Adelaide Hills shoppers nuts about Charlesworth

Longstanding family-owned business, Charlesworth Nuts, will have a crack at the Adelaide Hills retail market when it opens its 11th South Australian store in Mt Barker later this month.

The new nuts, dried fruit and chocolate store will open on October 17 in the Mt Barker Central Shopping Centre, with four staff soon to settle in their roles, plus another 12 workers employed in time for the peak pre-Christmas period.

It will be the first time the 80-year business has branched out into a regional area, and CEO Brett Charlesworth says the company has already been warmly welcomed by the local Hills community.

“We are really happy to be opening in Mt Barker,” he says. “The area has a lot going for it, with new estates opening, as well as a new sports centre recently announced.

“We have been pleased by the level of enthusiasm from the community. We had around 500 people send in a résumé once word had spread that we were recruiting.”

New Charlesworth Nuts employees undergo an in-house training program both away from the shop and in-store.

“The main thing we look for is a bright and bubbly personality and someone who is interested in helping our customers,” says Brett, who is also I Choose SA ambassador.

“We are very passionate about what we do, and we have built up the business on our reputation for quality, fresh products.

“We take a lot of pride in our work, and our people do as well. We have many employees who have been with us for 20, 25, even 30 years. We are very lucky to have such genuine people working with us.”

Charlesworth Nuts CEO Brett Charlesworth is also an I Choose SA ambassador.

There are also those who are second, or even third generation employees – taking after the Charlesworth family, with Brett and his brother Mark, chief financial officer, the third-generation business custodians and Brett’s sons Rhys, Kain and Liam also working in the business.

The Charlesworth legacy began in March 1934, when Herb Charlesworth bought a small nut stall in the Adelaide Central Market, one of the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the southern hemisphere.

The store continued well for the next 20 years, but when Herb’s health began to deteriorate, he called upon his son Chappy to take over the business.

Chappy built the business further, laying a strong foundation for Brett and Mark who took over and were able to open the company’s first new store in 40 years in the Westfield Marion Shopping Centre.

Four more retail outlets soon followed at Colonnades Shopping Arcade, City Cross Arcade, Tea Tree Plaza and Elizabeth Shopping Centre. New stores have since been opened in Rundle Mall, West Lakes Shopping Mall and Burnside Village.

“We are careful about the locations we pick,” Brett says. “We are all about making sure we are in the right centre, and the right site at that centre.”

Brett says the fit out of the shops is kept similar between outlets, but that the Mt Barker store will include some ‘experimental’ displays.

“Our shop fitters have just finished refitting the Tea Tree Plaza and Marion stores, so it was straight from those projects onto the Mt Barker build,” he says.

The shop displays take around 2-3 weeks to be built off site, then another 2-3 weeks in store when the displays are installed.

“One of our core principles is that customers should be able to buy fresh nuts, cooked on-site, at each of our stores,” Brett says. “The hot nuts are certainly a product which leads people in with their noses!”

The Charlesworth family at the Marion store.

With the retail market set to enter the busiest time of year – the Christmas shopping period – the nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and other treat maker is set to experience yet another influx of consumers.

“At this time of year our gift sales go through the roof, as do our mixes, cooked products, and chocolate range,” Brett says.

“We find that people are looking for something to either take with them to a party, or to serve when they are entertaining.

“Now is also the perfect time to pick up one of our Christmas cake ingredient packs which have the dried fruit and nuts you’ll want to make your own cake – and the tried and tested recipe to put it all together.”

Charlesworth Nuts also has a new product out – Salty Macadamia Pearls – with a portion of the proceeds going towards a local cause.

The new line has been launched in conjunction with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation with 20% of the proceeds donated to the foundation’s Beach House Project.

“The Beach House Project is a holiday house at Encounter Bay which has been fitted out with all the equipment necessary for families with children in palliative care to have a relaxing holiday,” Brett says.

“It is all about creating beautiful memories and making the most of the time the family has together. We are really pleased to be supporting this worthy cause.”

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Life reinstated to much-loved Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary

When wildlife lovers David Cobbold and Narelle MacPherson heard that Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary in the Adelaide Hills was for sale, they saw an opportunity to “reinvigorate a national treasure”.

The couple, who own Peel Zoo in Western Australia, packed up their lives and relocated to Mylor in the Adelaide Hills, home of the closed but not forgotten sanctuary once famous for its Australian wildlife conservation efforts.

