I woke up in a luxurious self catered accommodation in the heart of the Barossa Valley. Yesterday had been a blur of wine tastings at the wineries and the best of Australian gourmet meals at the local restaurants. It was 6 am when the coffee I was enjoying suddenly sprang to life. It shook and clattered on the table top, accompanied by a deafening roar that seemed to be getting closer. Was it an earthquake? I didn’t know the Barossa had earthquakes. The roar turned into a sputter, a drone, and I looked up from the kitchen towards the garden, where it looked like a tornado was approaching. The plants were being pushed by a terribly strong wind, the leaves on the ground were being lifted into the air as they danced around in circles. Our ride to Adelaide from the Barossa Valley was here.
If the way we exited the Barossa is anything to go by, our whirlwind trip had an equally flamboyant arrival. After a few days of driving the Great Ocean Road, roughing it out for the great outdoors, we were looking forward to a bit of R and R, with a side of tipple. But oh, Barossa we had you all wrong! The winding drive through the picture perfect Eden Valley, and into Tanunda was grey and wet, but the sight of an endless landscape carpeted with autumn vines was still good enough to take my breath away. We entered the gates to the Reserve, Barossa Valley to find the Simone and Grant (the owners) ready with a decanted bottle of fine Barossa Shiraz. A true Barossa welcome. The property seemed massive. A large house with a studio attached, and lovely garden with a small orchard and helipad which seemed to extend to the horizon thanks to the little unlocked gate that opened into the neighbouring vineyard. This was going to be beautiful.
It’s understandable that the owner’s an interior designer once you see the inside of the house. Impeccable taste, unique style, selectively sourced one- off pieces all come together beautifully to create interiors that are hard to describe, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. The rooms were all beautiful, but we picked the one with an en-suite and a walk in wardrobe, with a spa just outside the window. It was white (anyone who knows me, knows white interiors are an absolute clincher) and one image that I’ll fondly carry away with me, was when I woke up for sunrise and returned to the room when the first rays of light had just started permeating the sheer curtains, and I saw Charles comfortably snuggled in a sea of white. While there was no fan or heating of any kind, sleeping there was extremely comfortable through the night. I think it had something to do with that sinkable bed. Long hot showers were even nicer with the New Zealand Manuka Honey products that had been so thoughtfully placed wherever required.
There was a beautiful wine room (as informative as it was indulgent) and a sunroom with a long table that mimicked the one in the garden. Perfect for long, large family lunches, I thought. Strangely, we didn’t use it, there’s just something about the Barossa that wants to make you spend longer with nature. There was a laundry room (but I couldn’t be bothered with doing the long pending laundry when we were having so much fun)
Life at the Reserve is meant to be slow. But in no way does that mean you’ll ever be bored. We woke up early every morning. It was either the mist rolling from the overcast skies over the autumn coloured vineyards, or bright rays of sunshine peppered with hot air balloons in the sky. I could spend hours sitting in the garden and watch the Magpies, Finch, Galahs, Cockatoos and Thrush chasing each other through the trees followed by a leisurely stroll through the garden to pick pomegranates, olives, pistachios, herbs and whatever else looked good that particular day.
We’d return from wine tastings, crank up the fireplace and snuggle next to it, going through our photographs, opening up another bottle, going from Nat King Cole to Little Birdy on the iPod, and maybe whip up a nice meal with whatever was bought from the Farmer’s market that morning. Wait, did I say Farmer’s market? No. Whatever couldn’t be found at the Farmer’s market had to be picked up from the Butcher in Angaston, the Baker in Tanunda and so forth. I enjoyed being a fly on the wall, witness to long deliberations about which cut of meat would be good for the kind of dinner we were planning to serve that night. Everyone’s a gourmand in the Barossa.
Cooking at the Reserve is an absolute pleasure, the open kitchen allows you to interact and talk to everyone in the house, which in turn gets everyone involved in the cooking. And it’s beautifully stocked, from the pantry to the pretty dishes and cutlery as well as the coffee machine, stove and dishwasher. What I enjoyed the most was stepping out into the garden to grab a bit of rosemary to throw into our pork belly. Charles probably had a blast (like all men do) cranking up the wood fire oven with Grant.
Like every little town, everyone knows everyone in the Barossa, but I’m amazed at how they do it, considering each house is separated by miles of vineyard in between and it’s so easy to stay at home whether indoors or outdoors and just shut yourself from the world. But when neighbours come over for dinner, they bring cartons of wine. They’re all winemakers after all. And I gasped at the number of bottles for just the 7 of us. I shouldn’t have bothered doing the math. We were done to the last drop, as we finally retreated indoors from the chilly air of the wee hours and finished dessert by the fire. The Barossa people can drink, but what separates them from us Indians (who can also hold their liquor enviably well) is the fact that they pace it out through a long evening filled with food that everyone is equally excited about. When the pork belly came out of the wood fire oven, it was met with oohs and aahs, like a symphony to accompany the juices that ran out as Charles carved it. He also enjoyed spiking a pizza Bombay style (loads of spice). Everyone talked about the cheese platter and the wonderful green tomato chutney that Chef Matteo Carboni had so generously gifted us the previous day. Generosity. I think that’s the word that best describes the people of the Barossa. They understand and respect that what they have is so special, and they want to share it with everyone.
We spent the last morning with barely enough time to recover from the previous night, pack all of our belongings (which was a formidable task given the large walk in wardrobe attached to our room, where we’d essentially been chucking all of our purchases to be packed later). But the owners were in a rhythm. From waking up late to packing cuttings from the garden, enjoying a coffee in the spa, putting away all the wine glasses, we even had enough time for the other owner – Shane to give us a quick chopper ride through the valley as we woke up the neighbours and waved to those already out and on their tractors. And with that, we packed ourselves, our bags and our sublime memories into his helicopter, and said goodbye to the Reserve from our vantage point in the skies.
We were lucky enough to have the owners show us around the Reserve and the rest of the Barossa Valley, but in their absence a little book with all the information you’d need (and Simone who so kindly offers to book and arrange dinners prior to arrival) you really will be well looked after.The Reserve, 200 Seppeltsfield Road, Nooriotpa, Barossa. http://thereservebarossavalley.com.au/ Contact Simone Tanner at 0414 745 112 or firstname.lastname@example.org Price on request.