I’ve just sat down to a glass of Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz. I take my first sip and am floating around in the essence of one of Australia’s best wine regions.
“Oh wow that has to be from one of the Barossa Valley wineries,” I say to Craig. It’s uncanny how a taste can send you down memory lane and take you right back to a destination / trip of a lifetime.
Visiting the Barossa Valley Wineries in South Australia and spending four days getting to know Jacob’s Creek showed me just how much goes into making a bottle of wine that we often sit back and swill without even a reflection of thought to the love and care that goes into it.
It’s more than just the wine makers and sommeliers. A bottle of Jacob’s Creek is made by the region from where it comes. Our journey gave us a deeper insight into the land, the community, the stories, and the food that shapes a bottle of wine.
We’re sharing our wine experiences in the Barossa Valley over a series of blog posts. We experienced a lot, so we’re breaking it up into three separate posts:
2. Food and Wine Experiences in the Barossa Valley
We visited as guests of Jacob’s Creek as part of their new #MadeBy campaign to experience what this incredible wine region has to offer, and how the character of the place is reflected in every bottle of Jacob’s Creek.
We were delighted when they approached us as many of my own travel experiences have been made by Jacob’s Creek. It’s an iconic Australian brand, that not only has a history going back to settlement, but has followed me around the world.
Jacob’s Creek was the first wine I ever drank.
My best friend and I would grab a bottle of red and head out for pizza on one of our rare nights off work when we worked in the Temple Bar region of Dublin in 1999. She convinced me that a glass of red wine would open up a new world for me. (I always choose smart best friends.)
My brother’s ex-fiancé was from Paris. I would sometimes go over to Paris from London and stay with her family. There was only one condition – I bring over a few bottles of Jacob’s Creek wine as they loved it and could not buy it in France.
Jacob’s Creek has always been known as easy drinking, but we discovered on our visit to the Barossa that they have a wide range of premium wine labels that quickly became our favourites. We can’t wait to share them with you!
Over the four days, we felt as if we got to know the Jacob’s Creek family and the pride that runs deep into the flavours of the wine. I loved the stories that came with each new wine we tried. Everything is done with meaning and purpose and I grew to love the brand even more.
So let’s kick off this post with some food and wine experiences to enjoy in the Barossa and surrounding Adelaide regions.
Before we move on, let me say that Adelaide and it’s surrounds is known to be the food bowl region of South Australia. I reckon you can bump that up to Australia. It’s exceptional and I always love returning to Adelaide for that reason alone.
South Australians eat so much good local food which is great for diet, economy and environment. Ra ra Radelaide!
1. The Locavore, Adelaide Hills
We loved this small restaurant in Stirling, one of the prettiest villages in the Adelaide Hills. It was a wet and windy night, the rain dripped down the window and orange and red leaves danced around outside in the wind.
Loca-vore takes the concept of herbivore or carnivore but applies it to eating in a local manner. A locavore lives by the principles of the 100 Mile Diet. That is wherever possible, all produce is sourced from within a 160km radius.
Each day Loca-vore has a selection of 10 daily specials that features the food of the local region. I loved how there was just one dish per eating style. Less is more!
Our meal set a high standard for the Barossa and Adelaide Hills region.
For entrees we had roast pumpkin soup with candied balsamic and goat’s curd and Harrissa-smoked salmon with salmon mousse.
For mains I enjoyed a Vegetable + chickpea dukkah crusted bake with pear salad and Craig had a pulled smoked lamb shoulder with roasted quince and green beans
Our community tells us the Loca burgers are sensational.
Loca-vore is located in the main street of Stirling and is open for Lunch and Dinner Tuesday to Saturday, and for Lunch on Sundays.
2. Jacob’s Creek Cooking Class
I had tears pricking at the back of my eyes walking around the garden out the front of Jacob’s Estate Cottage with executive chef, Genevieve Harris.
The organic garden, full of produce is in the original position of Anne Jacob’s garden (sister of William Jacob after whom the famous creek was named) which she tended to when the cottage was first built in 1837.
