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Issue 51 / Going Beautifully Bohemian In The South Australian Countryside

Going Beautifully Bohemian In The South Australian Countryside

May 25, 2016


    Not just humans, but winding hills, singing valleys, plush holiday homes and boho-chic bistros; the driest state Down Under drowns guests in its bountiful offerings, including some of the world’s finest wine experiences.

    Just off a landmark birthday and ruminating the malefic effects of my birth star (Deer’s Head), exemplified by the eternal search; flitting superficially from place to place, person to person, I couldn’t help but think of the tendency as anything but malefic. Give me rush-rush anyday and I’ll find soul within it. On a recent visit to South Australia, driving from Adelaide through the stunning Barossa Valley to Kangaroo Island, I got to experience that gorgeous early autumn bloom, lush hills and valleys. But it was the people I met who left lasting impressions. 

    Flying from Mumbai to Adelaide, I settled into The Intercontinental and immediately befriended a management student from Nellore who was moonlighting in the housekeeping department. As if to diss the wag at the airport who’d asked if I’d be going straight to the Oval (notoriously, the only point of interest of Indians tourists in the city) there were a bunch of exciting, local things to do and young, bushy-tailed entrepreneurs to meet.

    Daniels Langeberg, CEO of Eco-Caddy, driving one of his bamboo, hybrid-electric tricycles, a quick, eco-friendly way to explore the city
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    Jess Thomson (R) of Square Mile Tours with Bar9's Ian Callahan at the cafe chain's
    spanking new outreach centre at Whitmore Square.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar 

     

    Daniels and I chatted as he ferried me through mid-day traffic with the ease of a Shanghai-returned Australian eco warrior. Later, Jess arrived with two cycles to take me on her famous Café Cruise, to explore the city’s super fun and adventurous café culture. Besides catching up with Bar 9 owner Ian (beach-blonde, blue-eyed and gregarious, like barista champions ought to be) we hopped over to SAD at the East End (where the atmosphere was quite the opposite of its quirky name) and The Howling Owl (for heaps good gin and a peek at the Urban Cow studio next door).

    And that was only the trailer of what Melbourne’s former country bumpkin cousin turned hipster city has to offer. Cliché or not, I grabbed my chance at a tour of the Adelaide Oval, the highlight of which was travelling up the old scoreboard and checking out how it works. After spending another morning, drooling through the 80-plus stall foodie haven that’s the Adelaide Central Market (a special mention for the terrifically shiny kitchen they’ve got hidden up above the market; book it on your next holiday for a me-too-Masterchef blowout), I was finally ready to belt up for the world-famous Barossa Valley.

    Karen, of Central Market Tours, brandishing a platter of indigenous produce, kangaroo and crocodile meats included!
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    TV presenter and former Masterchef contestant Poh's Ling Yeow's Jamface by Poh at the market.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    A Latvian eatery at the market.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    Is your portobello bigger than mine?
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    Top up the goblet, good folks.

    The hour-long drive was a breeze, punctuated with bouts of anxiety over a full day of wine snobbery and pretending to know my Shiraz from my Riesling. Instead, I began with a down to earth approach. Literally! At the historic Jacob’s Estate Cottages, Chef  Nik and I were on our knees plucking radishes, zucchinis and herbs, before hauling them to the Instagram-worthy rustic kitchen, where I twiddled with the veggies and chef whipped up a gourmet country treat (moist fire oven-roasted poussins dressed with wasabi yogurt and a salad paired with a Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay).

    Happy wheels.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
     
    Chef Nik and me at the Jacob's Creek Estate Cottages garden. Zana Irwin approves of our delicous meal.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    Just an hour into upping my kitchen goddess game, I realized I was on a good thing — that all-pervasive, yet invisible sense of community that binds a famously fertile region with a long (think back to the 1840s) history of family wine making. If you think a weekend of driving from one wine estate to the other could get monotonous — I feared the same — prepare for your doubts to be dashed, mates!

    Epicurean indulgences, part deux.

    My next stop was Seppeltsfield, where I arrived late because I was dawdling through pretty towns, including one named Tanunda. (Who can resist that name!) I’d been looking forward to a treat at this winery established in 1951, the road to which is dramatically lined with palm trees. Nigel introduced me to Seppeltsfield’s star, their 100 year old Para Tawny, one of the world’s most collectable wines. The elegantly-packaged grand dame is priced at $2,000 per bottle, but I was fortunate to get a sip at their picturesque vintage cellar. She was rich, velvety and seductively sweet, as was my birth year (I’m not telling you!) vintage. If you’re holidaying in the Barossa, pencil in this tour for your mum, gramps or sentimental bae; it’ll drive them to tears in the nicest way possible.

