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You can’t judge quality purely by the numbers, but they do tell part of the story of how and why The Louise has made its mark in the Barossa.
The 5-star boutique luxury lodge has 40 staff for no more than 32 guests, has won an unprecedented nine successive Hall of Fame awards from Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine, and is one of only seven Australian properties affiliated with the prestigious global network Relais & Châteaux.
And though its vision is to promote the best of the Barossa to national and international visitors, one third of its guests over the first decade have been from South Australia.
The Louise won the Accommodation Category of the inaugural South Australian Great Wine Capitals Global Network awards in September. A large part of its success lies in how quickly American owners Jim and Helen Carreker have become welcomed as part of Barossa, yet the concept actually preceded the choice of location.
Jim was CEO of a technology company in Silicon Valley when they decided to set up a destination restaurant with luxury accommodation in a major wine region. They researched and visited most of them – from the nearby Napa Valley to Argentina, Spain, Portugal and France – before deciding that the former Hermitage of Marananga motel near Seppeltsfield had what they were seeking.
“The Louise from the beginning would always be a beacon to draw culinary tourists to the wine region; so it would be a combination of the expression of paired food and wine served by capable staff in a beautiful setting deep within the heart of a wine region,” Jim said. “And it would have a small number of luxury guest rooms co-located with the restaurant.”
Jim and Helen invested money to upgrade the two-hectare site – including 15 guest suites, an infinity-edge pool and sun deck, and the centerpiece Appellation restaurant – and time to understand what makes the Barossa tick and everything it has to offer.
The aim was to create a restaurant and ambience of such appeal that guests want to stay longer, then to promote, arrange, even broker a range of local tours and experiences to ensure that they do. The response from wineries and other Barossan businesses has been very positive, and many cellar staff can be found enjoying a special Tuesday Locals Menu at the Appellation.
The Louise employs only local people, sources 85% of its fresh produce from within a 100-kiometre radius of the property, and even hangs local art on the walls. More than 20 different pieces chosen by the owners can be found dotted throughout the lodge, and Jim is a Board member of the Jam Factory, which set up its gallery and studio at nearby Seppeltsfield Estate in 2013.
He also sees Adelaide’s membership of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network as an important step in spreading the Barossa story more widely. “This organisation is a particularly well-known, well respected, highly regarded collector of experiences in the truly best wine regions of the world,” he said.
On 1 July, Adelaide / South Australia officially became a member of the prestigious Great Wine Capitals Global Network, a group of major cities linked to internationally renowned wine regions. It was elected unanimously by the eight other members: Bilbao / Rioja (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Town (South Africa), Mainz-Rheinhessen (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco / Napa Valley (USA), and Valparaìso / Casablanca Valley (Chile). The network has since expanded to ten members, when Verona’s application was accepted at the Great Wine Capitals annual general meeting in Porto in November.