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Each year, the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards highlights the cream of the wine tourism crop – from arts and culture, to accommodation and food offerings, architecture and landscape and wine businesses that raise the bar in sustainability.
This years awards celebrate the resilience of the South Australia wine industry during one of the most challenging periods in recent times. The calibre of this years entrants was stellar.
Judges Helen Edwards (chairperson of Adelaide Hills Tourism), Nick Ryan (freelance journalist) and Tony Love (freelance journalist) put a great deal of time and thought into who came out triumphant.
These seven winners will be presented with their awards at Gather and Graze by CheeseFest on 7 November. The presentation will also see the announcement of the International Best of Wine Tourism Award winner, judged by an international Jury of Great Wine Capitals representatives.
Congratulations to the cream of the local crop.
The 2021 winners are-
Art and Culture
d'Arenberg, McLaren Vale
Chester Osborn and the team at d’Arenberg team make the art of innovation look easy. Since taking over as chief winemaker in 1984, Chester has been focused on producing high quality, distinctive wines. He also has surrealist art on the brain.
Since the construction of the enormous d’Arenberg Cube (aka multi-level cellar door, event space, and restaurant) in 2017, it has turned heads worldwide. The past 12 months were no exception. It takes a brilliant mind and brave spirit to embark on such a mammoth project.
Chester has both. “I’ve always loved making things,” he says. “Ever since I was a little boy.”
The permanent gallery collection ‘The Alternative Realities Museum’ features pieces made by Chester and boasts pieces from his private art collection. Mind- boggling multimedia installations and a multi-million- dollar Salvador Dali exhibition on level two are highlights.
When the Dali exhibition opened in March 2018, it was quite the drawcard, and over the past year it has attracted more than 22,000 visitors.
The 25 iconic bronze sculptures and graphic artworks by the surrealist master include the monumental sculptures ‘Nobility of Time’ and ‘Triumphant Elephant’, both of which greet visitors at the entrance to the d’Arenberg Cube. It also features pieces by acclaimed Australian surrealist Charles Billich. “Art is what makes the world interesting,” Chester says. “The more I can have fun presenting art in many ways, the more stimulating the industry is for everyone.”
The Salvador Dali exhibition has been extended to June 30 next year.
Longview Vineyard, Adelaide Hills
There’s something about Macclesfield in the leafy Adelaide Hills. The beautiful grape growing area is home to Longview Vineyard, which celebrated its 20th vintage this year.
The Saturno family took over Longview 13 years ago and prides itself on serving up stellar Italian hospitality.
In addition to their beautiful cellar door (built in 2017) and renovated barn in which they host weddings and private functions, the stunning property is home to 12 four-and-a-half-star luxury suites and a renovated homestead with an enclosed, fully air conditioned veranda.
“We really wanted to provide something unique and lovely,” says co-owner Peter Saturno, who runs the business with his brother Mark. “We saw a need for it in the southern Hills. It’s lovely to wake up and feel a million miles away, but really you’re just 40 minutes away from the city.”
The accommodation looks out over the family’s beautiful vineyards.
“You wake up, open the blinds and you’re looking over the pinot noir that we harvest for sparkling wine.”
Community is at the heart of everything they do. The business employs locals, works with local suppliers, and provides awards to the local football club.
The family has been overwhelmed by the popularity of the new additions to their accommodation offering. “It’s been really amazing for us,” Peter says. “It’s been a silver lining around the COVID cloud; interstate travelers and locals are really embracing South Australia – the occupancy is almost chock-a-block.”
Architecture and Landscape
Yalumba Family Winemakers, Barossa
When Jessica Hill-Smith arrives at her Barossa Valley workplace every day, it takes her breath away. “The grass is always green and the gardens are always beautiful,” she says. “It’s great to see people’s reaction when they arrive and walk up that garden path. They’re always really gobsmacked and surprised to see such a beautiful place that they didn’t expect to find.”
As brand manager for the iconic wine brand founded by Samuel Smith in 1849, Jessica is the sixth generation to enter the family fold. Her father Robert Hill-Smith is an inspirational leader in the Australian wine industry and the historic walls around them whisper with tales of yore. Yalumba’s Clocktower stands two stories tall and 155 feet long and houses an enormous five-foot clock that is still hand-wound every week. It overlooks the Yalumba Wine Room and reflects the brand’s ability to reflect both history and a progressive spirit.
“It’s about finding modernity within our historical walls,” Jessica says. Guests can immerse themselves in 170-years of family winemaking heritage, interactive experiences, and guided tours of the historic Wine Room, cooperage, iconic Signature Cellar and landscaped gardens. Beneath the Clocktower is where underground Tanks 11 and 12 can be found. They were built in the late 1890s and early 1900s as wine storage vessels (each holding 250,000 litres of wine).
They remained in use until 2004 when they were reimagined into a stunning, contemporary dining space and tasting room that officially opened in 2009. The award-winning space is now used for private events and dining experiences.
