We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again through every single post about our Barossa experiences – the people of the Barossa are extremely generous. With their time, their knowledge and their passion. And a lot of that, revolves around wine. So when Tina and Evan Gobell of Stonewell agreed to show us around their sprawling vineyards, we were stoked.
We’d already bumped into them at the Barossa Valley Farmer’s Market in the morning (another Barossa thing, everyone knows everyone) so we were quite excited to meet Evan on his turf. Just a couple of minutes from Tanunda and we found ourselves amidst nothingness. If you can call acres and acres of nature and vineyards and open skies nothingness.
Of land area and topography:
Evan welcomed us, and set out to gauge our level of knowledge and interest so he could tailor the vineyard tour accordingly. Between us (who had just begun to understand a small portion of Australian wine thanks to our previous trip to the Mornington Peninsula) and our hosts at The Reserve who were essentially Barossa locals, we had a pretty decent combination of revelations and questions.
Evan began casually with a few figures. Their vineyards were spread across a whopping 75 acres, which basically meant pretty much everything I could see was a Stonewell vine. The Stonewell valley lends it’s own unique climate to unique flavours, making it one of Barossa’s notable wine regions. The tricky bit being the low lying area with its own reservoir that has seen some overflowing.
Of grapes and varietals:
Evan pretty much ran through half the list of grape varietals I could name, while pointing out the different wines that were in different stages of their life cycles. Starting with the popular Shiraz onto the Cab Sauvs, Tempranillo, Grenache, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and some others that were new to me. From the winemakers that they supply to, I’d already tasted some delicious Chateau Tanunda, Seppeltsfield Winery, Two Hands, Torbreck and of course there’s a longer list that a short weekend in the Barossa didn’t allow us to discover. It was a great feeling standing there, looking at those vines, knowing the grapes of some wines we’d already had came from here, and future grapes of wines that I’m sure we’ll come back to drink will be borne here. There’s a real sense of place and time, heritage and history, future and possibilities that seeps through when you’re walking through a vineyard like this.
Of vines, knots, grafts and cycles:
Lots of interesting revelations when Evan explained the processes, of grafting and getting a Shiraz to grow from a Chardonnay and so on, of how and when a vine grower takes that decision to wipe his slate clean and start a crop from scratch, knowing that the first vintage isn’t really for bottling and he’ll have to wait a while before he can enjoy the fruits of his labour (quite literally).
Of tools, manmade and natural:
We then hopped into his car and drove towards his toolshed. This was something we’d all been looking forward to seeing. Talk of vintage and harvest all made us wonder about this mystical process that we’d missed by less than a month. While the right time to harvest the vines differs from varietal to varietal, it usually ends around Easter each year. I looked up and down the estate and wondered how long it took them to do this, as quaint images of basket toting workers handplucking the grapes ran through my mind’s eye. Until we stood before Evan’s prized possession. Not too many vineyards around own their own harvester, so we were really lucky to crawl under one and understand how it works. Straddled over the vines, it works its way down the neat lanes essentially “beating” the plant as it shakes the fruit lose, and into a bin. Of course, this has to be done overnight lest the fruit begin fermenting in the sweltering heat of the day.
Not all harvesting is done by the machines though. Depending on the vine, some of it is done by hand, including the pruning afterward, and we had a quick demo thanks to Evan who showed us how it’s done, all the while making it look so easy, but I’m sure I couldn’t have managed, had I tried. Knowing which twigs to chop off and which ones to trim comes instinctively to a wine grower like Evan, further proving that this whole business is as much art as it is science.
We noticed Evan looking out over the terrain as our stimulating tour came to an end. “We usually time our tours so that we end up here with Kangaroos around the place, so we can give our visitors a true Aussie experience,” he explained. But seeing as it was earlier in the day, we did miss out on those, but not to say that we didn’t enjoy a true Barossa experience. One that once again opened itself to us in the true spirit of earth, it’s produce, it’s respect and it’s sharing.
The vineyard tour as well as a possibility of participating in the harvesting, catered to your understanding and interest levels is an add- on exclusively for guests who stay at Stonewell Cottages. If that isn’t reason enough to book in, read on.
Stonewell Cottages really does live up to their “Escape – Rejuvenate” concept. Choose from 4 different options strewn in seclusion around the lake. The identical Spa Retreats are perfect for couples or when booked together, for two couples seeking some privacy, intimacy and luxury. The Hideaway Cottage is ideal for larger families or long stays, with two bedrooms in a beautiful property that kisses the waterfront while the Cupid’s Cottage lives up to its name being perfect for a couple that wants to see nobody but each other. All the units have a kitchen, spa, wood fire oven and private courtyard. And you won’t be left wanting, with their beautifully stocked pantry with all of that fresh Barossa produce. Enjoy it while you befriend the ducks, row out into the lake or try your hand at fishing. Are you able to tear yourself away from relaxing and spoiling yourself silly at Stonewell, there’s always one of their fabulous packages that include meals and tastings and more.
Doubles from 261 AUD.Stonewell Cottages & Vineyards
Postal: PO Box 96 Tanunda,
South Australia 5253
Mobile: 0417 848 977
Phone / Fax: +61 8 8562 8628 http://www.stonewellcottages.com.au/