I loved knowing we were spending time in a place full of rich history and the views out across the vines that run beside the actual Jacob’s Creek and across to the sandstone building that is currently being reconstructed to be the new tasting home of St Hugo wines.
It wasn’t the history that made the tears prick, it was the passion and enthusiasm of Genevieve and what she’s created because of that; sustainability, wholesome organic food mixed with a lot of love that goes straight form garden to plate.
This is what I love so much about South Australia. They care deeply about food and keeping it local and good for the body and for the economy.
Genevieve started the garden three years ago; it’s thriving and supplies almost all of the required produce for the kitchen in the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre and Heritage Vineyard. We walked amongst quince and olive trees, pulled out artichokes and herbs for our lunch, and snacked on flowers and plants such as society garlic (garlic flavour without the bad breath)
“Gosh, all you need to do is walk out here when you’re hungry and grab some snacks straight form the garden.”
“Exactly, and its all organic so you don’t have to worry about cleaning them.”
Next in her plans are chickens and sheep, which will also help to tend to the vineyards with their grazing habits.
I don’t think there is anything that excites me more in life than to see people creating amazing things from their own passion and love. It has such a positive impact.
Genevieve was a primary school teacher, until one day deciding to step into the world of food, without any formal training. She seized the opportunity to learn from some of the best chefs like Neil Perry and created a career based on her passion that has taken her to kitchens in Sydney, Malaysia, Indonesia and now the Barossa.
Genevieve threw us an apron and a recipe, and using some of the ingredients from the garden we started cooking. Ruth, our lovely host, poured us a glass of Jacob’s Creek Reserve Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir. I usually struggle to drink one glass of sparkling wine, but this was so delicious I couldn’t resist.
What mother does not want a kitchen like this? Outdoor kitchen with beautiful views, a poppadom snack in one hand and a glass of bubbly in the other AND no kids running at your feet!
What was even more amazing was how much Craig got into it! He usually steers clear of the kitchen committing serious faux pas like making pasta with ketchup sauce instead of passata.
Genevieve taught him a few tricks like rapidly cutting up veg, making your own paste with a mortar and pestle, and cooking a piece of salmon with presentation side down first.
Not only do you get to pick the food from the garden, and then cook it, you get to eat it in the old servants quarters of Jacob’s Estate Cottage, with matching wine from Jacob’s Creek.
The fire was burning and the day, although slightly chilly, put on it’s splendour for us with blue skies and the autumn colours.
Here are the meals we cooked
Red lentil and coconut milk soup:
Seared salmon fillet with chickpea, seeds and nut salad with pomegranate yoghurt paired with the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.
Stay tuned: in a future post I’ll share with you the amazing recipes for these simple, yet delicious, healthy meals.
The cooking class was a fabulous experience that any small group can have when they visit Jacob’s Creek, but it must be booked in advance.
You can book at the Jacob’s Creek Visitors Centre. Not only will you enjoy the cooking and eating experience, but being part of the history of the old Jacob Creek home. It goes for around four hours and costs: $175 per person.
3. Woodside Cheese Wrights, Adelaide Hills
I don’t think there’s a better way to kick-start your wine experience in the Barossa than sitting down to a cheese tasting session.
The cheeses we tasted at Woodside Cheese Wrights were some of the most unique and innovative cheeses I’ve ever eaten.
Woodside is more than just good cheese, it’s an interesting story of Kris Lloyd who fell into cheese making. She decided to introduce cheese tasting as an add on to her family’s vineyard and took over Woodside Cheeses to resurrect it’s crumbling status.
One day, her cheese makers went to a conference and she was left to make the cheese. She dove right into the whey and curd and discovered a new passion. Since then she’s been experimenting and making unusual artisan cheese that stands head and shoulders above everyone else. Even her labels speak innovation – no cheesy moo cows to be found.
Kris has been told over again that the cheese she wanted to make couldn’t be done.
