Good food and good wine overflow in the Barossa Valley, writes Joelle Thomson.
The tiny lopsided sign that greets us at one of Australia's biggest wineries is so well known as a brand 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 to the tiny wineries I've spent the past week visiting in the chilly Adelaide Hills, this place feels like Hollywood, despite its low-key "creek" and sign. The long pink Hummer, which has transported a large number of Japanese tourists here fits right in with the theme. As do the clicking cameras.
We have come to the Barossa Valley to taste shiraz. Winemaker Nigel Dolan saunters out to meet us, wearing a short-sleeve shirt, happy about the much-needed recent rain and ready to take us through every shiraz in the large Wyndham Estate range of wines. It's a tough job, hard though it is to believe.
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 shiraz wines.
Impressive as these staunch reds are, it's the lighter lunchtime wine, Steingarten riesling, I love the most because it's perfect for drinking in the sun with our fresh fish. The name of the wine comes from the stony ("stein") sliver of hillside on which the vines are grown (hence "garten").
The Barossa Valley's best restaurants and cafes tend to be far flung from each other and Jacob's Creek is more than merely a reliable dining destination. It serves food outstanding for its freshness, purity of flavour and beautiful presentation.
After lunch we meander back to the Art Deco Richmond Hotel, tucked away in a narrow alleyway-cum-corridor off the bustling Rundle Mall in the CBD. It's an unlikely location for top accommodation, but our room is large, silent and haven-like with its marble bathroom, king-size bed, sofa and 24/7 free movies.
It's also within walking distance of the best shopping and the outstanding weekend markets in Gouger St. It is there we brunch, lunch and shop for dinner ingredients the following day. The city actually feels like a welcome break after a week of visiting wineries in the Adelaide Hills, an hour's drive south.
The Hills are home to a string of quaint Germanic-style towns, whose architecture echoes the roots of early settlers with high-pitched roofs, ancient-looking stone buildings and wide tree-lined streets. Hahndorf is the prettiest of these towns. It's set on each side of a wide main street and is home to beautifully restored stonebrick buildings, some mouth-watering delicatessens and The Manna, a fresh new motor lodge with a spa and self-contained accommodation.
One of the most interesting places to eat in the Adelaide Hills is in the modern town of Stirling.
Here, we explore and enjoy the concept of local food which adheres to the 100-mile concept - all produce must come from within a 60km radius. It is part of a worldwide food movement with a philosophy to make a "collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies", we are told on our menus, while enjoying some of the best Australian pinot noirs I've ever tried, from Ashton Hills.
Direct flights are now available to Adelaide, making the hub of the Australian wine industry easily accessible.
TOP WINERIES TO VISIT
Jacob's Creek Winery: Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat, South Australia.
Phone: +61 8 852 3000.
Planted in 1847 by Johann Gramp, this is the home of some of Australia's earliest and oldest vines, which sit along the banks of Jacob's Creek with its visitor centre, restaurant and tasting facilities.
Peter Lehmann of the Barossa: Para Rd, Tanunda, South Australia.
Phone: +61 8 8563 2100.
Peter Lehmann Wines in Tanunda is best-known for its red wines, but it is developing some gorgeous whites, too. More details on wineries, accommodation and restaurants from the Barossa Visitor Information Centre, phone +61 8 8563 0000.
Air New Zealand offers flights five times a week between Auckland and Adelaide from $299 one way. Connections available from all around New Zealand.
Hotel Richmond: 128 Rundle Mall, Adelaide.
Phone: +61 8 8215 4444.
One of Adelaide's best-kept secrets; a truly boutique hotel in the heart of the city housed in a 1920s building that oozes deco charm. It's quiet and beautifully styled. And guests have incredibly easy access by foot to shops, high-end department stores such as Myer and David Jones and good bars, restaurants and cafes.
The Manna: 25 Main St, Hahndorf.
Phone: +61 8 8388 1000.
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 the main street. It slots right in behind the small courtyard fountain, and is quiet and extremely comfortable.
Joelle Thomson flew to Adelaide with Air New Zealand.