In September Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary reopened for the first time in more than five years and has since attracted thousands of visitors who come to learn about native wildlife and the environment.

“We’re only into our fifth week and it (visitation) seems to be building quite nicely,” David says.

“Just over the last week we’ve had a couple of hundred people through.”

Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary owners Narelle MacPherson and David Cobbold with four-legged friend, Bear. Photo courtesy of Weekender Herald.

Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary was closed in 2013 after a long history in wildlife conservation and efforts by its founder Dr John Wamsley to eradicate feral pests and restore habitat.

Dr Wamsley purchased the property in 1969, eradicating feral plants and animals and putting up a 2.1m feral-proof fence to keep out roaming cats and foxes.

Warrawong soon became a thriving eco-system with native Australian wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, potoroos, bettongs and birds.

In 1993, Dr Wamsley made news headlines when he wore a hat made from feral cat skins to make a point about the destruction feral cats have on native wildlife.

The stunt brought about fierce debate between cat lovers and those who believed feral cats were wreaking havoc on native species.

An aerial view of Warrawong, located on Stock Road, Mylor, in the Adelaide Hills.

Eventually Dr Wamsley’s campaign led to a change in feral cat laws, allowing him to legally shoot them in his sanctuary.

Warrawong expanded into Earth Sanctuaries and was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, but later fell into financial difficulty, with Dr Wamsley and wife Proo Geddes leaving in 2005.

The sanctuary has since fallen under ownership of Zoos SA and the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority before it closed to the public in 2013.

It remained that way for the next five years, until David and Narelle heard the property was on the market.

“We heard that Warrawong was coming up, and we thought it wasn’t only interesting from a business point of view, where you think wow, great location, lots of infrastructure, huge potential … but you also realise it’s the cat hat guy, who I saw on TV as a young boy,” David says.

“When you realise that you’re not only hopefully creating a future for your family, but also reinvigorating a national treasure, the birthplace of the feral proof fence … it turns into a little personal crusade.”

Warrawong Wildlife Keeper Erin introduces some of the sanctuary’s friendly locals to visitors.

Now Warrawong is well on its way to being reinstated as a popular tourism destination, with opportunities for animal research and education.

One of the centrepieces is the platypus pond, and David says he envisages plans for platypus research and breeding facilities.

However, he admits there is still much work to be done including ensuring the property is once again free from pests, including a sneaky fox which has made its way onto the property.

“As we speak we have a fox on the property,” David says. “Dr Wamsley finished the (feral proof) fence in 1982 so the youngest part of the fence is 36 years old.”

He says birdwatching has been a popular activity at Warrawong since the reopening, with 110 species spotted so far.

Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary employs about half-a-dozen casual staff, and is about to put on a full-timer.

Warrawong is open to visitors seven days a week.

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Wolf Blass life and legend comes to Hahndorf

Recognised by his trademark bow tie, legendary winemaker Wolf Blass has a new venture, one that has taken him to the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf.

The German-born wine industry icon’s achievements are on show at the recently opened Wolf Blass gallery and museum in the old German town’s main street.

The attraction has been open to the public for only two weeks but is already luring scores of tourists, wine lovers and locals.

“It has been an emotional thing,” says Wolf, referring to the three-year project that has seen decades of memorabilia, photographs and artefacts relocated from their home in the Barossa Valley.

“Now we have something very modern with a touch of history.”

The Wolf Blass gallery and museum in Hahndorf features a bar, cooperage display, function room, sitting areas and memorabilia scattered throughout.

The gallery and museum, owned and operated by the Wolf Blass Foundation, has been developed in the old BankSA building in Hahndorf’s main street.

Contained within the building is the town’s original schoolhouse built in 1854 and now hosting a Cooperage display.

Many of Wolf’s personal achievements and milestones are contained within a collection of 73 scrapbooks featuring newspaper clippings, photos, and items from past decades.

Among the many prized possessions is the soon-to-be displayed 1865 Melbourne Cup trophy.

Aside from wine, Wolf also has a love for sport.

The 7m long Wolfie’s Horse Bar displays a selection of trophies from his winning horses, while other parts of the building contain cabinets full of other football, cricket and skiing memorabilia.

The gallery and museum stocks a range of wines from a selection of regions, as well as grazing platters, allowing visitors to wander around the exhibits or relax in one of the many sitting areas.

