A classy old set of wheels proves the perfect way for Eli Orzessek to tour the Barossa's stunning vineyard country.
Gazing over the edge of an infinity pool as the sun sets over endless rows of grapevines, I feel like I've stepped into one of those Instagram pictures that makes you doubt it's even real.
In fact, I can barely convince myself that this is my reality for the next few days.
I'm staying at The Louise, in the Barossa Valley, home of said infinity pool, and enjoying the kind of luxury that makes it that much harder to go home.
My ride also contributes to a difficult return. I'm being driven around in a vintage Daimler by guide John Baldwin of Daimler Tours (barossadaimlertours.com.au). It's an old paddock car, apparently, and without naming names, he hints that it's had more than a few famous faces in the back seat.
Synonymous with fine food and even finer wine, I'm eagerly anticipating eating my way around the Barossa.
We start our tour with an early morning visit to the St Hugo winery, entering the estate down a long drive lined with cork oak trees.
Like many of the wineries in the area, St Hugo has a long and interesting history, starting with Johann Gramp, a German immigrant who was one of the wine pioneers of the region, planting his first vines in 1847.
The original business was taken over by his grandson, Hugo Louis Gramp, but Hugo was killed in an air accident in 1938, along with two other wine industry leaders.
His legacy was honoured in 1983, with the first of the "St Hugo" range of wine; the title inspired by the European tradition of naming vineyards after saints for good fortune. There have been more than 30 vintages of St Hugo cabernet sauvignon — soft and elegant, but still pretty bold — since then.
The family connection continues to this day. I'm told that Hugo's son, 96-year-old Colin Gramp who planted the cork trees that line the drive, comes in for lunch by himself every Father's Day and still tears up when he talks about his dad.
Colin was at boarding school when he heard the news of his father's death. He had received a letter from him the day before. This "last letter" was immortalised in St Hugo's Legacy Collection, as "The Last Letter Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon", with the letter printed on its label.
As I sample the winery's Private Collection flight — a very nice way to start the morning — I look out over the vineyards and the elegant mixture of new and old architecture, and muse on the history of the area.
After St Hugo, we make a quick stop at Apex Bakery (apexbakery.com.au) in Tanunda, a German bakehouse that dates back to 1924 — as does much of the equipment used out the back.
I'm treated to a delicious Berliner doughnut that really hits the spot, as well as some biscuits to take home to my German dad.
A short drive from there is our second wine destination of the day, Langmeil Winery (langmeilwinery.com.au), which also has a rich German heritage, dating back to 1842. It was originally a village founded by Christian Auricht, an immigrant from Prussia looking for religious freedom, and pioneer buildings are dotted around the estate.
I'm handed a glass of their "black champagne" – Langmeil's NV Sparkling Shiraz Cuvee, which the winery has made since 1892, when they found themselves with an excess of shiraz.
Walking around the vines, I notice the large spaces between them — this was so a horse and cart could fit inside, back in the day.
Our tour ends with a descent into the Freedom Cellar, which was originally a cobbler's shop. Today, it's an atmospheric and intimate location in which to taste some of the winery's product.
It's at this point that I'm going to admit I'm a bit of a wine tour virgin and four wineries in one day starts to feel a bit daunting. Though I'd originally scoffed at the spittoons on offer — why would you spit out such good wine? — I'm starting to appreciate them. If you gulp back all those little tasters, you'll need to be rolled out of the Daimler at the end of the tour.
We must truck on, however: there are still two more wineries to visit and lunch to eat. Vintner's Bar & Grill (vintners.com.au), is the perfect place to soak up some of the alcohol, and the crunchy pigs' ears and anchovies on crispbread go down particularly well.
Stepping into the epic wine cellar at Yalumba winery really feels like a privileged experience.
It's more like a museum, expertly curated by the Hill-Smith family who've run the winery over five generations and 167 years. With bottles as far as the eye can see, the collection contains Yalumba's own historic vintages, as well as important wines from around the world. I'm shown a bottle of Yalumba's Four Crown Port from 1929 — which Douglas Mawson took with him on his mission to the Antarctic and shared with his crew for Christmas lunch. The menu card still remains.
Just when you think you've seen it all, the cellar expands into yet another room.
To see this incredible collection yourself, you need to book into one of Yalumba's private behind the scenes tours — or be a VIP.
It's the only winery in the southern hemisphere to make its own barrels and I get a peep at the cooperage, before settling in for a few more tastings.
Around the corner at Turkey Flat (turkeyflat.com.au) — a small, but sweet winery — the cellar door is in the old Schulz family butchers shop. The bluestone building is surrounded by historic vineyards that date back to 1847.
I sample my first rosé of the day here, a refreshing drop and a nice way to end our tour.
By the time the Daimler makes its way through the vineyards and back to the Louise, I'm feeling well and truly overdue for a boozy nap — but in the best possible way. With a belly full of incredible wine and rich food, I roll myself out of the limo, back to my cottage and into bed.
After a couple of hours sleep, I'm ready to do it all again.
I finish the day with an amazing four-course dinner at the Louise's Appellation restaurant — with perfect wine matches, naturally.
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