
Chicken and Leek Pie made by me with Careme Pastry

In an era where many cities have lost their butchers, we’re lucky to have butcher’s in most towns in the Barossa including Thornby’s in Tanunda, Schultz in Angaston (home to the famous Schultz bacon) and Linke’s in Nuriootpa.

Right next to Thornby’s in Tanunda, is the Apex bakery which has been baking bread since 1924.

Maggie Beer’s Farmshop is definitely worth a visit – you can enjoy a light lunch overlooking the dam, an ice cream or stock up on amazing condiments, jams, sauces and other cooking items. I am slightly obsessed by the Salted Brandy Caramel and Dark Chocolate Vincotto. Great spot for kids with nature walks, birds (including a couple of beautiful peacocks), turtles, ducks and sheep.

We watched for ages as this peacock (name King Fu peacock by the kids) put on a show for us at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop
We watched for ages as this peacock (name King Fu peacock by the kids) put on a show for us at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop

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Coffee

The options for coffee are expanding weekly it seems and it is hard to believe that a decade ago there was hardly a coffee shop in town. Being in Tanunda, I tend to get my daily fix at Keils, Nosh or the recently opened Mac Shac (which all serve a good range of sandwiches and meals). I have yet to try out the new Beans and Cream which is using my favourite Barossa Coffee Roasters– as does Harvest Kitchen and the kiosk at Seppeltsfield. Another popular newcomer on the Main Street of Tanunda is Darling’s Food with Passion cafe right next to Ironstone Cottage (which along with Elemental, Seasons and Alabaster are some of my favourite places to shop, especially for gifts).

Soul With Zest and Casa Carboni make great coffee in Angaston, I’ve heard good things about Barista Sista Beanery in Nuriootpa. Bar41 in Wiliamstown makes a great coffee as does That Little Café in Stockwell, which is open Thursday-Saturday with an ever changing menu

Dining out

Once you have enjoyed all the wineries and cooked up a storm with local produce, there are also some great restaurants to try. Here’s the list I share

  • Fino at Seppeltsfield – award winning and just as good as the original Fino in Willunga (McLaren Vale) and set in the recently renovated Seppeltsfield building

    A selection of the dishes from Fino at Seppeltsfield, May 2015
    A selection of the dishes from Fino at Seppeltsfield, May 2015
  • Appellation at the Louise – amazing food and also does a “locals night” (although you don’t have to be local) on a Tuesday night) which is a 3 course menu $59 – bookings essential. We went for our anniversary last year and it was great not having to order and just enjoying the dishes the chef had designed to showcase great local, seasonal produce
    Entree at Appellation
    Entree at Appellation

    View over the Stonewell Vineyard from Appellation
    View over the Stonewell Vineyard from Appellation
  • Ferment Asia in Tanunda is rated really highly with Chef and Owner Tuoi Do preparing Vietnamese style dishes using local South Australian produce. It also has a great wine list and has been recently extended
  • Harvest Kitchen at Artisans of Barossa – run by Tracey Collins and Pete Little, I have eaten here several times since they opened in February and can’t say a bad word – except for the fact I am slightly addicted to the salted caramel popcorn sundae! I also recently tried the Feed Me Like a Barossan lunch, which for $49 provides a fantastic selection of all the small plates, mains and desserts on offer. If you have the time, settle in and enjoy. Open 7 days for lunch, they are also open on a Friday night for dinner – but make sure you book.

    The Salted Caramel Popcorn sundae at Harvest Kitchen is amazing
    The Salted Caramel Popcorn sundae at Harvest Kitchen is amazing
  • Casa Carboni – coffee is fantastic and Fiona and Matteo offer great meals and cooking classes. On Friday evenings they offer wines by the glass with a menu of seasonal, local small plates.
  • Greenock Creek Tavern – great old pub with beautiful courtyards and grassed areas. We were spoilt with a huge sample platter of homemade icecreams from the chef the day we went. The lemon meringue pie ice cream had actual pieces of pie in it and was delicious.
  • Hentley Farm – this is definitely something to put on your Barossa bucket list! We were very lucky to be taken there by friends recently and enjoyed the Discovery menu with paired wines. The service was impeccable and the food was amazing – incredible flavours and very innovative without being over the top. It’s decsrived as “about” 7 courses and while there were 7 mains, there were also 5 small “snacks” to start, a dessert and 3 different petit fours. Save your pocket money and book in advance!