Wolf Blass – full name Wolfgang Franz Otto Blass – is renowned for pioneering wine styles and introducing quality wine to the predominantly beer drinking society that existed in Australia.

Although Wolf Blass Wines’ home is in the Barossa Valley, the 84-year-old was driving through Hahndorf one day with his wife Shirley Nyberg-Blass when they spotted the BankSA building was up for lease.

A few phone calls and handshakes and later the building was sold and set to become the new home of Wolf’s collection of personal memorabilia, originally housed in the Barossa.

Wolf says Shirley was behind much of the interior design, seeking the help of local architect John Ashcroft of BeyondInk.

“I must always thank my wife, she was the instigator,” Wolf says.

“On September 5 we had our first function, a soft opening that was exclusive to Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills.”

Born in East Germany in 1934, Wolf’s introduction to the Australian wine industry came when he migrated here in 1961 after spending more than a decade working in the European wine industry.

The Hahndorf gallery and museum took three years to complete.

He worked in the Barossa Valley for Kaiser Stuhl as a sparkling wines manager before becoming Australia’s first freelance technical advisor to wine companies across South Australia, earning $2.50 an hour.

In 1966, Wolf registered his business Bilyara, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘eaglehawk’ – a symbol that would go on to mark the winemaker’s brand for decades to come.

His first vintage was 250 dozen, a small fraction of the 50 million Wolf Blass branded bottles eventually sold by 2005.

By the late ’60s Wolf was a manager and winemaker for United Distillers, helping to convert Tolley’s image from a brandy producer into a leading wine icon.

In 1973, the Wolf Blass Wines International company was born, and the man himself was on the way to becoming a household name as he pioneered new wine varieties.

Over the years Wolf Blass has won four prestigious Jimmy Watson trophies, the most highly sought after wine award in the country.

Photo: supplied.

He was the man behind the key word ‘drinkability’ and also engaged more women in wine as alcohol consumption was usually reserved for the working class man.

“In the ‘50s we didn’t drink wine we only drank 120 litres of beer. So that has been the biggest social change – to get women involved because they were totally isolated,” Wolf says.

“Six o’clock closing times, all men at the bar, there wasn’t much fun.

“Wine, sparkling wine, pearl wine was part of that change and suddenly there was a bit of life.”

Wolf says he was met with criticism for “shaking the establishment” throughout the early foundations of his career.

“I made wines that could be easily consumed, I was at the time very much criticised because I did things differently,” he says.

“When you consider I came here with $200 in my pocket and how much I have now achieved … it’s giving me a lot of joy.”

The Wolf Blass gallery and museum in Hahndorf is open Thursday – Sunday.

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Local produce an inspiration for sweet success

Seasonal produce has that something extra. Extra sweetness, extra crunch, extra flavour.

And when you hand craft it into a delicious filling and cover it in quality chocolate – well, that is something extra special.

Alex Crawford, aka The Sugar Man, is doing just that – creating hand-crafted chocolate bars in the Adelaide Hills with fillings which take inspiration from local, seasonal ingredients.

Think apple pie flavours with crisp Pink Lady apples and pieces of pie crust covered in 34% white chocolate, or a peanut butter filling using locally ground peanuts and a pinch of Murray River pink salt, encased in single origin Ghana milk chocolate.

Alex, who closed his wholesale patisserie business late last year, has always been a lover of local, seasonal food.

However, taking this philosophy to a range of chocolate bars is certainly something new.

Have you seen The Sugar Man? Photo by Meaghan Coles.

Alex is creating new bars each season, being inspired by the produce that is available in the Adelaide Hills and wider areas.

“The Pink Lady apples have been sourced from fourth-generation apple growers in the Adelaide Hills,” he says.

“I have also just released an Espresso Martini flavour using Espressocello from Applewood Distillery at Gumeracha and locally roasted coffee beans from Caffiend in Hahndorf.

“The espresso filling is covered with a Mexique 66% dark chocolate which has bitter and fruity notes. It took a little while to find the right chocolate to cover this one, but now that I have it, the balance is perfect.”

The Sugar Man bars are made to order, so when you buy a bar you can be sure that it was produced in the very recent past.

Depending on the filling, the chocolate bars have a best before date of around two to three months.

The Espresso Martini chocolate made with Espressocello from fellow Hills business Applewood Distillery. Photo by Britt Natolo.

