Let’s be honest; it’s hard for some people to believe that South Australia has been listed in the Top 5 Regions in the World to Visit in 2017. Part of the struggle perhaps comes from re framing how we approach our diverse regions. When everything is just over an hour or two away (three to four at a stretch) you have to move beyond the convenience to begin to look at just how special and distinctive this State is.
Having grown up so close to the Adelaide Hills, we are guilty of at times taking its wonders for granted. But with Spring arriving late this year, offering sunny days to enjoy the outdoors and cold nights where you can still cosy up in front of a fireplace or beneath a warm blanket, there is a rare window of opportunity on offer and we thought we’d take it to plan the perfect Adelaide Hills weekend experience.
This seemed the perfect opportunity to partner with the crew at Stayz to have a closer look through the region, deliberately moving away from the well-worn roads destinations of Hahndorf, Stirling and Mount Lofty where possible to share in an intimate local experience; the sort which comes from immersing yourself in the Adelaide Hills lifestyle, knowing that the nearest town in just five minutes away but staying in a location which feels private, isolated even, and perfectly wedded to the landscape it resides in.
Jura House is the sort of location which can sweep you off your feet from the moment you see it appear along the winding Bird In Hand Rd, overlooking the stunning valleys across Woodside and Lobethal, with views right to the Ranges which cradle the city of Adelaide. The homestead is vast, sleeping 10 comfortably, but not without the sort of intimate charms that can make a couple feel cozy, and firmly in the lap of luxury. The sweeping views to the western face, especially as the sun sets, are indescribably beautiful, drenching the inside of the house with a golden light that you can take in from the majority of bedrooms, kitchen, dining area and main lounge room. Cattle graze in the paddocks in front of the house, while to the North an access road and small dam offer the quintessential sense of location; this is what it is to live in the Adelaide Hills.
Spend an evening in enjoying the spa overlooking sunset view, a barbecue and wine on the deck, or filling the house with the smell of a roast from the oven while the fire roars inside. Larger groups will appreciate that you can find privacy in the size of the homestead and generous rooms on offer, irrespective of whether your travelling with couples or with a family, with children catered for on the East facing lawn with trampoline, sandpit and sporting hoop. In the evening, also to the East, an old gumtree is bathed in a dramatic light installed at its base. It’s a detail that provides a presence to the landscape at all hours; in stark contrasts to the energy of the city, the energies here come from the natural surrounds.
Located centrally to a vast number of townships, Jura House make for the perfect base to enjoy a host of Hills-based experiences. It’s really up to you how you’d like to plan your time. Not only are Hahndorf, Stirling, Mount Lofty and Mount Barker within 15 minutes drive, but on your doorstep are the lesser-talked-about award winning food and wine experiences of Woodside, Balhannah, Verdun and the Mount Torrens.
Begin your day literally just down the road, with the architecturally stunning, multi-award winning ArtWine Estate Cellar Door, overlooking Bird In Hand vineyards to the North and their own estate vines to the south and west. The beautiful open-window tasting room soaks in its surrounds, offering tastings across their generous range, as well as tempting tasting platters which can be comfortably split between up to four, and make a great light lunch or afternoon snack. ArtWine’s cheeky house dog Coco, for whom their Sparkling is named after, is ever-present providing a homely, personal and intimate setting. Owner Judy is often in cellar door and can walk you through their standard range, as well as her passion for Mediterranean varietals; all single vineyard productions with their Prosecco, Graciano, Fiano and the German Grune Veltliner the stand outs.
As you’re in the heart of this wine region, it’s sacrilege if you refuse to familiarise yourself with the award-winning cheese of the area as well. Woodside is home to artisan cheesemaker Kris Lloyd and her outstanding Woodside Cheese Wrights range, produced with goats and cheese milk sourced from local farms. With a large and diverse range to satisfy any palate, all produced in small batches with exquisite hand-care, you can either eat in at her Henry Street tasting rooms or even better, take home some of her range with you to enjoy when you choose.
The variety of wine grown around Woodside and its surrounds means you need not travel further than ten minutes cellar doors to discover a host unique and wholly immersive experiences. Heading towards Lobethal, through scenic rural roads is Golding Wines, a destination of high quality which have transformed an early settlement pastoral barn into a striking open function space with adjoining cellar door complete with a roaring fire for the winter and beautiful lawns and courtyard for the warmer months. Every second weekend Golding also provide a storming afternoon of food and entertainment, with freshly prepared paella and live music perfectly paired alongside their more traditional range of reds and whites. This is a group destination if there ever was one, and pre-booked tastings go down a treat. But this certainly doesn’t mean that a couple can’t find a solitary moment to hold hands amongst the coming and going crowd.
