A Sunday in the Barossa



A celebration of excellent weather, the gentle environment and our astonishing privilege: an autumn Sunday in the Barossa!


The trick (or life hack as the young ‘uns call these) with winery tours is to keep the itinerary simple: don’t fall for vaulting ambition, or an overly complex itinerary. With this in mind Claire said, “I reckon we should go along Krondorf Road.”


Beginning at Grant Burge Wines a highlight was the view down to and across the rolling valley floor with the trees all gilded and brunette and anticipating their winter drink. There was a lengthy list of wines to work through and these were uniformly adequate if somewhat devoid of charisma.


Noting the massive bottles on display we spoke of the biblical names ascribed to these: Methuselah, Balthazar and my favourite to say, often apropos of nothing, Nebuchadnezzar: holding 15 litres, an unholy receptacle with catastrophic hangovers for the extended family (perhaps not the kiddies).


Rockford is always a delight. The former stables host the tastings. All stone and pastoral calm; inside is warmly dark, and the punters drift and mingle, scuffling to and from the counter. Above our heads is a row of dusty, hoary bottles, the labels whispering of meeker times. With our dear friend Trish in mind we bought a bottle of Alicante Bouchet as voices murmured about us, all low and vaguely thrilling and festive.


The Basket Press Shiraz is Olympian, and I remembered I’d a bottle at home, a significant birthday gift from old friends Bob and Trish. As always with long-distance wine I’m torn: do I lay it down for years on the hazy promise of a milestone, or given life’s uncertainty, dash home on an otherwise unspectacular Tuesday, and turn the church key?


It was divine to then emerge from this intimate dusk and into the cobblestoned light of Rockford’s courtyard. Dust and pollen and laughter pirouetted about in the golden air, and I remarked to Claire how I found it difficult to believe there could be a happier place on the planet.


Our clocks had chimed midday and so we drove westward. Our pace was like that of the horses and carts of centuries ago when stoic Lutherans slapped the reins, and crunching the carpark gravel at St. Halletts we both noted how it had been decades since either of us had visited.


The cellar door has a generous, handsome bar. Even the toilets are luxurious in their appointments. We discussed the received silliness of the various euphemisms for these: bathroom. Aside from the physical hopelessness of the cistern, who’d wish to take a bath in one? And restroom: these may have once offered welcome refuge, but with an unsophisticated world view shaped by my amenities experiences out the back of Adelaide Oval I reckon toilets are like proctologist visits; get in and out (as it were) as quickly as you can.


We chatted over our cups with the woman serving the drinks. She was Parisienne and pregnant. On a working holiday years ago she met her eventual husband in an aisle of the local hardware store, and now here she was. It was a natter in keeping with the day’s themes of warmth and gratefulness and she popped extra crackers on our cheeseboard.


With the Para River acting as a gentle guardian there’s an ample lawn punctuated by some silent gums and wooden tables, like those favoured in English country pubs. We had cheese and olives and sunshine and stillness. And a glass of wine each. My sparkling red was exquisite, delicate and with a haughty effervescence that contrasted ever so slightly with the surroundings.


“Do you know what my favourite drink is when wine-tasting?” I asked, the sun slanting across the lawn.


“A shiraz?” Claire suggested.


“No, but good try.”


“Go on then.”


“After the last winery it’s the Pale Ale I have at a pub.”


So, our day ended with a first. We swung into the Sandy Creek pub, a boozer I must’ve passed a thousand times, but had never entered.


With the light collapsing beyond the low hills we sat out the front and watched the steady stream of cars and trucks and vintage jalopies roar along the highway as on the TV inside the Crows and Dockers began their unwatchable match.


It had been a sunlit day of space and conversation and bursting gratitude.



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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Rulebook says

    Excellent Mickey ahh yes the toilets straight across from the Chappell bar aka the magic cave were v much a get in and hurry up and get out.My distant drinking days re wine tours were always the sneaky beers

  2. Ah yes, the so-called “bathroom”. Only today, on a Jetstar sardine tin from Darwin to Adelaide, we were advised over the PA of the existence of a bathroom at the front of the aeroplane and 2 at the rear!!! My goodness, what luxury, “Tahiti looks good, darling”. I fear another terrible Americanism inflicted upon us and unthinkingly adopted by those of the Twitter generation and media too lazy to resist.

    As for those “amenities” out the back of the old western grandstands at Adelaide Oval, full agreement with you Mickey, a place of some terror for small boys. Well written and maybe stay clear of those Biblical Bottles!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Kellermeister was closed then?

  4. St Hallet wines makes me think of Big Bob McLean who was the leading force in the label’s revival. For years I wondered if he was the same person as legendary Port Adelaide FC player and administrator Big Bob McLean.
    Eventually confirmed that Fos Williams consigliere was more a schooner at a pub on Black Diamond Corner than a Barossa Shiraz man. Are all Robert’s over 6’3″ Big Bobs?
    Was just about to order a case of the Sparkling Shiraz on your recommendation, but the $50 a bottle price tag put me off. Any recommendations in the $25ish price range for any of SA’s finest?

  5. Well played, Mickey. There is certainly something (not just the wine) about the Barossa Valley. A most enjoyable place.

    For sheer filth, the old toilet block down below the back of the hill on the outer at St Kilda’s old Moorabbin Oval took the gold medal. As a youth, such was its parlous state that I firmly believed the ground managers had forgotten the toilet block even existed.

  6. My earliest memories of the Barossa are the brilliant Islington Railways picnics at the Tanunda Oval in the fifties.The Railways put on a special steam train with, I think six carriages to transport the workers families there.

    I don’t remember the toilet block but I do remember the swimming pool and events such as 3 legged races, egg and spoon etc. Areal highlight was the “old buffers foot race”, always won by my Dad.

    My paternal great grand father worked in the Kapunda copper mines and so my grandpa was born there.

    Incidentally, the last time Heather and I set off to the Barossa was, would you believe, Grand Final day 1978. We were almost half way there when we heard, on the car radio, that the game, Norwood v Sturt, had been sold out and it would be directly telecast. After a quick discussion with Heather, we turned around and headed for my parents home to watch the big game.

    As our beloved Redlegs entered the game as gross underdogs,you can imagine the excitement the whole family felt at the game’a conclusion – Norwood came from 29 points down at three quarter time to snatch victory by a single point.. Although missing out on a planned wineries trip we spent a most enjoyable afternoon with Mum and dad.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, always turn the church key on an otherwise unspectacular Tuesday given life’s uncertainties.

    With you on the Pale Ale.

    Look forward to your review of the Sandy Creek pub!

  8. Thanks to everyone for their comments on a variety of topics. Like jetties wineries are places that are good for the soul. I think it unlikely to visit one and not be buoyant. I was especially positive last Thursday when I visited Langmeil winery in Tanunda- just down the road from Peter Lehmans- to buy some cleanskin reds. Strolling in I met the woman running sales who used to nurse with my sister. She gave me a good discount on the plonk so I ventured south with an extremely buoyant outlook.

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