One of the foundation ingredients for the chocolate bars is butter, and Alex sources his from The Dairyman in the Barossa Valley.

“It is superb butter,” Alex says.

“It is churned and handmade in small batches from the cream of grass fed Jersey cows. I am lucky to be surrounded by such talented and hardworking producers who take pride and interest in their work. It makes my job a lot easier.”

Some of the flavours Alex has created so far include Fairy Bread, Coffee and Doughnuts, Sticky Date Pudding and Orange Marmalade on Toast.

The Apple Pie chocolate is made using Pink Lady apples, pie crust and white chocolate. Photo by Britt Natolo.

The marmalade flavour was created using oranges from Alex’s grandmother’s tree, with sourdough bread from Dough bakery.

“It is all about balance of texture and flavours,” Alex says. “The ratios have to be right.”

And just like with all artisan pursuits, there are no shortcuts.

“Chocolate is temperamental,” Alex says.

“It takes time and patience to complete each step, but people are going to buy the product, so it has to be perfect.”

The Sugar Man chocolate bars are available at Fred Eatery, Aldgate, The Smelly Cheese Shop, Adelaide Central Markets and Banana Boys, Mitcham.

An online store and dedicated retail outlet will be appearing soon – stay tuned.

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Hillgrove Resources GM on SA’s world-class mining operations

As Hillgrove Resources explores ground-breaking opportunities for its Adelaide Hills copper mine in the energy business, its well-travelled general manager Lachlan Wallace is relishing being part of a world-class operation.

He’s a firm supporter of plans for a pumped hydro energy storage project at the Kanmantoo mine along with exploring some of the state’s untapped copper potential in the South East.

“Having worked overseas and seeing how mining is done elsewhere, it made me realise Australia is the best at mining effectively, we are the world leaders in mining practice and by a long stretch,” Lachlan says.

“I think also having lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Africa and on the east coast of Australia during the past 20 years, there’s no better place to live, nowhere more liveable than South Australia.”

It’s a bold statement from the proud South Australian whose diverse career kicked off with a mining engineering degree at the University of South Australia’s Mawson Lakes campus.

His first job was in Tasmania at the Savage River iron ore mine where Lachlan delivered wide-reaching training from equipment operation to surveying, geology and production engineering.

Hillgrove Resources general manager and I Choose SA ambassador Lachlan Wallace. Photo by James Knowler / JKTP

It was around the seven-year mark that his wife Rebecca, a talented jewellery maker he met at a Blackwood fruit and vegetable shop, was offered a rare opportunity to train in one of the world’s creative epicentres, Milan, in Italy.

“We both moved to Italy,” Lachlan says, and the decision also launched his own international career.

He worked out of Johannesburg in Africa on mines in Zambia and Guinea, in Switzerland and India and then the couple moved to Indonesia, before deciding it was time to move home.

“I’d been watching the project at Kanmantoo for a long time and saw it as an exciting new development in the Adelaide Hills where there hadn’t been any open cut mining for 30 years,” Lachlan says.

In February, 2012, Lachlan was named its mine manager, then in 2015 its general manager, working in a region thought to be one of the most under explored and prospective base metal provinces in Australia.

At this stage, the copper mine has a licence until the end of 2019, with Lachlan saying about nine months of mining is ahead and an additional 18 months of processing on site.

Work is also underway to look at the possibility of underground mining and also creating the onsite pumped hydro facility by 2021.

“We have what we believe would be the lowest capital cost per megawatt pumped hydro facility in Australia,” Lachlan says.

“It could provide a much-needed energy storage solution and network stability for SA’s electricity grid.

“We are looking to build a facility that would store over 14 times the energy of the much talked about Tesla battery in the state’s north, for only double the cost.”

The mine is also recognised for it cutting edge technology.

When Lachlan arrived he found a way to create a pit with steeper sides saying for each degree steeper millions of dollars in costs were saved.

The operation has also been recognised for its commitment to working with the local community.

At the moment, 85% of its 200 FTE and 60 FTE contractors live in the local region including nearby towns stretching from Murray Bridge to Mt Barker.

There’s been a strong relationship built over the years, and the Kanmantoo and Callington communities are currently working with the company to develop a 30-year regional master plan for the site and the region.

Hillgrove Resources sponsors local events and sporting teams, and each quarter holds a public meeting alternately at the Callington or Kanmantoo town halls.

