Maggie Beer – the Barossa has been my secret long-term ingredient

Quince paste, pheasant paté and verjuice – food made famous in Australia by beloved country cook Maggie Beer who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of her Barossa Valley pheasant farm and two of her iconic products.

This year marks four decades since Maggie and her husband Colin launched the farm shop on Pheasant Farm in Nuriootpa and began producing well-known favourites, pheasant farm paté and quince paste.

Using fresh, seasonal produce and making the most of what you’ve got has been Maggie’s ethos from the very beginning.

“I was very lucky to have been brought up in a household in Sydney where food was truly important and my father was passionate about produce,” she says.

“Even when there was very little money we always ate well and cooked everything from scratch but with great knowledge about food. We used every bit of the animal, we cooked offal and did all the things to make the most of whatever was available. I was brought up where beautiful (food) was the norm.”

2019 marks 40 years of Maggie Beer’s famous quince paste, which Maggie says is well-accompanied by cheese.

Maggie and her husband Colin left Sydney in 1973, returning to Colin’s much-loved South Australia and settling in the Barossa Valley. Previously, Colin had trained as a commercial pilot in New Zealand but upon returning to Australia found it hard to find work due to a lull in the industry.

The couple bought a working vineyard near Nuriootpa and established as a base to establish the breeding of pheasants. However, it wasn’t until Colin won a Churchill Fellowship to study game bird breeding in Europe and America, that they came across the idea of opening a farm shop to sell both fresh and cooked birds to show how beautiful they were that they began to be serious producers.

Maggie was able to work with the birds that Colin farmed and the seasonal produce of their Barossa neighbours. Within the year, they morphed into the Pheasant Farm Restaurant and began building the foodie empire her Barossa farm has now become.

Together, Maggie and Colin had adopted a ‘waste not want not’ ethos, with Maggie cooking everything she grew and making the most of every part of a vegetable or animal; making patés, terrines, and stocks.

Despite verjuice being around for thousands of years in Mediterranean cooking, Maggie became the first in the world to commercially produce the sour juice, which is made from unfermented grapes and used in salad dressing and glazing.

Verjuice and patés remain an almost every-day staple in her kitchen.

“I use it (verjuice) three or four times a week for glazing vegetables … it’s something I use in half of all the cooking I do to brighten flavours,” she says.

“Then paté is for entertaining usually, although one of my grandchildren, Ben, who is 11, comes every day from school, he has to have a paté sandwich. All my grandchildren grew up eating paté as the norm because it’s just so good for you and it’s full of flavour.”

Australian food icon Maggie Beer.

Maggie’s success over the years has spread not only throughout the Barossa, but across the nation through our TV screens as she is often appears as a guest judge on reality cooking show MasterChef. She also co-hosted ABC TV show The Cook and the Chef alongside prominent SA food identity and chef Simon Bryant.

The title of the series places Maggie as the cook, because surprisingly she’s self-taught and has no formal training as a chef. She calls herself a “produce-driven country cook” and is passionate about using home-grown produce where possible as well as sourcing produce from local growers.

“Nothing will taste better than what you have pulled out of your own garden, that’s nirvana,” Maggie says.

“But not everyone has a garden or time for a garden, so the next best thing is what is on your doorstep and in-season, the flavour and the nutritional benefits will always be greater.”

Maggie says she owes much of her success to the Barossa region, saying it taught her the value of seasonal produce as well as using all parts of a plant or animal when cooking.

“It’s been the luck of my life coming to the Barossa. Learning of the rhythm of the seasons and beginning with our own produce and the growers in our backyard; the Barossa has been my long-term secret ingredient.”

But with success comes change and earlier this year, Maggie sold the balance of her business to long-term investment partner the ASX-listed Longtable Group. Maggie continues to be the face of Maggie Beer products and works one week per month in product development.

“It’s been the perfect weaning off something that has been my life work,” she adds.

Keen to know Maggie’s favourite winter recipe? Click here. Hint: quinces.

Got a good story idea? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]

Program Partners[logooos_saved id=”29687″]


Miranda sisters produce an ideal winery blend

An ideal blend of skills has placed three sisters at the helm of Lou Miranda Estate in the Barossa. Since 2005, Lisa and Victoria Miranda have steered business at the winery that carries their father’s name, but the recent arrival of their sibling Angela as winemaker, bringing more than a decade of international experience, makes the family business complete after a careful 14-year progression.

Angela, who was previously Pernod Ricard’s UK packaging operations manager, US packaging operations manager and technical operations manager in the Barossa, came back to her family’s winery at Rowland Flat in mid-February – after vintage had already started – and acted fast to ensure the family’s progression as a boutique wine brand continues.

“We’d always intended for Angela to join us, but she was reluctant to leave her previous position which saw her travelling most of the year to emerging wineries in China, India and New Zealand,” says Victoria. “Once she came back to work in the Barossa, the decision to join us just seemed like a natural fit.”

The Miranda sisters, Lisa, left, Miranda and Angela of Lou Miranda Estate in the Barossa Valley.

It’s the latest step in a long journey for Lou Miranda’s family, which moved to the Barossa from Griffith in 1991 so that the former Miranda wine brand (which was then among Australia’s larger family-owned wine companies) could access more high-quality fruit.

