Steve has a thing for setting off early. Something to do with avoiding traffic and getting to a place quickly especially because there was so much traffic on the road as you can see!
So the morning after Boxing Day we hit the road with a carful of supplies and ready for the first day of the 2300km adventure ahead of us.
So the first leg...I napped all the way to Dunkeld where I woke up hungry and ready for lunch. Rather than stop at the much lauded Royal Mail Hotel, we popped into the local fish and chip shop!
After such country sustenance I settled down for further sleep...I love road trips....until we arrived at our first stop...Coonawarra.
The sun was high in the sky; it truly felt like an Aussie Summer and after checking into our accommodation we spent some time on the terrace reading our books and relaxing before dinner.
We joined a Canadian family of 4 for a day tour of different wineries in the region and I certainly made an effort to try the cab sav around. If any region is going to convince me its good then it has to be Coonawarra! I didn't find my love for cab sav but we did find some good wine.
We even managed to catch up with friends Rob and Lorna for a drink. They'd arranged a last minute getaway to the region passing through on their way to SA.
We left Coonawarra bright and early in the morning as Steve likes and as we left the area we made several photo stops. We'd noticed on our wine tour that the wineries on the main strip had made various Santa displays by the roadside and some of them were pretty funny so we tried to capture a few. My favourite was Santa in the hot tub with his clothes on the clothes line.
We stayed at Seascape Lodge which has three rooms and is hosted by Mandy and Paul (ex farmers on the island). It's a beautiful home with a lovely garden and terrace and gorgeous views of Emu Bay. Mandy prepares breakfast and dinner each day and her home cooked meals are delightful using lots of the great local produce and of course, accompanied by local wines. Mandy and Paul also run a tour service which we took advantage of for two of our days on the island.
Our first full day on the island was spent with another Canadian family and a tour guide who took us all over spotting seals, koalas, kangaroos and generally enjoying the local wildlife and scenery. We also headed to a set of rocks called The Remarkables which are a cluster of huge weather sculpted granite boulders on a granite dome over the sea. It was like being at a sculpture park and although busy wasn't overly so that we couldn't get some good pictures.
Our second tour was just us and we visited many of the island's local food and wine producers. We had a private tour of Islander Estate with wine tasting, as well as a look around a marron (crayfish) wholesaler, honey producer (wonderful ice cream), other wineries and lunch was lobster underneath a fig tree. We tried the warming wares of a local distillery and our guide took us to his own farm to see his calves. We really felt that we'd immersed ourselves in the island.
The weather turned rainy on day 3 which was New Year's Day but our plans to swim with wild dolphins were not affected and we still went out. Have to admit that the boat journey wasn't pleasant in the rain but was made worthwhile when we could see the dolphins come up so close to the boat and Steve braced the cold and swam with them in the open sea. Not being such a strong swimmer, especially in the sea I stayed on the boat and watched. As these were wild dolphins, there were no tricks or touching them but we really did get very close and they were so lovely to watch.
Our time on Kangaroo Island whizzed by and before we knew it, it was time to move onto our next stop.
We arrived at Tanunda, our base to explore the Barossa Valley in the afternoon and Steve convinced me to drive him to a local brewery for him to try their wares in exchange for my McLaren Vale excursion earlier in the day!
We visited some great wineries and a wide range from the family owned Schild Estate where matriarch Mrs Schild turned up at 11am and helped herself to two large glasses of bubbles before driving off home to the smaller and more artisan Turkey Flat where the vines grew free range without trellis. We also went to Tscharke where Damian Tscharke is making some incredible wine and we admired his commitment to building his cellar door and importing the actual building over from Germany.
On our last day in the Barossa, Steve and I went to the local market which was smaller than we thought and lots of the stall holders were still on Christmas leave. We also had a cup of tea and a brownie at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop. To our British friends, Maggie Beer is like a Delia Smith I guess and she has a shop where she sells her branded produce in the Barossa. It was probably the busiest place we'd been to this trip and we were there early.
So far during our time in the Barossa we'd only visited the smaller wineries which was what we wanted as they're harder to come across and know which ones are good so we'd relied on our guide for that the previous day. We decided to tackle the big ones ourselves so we headed to Penfold's that afternoon where we were booked into a blending session. We didn't realise it at the time but it was only the two of us and it was a shame I was driving as there was a lot of tasting to be done but I was still pleased with my end product!
We blended our own version on Bin 138 GMS ie Grenache, Mourvedre (or Mataro) and Shiraz. Steve actually got one of his testers pretty close to the actual blend.
Following our blending session, Steve went through many of what was available for tasting and ended up buying quite a bit to bring back...something about a bulk discount...
We stayed at the Grampians Motel which was a convenient and clean place to stay. But it offered more than that! Great views, fresh mountain air and a deluxe spa suite! The room was a little 1990s, red black and white and I think probably decorated my a man trying to have a woman's touch. It was a bit strange as the shower and bathroom were basic amenity block type style and the room probably was before the refurb but the refurb can't hide the breeze block painted prison cell style walls. I loved the effort put into upgrade the room and it was very comfortable but not quite home or the classy elegance of our Kangaroo Island accommodation.
This weekend is about building a wine rack and the days since our return have been an endless cycle of laundry for me and back to work for Steve!