In 2016, the Hillgrove Resources and Kanmantoo Callington Community Consultation Committee won the Premier’s excellence in supporting communities in the mining and energy awards.

“One of the most enjoyable aspects has been working with the local Kanmantoo and Callington communities to develop a regional master plan which seeks to ensure that the mine’s presence results in a lasting positive legacy to the community surrounding the mine,” Lachlan says.

“The work that Hillgrove and the local community is doing is recognised as best in industry, something of which I am very proud.

“It demonstrates that mining can have a positive impact on local communities beyond employment, and sets the bar for community engagement which is essential to ensure social acceptance of mining into the future.”

“Keeping young people is so important to regional communities and that means creating jobs so they don’t have to leave the area where they grew up in to find work, we’ve managed to do that successfully around Kanmantoo.”

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Adelaide Hills watering holes reborn into bustling, stylish pubs

Adelaide Hills couple Julie and Ed Peter are behind the successful revamps of the Crafers and Uraidla hotels, both of which have helped transform the faces of the respective towns.

Both establishments now do a roaring trade on weekends and have helped introduce scores of food and wine lovers to the quiet and leafy area which once thrived on large-scale vegetable market gardening.

Last week, the couple’s renovation efforts paid off, with the Crafers Hotel crowned the Best Overall Hotel in South Australia at the 2018 Australian Hotel Association (AHA) SA Hotel Industry Awards for Excellence.

The dining hotspot also took awards for Best Superior Hotel Accommodation, Best Redeveloped Hotel, Best Apprentice Development and Training, and was a joint winner for Best Bistro (Metropolitan).

Photo by Julie Peter.

The Uraidla Hotel was also a joint winner for Best Bar Presentation and Experience (Metropolitan).

Julie and Ed, who also run wine various businesses including Kaesler in the Barossa Valley, purchased the Crafers Hotel in 2014 with shareholders Brett and Sarah Matthews and Jodi and Scott Brumby.

Over three years they transformed the historic yet rundown establishment into a French-inspired and stylish gastropub, offering local produce and a wine list featuring drops from as close as Balhannah and Kuitpo and as far as Burgundy, France.

The menu boasts a strong focus on local produce, from Smoky Bay oysters, SA mussels and locally caught squid.

“Nowadays, hotels are more food-based with higher quality offerings,” says Julie.

“I think now people are more discerning about what they’re eating and drinking.

“On our busiest day we put on close to 200 meals at Crafers.

“Sundays are our busiest, people love to have Sunday lunches.”

Photo by Julie Peter.

In 2016, 5km away in Uraidla, the Peters purchased the Uraidla Hotel, a pub seeping in history but left in a ghostly and abandoned state for many years.

The 151-year-old establishment was brought back to life, with the insides stripped bare and Julie collecting antique pieces to spruce up the interior, including vintage lamps that hang upside down from the high ceiling and beer kegs quirkily used as urinals.

The end result is a 1930s art deco style space, featuring a large front bar, upstairs function area and plush sofas by open fires.

With experience renovating houses in the Hills, France and Singapore, Julie says she is drawn to the character and history of old buildings.

“With the Uraidla Hotel, it had loads of character,” she says.

“The more derelict it was, the more I loved it.”

Photo by Julie Peter.

While both the Crafers and Uraidla hotels focus on delivering a high quality wining and dining experience, Julie says patrons can still feel at home.

“People use our hotels as an extension of their own living rooms,” she says.

“The concept at Crafers is that if you want to spend $10,000 on a bottle of wine you can.

“But you can also sit by the fire with a bag of chips. We just want people to feel comfortable.”

Next door to the hotel is the Uraidla Brewery and the Uraidla Republic café and bakery, also owned by the Peters.

The Uraidla Hotel, photo by Julie Peter.

Uraidla’s main street can also attribute its revival to the efforts of community group Imagine Uraidla, as well as the addition of the eclectic restaurant Lost in a Forest.

Uraidla’s general store has also undergone a recent upgrade.

Julie says the food and wine boost has been welcomed by local residents.

“I know that it (the success of the hotel) has stopped some people from moving away from Uraidla,” she says.

“It’s also benefited local employment because between Uraidla and Crafers we employ 100 people and many of them are from the area.”

The Crafers Hotel will go on to compete at the National AHA Awards on the Gold Coast in September.

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Pinot and fondue a perfect match for Hot 100 Wines winner Shaw + Smith

A wine style that’s charming wine lovers the world over will be at the centre of a discovery session presented by an international cheese judge and Adelaide Hills winery later this month.