The big old winery building, erected in 1919, became a weekend playground for the young Miranda girls while their father and mother worked, and later became their own workplace, after they turned 18, as they each took turns serving at the cellar door.

It provided them with a useful skill set when big change came after McGuigan Wines bought the Miranda label in 2003, splitting the broader Miranda family’s wine connections.

For a while, Lou’s family continued to sell Miranda wines from the cellar door, but in 2005, they transformed the Barossa property into a separate identity as Lou Miranda Estate – and Lou’s daughters stepped to the forefront of the business, with Lisa drawing on her sales background and Victoria bringing graphic design skills.

“Dad wasn’t ready to retire, and he had no problem at all with his girls taking the reins,” says Lisa. “We had always been involved in everything along the way. We never thought of ourselves as girls facing any obstacles. We were simply this family’s next generation, moving the business forward.”

Lou Miranda handed the reigns of the boutique winery to his three daughters Lisa, Victoria and Angela.

It was daunting to start again – “We had zero customers, and now we are selling 25,000 cases per year” – but the daughters say they had Lou’s complete confidence to build the business on the back of his experience and their fresh ideas.

Their foundation was the winery at Rowland Flat – previously the Liebich family’s Rovalley winery, which had passed through several sets of hands, but still had the same infrastructure and – more importantly – large reserves of the fortified wines that Rovalley was famous for, stored in the original 7000-litre oak vats that the Liebichs had constructed in 1919.

Angela has revived her fortified winemaking skills, learned through such luminaries as David Morris (Morris of Rutherglen) and Philip Laffer (chief winemaker at Jacob’s Creek), because fortified wines still hold strong appeal for cellar door customers, and was the focus of fortified masterclasses held in the winery during the recent Barossa Vintage Festival.

Many more treasures have greeted Angela in the winery – including fruit from serious 90-plus-year-old shiraz vines (the best being reserved for the $150 Master Piero shiraz, named after Victoria’s first son), and recent plantings of pinot grigio and sagrantino grapes. “Lou was interested in adding Italian varieties but didn’t want to do the same as everyone else,” explains Lisa.

It’s a surprise for these wines to appear in the Barossa, especially a bright, crunchy pinot grigio built in the authentic Italian style around a firm acidic spine. Even more impressive is sagrantino made light and spicy with bright blueberry and liquorice flavours, rather than being heavy and overly tannic as many of these wines from Umbria in Italy are made.

Equally impressive is old vine grenache made in a lively style with juicy raspberry held in check by firm tannins; and a rich blend of old vine shiraz and mourvédre from the 110-year-old Angels vineyard at Lyndoch.

Many wine drinkers remain unaware of these changes, as the family’s popular Leone brand has primarily been noted for its value wines, and the elite Lou Miranda Estate wines are largely a mystery.

The challenge now is for the three sisters to promote these new wines through marketing initiatives that include in-home tasting parties, where a staff wine consultant presents the Lou Miranda Estate and Leone wine ranges for groups of up to eight guests in their homes.

“We have a lot to do,” says Angela, who adds that the full extent of the Miranda sisters’ work won’t be immediately evident, because the cruel 2019 vintage has produced scant volumes of fruit – including a paltry 300 litres (one barrel) of old vine shiraz. “Our best,” adds Angela with a grin, “is yet to come.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

[logooos_saved id=”13411″]

Got a good story idea? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]

Program Partners[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is wine region’s sweetest spot

Visitors to one of South Australia’s most famous wine regions can add a new experience to the list of must-see destinations with the opening of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company.

The all-in-one chocolate factory, cellar door, café and ice-creamery at Tanunda has opened to the public in time for the sweetest holiday of the year – Easter.

The $5.5 million facility is the Barossa Valley’s first chocolaterie and cellar door and has created between 20-30 local jobs in hospitality and retail.

Owners Chris and Sandy Day travelled the world sampling the sweet stuff and drawing inspiration from chocolate meccas of Bruges, Florence, Bariloche, and Daintree in Australia before launching their own venture.

Sandy and Chris Day of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company.

“The world-class Barossa Valley Chocolate Company has been inspired by the very best experiences from across the globe, from Bariloche in Argentina to Napa Valley in the USA and the Chocolate Line in Bruges, Belgium,” Sandy says.

At the centre of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is a mesmerising chocolate wall, inspired by the Venchi Cioccolato e Gelato in Florence.

Over the past year head chocolatier Amy Sajinovic has developed a range of more than 250 chocolate products, taste tested by 2500 South Australians. The range of delectable sweet treats includes milk, dark, white and ruby chocolate. A salted caramel and cider truffle has become a fast favourite, as has a signature truffle infused with Vineyard Road ‘Stan the Man’ wine.

A retail space showcases brightly packaged chocolate blocks, boxes and Easter eggs, while visitors can see the chocolatiers in action through a wide viewing window. An ice creamery serves freshly-made gelato, while the 150-seat Benni’s Café boasts a menu of locally sourced produce to be enjoyed indoors or on the deck overlooking a large water feature and surrounding vineyards.

