The Eden Valley Road Trip
Mr and Mrs 1965 took the back roads from Lobethal to the Barossa in search of the small, unique, boutique and quirky. A leisurely drive rewarded us with vistas of undulating hills, ancient river red gums and thirsty land. It has been a dry season this year. We travelled through the historic Mt Torrens. Had we time, we could have stopped for walk through this heritage listed township but we were on a mission. A long straight road took us to the outskirts of Birdwood, where we turned right and headed towards Mt Pleasant. With a small detour into Birdwood we could have visited the National Motor Museum; Top of the Torrens Art gallery and gone vintage & retro shopping but we decided to save those experiences for another day.
the book shop
First stop in Mt Pleasant was Star Books, the perfect place to stock up on reading material. Everyone has a story and we were delighted to swap stories with John, the friendly bookshop owner. Star Books was originally located in Hindley Street, next door to the Cinema where John specialized in selling movie themed books. When the Cinema closed down, Star Books also closed, reemerging in its current location several years later when John and his wife made a tree change. They had been on a road trip themselves when they saw the for sale sign on what was then a recently closed bank. Star Books was reborn along with the delightful Bohemian Garden, operated by John's wife, selling flowers, gifts and home wares from a co-located shop front.
Browsing the shelves of a well stocked book shop is like going on a treasure hunt. Star Books has a warm, welcoming ambience with well organised shelving sorted into categories. Whilst many books are movie themed, you'll also find good reads, cook books, children's books and so on.
A small smile haunts my lips as I pick up a well loved book from my past. An even broader smile spreads slowly across my face as I pick up a book I'd dearly like to read. In our modern, fast paced world, reading a book feels like a luxury.
a winery full of surprises
Almost reluctantly we return to the car, laden with several retro books to add to our collection at 1965. The key turns , the engine revs and we are off. I must admit whilst a 60's car is a fun drive, compared to a modern vehicle, the ride is noisy, bumpy and hot (no air!). We continue on our way, retro style, to Springton, location of a Edenmae, a fab cellar door/wine bar combo. Being a Friday this great little venue doesn't open until 4pm and so we make a note to call in on our way home.
Next stop is Fernfield Winery and Cellar Door. We are greeted by winemaker & chocolatier Rebecca who apologies for her work boots and grape stained clothing and then gets down to the business of conducting a personalised tasting of their small batch wines. Bec had been busy with the alchemy of wine making but wasn't the least bit put out by the interruption. The advantage of being able to meet the winemaker as well as taste the wines is the depth of knowledge on offer and Bec was happy to explain the processes behind the crafting of their wines.
The tasting room at Fernfield is located in a small stone cottage dating back to 1856. Think comfy leather chairs, open fireplace on notice to blaze warmly over the winter months and large wolf spider sidling across the wall, just to add a rural feel. The winery also has a relaxed outdoor dining area with photogenic views of vines and gums. As mentioned, Bec is a chocolatier and Fernfield offer wine matched chocolate tastings. (Bookings required). Unfortunately, due to vintage, chocolate tastings were unavailable but we did have a very unique experience. A tasting of Federweiser (Feather White). This European style wine was made as a celebration of vintage and is only available for 2 weeks before it is undrinkable. Ephemeral wine tasting at its best!
Our second surprise was the His and Hers - the same Grenache grapes crafted into two very different wine styles. Not usually a red wine drinker, Mrs 1965 was amazed to taste both and find that she was rather partial to the Hers.
As well as winemaking, Bec's partner Scott brews a small range of seasonal craft beers, which are available on tap. Other things we enjoyed about our visit were the photo boards showing before and after shots of the cottage and the winery Border Collies. Fernfield have a pair.
Bottles of very fine wine in hand, we tootled back down the dirt road to Eden Valley Pub. We had heard that the pub offered takeaway options perfect for a quick roadside picnic and we weren't disappointed. We chose smoked Barossa ham and salad wraps and chatted with the publican whilst the kitchen staff quickly prepared them. Simple but fresh and delicious food.
the unexpected cellar
Our third stop was Flaxman Wines. First impressions were that we were about to intrude upon someone's backyard. Indeed we followed the gravel pathway through the garden and past the main house but intruding couldn't have been further from the truth. A cheery welcome wave from Fiona prior to a brief wait gave us an opportunity to explore and guaranteed that we felt welcome. Another stone cottage, this one featuring several long table dining options clearly spelt out that Flaxman is just as much about food as it is about wine.
Cheese platters with both local and international cheeses are available on weekends and a Long Leisurely Lunch option is also available on the 1st Saturday of every month with some amazing sounding food cooked by Col. Just quietly, Col was a finalist (top 10) in the 2014 series of MasterChef. The special surprise at Flaxman was their Cellar reminiscent of Stefano's Cellar Restaurant in Mildura. A wooden staircase led down to this unexpectedly sophisticated space featuring yet another long dining table and bottle lined walls. This is where the museum collection lives. Fi regaled us with the story of the day she was locked in the cellar - a spine tingling thought!
did someone say wine bar?
Fi walked us to our car and we set off on the return journey via Edenmae in Springton. Friday nights at Edenmae are all about community. We were welcomed at the door of this cellar door/wine bar full of personality and made to feel like we lived just next door. Owner Michelle introduced us to her sustainably produced wines and then made a coffee for him and a tea for her to sustain us on our travels. As locals wandered in she named and poured their favourite knock off drink and the conversation flowed. Lack of rain and the need to truck water in for the Riesling pick were the topic of the day and we were effortlessly included.
Exploring the venue when we first arrived revealed a charming courtyard space with cleverly arched pergola constructed from wine barrel ribs. An upright piano not only added to the charm of the cellar door but apparently has its ivories tinkled quite regularly. Paintbrushes perched on top of the piano are used during regular 'wine and art' sessions. Michelle is also a Border Collie Fan which sparked conversation about sharing her life with several lovely doggos.
We left laid back socialising with the locals for the final leg of our journey back to Lobethal reflecting on how much we had enjoyed the afternoon. Real conversations with passionate winemakers who care for the land, work hard running their businesses & support their communities. Love it!
In 'Backroads to Barossa Part 2', we will continue the road trip from Eden Valley onto Angaston and then take the scenic route back to Lobethal. Story coming soonish ...