Jacob's Creek is the place
THE tiny lopsided sign that greets us at one of Australia's biggest wineries is so familiar, we are surprised to find it's the name of a real place. Jacob's Creek is the place and, yes, there's even a trickle of water flowing through the little "creek" we drive over to get here.
Compared with the tiny wineries I've spent the last week visiting in the chilly Adelaide Hills, this place feels like Hollywood - despite its low-key sign. And as the air is warm, the sun is shining and winemaker host is happy (because there has been much-needed rain), it looks a little like Hollywood, too.
We have come here to the Barossa Valley for the same reason most people do - to taste shiraz.
Winemaker Nigel Dolan wanders out, and though we're at Jacob's Creek, he takes us through every shiraz in the large Wyndham Estate range. Dolan is based in the Barossa, though the original home of Wyndham is the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. So there's a fair bit of travel involved, he tells us over a long line-up of black-as-thunder, fruit-bomb shirazes.
Impressive as the staunch reds are, it's the lighter lunchtime wine, Steingarten Riesling, I like the most because it's perfect for drinking in the sun with the fresh fish we're eating.
The wine is named for the stony ("stein") sliver of hillside on which the vines are grown (hence "garten").
After lunch, we meander back to the art deco Richmond Hotel, tucked up a narrow alleyway off the bustling Rundle Mall in Adelaide's CBD. It's an unlikely location for top accommodation, but our room is large, quiet and haven-like with its marble bathroom, king-sized bed, sofa and free movies. It also has the city's best shopping right outside the front door in Rundle St and the outstanding weekend markets in nearby Gouger St.
The following day, we eat at the market and forage amongst the local cheesemongers, coffee-roasters, tea specialists, and fresh produce stalls. The city feels like a welcome break after a week of changing beds every night while visiting wineries in the Adelaide Hills, an hour's drive south.
The hills are home to a string of quaint Germanic-style towns with high-pitched roofs, ancient-looking stone buildings and wide, tree-lined streets. Many of their names changed during World War II, but the prettiest - to my mind - retained its original moniker - Hahndorf. It's home to beautifully restored stone buildings, a couple of mouth-watering delicatessens and The Manna - a new motor lodge with its own spa and self-contained accommodation.
One of the most interesting places to eat in the Adelaide Hills is in the more modern town of Stirling. The night we're there, it is nearly as chilly as Stirling, Scotland, but we're here to enjoy the concept of local food, which adheres to the rule that all produce has to come from within a 60km radius.
It is part of a worldwide movement, whose philosophy is to make a "collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies", we read on our menus as we enjoy some of the best Australian pinot noirs I've ever tried, from Ashton Hills.
Now there are direct flights to Adelaide, this corner of the Australian wine industry is easily accessible, but it's the surrounding countryside - rather than the city itself - that makes the best break from daily routine.
Where to stay
Great places to stay are:
128 Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Phone +61 8 8215 4444 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +61 8 8215 4444 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
One of Adelaide's best-kept secrets is a truly boutique hotel in the heart of the city (not that you'd ever pick it when walking through the busy Rundle Mall).
It's housed in a 1920s building that oozes its own deco charms. Quiet, as well as beautifully styled, guests have incredibly easy access by foot to shops, high-end department stores like Myer and David Jones, and good bars, restaurants and cafes.
Modern buildings are rare in this little slice of German settler-ville in the Adelaide Hills, but The Manna breaks the mould with its unobtrusive, modern, self-contained accommodation on Main St.
It slots right in behind the small courtyard fountain, is peaceful, extremely comfortable and has all the Wi-Fi anyone needs - as well as offering getaway spa facilities.
If you go ...
Top wineries to visit are:
Jacob's Creek Winery
Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat, South Australia
It's home to some of Australia's earliest and oldest vines, planted in 1847 by Johann Gramp, on the banks of Jacob's Creek. There's a new visitor centre with a restaurant, tasting facilities and cellar door.
Peter Lehmann of the Barossa
Para Road, Tanunda, South Australia
Peter Lehmann Wines in Tanunda is best known for its red wines but thanks to the little-appreciated semillon grape, it is developing some drop-dead gorgeous whites, too. The cellar door is a friendly, easy going place to taste and buy wine. More details on wineries, accommodation and restaurants from the Barossa Visitor Information Centre, phone +61 8 8563 0000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +61 8 8563 0000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Joelle Thomson flew to Adelaide with Air New Zealand.