When you mention the Barossa Valley the first thing that will come to mind is wine, and then food. But there is more to the Barossa than that. The region has a number of reserves and recreation parks waiting for you to explore. We have woken up to a beautiful sunny morning in Tanunda and decide to spend the morning doing a walk before hitting some wineries after lunch. Parra Wirra Recreation Park has a number of walks of varying lengths and grades so I pack up some morning tea, fill the water bottles and hit the road.
Devils Nose Hike – Parra Wirra Recreation Park
I want to do a walk that Harry is going to be able to tackle mostly on his own as he is getting too heavy to be carried in the carrier. I settle on the Devils Nose Hike, a 4.4 km walk beginning at the Devils Nose Carpark on the western side of Parra Wirra Recreation Park.
The first section of the walk follows an old fire trail, winding along a ridge on the western boundary of the park. There is abundant birdlife here amongst the scrubby vegetation. We pass a couple of fellow nature lovers with an impressive camera lens sitting quietly taking photos of the wildlife. As we wander on we pass beautiful big grass trees and blue leafed mallee (Eucalyptus polybractea). This particular mallee is rare is South Australia and apparently only occurs here on the Devils Nose Hike.
The fire trail comes to and end and the track becomes more rocky and uneven as the ridge begins to narrow. Looking towards the north west there are views of the surrounding farmland and to the east views over the rest of the reserve. A rocky outcrop provides a scenic spot to stop, have a drink of water and take in the view.
Re-hydrated we continue along the track until we reach the sandstone outcrop that is the Devils Nose. I have to say there is nothing devilish about this spot. The views towards Gawler and over the South Parra River Gorge provide a lovely backdrop. The birds flit about and the native bees buzz around while we sit and enjoy our morning tea.
Feeling recharged from the walk and fresh air its time to find somewhere for some lunch. We stop in the town of Gawler and see a sign outside the Prince Albert Hotel advertising some lunch specials and local beers. The place oozes yesteryear charm and we are drawn in. I am very pleased to be reaquainted with the Lobethal Chocolate Oatmeal stout which I had in the Adelaide Hills earlier on the trip, and the slider bun specials go down a treat. Fueled up, it’s time for a spot of wine tasting.
Before our trip to South Australia I had never heard of Rockford Wines. While staying at Rawnsley Park Station in the Flinders Ranges we got chatting to many people, some locals from Adelaide and some tourists from abroard and they all said the same thing – when we are in the Barossa make sure we visit Rockford Wines. With so many glowing reviews obviously my interest in this winery was piqued. I do a quick online search. When I read the words “To me the winery is not just a building but a large piece of sculpture with Barossa wine running through its veins” written by the founder and winemaker of Rockford, Robert O’Callaghan, I know I have to go there.
We walk into the cellar door and I like this place already. Built from stone, the cellar door radiates a warm and friendly vibe, inviting you to come in and stay awhile. Harry’s eyes pop out of his head when he sees the organic fruit stall inside. He quickly asks for some money to purchase some pears, which he hands over to the lady conducting the wine tastings. He is given a brown paper bag and told he can go and fill it. With Harry occupied for a few minutes we start on the wines.
I really don’t know where to begin. All the wines here are fantastic, but to be consistent I will begin with the whites. The 2012 Eden Valley Riesling is light and fruity, while the 2011 Semillion is a perfect example of how a good semillion is done.The White Frontiac is, in a word, glorious and I know a bottle of this will be making its way home with me to be paired with a cheese platter at a later date. The Alicante Bouchet is delightful and quite unlike anything I have tasted. Alicante Bouchet is a red grape variety that also has red flesh, meaning a rose style wine can be made without any skin contact. This full flavoured, slightly sweet wine is best served slightly chilled and is perfect for summer drinking.
The unused skins of the Alicante are blended with grenache and mataro to create the fabulous Frugal Farmer. I add this delicious light style red to my order and move onto the savoury flavours of the Moppa Springs Grenache Mataro Shiraz.Harry interjects that he wants to go outside and eat his pears now so I take my glass and follow him. We see the men out the back with big buckets, and red grapes and messy red juice everywhere. They are talking and laughing and working busily. The whole sight is just glorious and I can smell the sweetness of the yet to be fermented grapes in the air.
Harry finds a seat to enjoy his organic pears and Chris appears with a tasting of the the 2011 Rod and Spur Cabernet Shiraz, a lovely example of this classic Australian blend. Harry now decides he also wants to buy some organic apples so we head back inside. Harry chooses apples and I choose to try the 2012 Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvingon. Full of fruit and well balanced this cab sav tastes lovely now but needs a few years under its belt to show its true colours. As we finish up with the fortified wines, I am thankful to all the people who recommend Rockford to me.
The whole experience here has felt very grounded and organic, you can really feel the love and passion that has gone into this place and the wines. As I am writing this I have the most recent edition of the Rockford Rag beside me (a newsletter produced by Rockford). I have just had a laugh as I read that Robert said he was always going to be a winemaker. He was conceived in a vineyard apparently and his earliest childhood memories are of being carried in a basket from vine to vine as his mother picked and pruned.
If you ever find yourself in the Barossa Valley do yourself the favour of visiting Rockford, its a great little winery.
Grant Burge Wines
Just up the road from Rockford is Grant Burge Wines. There are so many wineries we could visit this afternoon, but this one is close and we have had a few good reds from this label before so we decide to check them out. It is a big set up, with a huge cellar door and sprawling grounds. The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable. They give Harry some pens and paper and tell him he can sit at a table and draw or just wander around and explore. He chooses the later option, and because of the way the place is laid out it’s easy for us to taste the wine and keep an eye on him at the same time.
There are a huge array of wines available for tasting here to suit all budgets and tastes. But as much as I love my wine, there is no way even I can taste my way through this lot and walk out of here without staggering. We decide to concentrate on red wine, shiraz in particular as we would like to take a few bottles home to try and cellar. We taste shiraz across the 5th Generation, Benchmark and Vineyard ranges but it is the Wines of Distinction range that grabs me. The 2011 Filsell Shiraz has aromas of chocolate and licorice and a palate full of berries, blackberries and spice with a lovely soft finish, while the 2012 Balthasar Shiraz strikes a perfect balance of ripe berries and silky soft tannins on the palate and chocolate and clove on the nose. Both of these will be leaving with us today. We are fortunate enough to be offered a taste of one of the cellared Meshach Shiraz and what can I say but, wow. But the price is nearly $200 a bottle so this ‘Wow’ wine will not be accompanying us home!
It is late in the day now and too late to visit any more wineries, so we decide to check out the Menglers Hill Look Out and Barossa Sculpture park before walking around the pretty towns of Angaston and Tanunda. I have really enjoyed our time in the Barossa Valley and most definitely will be back here again in the not too distant future.
At a Glance
Devils Nose Hike
4.4 km return *1.5 hours return.
Trail starts from the Devils Nose carpark in the Parra Wirra Recreation Park
Prince Albert Hotel
109 Murray Street, Gawler SA
131 Krondorf Road Tanunda SA
Open 7 days 11am – 5pm
Grant Burge Wines
Krondorf Road Tanunda
Menglers Hill Lookout and Barossa Sculpture Park
Menglers Hill Road, Bethany