Innovative Wine Tourism Practices
Unico Zelo, Adelaide Hills
It’s amazing to observe creativity emerge from a global pandemic. When COVID forced the hospitality industry into lockdown, Unico Zelo owners Brendan and Laura Carter wasted no time setting up “Wine For The People” – a daily live-streamed happy hour featuring entertainment, interviews, and wine education.
The powerhouse winemaking and distilling couple produced top-notch quality live broadcasts at 5pm every day, including weekends. It wasn’t just about showcasing their wine brand… the pair invited inspiring guests from across the hospitality landscape and allowed live feedback to an audience that spanned the globe. The broadcasts happened at their Gumeracha cellar door.
“For the first 60 or so episodes, there were only South Australians on the show,” Laura says. “It makes you re- alise how lucky we are to have all these amazing people in this state.
“We would never have been able to run this show if venues hadn’t been closed. They wouldn’t have been able to sit down for an hour at five o’clock like that. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear their stories.”
The couple captured heart-warming tales of resilience during a challenging moment in time.
“During the first four weeks of the show, people were quite emotional,” Laura says. “We heard so many stories. To watch people come to terms with this weird thing we were all going through was interesting for us. We’re just trying to be positive and make the most of a situation that is really challenging.”
Wine Tourism Restaurants
Paulett Wines, Clare Valley
Head chef Thomas “Erky” Erkelenz has a serious case of job satisfaction. After cutting his teeth at restaurants across the state, the star chef has returned to his Clare Valley home to serve up the goods at Paulett Wines.
At just 25, he is already kicking some serious career goals. The cellar door and Bush Devine café recently won the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, placing them in the Top 10 percent of restaurants in the world. The Great Wine Capitals 2021 Best of Wine Tourism Award adds another impressive feather to their collective cap.
“We’ve got a really good marriage between our restaurant and the cellar door,” says managing director and owner Alison Paulett. “We are one big team here and we complement each other really well.”
Newly created food and wine experiences are particularly memorable. Wine flights matched with canapes offer insight into how food complements the wines (and vice versa). The menu is inspired by native Australian ingredients presented in a modern context. It is all served up seven days a week on the stunning deck overlooking Polish Hill River’s stunning scenery.
“You get five little canapes and wines served on beautiful boards that we’ve had made up by a local.” More casual tastings and an a-la-carte menu are also available.
As word of mouth spreads and their reputation gathers momentum, Paulett Wines is no longer a hidden Clare Valley secret. “Since we re-opened, we’ve been full every day… it’s just mind-blowing,” Alison says. “I’m just so proud of the team. Everybody cares about each other and it’s a really nice place to work. Customers can feel that.”
Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices
Tscharke Wines, Barossa
An underground, sustainable movement is happening in the Barossa Valley. Not that winemaker Damien Tscharke is one to shout it from the rooftop. He goes about things quietly, driven by the desire to help create a more sustainable future for his young family, his organic and biodynamic farm and vineyard, and the people who drink his creations.
Damien runs Tscharke Wines with his wife Eva, and in 2004 was awarded the prestigious Peter Olsen Fellowship for Innovation and Outstanding Performance in Agriculture. Now he’s on a mission to raise the bar in progressive and sustainable grape growing and winemaking practices. “The whole business is pretty much based on the three pillars of sustainability; environmental, economic and social,” he says. “That’s the backbone of our business structure.”
They make decisions with an unwavering focus on minimising waste and energy inputs; from the estate vineyards to their winery, warehouse and waste management practices.
The best way to learn about it all (and taste the results) is to visit the impressive cellar door. The European-style structure, called Tscharke’s Place was designed by Eva and Damien and shipped over from Germany.
It took two years of planning and 14 months to complete and is an utter delight, just like the wine. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for a team that shares our values,” Damien says. “Our success is a result of the people that are behind it and driving it.”
Wine Tourism Service and Global Award Winner
Wirra Wirra Vineyards
Never ones to rest on their laurels, the team at Wirra Wirra didn’t let the COVID lockdown hold them back. In fact, they used the temporary closure of their McLaren Vale cellar door to fast-forward plans to make their experience more unique and memorable. The improvements include an architecturally designed cellar door space which caters for seated tasting flights. “The timing from that perspective worked out quite well,” says managing director Andrew Kay, “We found that people loved the seated tastings and the staff enjoyed it because they get to spend more quality time with visitors and hopefully give them a better experience.
They also introduced a concierge on weekend to host guests and manage bookings, and an online booking system allowing guests to secure a tasting experience digitally (including cellar door exclusive wines made from biodynamically farmed estate vineyards). Bookable tours take visitors into the 125-year-old working cellars.
Food is a crucial part of the offering too. The addition of tasting morsels created by Harry’s Deli chef Tom Boden, and the establishment of a produce garden to provide organically grown herbs, fruit and vegetables for Harry’s Deli and cellar door tasting plates are great additions.
Andrew couldn’t have done it without a stellar team. “Anyone can create a space… but our staff really care about and take a lot of pride in what they do,” he says. “They had to evolve and make the same transition as we have as a business when COVID hit. Their feedback and input that helped us to continue to evolve the offering and make Wirra Wirra a better place for people to visit.”
Winery Profiles and Story written by Katie Spain