    A selection of the dishes we enjoyed recently at Hentley Farm
    A selection of the dishes we enjoyed recently at Hentley Farm
  • First Drop/Home of the Brave – great tapas, daily specials and a funky setting. Service is fun and the wine is pretty good too.
  • Barossa Valley Brewing – apart from local brewed beer and a beer garden perfect for the summer months, there is a great menu

1918 Bistro and Grill and Vintners Bar and Grill (which recently won the SA Best regional and Contemporary Restaurant) are two restaurants on my must visit list which are popular with locals and visitors alike.

There are also pubs in most of the towns serving up good local pub food.

For families (especially with younger kids), the options for dinner are more limited, but given the number of new restaurants that have opened since we arrived, I don’t think it will be long before there are more options. I often suggest to friends travelling with kids that they make the most of lunches out, and then stock up at the market, butchers and supermarket (and cellar doors) for dinner – and of course, get a babysitter and book one fancy child-free dinner out.

One gap that I hope is filled in coming years is a really good, upscale Chinese restaurant that showcases Australian produce and most importantly wine from the Barossa with dishes cooked from a variety of Chinese regional cuisines. I think this would be a valuable addition from both a tourism and wine point of view.

And it could hardly be a post about Barossa food without mentioning all the brilliant home made and home grown produce. We have be spoiled by friend’s bringing us cherries, lemons, eggs, almonds, apricots, preserves and chutneys. I’m also learning that the country roads are filled with wild fruits and nuts, and I’m looking forward to my first foraging trip. I’m also going to give jam making another go, although I think the winners from this year’s Tanunda Show are safe for a little while yet!

Tanunda Show Produce Display, March 2015
Tanunda Show Produce Display, March 2015

Transport

There are loads of options for tours so that you don’t need to worry about driving yourself. There is not much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, book in advance.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

I’m sure there are many more places I could include, but these are just a few of the places we’ve enjoyed since we have been here or been told we should try. If there is anything I’ve missed, please let me know.

My Barossa – a few of my favourite things – wineries and other things to do

View over the Steingarten Vineyard
View over the Steingarten Vineyard

In recent months, we’ve had visitors, done a house-swap and been asked to provide suggestions for friends of friends coming to visit. So I thought I should write a blog post with the various emails I had sent. However  I have been procrastinating over this post for weeks because every time I work on it, I think, “now I should just visit a few more places” and then post.

The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

The reality is, when you decide to call a place home, it can sometimes be too easy to slip into a local’s, “I’ll do that later” attitude and forget to play tourist. On the positive side, writing a list like this is a good reminder about all the places I still want to visit and to make time to do so. So Mum’s visit last week was a good excuse to tick a few more of the “must-dos” off my list which means it’s become an even longer and I’ve split it into two parts.

This is by no means a definitive list, in fact, if I ever get to a point where I say I have seen everything there is to see, and done everything there is to do, well, I should just up and find a new place to live. But I doubt that will ever happen because there are always new restaurants to try, new vintages of wine to sample, new shops and new exhibitions. Not to mention the fact that the Barossa is one of those fabulous places that thanks to the vines and fruit and almond trees (think blossoms), actually has seasons that you can see.

Wineries

Of course this is one of the main reasons people come to the Barossa and there are so many options. I have promised myself that in the coming months, I am taking myself of to do more wine tasting so I can expand my list of recommendations. I am no wine expert – so I’m not providing tasting notes – but I’ve included a link for all of them

  • Artisans of Barossa – 7 small winemakers in one of the most picturesque spots looking out over the vines towards Tanunda. Usually great art and jewelry on display, space for kids to run around or play soccer/cricket and the fabulous Harvest Kitchen (which I’ll include in next week’s post on places to eat). You might even get to enjoy a tasting with my husbandIMG_3716
  • Langmeil – great wine, fantastic history and a lovely platter (see my post on a day of wine tasting for more of the history about Langmeil)IMG_0515
  • Peter Lehmann – great tasting room, loads of beautiful space outdoors to enjoy a platter while kids run around and toys inside if the weather isn’t so great
  • Rockford – great wines being made in a winery that looks like it is a museum. Great insight into how wine is made