A number of other food producers in the region are supported through Benni’s Café with produce from Steiny’s Traditional Mettwurst, Barossa Valley Cheese Company, Barossa Valley Cider Company, Apex Bakery, and more.

“As much as possible is sourced from the Barossa,” Chris says. “These are all families doing great things for SA, and together, we can put SA on the map.”

The chocolate and wine pairing experience features five of Vineyard Road’s handcrafted wines.

The Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is the latest addition to the FABAL Group, which also owns Vineyard Road Wines, some of which are made from surrounding vineyards and can be enjoyed at the cellar door. FABAL is also the joint owner of the Vasse Virgin @ Seppeltsfield skincare business.

FABAL Group CEO Chris Day says his and Sandy’s idea to pursue a chocolate venture in the Barossa was inspired by regular family trips to the Margaret River and its famous chocolate company – a destination enjoyed by young families.

The Barossa chocolate venture was also spurred by a need to value-add to their grapegrowing operations and strengthen the value of agritourism in the region.

“As grapegrowers we’ve been through drought and survived, but in 2011 just as we went to pick our grapes, deluges of rain came through and destroyed our crop,” Chris says.

“I said we had to do something to protect ourselves by value-adding to the business … agritourism is a big chunk of our future. By 2013/14 we started working seriously on Barossa Valley Chocolate Company and we started travelling around Australia and internationally to some of the best chocolate making places in the world.”

At the heart of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is a ‘fun for all’ concept ensuring both young and old can enjoy the visitor experience.

Colour, fun and frivolity are at the heart of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company.

Sandy, who has a background in graphic design and fashion, was behind the design and feel of the facility, working with local architect Jamie Gladigau of JBG Architects to create an open and sophisticated design.

The chocolate packaging and displays are brightly coloured – a nod to the ‘fun for all’ motto. Large chocolate letters placed in drawers was a concept inspired by the Days’ visit to Bruges in Belgium.

“(In Bruges) I could see all this action in the corner, kids opening drawers with chocolate letters in them, and they were having so much fun,” Sandy says.

“Then last Saturday (at the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company) I saw a family with little children playing a game with the letters, it was lovely to see.”

Visitors can indulge in a specially-curated chocolate and wine pairing experience with Vineyard Road wines in the cellar door. Chocolate making classes will soon be introduced, as will the ability to hold weddings and events.

Local family business Ahrens was involved in the construction as well as electrical company Yates Electrical which installed a 100kW solar system on the roof.

Got a good story idea? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

Local knowledge informs clever new Barossa tasting room

With its sophisticated wine and food presentation echoing chic European style, Vino Lokal in Tanunda offers a completely different vibe that visitors to the Barossa may not expect – and this is exactly the reaction that its proprietors, the Artisans of Barossa winemakers collective, want to achieve with its innovative new cellar door offering.

Creating the new tasting room in Tanunda’s main street is a bold step for the Artisans, which comprises five boutique Barossa wine brands that formed a collaborative marketing group a decade ago and have shared a communal cellar door tasting room overlooking vineyards at Vine Vale, just outside Tanunda, since 2011.

The winemaker owners of John Duval Wines, Schwarz Wine Co, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Hobbs of Barossa Ranges recognise that small wine brands in Australia are under enormous pressure to connect with customers – especially when visitors travel to a wine region and are on the hunt for a unique and memorable wine tasting experience.

Their innovative shared tasting room set a new high benchmark for an informative cellar door tasting experience, yet now they have radically changed a successful operation by opening Vino Lokal.

A wine tasting flight at Vino Lokal in Tanunda, Barossa Valley. Photo by John Krüger.

“Since 2005, Artisans of Barossa has pioneered the clustering of small wine brands through effective marketing and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, but we still feel a need to stay ahead of the curve,” says Howard Duncan, Artisans of Barossa’s chief operating officer. “This will be a new positioning statement for both the Artisans and the Barossa.”

Vino Lokal, connecting the Spanish word for wine with the German term for local, re-imagines the winery tasting ritual by introducing a shift from just sampling wine, to sharing wine with food – and from standing up, to sitting down and slowing down.

The restored stone cottage in Tanunda’s main street has 50 seats across two rooms, offering twin experiences by taking bookings for tables in the Wine Room, but welcoming walk-ins for the more informal Wine Bar.

It illustrates the modern Barossa personality, underlining that a new generation of winemakers are looking to Mediterranean wine cultures for inspiration, while also respecting the Barossa’s deep German heritage and historic vineyards.

“A new history is emerging, and Artisans are very much a part of it,” says Howard. “This is not just reflected in the style of wines being made, but how we enjoy them in the company of good food and conversation.”

Good food, good  wine and good conversation is what Vino Lokal is all about. Photo by John Krüger.

Artisans of Barossa’s shift to its new location has been swift – only 100 days from realising the site was available to opening its doors for customers – but they are delighted to have created a one-stop wine enjoyment shop, familiar to global wine travellers but not yet seen in Australia.

“This is the next phase of where culinary tourism is headed in this country’s wine regions, with a more complete integration of wine and food tasting,” says Howard. “It’s the facility that will create a broader conversation about how we enjoy wine and food together.”

