The Barossa in Autumn is a glorious place to be, with the vineyards blazing gold and orange and the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Less than 2 hours from Adelaide, there is plenty to see and do in this bucolic corner, but even better, there is plenty to eat and drink. Packing list: anything without a waist.
Strangely and despite its status as a premier tourist destination, there are not that many places to stay which fit into the luxury bracket. There is The Louise of course, but much of the self-contained accommodation is of the lace doily and brass-bedstead variety.
Not so Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage. Owned by local winemaker Peter Milhinch and his charming wife Sharyn, the cottage has been restored from a derelict shell into a warm and welcoming home. It’s traditional with solid timber antiques, comfortable armchairs in plaid and florals, and a deep claw foot bath salvaged from the original cottage. However, it’s simple and well laid out with not a trace of frippery. Before and after photos are discreetly available and the transformation is remarkable.
We arrived at night, in the freezing cold with lashing rain. Sharyn greeted us and showed us around. The house was already warm from underfloor heating but a wood fire was stacked in the grate and soon blazing. As it was too late to eat out and we were otherwise unprepared, Sharyn ducked home and reappeared with two bowls of piping hot bacon, vegetable and risoni soup that she had made that afternoon, together with wood fired bread from the iconic Barossa bakery, Apex. It could not have been a more generous welcome and we settled in for a toasty evening, curled up on squashy sofas.
The Milhinches are unobtrusive hosts (their house, whilst on the same acreage, is quite separate from the cottage) but their generous presence is everywhere, from the maps already marked with Sharyn’s favourite places and recommendations, to the pride with which local produce is stocked – the small kitchenette is stocked with smoked bacon from the legendary Linke’s butcher, creamy Jersey milk, honey biscuits and fresh baked bread, plenty of delicious snacks from the Barossa Cheese Co and Maggie Beer, and of course fresh eggs from the cottage’s hens (who live behind the picture perfect vegetable garden and greet you with comical enthusiasm).
There is also a clever outdoor kitchen at the back of the cottage, and in summer I can think of nothing nicer than sitting out there overlooking the lovely garden and vines into the distance with a glass of Peter’s rose in hand.
And there’s the rub – there is so much to do in the Barossa that it seems a shame to stay in, tempting as it is. Plenty of iconic cellar doors, from the warmth of Rockford to the grandeur of Seppeltsfield, (which now houses also a new Jam Factory gallery and craft centre, with workshops for their resident shoemaker, knifemaker and milliner). The Barossa market is open every Saturday morning and showcases the region’s truly wonderful local producers. There is a fabulous bike centre in Tanunda, The Hub, where you can pick up everything to cruise two wheels along the Barossa Way bike path. The villages of the Barossa are pretty with good coffee shops, bookshops and some homewares and design stores that are well worth a browse.
And of course, eating. The range of excellent dining options just keeps getting better and better. Fermentasian in Tanunda produces terrific Vietnamese cuisine, 1918 is a champion of well done comfort food, and Vintners offers excellent local produce. On this occasion we tried a few new places. Artisans of the Barossa pulls together a cellar door for 6 boutique producers with a café serving delicious sharing plates by Food Luddite (aka Mark McNamara, formerly of Appellation). Fino at Seppeltsfield offered one of the best meals I’ve had in a while, the large and airy dining room buzzing with Saturday night diners (the tasting room stays open late too). A dish of raw kingfish with brown rice, charred onion and wakame, although it sounded odd in print, was one the most sophisticated dishes I’ve had, and absolutely delicious.
Lunch at Hentley Farm on Sunday was outstanding, and it well deserves it reputation as one of Australia’s best regional restaurants. The cellar door is so welcoming we stayed on for another hour and were a fraction off having to tie the tailgate down with a rope.
Dangerously, Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage has plans to put in a walking path and gate to Hentley Farm, which sits at the bottom of their property, so now there’s no reason to drink and not drive………