We pull in under the shade of a tree and park the car. As soon as the ignition turns off the only thing you can hear is the singing of Galahs and Crimson Rosellas. Breathing deeply, I fill my lungs with pure Adelaide Hills air and smile. The sky is a clear blue, the sun is shining and I’m about to drink some of the best wine in South Australia at Lobethal Road Winery.
Everything about Adelaide Hills feels like pure country with a landscape void of rubbish and big business, endless fields of green and gold and never-ending streets of welcoming cellar doors. While most people head straight to the Barossa Valley for wine tasting in South Australia, my group has decided to sample the cooler climate varieties of Adelaide Hills. Known for its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs, the region also produces an unusual type of Shiraz for the area. Medium bodied, it’s much more estranged and spicy than what’s found in the Barossa or McClaren Vale.
As we get out of the car and make our way into the cellar door, a small, fat Jack Russell Terrier comes running over to play.
“That’s Flynn,” explains Inga Lidums, one of the owners at Lobethal Road Winery. “He’s our very own wine dog.”
The shop dog runs over, eager to be pet. As soon as I get my camera out, he rolls on his back and poses like a celebrity. He’s obviously been through the routine before with other visitors.
I make my way to the tasting bar. I’m a sucker for sustainable winemaking, and am excited to learn Lobethal Road uses solar energy throughout the property and as little intervention as possible in the vineyard. A relatively new winery with their first vines being planted in 1998, it’s always reassuring to see environmentally smart practices being implemented.
“Interestingly, the first vines were planted in the Hills in the mid 1800’s, and wine was made from them and shipped to England,” Inga explains. “Over subsequent years though the Adelaide Hills became more widely know for vegetable market gardens and orchards, due to its cooler climate and close proximity to Adelaide. The re-emergence of vineyards started around 30 years ago.”
Her husband Dave pours me a glass of their award-winning Pinot Gris. Immediately, flavors of delicate apple and pear with just a hint of spice greet my tongue, and leaves my mouth happy and awake.
“Since it’s nice out today, I thought I’d prepare a small picnic in the vines,” says Inga. “If you’ll just follow me, I’ll start bringing the food out with some more wine.”
Inga’s idea of a small picnic includes endless platters of charcuterie, dips, breads and pates. Platters of of cheese – Udder Delights Brie cheese, Adelaide blue, Pepato, aged cheddar and peppercorn cheddar – along with anchovies, olives, pickles, chèvre, salmon pâté, mackerel, prosciutto, salami, sausage, hummus, skordalia, fresh garden vegetables, crackers and fresh bread fill the picnic table from end-to-end. As Flynn comes and lays at my feet, I now realize why he is so fat.
“These platters are designed to share with friends and to complement the wines we make,” says Inga. “They allow visitors to sample a range of foods from local Adelaide Hills and South Australian producers and enjoy them in our courtyard garden overlooking the vineyard or in our cozy cellar door in front of the wood fire.”
Immediately, Dave is at my side placing down a clean wine glass and pouring the wine they’re most proud of, their cool climate Shiraz. Inga and Dave specifically chose their location based on the fact Shiraz needs more sunshine for ripening and requires an open north-easterly aspects. This also means not everyone in the area can grow Shiraz — or at least grow it to its full potential — if they don’t have the right location. Luckily, Lobethal Road can and does, with their handcrafted wines reflecting a distinctive cool climate character.
I take note of the dark color of the liquid, then swirl the glass around to let the wine aerate. When I take a sip, I notice it’s much different than other Shiraz’ I’ve tasted before, with more pepper and spice. The flavor is very food-friendly, and pairs perfectly with the charcuterie platter.
Once the meal is over, I realize I’ve experienced more than just a meal. If I were at home, I probably would have had a yogurt or peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, scarfing it down quickly and getting back to work; however, this delicious meal showcasing an array of flavors, spices and backgrounds has allowed me to stop for an hour and really appreciate my meal. The gentle tickle of pepper in the olives, the sweet and tart mix of fresh cherries, the undeniably creamy yet pungent skordalia. Nothing went in my mouth unacknowledged.
I will always be thankful to Lobethal Road, not just for the palatable wines and gratifying lunch, but for helping me to show me how enriching a simple lunch can really be.
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