The Wine Room’s selection of over 50 Barossa wines from the Artisan group’s winemakers tells the changing story of Barossa wine through different categories – of dry savoury rosé, of grenache and of blends, introducing mataro and cinsault into the conversation.

Importantly, underlining a Mediterranean accent promoted by the venue name, there is a category titled Not Your Usual Barossa Suspects, showcasing locally-produced tempranillo, aglianico, sagratino and pinot noir. Even the familiar shiraz category has been fragmented into different styles of expression – savoury and textural; soft supple and elegant; rich and flavoursome; bold and extravagant.

Photo by John Krüger.

“All this is designed to take wine tasters further down the Barossa rabbit hole, and it’s an eye-opening experience to find so much variety in one winemaking region,” says Howard.

“It’s a different way of guiding people through a tasting. Rather than present a sliding scale of good/better/best, we encourage vertical tastings across artisan styles, to make comparisons and appreciate the points of difference.”

Visitors can book for Wine Skool tutored tastings, or purchase wines in flights of four, six or eight tasting pours, which can be accompanied by four bite-sized selections from a menu that also offers snacks, charcuterie, cheeses and Chef’s Plates created by Ryan Edwards, former executive chef at Appellation restaurant.

While Vino Lokal is now open for daily business, Artisans of Barossa wine tastings will continue at its original Vine Vale site until Sunday February 3, when the space will become the new tasting room for Calabria Family Wines, supported by food from Harvest Kitchen.

Artisans of Barossa will also commence building another new home from April, at Kroemer’s Crossing outside Tanunda, with plans to open in January 2020.

“We want to expand so that we can also present a great vineyard-based experience, where people can enjoy a longer, slower exploration of wine,” says Howard, explaining that Vino Lokal will also stay open, to offer two different Barossa wine, food and hospitality options.

“We’re confident the two Artisans experiences will happily co-exist. It’s an exciting time for us to keep our eyes on the horizon.”

Got a good story idea? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

‘I’m grateful to be alive’: Tanunda mum drives organ donation awareness

While most people spend their 20s navigating their way through the first stages of adulthood, Barossa Valley woman Megan McLoughlin once feared she would never live to see 30.

In 2010 at the age of 29, she was suffering from acute renal failure and was given just three weeks to live.

In desperate need of a lifesaving kidney-pancreas transplant Megan was preparing for the end, and heartbreakingly, began planning her own funeral.

Thankfully, Megan was given a second chance at life through the gift of organ donation. Now, almost a decade later, the Tanunda mother-of-two who is also legally blind has made it her mission to help support regionally-based organ donor families and transplant recipients.

She established charity Herd of Hope in 2016, promoting organ donation along with the need for greater support and services for transplant recipients and bereaved donor families in country areas.

Megan’s efforts have led to her being named the 2019 SA Local Hero, and this month she will travel to Canberra alongside three other SA Australia Day Award recipients vying for the national award.

Not only has her charity work and organ donation awareness inspired many, but so too has her messages of positivity amidst more health setbacks – two cancer diagnoses.

Megan, with son Sam, 4, husband Mark, and daughter Ella, 2. Photo courtesy of Studio Barossa.

“I’m not saying there aren’t times when we get down and think life is really difficult, but you’ll always find a way out of it,” Megan says. “There is a positive every morning when the sun comes up. The day is yours.”

Born with one kidney, Megan was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of eight. Growing up in the Flinders Ranges she knew too well the challenges of travelling long distances for medical appointments.

In her late 20s, she suffered major complications during eye surgery and became legally blind. Three months later her only kidney began to fail and Megan was given just three weeks to live.

If it weren’t for the kidney-pancreas transplant it’s likely she would have died.

According to Donate Life, more than 1400 Australians are currently waiting for organ transplants, which can include lungs, heart, kidney, liver and pancreas as well as tissues, bone and skin.

South Australians can state their intention to be an organ donor on their driver’s license, however, in the event of a person’s death, their family can still have the final say.

Herd of Hope says in 2017 only 44% of families who were unaware of their loved one’s intention to be an organ donor upheld their wishes.

Megan’s friend and Herd of Hope executive Annie Allert encourages all Australians to speak with their family about their organ donation intentions so that if something happened the decision might be “a bit easier” to make.

Megan McLoughlin is the 2019 SA Local Hero. She will travel to Canberra this month for the Australian of the Year Awards.

She also encourages those wishing to donate their organs to join the Australian Organ Donor Register, even if their driver’s licence states their intention.

“It simply takes one minute,” Annie says.

“Your family can still contest it (the decision), but the national registration just makes it a bit easier … it’s less of a burden. We encourage people to have that conversation with their family.”

Through Herd of Hope, Megan has met many inspiring organ donor families and fellow transplant recipients and says it’s unfortunate that both groups must co-exist.

“Unfortunately, modern medicine hasn’t advanced to the point where we aren’t reliant on someone passing away to save another’s life,” she says.

“In an average year 53 people pass away while waiting for an organ transplant. That doesn’t seem like a large statistic unless you’re one of them. Organ donation is such a selfless act that can save many lives and the grief of other people.”