    Rockford Wines
    Rockford Wines
  • St Hallett – another beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic or a platter – I think they still do a fantastic duck platter
  • Whistler – a great one for families with BBQs, swings etc for kids and you can build your own platter
  • Thorn-Clarke – beautiful property out at Angaston and some great wines
  • Grant Burge – beautiful views up on a hill overlooking the Krondorf area, platters and lovely bubbles

    View from Grant Burge Wines
    View from Grant Burge Wines
  • Jacob’s Creek – a huge tasting room, excellent museum with history about the Barossa and wine making, a restaurant and beautiful outdoor areas. Also the opportunity for tours and cooking classes in the Jacob’s Estate cottages

    Jacob's Creek
    Jacob’s Creek
  • Two Hands – beautiful tasting room and a big focus on Shiraz

    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
  • Seppeltsfield – a huge tasting room with circular tasting benches, the opportunity to try a fortified wine from your birth year, s and beautiful architecture (plus the fantastic Fino restaurant and the Jam Factory – where you can see artists at work)

    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
  • Chateau Tanunda – celebrating 125 years this year, it’s certainly one of the most iconic landmarks in the Barossa Valley
  • Pindarie – won one of the top tourism awards, giant hay bales to climb (which has made it my boys’  favourite winery to visit) and a recently renovated tasting room. Great wine (especially the 2015 Riesling) and one of the most fantastic views out over the Barossa. The food is also great – we had a saltbush lamb pie and one of the best platters I’ve had in the Barossa in the time we have been here when we visited with Mum recently.
    Lunch at Pindaric
    Lunch at Pindaric

    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
  • Home of the Brave/First Drop wines – finally visited with Mum last week. Wines we had with our incredible tapas lunch were great so must get back for a tasting soon.

    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
  • Yalumba – one of the oldest family owned wineries in Australia and a beautiful property with it’s iconic clock tower.

    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival
    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival

Places I’m off to visit soon

  • Yelland and Papps – run by Michael and Susan Papps who are lovely people (which makes it even worse that I haven’t visited). First generation winemakers making great wine and with a tasting room that always gets rave reviews
  • Tscharkes
  • Turkey Flat – visited years ago, drive past on a weekly basis – must make time to stop!
  • Elderton
  • Taste Eden Valley – a tasting room in Angaston showcasing around 12 Eden Valley producers

This is just a tiny selection of the 170 wine companies in the Barossa. More details and a history of wine making in the Barossa, check out the Barossa.com website

Don’t forget, tasting a few wines at a few different places can add up. So unless you can spit like a professional, you’ll need a designated driver or the services of one of the local transport companies. There are lots of options from taxis, to private cars (including beautiful vintage cars), buses and even a three-wheeled motorcycle tour.

However there is much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, you’ll need to book in advance.

Other Things to do

Of course, it’s not all about wine tasting and there are a number of towns throughout the Barossa with great places to eat, beautiful shops, parts, galleries and other sites.

I tend to spend a lot of my time in Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston but there are lots of other great towns to visit including Lyndoch (where we have spied a number of restaurants, a bakery and most importantly a park for the kids), Eden Valley, Kapunda, Springton and Williamstown (close to the Whispering Wall)

The Whispering Wall
The Whispering Wall

And while we’re on parks, favourites in our family include the Sculpture Park at the Mengler’s Hill lookout, Tanunda Oval, Angaston and the train park at Nuriootpa.

Mongrel's Hill and the Sculpture Park - great views out over Tanunda
Mongrel’s Hill and the Sculpture Park – great views out over Tanunda

There are also loads of great antique and second-hand stores full of furniture, home wares and other curios that provide a fantastic insight into the history of the Barossa.

Finally, the Barossa is a fabulous place to just walk or drive around. This place is a photographer’s dream, especially if you love landscapes dotted with old stone churches, farmhouses and the ever-changing colours of vineyards and paddocks.

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As I said at the outset, this is just a sample of the things we have enjoyed or have on our wish list to explore in the coming months.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources here (and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

If you’ve been to the Barossa (or live here), I’d love to hear your tips for wineries I might have missed.

I’ll try share and my list of favourite places for lunches, dinners, food and coffee soon, so be sure to tweet or email if there are places I should include.