All over the world, wine lovers know the Barossa Valley. For centuries, wine makers have been growing in the region, favouring the rolling hills and year round temperate weather to craft some of the best wines in the world. This week, we flew 5 mates from Sydney direct to the Barossa, for a weekend wine tour they’ll never forget.
Route: Sydney (Bankstown) – Adelaide
Aircraft: Cessna Citation Mustang
Duration: 4 days
Wine tasting trips are great fun; we love them for their simplicity and variety. Drive around the country, breathe some fresh air. Walk through a doorway and say hello to the first person you see. It’s good old fashioned human interaction, and nobody does it better than the Barossa. Oh, and there’s wine.
Scattered around the valley (and its surrounding hills) are around fifty wineries. Some are boutique growers who only make a some who sell on the global market (like Penfolds), and almost all of them have an open cellar door. If you have never experienced wine tasting before – it’s easy! Groups of up to 6 can walk in at any time, grab a glass and sample a range of wines from the brand, guided by the staff behind the bar. It’s perfect for both wine aficionados and those new to it, as you can try every style in a single sitting, before comparing them with the next winery down the road.
With so much wine to sample, a driver is a must-have, so that’s why we supplied our very own pilot, driver, and highly experienced tour guide for this trip around the Barossa. Here’s some of the highlight locations from this trip, and we’d love to hear about your favourite wine tasting experiences too!
Two Hands Wines – a guided tasting and tour of the winery.
Without a doubt, the standout experience of the wine tasting tour was the Saturday morning spent with Mason from Two Hands wines. We opened the cellar door at 10am to be greeted by a crackling fireplace and a warm smile from a guy who was incredibly passionate about his wine. Mason tried his first wine at Two Hands Winery back in 2013, (the ‘fait accompli’) when he was 18 and 3 days old; and 43 job applications, some serious qualifications and prestigious awards later – he artfully weaved his way through the stories and history behind the wines we tasted on a guided tasting experience.
Our favourite was the 50 year old Musket, a sweet dessert wine best paired with coffee and chocolate; but most of the group were so impressed with the collection, they signed up to their wine club (they have regular events in Sydney) and made some hefty orders to be delivered back home.
Unlike many of the wine tasting experiences in the Barossa, Two Hands charge a small fee ($20 per head) for a guided tasting which is well worth it. We spent 2 hours there, including a tour through their wine making process, and took home a gorgeous wine glass each. You won’t find better value than that in the Barossa, but Mason suggested we try another winery down the road which came close!
Tscharkes – gorgeous scenery, an incredible cellar tasting experience and some of the best value ‘drink now’ wine of the tour.
Up the hill from Two Hands was Tscharkies, pronounced a bit like ‘sharkys’, and we would have completely missed it if it wasn’t for the recommendation. The cute little tasting shack is decorated to perfection inside, with a bar wrapping around the ground floor, intimate underground tasting room, and a loft overlooking the vineyard. Outside, it’s white picket fences, sun lounges and picnic tables with bassy electro music filtering out of the shack and across the grass. The vibe of the place was outstanding, and the wine backed it up.
A free tasting lead by our bartender Darko, had us in stitches of laughter for the rest of the trip. Why? ‘Shiraz. Shiraz. Shiraz.’ This little gem was on a super cheap end of the spectrum for Tscharkes, but whoa! It’s seriously good. Even if we unloaded the private jet of everything, we still wouldn’t have been able to fit in all the ‘Shiraz. Shiraz. Shiraz’ we ordered.
Harvest Kitchen – who-knows-how-many-course degustation dinner.
Local produce, wines and beers come together in what Harvest Kitchen call ‘feed me like a Barossan’. Their chefs select the best dishes from the menu, and the waitresses just keep bringing food to the table until you say stop. We lost count at 9 courses, and couldn’t pick a favourite – It was all good!
While all the wines and beers on the menu are from the Barossa, Clare or Mclaren Vale – they didn’t offer an option to match glasses of wine with each course, which was a bit of a let-down. Luckily, we had our own wine buffs on board, so we chose our own.
1918 – Dinner in a house built that year.
Not this year, THAT year! Yep, it’s a converted house built in 1918, located in Tanunda (right in the middle of the Barossa). Serving ‘upscale Australian’, and locally produced beer/wine, we loved everything about 1918 from the menu to the staff. There’s a degustation option, celebrating the houses centenary with era inspired cuisine – Rabbit pies, Kangaroo steaks feature, alongside paired wines and if you like, a glass of some gorgeous old Port alongside your desert. We went A la carte, and still couldn’t pick a winning meal. Bonus points go to our waiter for his outstanding service and recommendations.
Izway – Off the grid and one to watch.
The only cellar door we found with the owner manning the bar, was the super niche label Izway Wines (yet another recommendation by Mason from Two Hands). Entirely off the grid, Izway’s cellar door is a single room made of polished concrete, wood and glass, with a simple pot belly in the corner and a view that’s hard to beat at sunset. We arrived in time for a quick tasting to watch the sun go down, and were treated to some really unique tasting wines, great conversation and a passionate owner Craig.
Him and his mate Brian have been slowly working away with 6 varieties sourced from around the Barossa, making it on site (using solar power) then selling it through the cellar door and to their online buyers. Only 1% of their wines get exported, and we grabbed a couple of bottles to put in the cellar to see how they age.
Knapstein Enterprise Winery – Old, but new – with great tasting wine!
Our first stop at the Clare valley was the heritage listed Knapstein winery and brewery, and we walked inside the barn doors to find a jaw dropping Art Deco refurbishment to the original building. Classic leather upholstery surrounded by lashings of black steel, Edison bulbs and varnished hardwood made this place look seriously trendy, but down in the cellar, the thin layer of dust covering half peeled labels gave a nod to the wineries strong heritage dating back to 1878. It showed in their wines too, with a few cases of sweet Reisling and a bottle or two of their Malbec making their way into our cargo hold.
Keis Family Wines – THE place for fortified wines.
After a recommendation from a few fellow tasters in the Clare, we raced past the airstrip at Gawler (Gawler Airport) towards the Barossa to catch the guy from Keis before he closed up at 4pm. Luckily, a tour bus never showed up; leaving the 6 of us to sample some of best fortified wines of the trip alongside our new friend with the thick Irish accent. He was great, loved a drink and shared some tips with the group about how to best blend various aged ports together in kegs. The place wasn’t trendy or modern, nor was it trying to be, but for authentic fortified wines – you can’t beat it.
To arrange your own wine tasting experience, give the team a call or submit an enquiry below. We’ll tailor it to suit the wineries you want, the times you need and the locations you choose!