Herd of Hope has held many events and initiatives to increase awareness and support services for donor families and transplant recipients in country areas.

In 2018, the charity brought the bush to the beach when a herd of Australian Pol Hereford cattle were mustered onto Sydney’s Bondi Beach, raising funds and awareness for organ donation.

Megan McLoughlin on horse Biscuit during the cattle drive on Bondi Beach.

Herd of Hope has also raised money to help pay for accommodation for regionally-based donor families and families of transplant recipients staying near city hospitals during the transplant process.

One of its latest projects is the Tree of Hope, an emotional tree sculpture featuring hundreds of leaves engraved by bereaved donor families in honour of their loved ones. The tree is touring interstate and will arrive at the Royal Adelaide Hospital later this month before it goes to Perth.

Herd of Hope has also funded a study by the University of South Australia into the impact transplant recipients and their carers face when regionally based. In March the charity will attempt to break the world record for the most organ donor registrations received in one hit.

Besides her Herd of Hope work, being a mum to Sam, 4, and Ella, 2, and a wife to Mark, Megan also enjoys riding her horse, Biscuit, and despite her vision impairment competes in the equine sport, barrel racing.

It’s this determination to attack life regardless of her circumstances that makes Megan the true optimist.

“I’m extremely grateful to be here, there’s not a thing I would change about my life,” she says.

“My grandma used to tell me a quote when I was younger, she used to say, ‘I felt sad because I couldn’t afford shoes and then I saw a man with no feet’. That basically sums it up.”

Got a good story idea? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

Gumpara offers a different taste of the Barossa

Mark Mader has always known there’s something special about a part of the Barossa where his family first planted vines on Gumpara vineyard 90 years ago. Now he has a major award for his shiraz to prove it.

Gumpara 2014 Hexen Shiraz was named second behind Penfolds’ Grange in Winestate Magazine’s 13th International Syrah and Shiraz challenge, announced in September.

In Mark’s eyes, the prestigious award is a long overdue stamp of recognition for the largely unheralded Light Pass sub-region of the Barossa where Gumpara vineyard is located.

“More sub-regions of the Barossa are being identified on wine labels as the source of exceptional and distinctive fruit, but Light Pass is one area that should be a lot more famous for the quality of what is produced,” says Mark.

He points to the unusual mix of ironstone, marble and terra rosa clay in the Barossa’s gentle north-eastern hillside soils as the reason for the intensity and length of Light Pass fruit flavours.

The Gumpara 2014 Hexen Shiraz.

Mark says the Gumpara brand name clearly explains the significance of his vineyard, which is laid out beside the North Para River and flanked by ancient gum trees.

Its position captures cool gully winds through the summer that bring a unique complexity to the fruit, according to Mark. He identifies this in the best 20 tonnes of fruit from the vineyard that he keeps for Gumpara Wines (the remaining 140 tonnes is sold to Peter Lehmann Wines).

Now Mark and his wife Mandy are keen to share and explain the story of their Light Pass vineyard when they open the Gumpara Wines cellar door to public visitors on November 24.

After many years of supporting two daughters playing high-level basketball through their teenage years, Mark and Mandy now say they’ve got the necessary time to host cellar door visitors – and enough stock to warrant a cellar door presence. While the first Gumpara wines were released 18 years ago, volumes were initially very small.

“Our growth has been cautious. We haven’t wanted to carry massive debt,” explains Mark.

“Our family has traditionally been grape growers selling to other wineries, so it was a big step for me – the sixth generation on this land – to start making wine. It’s been a great thrill to identify how exceptional our fruit is.”

The Gumpara Wines family.

For a while, Gumpara was part of a collaborative cellar door with several other boutique Barossa labels, sharing a rented shop in Tanunda’s main street, but the arrangement proved difficult to manage and stopped after a few years.

Now, an old shed on the Gumpara vineyard has been re-purposed and refitted with timbers salvaged from the 1857 Light Pass Church Manse, and a 4m Redgum slab used as the bar. It will now be open for regular public tastings on weekends, by appointment.

Visitors will be able to purchase the limited-release $240 Hexen Shiraz, named after an old Silesian “witch”, Mutter Jaeckel, who lived near the Gumpara vineyard and created homeopathic remedies for the first Barossa settlers in the 1840s.

This is the first release of this wine – the culmination of a five-year project, sourced from vines up to 90 years old. It replaces the Reserve Shiraz as Gumpara’s flagship wine, which was also a significant award-winner, taking third place in Winestate’s 2012 International Syrah and Shiraz Challenge.

The cellar door opens November 24.

Cellar door visitors seeking a more modest wine will find great value in Gumpara Victor’s Old Vine Shiraz ($32), which also registered the maximum five-star rating in this year’s Winestate International Shiraz Challenge.

Mark is confident that his small cellar door will help bring visitors to Light Pass, and feels the time is right to put this overlooked part of the Barossa on the map.

“A lot of the fruit grown in the Light Pass area has traditionally been sold to big wineries, but never identified on the bottle as a source,” he says.

“There’s a few small cellar door tasting rooms – Pete Scholz’s The Willows, Gibson Wines, Ben Chipman’s Tomfoolery Wines – but it’s not really known as a region to visit.

