Make Your Own Wine
I’ve always loved ’s wines, so when I discover I can make my own wine under their guidance in the Barossa Valley, I’m stoked. Before entering the wine lab I’m given a white coat, getting me into character for my new role as a mad wine scientist. At my station there’s a giant white sheet for me to jot down notes about my experiments— percentages of how much of each wine I used, flavor profiles, combination ideas—until finally my beaker proportions are perfect for my taste. My Shiraz, Mourvèdre, and Grenache blend is complete, and I’m able to bottle it (even decorating a label!) to keep.
Bike Through the Vineyards
This experience occurs in the Barossa Valley, a spectacular fusion of adventure and culture. Riding from Angaston to Nuriootpa via the Barossa Valley Bike Trail fills my nostrils with rose perfume— roses are prominent in wine regions, as winemakers can spot disease on the petals before their vines—not to mention endless rows of Shiraz and Cabernet. For a delicious twist I end with a wine picnic in the vineyards at Yelland and Papps. Homemade jams, local cheeses and meats, fresh-baked breads, and country snacks are all savored at a table in the vines with homemade wine, truly allowing me to savor local flavors (not to mention I don’t need to feel guilty about the calories because I just biked). It’s also a treat to see how they grow their own walnuts, fig trees, mulberry bushes, and veggies, and have farm animals like sheep and chickens. Note: If you want a first-hand vineyard experience, the family hosts WWOOFers who are willing to work in exchange for delicious room and board.
Chocolate & Wine Pairing
In Adelaide Hills I discover Hahndorf Hill Winery and their atypical chocolate and wine pairing experience, ChocoVino. The menu features a number of options for the structured pairing, and I go with the Discover Chocolate + Wine. It begins with three fine chocolates presented in a box and explained, along with a chosen wine pairing for each, although experimentation is highly encouraged. Interestingly, I’m told that you know a chocolate is high quality by the way it sounds when you snap it—it should sound like the light-hearted laughter of a young girl. What I love most about the afternoon is how it makes me aware of my senses and how each reacts to chocolate and wine individually, and then together, truly immersing me in my tipsy treat.
An Uber-Luxe Wine Retreat
Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island is one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, as well as one of the most sustainable. The buildings are crafted from local organic and recycled materials, the restaurant features locally-sourced ingredients, there’s a solar farm to save energy, and the property collects rainwater. It’s also all-inclusive. Not in the way a Cancun spring break resort is, but in a sophisticated way, with Australian wines and other libations served at meals, a complimentary mingling hour held nightly, and a bar and well-stock booze fridge open to all guests. My favorite experience at the property is pouring a glass of Kangaroo Island white wine and dipping into my claw-footed plunge tub, which is ingeniously placed next to floor-to-ceiling windows. During my soak, I can stare out over Hanson Bay and watch dolphins jump out of the water.
Wine Touring in a 1962 Daimler
Barossa Daimler Tours allows me to experience South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley in a unique way -- riding around in a classic 1962 Daimler. While most companies provide a menu of tours, I love their philosophy of crafting bespoke itineraries based on client interest (although you can choose from pre-packaged offerings, as well). Because I want a mix of adventure and history, Barbossa Daimler Tours takes me to Yalumba, Australia’s oldest and largest family-owned winery, which opened in 1849. Along with a wine tasting, the highlight of the visit is touring their cooperage and seeing how they make their own barrels. You won’t find that at many other wineries anywhere in the world!
About this Wine Aficionado
Along with being a New York tour guide and certified sommelier, Jessica Festa runs the online responsible tourism, food, and culture magazine, Epicure & Culture, and the solo and offbeat travel blog, Jessie on a Journey.
Featured Image Courtesy of Yelland-Paps.