Don’t leave Golding Wines without a bottle of their Marjorie Sparkling; crisp and dry with refreshing pear, light grapefruit tones and a hint of creamy notes. It’s inspired by traditional champagnes and is the perfect pairing with some of the delicious chocolate from Red Cacao. Whether you’d like to drive the 20 minutes to Stirling to walk the idyllic leafy main street or simply seek out one of Red Cacao’s many stockists across the Adelaide Hills (ArtWine are in fact a stockist of their blocks), to try one of Marcus Booth-Remmers exquisite creations such as his Mix Berry Pop Rock White Chocolate Block or stunning Belgian Dark Chocolate is a local delicacy worth investing the time into.
Perhaps the most well-known winery of the Woodside area, Bird In Hand, is the sort of destination which can steal an entire afternoon. Their internationally acclaimed wines can be enjoyed in their Cellar Door or adjoining Barrel Shed, Gallery Restaurant, outdoor courtyard or lawns, for you to create your own delicious concoction of leisure and luxury. Secret banquets in the Barrel Shed can be arranged upon request with Chef Carlos Astudillo (formerly of Penfolds Magill Estate & Georges on Waymouth) preparing the sorts of dishes that people would travel interstate to experience, prepared with seasonal ingredients, including produce from their very own Kitchen Garden on site. Weddings are commonplace in this setting, so it’s best to call in advance to ensure that the day is available for you to visit, and if you happen to luck into an opportunity to enjoy of their their magical concert series featuring some of Australia’s best touring artists (their next is Missy Higgins and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in early December), then we highly recommend you snaffle a ticket. There are few musical experiences in South Australia that can top it.
There is utterly no need to maintain an organised schedule while you’re enjoying your weekend, but we will say we found spending between one and two hours in each location allowed us to soak in each atmosphere, while still satisfying our need to explore. The final stop for our afternoon was enjoyed looking across the infamous the fairway of Sidewood Estate Cellar Door and Maximillian’s Restaurant in Verdun, just ten minutes from Woodside and nestled between Hahndorf, Balhannah and Bridgewater. Maximillian’s is housed at the front of the main building, and while they share a close relationship with the Cellar Door they are in fact their own business and one of the best restaurants in the region. Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger so instead headed up the driveway to the right hand side of the main building, where the Sidewood deck and courtyard overlooked their devilish single golf hole, located in their centre of a dam with resident emu roaming in the surrounding paddock. Legend has it that a glass of their Mappinga Chardonnay (also a multi-award winner) is the perfect preparation for ten swings at the hole in one. We’ve been told it’s possible, though never seen it! Landing the ball on the green is enough to score some wine to go, but you’d do best to simply pull up a spot in their cellar door and go through their full range, including delicious apple and pear ciders grown and bottled locally.
After a long day on the road, you could choose to dine out at any number of award winning regional restaurants, but when you have a location like Jura House waiting for you it’s hard to better the idea of pooling all of the purchases from the day together to indulge in a long evening that takes full advantage of their kitchen facilities. Exhausted travelers should consider wood-oven pizzas delivered from the excellent Oakbank Pizza Bar. But for the cook (or the chef) you’ll be able to find an open supermarket well into the evening in Aldgate, Hahndorf or Littlehamption. We’d recommend Littlehampton, just a 30 minute round trip from Jura where you can pick up everything you could need to create a full roast or barbecue with all the trimmings to marry with a bottle of wine, and yet another sunset. These is the sort of simple and homely pleasures which Jura lends itself to perfectly, and often we won’t make the time for in our daily lives.
Waking up the next morning to a flawless sunrise, you can take you time to get your day going with a late check out of midday. Hahndorf may be the usual destination for brunch-goers but we would recommend popping into the delightful FRED Eatery in Aldgate to continue that feeling of open space and relaxation just those few hours longer. The coffee, most importantly, is always perfection but beyond that, their all day breakfast menu is showcases more of the best local produce and some of the best eggs you will ever come across in the area. Sunny side up, or scrambled with truffle oil. Whatever takes your fancy.
Jura House is one of those finds which really did tick all of the boxes, one of a number you can find on the Stayz website. With so much wonder in our own back yard, why should those traveling to SA be making the most of this wonderful state while we are sitting at home and planning our escapes interstate and overseas. 2017 really is the year to explore our magical landscapes, and the food and wine of the Adelaide Hills is exactly where you should begin.
With thanks to Jura House for supplying the photography of their homestead, and the team at Stayz for arranging this opportunity. All additional photography by Ryan Winter, except the Woodside Cheese Wrights photography, provided by Kris Lloyd.