Friday, January 23rd, 2004: Adelaide and the Barossa Valley
Greg has to wake me again (at 7:30), for the 2nd day in a row. We grab a coffee and then it’s off to the Barossa Valley, one of the world’s great wine regions. We are going on a bus – the typical Gray Line tour with your typical tourists from all over the world. The thought of driving us to some wonderful wine tasting is scary enough, let alone doing it on the wrong side of the road, so we take the option of the tour. And judging from the number of “kangaroo crossing” signs we see on the road, I’m not sure that I would want to be driving even if I were stone cold sober.
The day is warm in Barossa – probably 33 or 34°, but this is incredibly dry country, and there is absolutely no humidity in the air, so the heat is not oppressive. The entire day is a study in brown – except for the vines, which are green and lush, and the sky, which is a deep blue, cut by small wisps of white cloud. Many of the best vines are old – some are over 100 years (phylloxera has not been a problem in South Australia) – and these vines are green without irrigation, because their roots have gone so deep they have found water naturally.
We start big – Jacob’s Creek. They have built a beautiful tasting room and restaurant – the equal of anything we’ve seen in Napa or Sonoma. And they know what they’re doing. We are treated like royalty.
From there, we go on to the mid-size Kaesler Wines, where we have lunch in the restaurant. Our Gray Line compatriots have opted for dessert at this point but Greg and I choose more tasting. Great wines for a smaller, boutique style winery. Our server at Kaesler is a substitute teacher at one of the local high schools. She tells that the local high school has a course teaching about grape and wine production – the first such high school course in Australia. The wine is good enough that it is being shipped to the US where it is being distributed by a small, organic restaurant chain.
Then on to Kies, another small boutique winery that sells its complete production at the cellar door and to a couple of Sydney restaurants. Truly lovely wines! We inquire about shipping, and the cost to North America is prohibitive. Not so to Europe for some reason – maybe we should ship some ahead! We end up buying a lovely bottle of Merlot to take to a BYO restaurant one night.
When we get back to Adelaide about 5:30 and the day is still warm. We go exploring in the opposite direction from the day before and discover the Adelaide Central Market, a sort of St. Lawrence Market on steroids. The abundance of high summer in an agricultural region is apparent everywhere. We are both surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by the many shoppers there on a Friday evening at 7:30. And there are restaurants everywhere. We spend an hour reading menus and salivating, before deciding on one for dinner, Lime & Lemon Thai Café. The food is sublime, the service perfect and just enough bustle to keep you interested in what is going on in the room and on the street. All the restaurants, markets and malls are all fully open here with a lovely midsummer breeze blowing through. No curtains hung at the front door to stop the January cold wind. We walk back out onto the street, which is vibrating with energy and people enjoying themselves, and try to decide where we’ll eat next – all the restaurants look worthwhile.
The sun has gone down, and the temperature drops quickly in the dry air. We walk back to the hotel with a whole new perspective on Adelaide, as a vibrant and interesting city. Who knew?