It’s that defiant spirit that can be found in cheeses like the award-winning Monet, a goat’s cheese with organic flowers on top; Goat on a hot tin Roof, Chevre with Chilli, Saltbush, Native Pepperberry and crushed Tanami Apples; raw milk cheese (she’s one of the only cheese makers licenced in Australia to do this; and a wide variety of buffalo milk cheeses (and they’re more innovative than just buffalo mozzarella.
Kris likes to use local ingredients for her cheeses, including indigenous plants like lemon myrtle and bush tomato. Before we left, Kris told us her best tip – enjoy your cheeses with a glass of bubbly. It’s the perfect match.
Woodside Cheese Wrights is located at 22 Henry St Woodside and is Open 7 days 10am-4pm
4. Star of Greece, Port Willunga
Every person we spoke to about visiting the Star of Greece on the cliffs of Port Willunga told us how much we’d like it. We’ve shared more about the beauty of this area in our natural beauty post. For now, let’s focus on the food and the views!
We started with Braised Port Willunga olives, and I had Kangaroo Island King George whiting, watermelon & mint salad, gribiche, hand cut chips, and Craig had Kangaroo Island salt & pepper squid, chipotle mayo, watermelon and mint salad, lime.
The food was fresh and local, and contemporary versions of some of Australia’s favourite traditional dishes. And watching dolphins swim in the calm waters below made this lunch date turn more into a bucket list moment.
For the healthy coffee lovers, the owner will soon be making coffees with homemade almond milk, which tempts me to return!
Reserve a table here, or eat mid-week because word on the street is that it gets very busy.
Star of Greece is located at 1 Esplanade, Port Willunga. Opened for lunch Weds- Sun 12- 3pm and Dinner Friday and Saturday from 6pm
5. Jacob’s Creek Food & Wine Masterclass and Two Course lunch
I think everyone needs a friend like James.
James is the Jacob’s Creek sommelier and after our experience with him in the food & wine sensory experience (see below), we tried to convince him to start his own app to give recommendations on wines when you are out and about.
The Masterclass is held in the Jacobs Creek visitor Centre and if you can peel your eyes away from the stunning 350 year old gum tree that forms part of the panoramic view from the windows, you’re sure to learn a lot about wine from James.
He’s a wealth of knowledge about how to correctly pair it with food. This experience taught me that I know nothing about wine and how much more I can enjoy a meal if I choose wines to match. The trick is to let the food and wine work in harmony so the flavours dance more.
I now know that salmon is best paired with chardonnay, although you do have to consider how the salmon is cooked as sometimes another wine may suit the cooking style or sauce flavours better.
Chardonnay is making a classy comeback. Chardonnay is the wine maker’s playground and is where their creative flair can emerge, which is why you can get so many different styles and tastes.
I’m loving the resurgence of chardonnay and its buttery fruitiness and it was my favourite Jacobs Creek white wine.
We also learned that Riesling is more for the formulaic wine makers. It can only be produced in certain circumstances and must not be played with.
I’ve never been a fan of Riesling, but the 2013 Jacob’s Creek Steingarten’s Eden Valley Riesling, grown in vineyards on top of the hills, was well-suited to me. Dry and crisp without any of the sweetness I’ve tried in this variety before and not liked. Its hints of lime pairs very well with the soy and lime dressing we had over a sautéed Spencer Gulf prawn. The Riesling also goes well with oysters!
We must tell you about the Double Barrel Shiraz which is only made at Jacob’s Creek and took them three years to perfect.
James wasn’t sure this was going to work when he first heard of it, but, after trying it he realised that he was wrong. The Shiraz is first matured in traditional wine oak barrels and then finished in a Scotch whiskey barrel. Whiskey barrels are charred on the inside and so give back a richer, deeper and smoother flavour.
We loved it and I think was possibly my favourite wine, which is actually a hard thing to decide on because I loved so many.
By the way, did you know there are over 51,000 varieties of grapes, and only 100 of them are grown in Australia? We’ll never grow out of new wines to taste!