“I think it’s time to shine a brighter light on the place and highlight what we have here that’s special.”

Like this story? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

UK exchange employee to learn from South Australian agriculture

One of South Australia’s leading regional grain marketers and agribusiness consultancies is helping local farmers to better manage seasonal challenges by introducing an international insight into the business.

Rural Directions based in Clare in the state’s Mid North has begun an international exchange program, welcoming 26-year-old consultant George Lane all the way from Leicestershire, England.

George, who works for the UK-based Brown & Co, has arrived in SA for four weeks to work with Rural Directions across the state’s prime cropping and grazing regions.

Rural Directions has been around since 1997 in aim of helping local farmers adapt to technology, implement advanced management systems, and give advice and analysis on particular situations or opportunities.

Their work includes liaising with farm businesses to increase income and reduce costs, save time, make sound investment decisions, give independent agronomic advice, and to help advance industry development.

Brown & Co UK employee George Lane, left, with Rural Directions managing director David Heinjus.

Rural Directions operations manager Brenton Greenslade says the employee exchange, a first between the Clare business and Brown & Co, will be reciprocated in 2019 when a Rural Directions employee travels to the UK.

“It’s an opportunity for our employees to gain an outside view on how things are done and then be able to bring it back and apply it for the benefit of our clients here in Australia,” he says.

Delivering a different perspective and learning how local farmers are dealing with current drought conditions are just a couple of outcomes expected by George.

“I’m really hoping to see another perspective to how people approach and deal with agricultural businesses, along with how they deal with the challenges which they face such as drought,” he says.

“I have experience in a lot of similar areas that Rural Directions specialises in, hopefully I can bring something new to the table or even spark new thoughts and ideas.”

Rural Directions employees Carlyn Sherrif and Natasha Searle.

Rural Directions also has offices in Freeling in the Lower Light, Loxton in the Riverland and Naracoorte in the South East, as well as an office in Dubbo, New South Wales.

Agribusiness consultant Patrick Redden says Rural Directions delivers advice for about 10% of the state’s crop.

“Rural Directions exists to add value to our clients, who are individual family farming businesses, those within the corporate ag sector, and industry groups like Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Dairy Australia,” he says.

“It’s about helping families to grow and develop their business to increase profitability and sustainability, while identifying opportunities for the future.”

Much of Rural Directions’ current work involves helping growers through current climate challenges, such as drought and frosts.

Rural Directions’ Simon Voigt. The business also consults with livestock farmers as well as crop and pastoral farmers.

Some parts of Australia are in the grip of a drought or are affected by it, creating less than average production and bringing drought-related stress to farmers and their families.

Patrick says Rural Directions helps keep mindsets positive and helps clients to focus on factors within their control.

“We can be a sounding board with independent views on these stressful decisions such as do they leave a crop for grain or cut it for hay?

“When we work with a business and support the client, we are helping to remove the emotion from it and having a clear-headed approach.”

With 23 employees based across Rural Directions’ five offices, Patrick says there is potential for further growth in the business, with two new graduate employees starting soon.

Header photo features Rural Directions employees Brendan Wallis, Brenton Greenslade and Tony Craddock.

Like this story? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

Industry in focus: Agribusiness

Throughout the month of October, the state’s agribusiness industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian farmers, producers, agricultural researchers and biosecurity workers are the lifeblood of our country communities and are big players in the state’s overall economic welfare. Read more stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

[logooos_saved id=”13411″]

The Dairyman goes back to Barossan basics

An artisan dairy farmer in one of South Australia’s most renowned regions is pushing a paddock to plate ethos that is helping support the local produce industry.

Barossa Valley producer Michael Wohlstadt is behind The Dairyman, maker of handmade butter, cream and premium fresh pork cuts, as well as cured and smoked meats.

The dairy and pork products are produced on site before leaving for some of the state’s most prestigious restaurants, including Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year, Orana, its sister venue Bistro Blackwood and rooftop bar and restaurant 2KW.

Michael has lived on the traditional, mixed-farm property between Lyndoch and Williamstown for the past 40 years, raising a small herd of 20 Jersey cows for milk that goes into premium cream and butter products.

“It’s very old school, we use a milk machine but it’s a very old system and it’s hands on, low stress, very laid back, but fairly manual process,” he says.

“We milk the cows and at the moment about 60% of the dairy goes into the cream and butter and the balance is the skim milk by-product which goes to the pigs to see out a substantial diet.”

The Dairyman, Michael Wohlstadt.

The free-range Berkshire and Tamworth pigs are among few Australian pig herds fed milk opposed to usual grain feed.

But along with the milk, the pigs are also fed grain sourced from a local farmer about 5km away “meaning total food miles are quite low”.

“Nothing leaves here as a commodity, it all leaves here as food,” Michael says.

“The pork is killed and processed offsite in the Barossa and comes back here for distribution, it goes into ham, bacon and fresh pork.”

As for the dairy products, cream is produced on site, as is the butter which is churned in small batches onsite using traditional methods that capture a full, creamy flavour.

