Henschke Hill of Grace
Barossa is the place that rekindles your dream of owning a small vineyard and making a bit of wine. Planted vineyard land here is actually somewhat affordable – $30,000 to $50,000 per acre – versus ten times that in Napa and even five times that in the Okanagan. The Barossa has the world’s oldest Shiraz/Syrah vines (around 160 years old) and arguably the oldest Cabernet vines (around 125 years old). We got the chance to stand in these both these vineyards: Langmeil’s Freedom Vineyard and Pendfolds’ Kalimna Block 42 vineyard. In an ultimate muddling of what is old world versus new world, the French are now traveling to Barossa to obtain clippings of old vines to bring back to Europe. The history of the valley is incredible – so many brick and ironstone buildings and estate houses with over a hundred years of age. Small towns with Germanic names that were settled by Prussians over 150 years ago. The preserved history is available everywhere to soak up.
Visiting Henschke was something I’ll never forget. The winery is miles down a dirt road in the Eden Valley flanked by a surreal terrain of barren grasslands, outcroppings of rough broken stone and scattered two-hundred-year-old white gum trees. Johann Christian Henschke immigrated to the area around 1841 and began making wine soon after that – his wife and two of this four children died on the voyage. The property is incredible, where fifth generation Stephen and his wife Prue still live in a house beside the winery. We tasted a flight of Henschke’s wines including the 2007 Hill of Grace. This is a wine that deserves its legendary standing as one of the best bottles to come out of the country every year. It has intensity, complexity and length without being over-blown. They make 800-900 cases in a good year (somewhere around 250 in 2007) and I’m willing to bet it was the most expensive wine on the planet with a screw top (now under Vino-Lok, and can probably boast the same claim). We walked through the iconic Hill of Grace Vineyard with the ancient church in behind the rows of vines. As preventative measures, we had to sponge the soles of our shoes with bleach, as South Australia is still phylloxera free. It was also cool to learn that Henschke is farming biodynamically.
Another great experience was spending a chilly sunset in the Steingarten Vineyard – where Riesling vines cling to a steep slope facing Eden Valley. The vineyard is owned by Jacob’s Creek and even though the majority of the grapes for the Steingarten bottling actually come from Eden Valley, it is a breathtaking place to hang out. We drank six vintages of the wine going back to 1996, including one while in the vineyard. It ages incredibly well.
Other visits included Yalumba, Charles Melton, Langmeil, Penfolds’ Kalimna Estate, St Hallett, and Peter Lehmann. Everywhere we went, the hospitality was fantastic and we were fed very very well. Some photos below:
In the gorgeous Yalumba tasting room, which used to be a gigantic concrete wine tank.
Yalumba has one of the craziest cellars I’ve seen. We snooped around wide-eyed and stunned by piles of DRC and things like 1889 Chateau d’Yquem and 1899 Chateau Lafite.
Possibly the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world and winemaker Steph Dutton – Block 42 from Penfolds’ Kalimna Estate.
Tasting the top wines from Penfolds at the 19th century Kalimna estate.
Tasting a line-up from Langmeil off of a tailgate, feet from the oldest Shiraz vineyard in the world – the Freedom Vineyard.