Pinot noir, renowned for its delicacy and greater simplicity compared to bolder reds, will be on the lips of wine lovers exploring the Hot 100 Winter Harvest’s Pinot and Fondue Discovery Session.

International cheese judge and Smelly Cheese Shop founder Valerie Henbest will host the session alongside Shaw + Smith’s Dan Coward.

The Winter Harvest event on June 29–30 is the final hurrah for last year’s Hot 100 Wines South Australia awards, in which Shaw + Smith’s 2016 Pinot Noir took the crown for being the most drinkable.

The winning 2016 Pinot Noir.

In celebration of the end of the financial year, the Winter Harvest event is bringing back the Hot 100 Wines to be sampled by visitors and tasted in a number of degustation lunches, dinners and discovery sessions.

Shaw + Smith’s 2016 Pinot Noir was named the most drinkable wine out of almost 1400 drops blind-tasted by judges from across the country.

From fog-shrouded vineyards at Balhannah, Shaw + Smith’s Dan Coward sat down with Brand SA News this week to chat all things pinot and why it’s the perfect match for cheese fondue.

“The 2016 vintage was a lovely, easy vintage that produced an aromatic wine with lots of flavour,” he says.

“It’s light and delicate and with that comes drinkability as a young wine, it’s not a wine that you’d wait five to 10 years for. It can be enjoyed in its youth.”

Cheese and Fondue Discovery Session participants will be tasting French Alpine cheeses with three of Shaw + Smith’s pinot noirs, including a 2017 drop, one from its Tasmanian vineyard, and another from a back vintage.

The winning 2016 pinot (which is almost sold out) will be on offer at one of the degustation dinners, and also among the Hot 100 Wines South Australia stands.

Dan says the cheeses will be tasted at room temperature and as cheese fondue.

“Valerie tells brilliant stories about the cheese, I tell people as much about the history of pinot and why it works with the cheese,” he says.

“Our other vineyard (at Lenswood) is 500m above sea-level and we think that’s the perfect altitude, coolness and conditions for a really exciting pinot.

“Classically, you match foods with wines that are from a similar area … we’re not quite like the Alps here but a higher altitude variety like pinot goes with higher altitude cheeses.

“There tends to be higher acidity in higher altitude wines.

“The acidity will clean up your palate and cut through the fat in the cheese.”

Shaw + Smith’s winery and cellar door at Balhannah. Photo by Sia Duff.

Last year wasn’t Shaw + Smith’s first shot at Hot 100 success.

Its sister label, The Other Wine Co, won in 2015/16 with the 2015 Grenache.

Wineries making an appearance at this year’s Hot 100 Winter Harvest include Tomich Wines, Temple Bruer, Mitolo Wines, Howard Vineyard, Golding Wines, d’Arenberg, and 919 Wines.

General admission to the event is $49 and includes a Riedel wine glass.

To celebrate the Hot 100 Winter Harvest, Brand South Australia is giving away two double passes to the event.

Click here to enter before Thursday, June 21, at 5pm (AEST).

For more information on the separate degustation dinners and discovery sessions click here.

The Pinot and Fondue Discovery Session ($40) is on June 29, 7–8pm.

Header photo is Shaw + Smith’s global sales and marketing manager David Lemire, left, owner Martin Shaw and senior winemaker Adam Wadewitz. Photo by Sia Duff.

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Beerenberg celebrates $14m factory expansion in Hahndorf

Renowned South Australian jam and condiments maker Beerenberg is celebrating the official completion of its $14m factory and headquarters at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.

Sixth-generation family member and managing director Anthony Paech has fired up the new bottling line, processing hundreds of bottles of the food producer’s popular tomato sauce.

The multi-staged redevelopment, which began in 2015, will see the longstanding family company’s production capacity double, securing its long-term future in the country’s oldest surviving German settlement.

The 6500sqm head office expansion includes state-of-the-art factory equipment, allowing 15 tonnes of product (60,000 bottles) to be processed per shift.

Beerenberg managing director Anthony Paech switched on the new bottling line recently.

Anthony says the expansion provides a platform for major growth and stability for Beerenberg’s future.

It currently employs 85 people.

“This is a state-of-art design which enables higher control over the cooking and bottling of product, allowing us to craft an even higher quality of product in larger volumes,” says Anthony, whose family has been working on the Hahndorf land since 1839.