Aside from Orana, Blackwood and 2KW, The Dairyman also supplies Magill Estate Restaurant and InterContinental Adelaide.

Its products can also be found at the Adelaide Central Market’s Smelly Cheese Shop and Lucia’s Fine Foods, as well as the Barossa Farmers Market, Barossa Co-op, Adelaide Farmers Market (every fortnight) and online.

The Dairyman Farm Butter.

Michael has adopted a mixed farming approach, a method common 50 years ago where landholders would undertake a number of complementary agricultural practices between.

“Mixed farming was common in those days where you had a small herd of cows to make cream and then there would also be the skim milk left for the pigs,” he says.

“When I came to the Barossa that was still very common, but now agricultural regions have gravitated towards a single dominant stream.

“We have seen a reduction of dairy farms in the Barossa, there is only a handful now.”

Michael came to the Barossa at the age of 12 with his German parents who migrated to Australia post-WW2.

At the age of 23, Michael bought his current property in the foothills of the Barossa ranges, milking a herd of 40 cows, pursuing a successful career in town planning and helping raise three children.

Taking on the life of a dairy farmer full time, The Dairyman business was born eight years ago.

But the farming venture means more to him than just his income. He also takes pride in assisting the animals’ welfare with comforts such as rugs to keep the cattle warm and a shelter for the pigs.

Michael has a strong paddock to plate ethos and takes pride in the comfort of his livestock.

Rugging cows is not common practice, but Michael says it plays a part in ensuring the livestock live healthier lives, and in turn make better quality products.

“They are healthier because they are using less energy trying to keep themselves warm, meaning more energy is available for the two things they have to do which is produce milk and grow a calf,” he says.

“The pigs also have a shelter, so it’s a very warm environment and in summer they have plenty of shade.

“A low stress environment is very important for the welfare of the animals. Happy pigs and happy cows make happy products.”

The Dairyman has won many awards over the years including a gold medal at this year’s 2018 delicious magazine National Produce Awards.

While producing high quality dairy and pork products is at the forefront of The Dairyman’s operations, delivering an authentic farm experience to visitors is also a priority.

Michael also runs accommodation offerings at the farm, one is a luxury cottage that was once a working milking facility, the other an 1840s house once used to cut chaff and crush grain.

Guests are treated to a breakfast full of local produce and are also invited to join Michael during the afternoons to feed the pigs.

Michael says the majority of guests are domestic visitors, while 15-20% are international visitors.

“When you come and stay with us we spend a bit of time with you in the afternoons, you can hear the stories, feed the pigs, and that is something you won’t get elsewhere,” he adds.

Like this story? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

Barossa Valley gin distilling dreams become reality

It took a career crisis and a curiosity for gin making for ex-policewoman and classical musician Nicole Durdin to turn to the world of distilling in the Barossa Valley.

Nicole and her husband Jon were living in the UK when a desire to move home and delve into something starkly different to their professions took over.

This weekend the South Australian pair will celebrate the opening of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers (SRD), the Barossa Valley’s first commercial distillery.

“We were in the UK for Jon’s work (as a finance director), and I went over as a freelance musician expecting that work would be easy to find ,but it didn’t quite turn out that way,” says head distiller Nicole, who also spent 10 years in the police force.

“I was having a career crisis and needed something to focus on … we knew that we would come back to the Barossa, that was our plan.”

Nicole, left, and Jon Durdin. Photo by John Krüger.

Nicole, a French horn player with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, is a seventh-generation Barossa local whose ancestors were among the first to settle in the Barossa Valley.

Her great-grandfather was one of the first coopers at Seppeltsfield, while her grandfather, uncle and father are all involved in the wine industry.

Nicole says she and her husband had toyed with the idea of falling into the wine industry, “but didn’t want to be tied down to the seasonality”.

So they put the idea on the back-burner, heading to the UK.

One day Jon suddenly flagged the idea of gin making – and the pair were hooked.

“Jon just said to me, ‘why don’t you make gin?’ It just came out of his mouth,” Nicole says.

“We knew nothing about gin other than we liked to drink it. But I started doing some research. The industry in Australia was still really small at that stage, and over 12 months we planned and studied.”

Nicole then flew back to SA from the UK to look at a block of land, turning their distant Barossa dreams into reality.

Seppeltsfield Road Distillers will open in the Barossa Valley in September. Photo by John Krüger.

The pair now live in Tanunda, with their small-batch boutique distillery at home along the palm-tree lined Seppeltsfield Road.

Visitors to SRD are first greeted by the sight of the German-made still where all the magic happens.

“The first thing you see when you arrive on site is the still. Being in the Barossa, people love the idea of knowing how things are made,” Nicole says.

“Our first goal is just to make really good gin, but we also want to help educate people on how gin is made, so we’d like to include tours and gin-blending masterclasses.”

SRD has launched a trio of gins made with a range of botanicals sourced from the Barossa where possible.

The distillery uses a grape spirit base from the Barossa Valley’s Tarac Technologies, Australia’s largest producer of high-quality grape spirit.

Botanicals including pink pepper corn and lavender are sourced from as close as down the road.

First up is the Barossa Dry, “a take on the traditional London Dry Gin” with clean juniper and coriander notes and a pinch of peppercorn and lavender.