Also, unlike France and other traditional wine making countries, Australia has no strict rules for how wine should be made, which means we have room for innovation. That’s why our wines have been so well-received around the world.
I could write a post called “52 things I learned about wine thanks to James”. I want him on speed dial so every dinner party meal now will be superb.
The class is followed by a two course lunch consisting of main course and dessert. It was wonderful to eat another meal with produce that came direct from Genevieve’s’ fabulous garden and of course with those views, which I think are the prettiest from any vineyard I’ve visited in Australia.
I enjoyed a smoked paprika and caraway spiced Atlantic salmon with brussel sprouts and red capsicum sauce paired with 2014 Orlando St Hilary Padthaway Chardonnay.
Craig had a dry aged Black Angus beef fillet with roast pumpkin wedges, fennel and spiced butter paired with the 2012 Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz.
Duration: 2.5 hours
The Jacob’s Restaurant is open to the public daily for lunch from 12-3pm, and the Visitor Centre from 10-5 pm every day. For bookings call 08 8521 3000. Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat
6. Melba’s Chocolates, Adelaide Hills
Melba’s Chocolates was born in 1981 by Graeme and Joy Foristal in a small wash house behind their Adelaide Restaurant, ‘Melba’s’.
They soon saw the demand for a bigger space and brought the derelict premises they reside now in 1990. Which is not derelict now of course but houses a thriving family business.
We met Graeme’s son and daughter and loved the way Graeme moved about talking and joking with the workers. He was jovial and excited to show us the various production and preparing rooms and share with us the stories behind making Melba’s such a successful business.
There are plenty of samplings to be had in the factory and we even got to roll our sleeves up and make a bunch of chocolate snow cones for our girls.
Of course we had to bring them back a bag of chocolate. They sneak out of their room at 6am in the morning to try and pinch them from the fridge.
I don’t have a strong sweet tooth, but I myself was sneaking out at 6am to steal the chocolate-coated cherries and raspberries.
Melba’s Chocolates is located next door to Woodside Cheeses and is open Daily 9am-4:30pm
7. Mt Lofty Summit Cafe, Adelaide Hills
We highly recommend walking to the Mt Lofty Summit Cafe. It does involve a steep one hour walk as mentioned in our outdoor post. But, burn off some energy to prepare yourself for a delicious lunch on Adelaide’s highest peak with views over the Adelaide Hills and across to the city.
On a good day you can see all the way out to the ocean. We did not have a good day. In fact we could not see anything at the summit, but imagination is all you need.
If you do get a clear day, this could be your view.
Our lunch was delicious and our experience here was another indication to me that Adelaide people could possibly top the nicest people in the world list.
We arrived without plans to eat so had left our wallets back in our hotel room. We were strapped for time and Craig was considering running back to our hotel just up the road to get money. Then the waitress offered to drive him back to pick it up. No worries she said, it’s only up he road. I was stunned by this magnanimous gesture!
And her lovely colleague who had to handle the influx of visitors who arrived once she left needs a special mention to.
The soup we had for entree was delicious and perfect for warming up the body after the cool walk up. Craig had a Fettuchini Napoli with capsicum, chorizo and wilted spinach for lunch and I went the healthy quinoa salad, which was bursting with flavour.
Mt Lofty Summit Cafe is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm Saturday & Sunday 8.30am to 5pm
8. Steinys Traditional Mettwurst, Barossa Valley
Again in the town of Tanunda, is Steinys, a small Mettwurst factory. Not sure what Mettwurst is? I wasn’t either, but I soon learned.
So the Italians had their salami and then the Germans had mettwurst, which is a strongly flavoured German sausage, made from raw minced pork which is preserved by curing and smoking.
The Barossa has a very deep German history as most of the early European settlers were German-speaking Silesians.
We visited Steinys on our trike tour. Kate took us around to see the smoking rooms and explained the process of fermenting and smoking the meat smoked with South Australian Riverland Mallee timber.