“There is also natural light and a climate controlled modern environment for staff, with the latest safety features.

“Finally, there is a room for expansion which we have needed for some time.”

The facility will be officially opened today (June 5) by South Australian Governor Hieu Van Le.

The project was worked on by a number of local businesses, including Moto Projects, Sarah Constructions, McMahon Services, Michael Watson Architects, and Swanbury Penglase.

“We sought to find a community-friendly approach to expand our Adelaide Hills base into an ultra-modern facility, securing its future in the Hills and gearing it for further international growth,” Anthony says.

Siblings Sally and Anthony Paech outside the $14m new Beerenberg factory and headquarters in Hahndorf.

Beerenberg is also a ‘pick-your-own’ strawberry farm and this summer it attracted more than 80,000 people.

Beerenberg – which means ‘Berry Hill’ in German – has more than 90 products in its range, including jams, sweet and savoury sauces and condiments.

The products are available in 24 countries, on major airlines and in more than 300 hotels worldwide.

The business is run by the three Paech siblings, Anthony, Robert, who is farm manager, and Sally who is marketing manager.

Their late father Grant Peach began selling strawberries from a roadside stall in 1971 after the first strawberry patch was planted near the family home.

The Beerenberg family Robert, left, Sally, Carol and Anthony Paech.

In 1975, Grant and wife Carol launched the pick-your-own strawberries concept which quickly became a thriving tourist destination before new products, including chutney and pickled onions, were added.

In 1980 the factory and shop were built and five years’ later a contract was secured with airline Qantas to serve mini Beerenberg jams to customers.

As the years rolled on the first export deals were made and the brand continued to grow until 2013 when it underwent a major overhaul, leading to a boost in national sales.

Grant Paech died in 2011 after a long illness and is remembered as a pioneer and innovator in the state’s food industry.

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Outback opal hunters put Coober Pedy on the world stage

Larrikin hobby miners Justin Lang and Daniel Becker are 30m below ground in an abandoned mine shaft and if it weren’t for their head torches they’d be in total darkness.

The two mates are 870km from their homes in the small Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, but are under the spell of the opal, the queen of gemstones.

They say their playground – the deep, narrow and dusty mine shafts in Coober Pedy – is no place for those fearful of spiders, scorpions or centipedes.

Nor is it a place for those lacking the patience required to withstand ‘opal fever’, something Justin and Daniel say they have been infected with beyond return.

“When you find something, it’s pure excitement, there are screams, swear words, all sorts,” says Daniel.

“But then there’s the big question of ‘is there more?’ and you just keep digging.

“You hope you hit the jackpot, which can be a little jackpot but also a lifechanging jackpot worth a million dollars.”

Justin Lang, left, and Daniel Becker appear on TV series ‘Outback Opal Hunters’.

This year, the highs and lows of Justin and Daniel’s opal mining hobby have made it onto TV screens worldwide.

In 2017 they spent nine months filming for a Discovery Channel TV series, Outback Opal Hunters, which has not only been broadcast around Australia but also across Europe, South Africa and Asia.

The pair say plans are also afoot for it to show on 7mate in several months’ time.

The show, which is currently filming season two, follows mining crews around Australian mining towns in the pursuit of finding a fortune.

Justin and Daniel – who were labelled ‘The Rookies’ on the show – had a goal of finding $100,000 worth of opal – and they did it.

Since appearing on the series, the pair have received much media attention, including stints on national television, including the ABC’s News Breakfast and Channel 9’s The Today Show.

They’ve also used the show to promote Coober Pedy, a place they believe is “underrated” and “not always embraced”.

“We want more people to come to Coober Pedy because it’s such a unique place, anyone can have a crack at opal mining and potentially find a million dollars,” Daniel says.

“You need to do your research and safety is always first, but anyone can do it and that’s uniquely South Australian.

“Cooper Pedy is the biggest opal field and has produced the largest quantity of opal in the world.”

The Hahndorf hobby miners’ careers differ greatly to their underground adventures.

Daniel owns the Aboriginal Art Gallery in Hahndorf’s main street while next door is Justin’s German Village Shop where he handcrafts cuckoo clocks and grandfather clocks.

The pair met about seven years ago as they live next door to each other and quickly bonded over a shared curiosity in fossicking for gold in the Adelaide Hills.