Photo by John Krüger.

The Savoury Allsorts features star anise, liquorice root, fresh thyme, marjoram, borage, and gentian.

The House Gin is recommended for drinkers not quite sold on the taste of gin, as it has subtler hints of juniper, while chamomile, lavender and cinnamon add sweetness and warmth.

The gins have already scooped a number of awards, including the House Gin which won silver and the Barossa Gin which won bronze at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.

The House Gin has also been awarded a gold medal at the Melbourne International Spirits Competition.

SRD will make its public debut at a sold out gin blending class as part of the Barossa Gourmet Weekend on September 1.

On September 2 SRD will set up a pop-up gin bar for the ‘Gin & Jams’ event at The Greenock.

Visitors can explore SRD from September 3. Check the website for opening hours.

Header photo features tasting room manager Bec Henderson, left, gin distiller Nicole Durdin, general manager Jon Durdin and brand ambassador Scott McCarthy.

Like this story? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners

[logooos_saved id=”29687″]

That’s not a knife, that’s a Barossa knife!

Want to know how passionate the Barossa’s Barry (Baz) Gardner is about knifemaking? Just look at his hands.

They’re rough, blackened and scarred after 25 years of cutting, grinding, heating and sharpening steel into bespoke kitchen knives that end up in the hands of people around the world.

“They call me asbestos hands because I can hold something really hot that others can’t,” Baz says.

“I’ve had quite a few stitches in my hands, it’s a dangerous process.

“The fact is that knives are sharp, so you have to be careful … the grinders, they’re going a hundred miles an hour and you can slip on them, which I have.

“You can get some serious scars, that’s for sure.”

These hands have seen sharp edges, grinders, extreme heat and hard work. Photo by Ed Halmagyi.

The New Zealander turned South Australian craftsman runs his own knifemaking business, Gardner Knives from the JamFactory studio at Seppeltsfield.

Before falling in love with knifemaking, Baz pottered between a number of jobs including road construction, blacksmithing and house painting.

But it wasn’t until he went to a gun show in Adelaide when the world of knifemaking had him hooked.

“There was a guy selling guns there, but he also had knives on the table, and I said to him ‘where did you get those knives?’ and he said to me that he made them,” Baz says.

“I said bull****, who makes knives? From that day on I started making knives.

“I went home and found a bit of steel. I had no idea what I was doing, there was no internet around, so I just hammered it all out.

“It was pretty ugly but I’ve still got it.”

Baz Gardner has been making knives for the past 25 years. Photo by Ed Halmagyi.

Nearly three decades later and Baz has honed his craft, specialising in hand-forged Damascus steel knives that are bought by both Australian and international customers.

People of “all walks of life” have stepped inside his workshop, including Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a royal visit to the Barossa in 2016.

Baz also hosts knifemaking workshops and people have flown from as far as the UK to attend them.

“We had a guy who was an end of life doctor fly out from England after reading about us in an in-flight magazine between Singapore and London,” he says.

“He flew over here for four days just to take him out of his head space.”


“We get mothers and daughters and fathers and sons coming together to have that bonding moment or to create something for friends and family.

“We also get police officers, priests, high court judges, brain surgeons, plumbers – all walks of life.

“They just want to do something practical and physical with their hands that takes them out of their everyday work space.”

A basic, drop point hunter knife, often used for camping or outdoor trips, can take Baz only four or five hours to make.

The knifemaking process in action in the Gardner Knives workshop. Photo by Ed Halmagyi.

However, his Damascus steel knives “are a bit more involved” and can take more than a day’s work.

Damascus steel is made by bonding multiple layers of iron and steel together, creating flowing patterns on the blade.

“It’s been around since about the year 700. Damascus steel disappeared and then there’s been a resurgence in the last 30–40 years to the point that it’s basically all our business now,” Baz says.

“Anything that’s been hardened once, can be softened and hardened again. I’ve just made a knife out of a 1985 Damascus shotgun barrel.

“A lot of people in the Barossa have old vintage cars, so I’ll make knives for them out of their coil springs … one guy came in last year and brought in his grandfather’s two-man cross cut saw, which would’ve been 90–100 years old.

“Out of that I made five kitchen knives for his five grandchildren.

“You can use all sorts of things … there is that much steel out there that we throw away but we can create works of art out of it.”

Photo by Ed Halmagyi.

Baz and his partner Amanda began selling the knives at the Stirling Markets in the Adelaide Hills and Artisans Market at Greenock.

Baz built up a loyal following and before long was approached by the JamFactory to be the first anchor tenant at the Seppeltsfield site.

Gardner Knives has been a full-time pursuit for the past six years and Baz is currently on the hunt for an apprentice knifemaker.

“The community have always been behind me from day one and the management of JamFactory could not do more for me in ways of encouragement,” he says.

“I love what I do.”


[mappress mapid=”253″]

Like this story? Nominate a story from your region.
Click here to nominate >>

These inspiring regional stories are made possible by:

Major Partner[logooos_saved id=”5491″]Program Partners[logooos_saved id=”17589″]Major Media Partner[logooos_saved id=”5506″]