Steinys has been supplying Australian homes with their beer snacks for 20 years. There’s a small tasting room where you can try all different types of mettwurst, including the most popular, garlic and my favourite was the Ring of Fire! It will smoke up your insides, but worth it if you dare.
Location: 9 Barossa Valley Way Taununda Mon-Fri 9am- 5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm
9. Jacob’s Creek Wine and Food Sensory Experience
This is a relatively new experience at Jacobs Creek and one that is really interesting and fun that takes you on a sensory journey to explore how your five senses affect the way you taste wine.
How could it not be enjoyable sitting down to this. During a tasting you have the option to sip or spit out your wine.
James took us through a selection of Jacob’s Creek wines, which we paired with different types of food so we could see the impact each food had on the taste of the wine.
It enabled us to see which ones worked and which didn’t. We also focused on the smells of the wine and trying to shut off our brain to go with what our gut instinct told us was in the wine.
This, and the lunch Masterclass experience, helped me to view wine as something more than just something to throw down with a group of friends, or at 5pm after a long day with the kids. You can actually spend time with the wine experiencing its flavour and the stories that go into making it.
With each new glass of wine variety that we tried we learned a new story about the region, or the history of the area, and even of those who are busy working behind the scenes to take it from grape to glass.
The last wine we tried was concealed in a dark glass so you couldn’t tell if it was red or white wine. We had to rely on our other four senses to guess what type of wine it was. James took us through the process of focusing on the smell and the taste and what notes we could depict in there.
I’m not going to tell you what it was, but we got there eventually and picked the wine.
I loved this exercise as it really emphasized the need to trust your gut feeling, which James kept iterating to us. We rarely go with what our instincts and senses tell us. We rely too much on our brain, which has us second guessing ourselves and trying to get it right, rather than trusting the insights to flow out.
It’s really been my biggest life lesson of the past year. Thanks to James and this experience for emphasizing that this is the way to live your life.
So many great lessons can be learned from wine, right?
The Food and Wine Sensory Experience is held at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre. It goes for 1.5 hours and costs $55
10. Apex Bakery, Barossa Valley
Apex Bakery, in the town of Tanunda in the Barossa has been baking bread since 1924.
On passing, it would seem like just another place to get your bread and cakes, but inside lies another story of a family run business, which confidently claims to have the longest running, continuously fired commercial wood oven in Australia!
Slow ferment dough’s/breads and their pies and pasties are some of their specialties – all of which are made from recipes dating back to the 1800’s.
Johnny, our guide on the Barossa Trike Tours, took us inside and as he opened the door explained that on some Friday nights, they throw pizza in the oven and invite the locals down for a night of pizza and wine and conversation. It’s a tradition dating back many years.
As is the bread that Keith Fechner started making when, at 33, he bought the bakery he’d been working at since he was 12. His grandson, Cory took us out the back to look at this oven that never sleeps.
Apex Bakery is Located at 1a Elizabeth St Tanunda and is opened Monday – Friday 09:00 – 17:30 and Saturday 08:30 – 12:00
11. Adelaide Central Market
We did not visit the 140 year old Adelaide Central Market on this trip, but I have twice been before and I love it.
As with all things in this region, there is a real sense of community here.
The markets are filled with stories of local producers like Mario, the Green Grocer who has been selling fruit and veg from his farm for over 35 years; and The Italian Cafe, Lucina Italiana, which has been owned by three generations of a post-war immigrant family for 55 years .
We also highly recommend you take a tour of the Adelaide Central Markets with Mark Gleeson the owner of Providore, who is extremely passionate about sharing the markets and the stories of the people who make it so great. Oh yeah, he makes pretty great chocolate as well, which you get to taste.
The Adelaide Central Market is located in the heart of the CBD and are closed on Mondays and Sundays.
Plan your trip to the Barossa Valley Wineries & the Adelaide Hills
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Would you like to visit the Barossa Valley? Which food or wine activity would you like to do most? Share with us in the comments below!