Before long they tried their luck with finding gemstones in Australia’s opal capital, travelling regularly to Coober Pedy in hope of spotting that flicker of colour among the dull sandstone.

They say they’d often be mining for a whole week and find nothing, then boom! Opal.

“When it appears, it’s amazing. It’s this beautiful, colourful stone sitting in the boring sandstone and you know you’re onto something,” says Justin, whose great-grandfather was an opal miner in the APY Lands community of Mintabie.

Justin spent the first year of his life in Coober Pedy as his family had lived there since the 1980s and owned the town’s caravan park before moving to Adelaide.

“I’m not a spiritual person at all, but I feel spiritually connected to that place in a really weird way,” he says.

“Hahndorf is the polar opposite to Coober Pedy, they’re almost 1000km apart but I love both of them.”

Daniel, left, and Justin spent nine months filming the TV series in Coober Pedy and snippets in their hometown of Hahndorf.

Daniel, on the other hand, is originally from Germany, moving to Australia in the late ‘90s to finish studies in anthropology.

During their trips to Coober Pedy, Justin and Daniel became good friends with John Dunstan, a veteran miner of over 50 years who in 2003 discovered the Rainbow Virgin Opal valued at more than $1m.

One day John told the pair that the Discovery Channel was snooping around town.

“Johnny said, ‘no one in Coober Pedy wants to be on camera but do you boys want to do it?’” Daniel says.

“We looked at each other and thought, ‘that sounds interesting’.”

The adventures on Outback Opal Hunters are fair dinkum, the pair say.

“Some people say it’s staged and it’s not real, but that’s ridiculous,” Daniel says.

“When we pull out real opal out of the wall, that’s what it is, it’s happening for real.”

Justin says opal mining – and even noodling (sifting through disposed dirt) – is anyone’s chance at finding a million bucks.

“It’s one big adventure,” he says.

“It’s one of the last places for a free man to try his luck at finding a million dollars.”

The next series of Outback Opal Hunters is expected to air in 2019.

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Eat fruit with spots and dots, become a Hailstorm Hero

Local apple and pear growers are urging South Australian shoppers to overlook small marks and spots on fruit following a severe hailstorm last year that wiped out a quarter of the crop.

The Hailstorm Heroes campaign will launch in supermarkets and greengrocers this week to support local growers, who are facing losses of more than $32m in sales.

In October 2017, apple and pear crops in the Adelaide Hills and South East were hit by an intense hailstorm, affecting fruit growth and destroying 25% of the crop.

Local growers worked hard to save the fruit that had only sustained a few superficial marks on the skin, and are still good to eat.

The SA Apple and Pear Association says all apple and pear varieties were affected by the hailstorm, but the marks might be more visible on varieties such as Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples and Packham pears, harvested in late autumn.

Special Hailstorm Hero fruit packs are available at Coles, Foodland, IGA and ALDI stores, while Woolworths will be selling the Hailstorm Heroes fruit as part of its Odd Bunch range.

Hail marked apples and pears will also be sold loose at some independent grocers.

There are 60 apple and pear growers in SA – the majority of them in the Adelaide Hills – who produce 10% of the national apple crop and 5% of the country’s pear crop.

Together, the fruit is worth more than $75m.

SA Apple and Pear Growers Association CEO Susie Green says the storm has impacted the whole industry.

“Around 85-90% of SA’s apples and pears are grown in the Adelaide Hills and almost all the orchards sustained some losses during the widespread storm,” she says.

“There were also some losses in the South East.

“We hope educating shoppers about our Hailstorm Heroes, and encouraging people to buy the fruit, will help to salvage some returns for growers and also help reduce food waste.”

Fifth-generation grower Brett James says his Kersbrook orchard in the Adelaide Hills was hit three times by small hail during the October storm.

“The fine hail was the size of rice grains and went straight through the hail net, covering all the trees and marking the skin of small fruit that was starting to grow,” he says.

“Luckily, since the storm, we’ve had excellent growing conditions and a relatively mild summer so the apples and pears we managed to save have matured and developed delicious, full flavours – they really do taste great.”

Brett says he hopes local shoppers will look past the spots and support the campaign.

“Everyone is facing losses this year, so every little bit helps, not only for growers but also for the towns in growing regions,” he says.

Hailstorm Heroes is being delivered by Hort Innovation with support from the SA Apple and Pear Association, Primary Industries and Regions SA and Brand South Australia.

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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