    Nigel Thiele of Seppeltsfied pouring me a glug of their signature 100-year old Para Tawny.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    My brief tango with the Barossa was further honed over dinner that night at The Appellation, regarded as one of Australia’s finest restaurants. You wouldn’t guess, with its gracious and relaxed countryside vibe! Tucked into The Louise, a luxury vineyard retreat (my villa was massive, with delightful attention to detail, like the yellow rubber ducky eyeing me from the bathtub) the award-winning restaurant bears the stlish stamp of Chef Ryan Edwards’s commitment to local produce — all hail the Hutton Vale Lamb and the Sweet Corn and 63 degree Noack’s Egg with Chicken Scratching and Smoked Paprika. The hotel’s marketing maven Ruby Stobart and I chatted over four courses about more food. As Ruby spoke passionately of her non-profit initiative, Kind Hearted Kitchens, where locals volunteer to cook, freeze and deliver ready-to-eat meals to needy families in the valley, that community spirit washing over me since the morning reached high tide by bedtime.

    Hiramasa Kingfish — as pretty as a pianting — at The Appellation.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    My luxe wineyard villa at The Louise.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    Proust, frauline!

    A new morning arrived, and I was stoked for another day of cellar door visits. Driving to the German-heritage village Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, I met Christine Worsfield at the Hahndorf Hill Winery who led me through my first choco-wine tasting, clearly a win-win situation. Not just any old cocoa though; this estate bought over by South African immigrants Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson in 1997, pairs the most pedigreed, single-origin chocolates in the world — notably  the dark Amedei Chuao from Venezuela — with their Pinot Grigio, Zweigelt and the superbly crisp Grüner Veltliner.

    For lunch, I devoured a lamb burger at Sophie and Sean’s deceptively cozy bistro, which opens out at the back into a dreamy (huge) garden that doubles a wedding venue with fairy lights on plum trees, barbies on the grass and the works.  

    How stunning is autumn!
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    Hahndorf Hill Winery's Choco-Wine expert Christine and their champion Grüner Veltliner.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    The White House Provincial Kitchen and Lounge's cute owners, Sophie and Sean.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

     
    Radiant and patient Rachel from d'Arenberg Winery with the sparkling Polly, their vintage named after wild-haired owner and Chief Winemaker Chester Osborn's mum.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

    Whiling time away feeding kangaroos at Cleland National Park, I arrived late at d’Arenberg Winery. Fortunately, this allowed for a cinematic sunset moment with d’Arenberg’s windmills overlooking McLaren Vale. After a great night’s sleep at a chic, self-serviced studio apartment in town, I was pumped for the drive to Cape Verde, to jump on the 45-minute ferry for that wonderfully remote paradise, Kangaroo Island.

    Lost and loving it.

    Landing at Kangaroo Island for the second time, after five years, I felt instantly at home, and in that rush of familiarity, promptly ran my rental car into a bush while avoiding a skittish kangaroo. Thankfully, the kind folks at Budget Rentals and South Australia Tourism made sure I got a replacement.

    Other cafes are either just Open or Shut; this one on Snelling's Beach had it's priorities in order.
    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    Pre-sunset theatrics on the horizon.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    My home for the night was the ridiculously cool Sky House owned by Life Time Private Retreats.  This one-bedroom, Moroccan-style holiday home hosted a Masterchef episode in 2012 and is stocked with amazing local goodies from Hannaford & Sachs gourmet catering company.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
     


    A sunrise to remember at 7 am from the sprawling terrace of the Sky House.


    Alan from Hertz Car rentals at Kingscote Airport — arguably the most adorable little airport in the world — also mans the High Flying Cafe. Ask for fresh banana cake!

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    Angela and Steve Foley at their wonderful home, with generous India inspiration. ganesha on the curtains and Saraswati on the walls.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


    Bugger off human! At Seal's Bay Conservation Park.

    Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
     

    The thing about this gum-tree lined, blonde grass-laden island is that it’s terribly to easy to get lost, with Karma Chameleon playing on FM and the sun gently melting away thoughts of story deadlines and other banal worldly matters. I lost my way more than a couple of times, met the loveliest locals and one pelican to get back on track,  and had a ball!

    A fitting end to the most luxurious countryside vacay, this couldn’t have gotten bloody better!

    Main Image Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
     

      Aparna Pednekar

      Aparna Pednekar

        Author

         Aparna is an India - based travel writer for leading lifestyle and fashion publications. She's also a gemologist and jewelry designer. New cities, new food, cats, dogs, snakes, hours of walking and driving fuel her incurable ADD.

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