When I was 8 or 9 years old …
my parents did a drive holiday through the Barossa on one of our family holidays from Tassie.
I remember driving and stopping, driving and stopping; gravelly roads crunching underneath.
I see us pulling up to small corrugated iron huts or massive farm sheds and me kicking around with my brother in the dust while mum and dad did something mysterious and grown-up inside.
Must have been pretty good too.
Maybe we’d get a wineglass of water brought out by mum.
Maybe some Clix from the esky.
And then off again to the next stop; our legs contorting around cartons and bottles under our feet.
So the thought of taking children into a wine region isn’t foreign to me.
But it’s come a long way.
Wineries these days cater for so much more in terms of food, accommodation, and other attractions onsite.
So with the approaching Barossa Gourmet Weekend in South Australia I was starting to think about what might be good options to explore with my little ones in tow.
Delight and surprise when I receive an invitation to attend as a blogger guest!
Perfect timing, I say. (Rings mother to come along too – who accepts faster than I can say “Barossa Wine”.)
If you haven’t heard about the Barossa Gourmet Weekend let me give you the skinny (and check out this video as well).
The Barossa Gourmet Weekend is a longstanding food and wine festival that extends across a variety of venues, districts and experiences within the lovely Barossa region.
Think breakfasts, lunches, dinners, demonstrations, master classes, concerts, winery days and exhibitions.
And if you are reading this from afar .. the Barossa region is one of Australia’s most famous, home to some of our iconic food legends, wineries and producers.
It’s also less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide, so for me contemplating a quick visit, it’s well within my reach.
And there’s some beautiful countryside along the way, which is perfect if you need a fresh air stop.
Part victim of it’s own success, bus-loads and car loads of weekend revelers arrive at the various venues throughout the day, getting more lively as the day goes on and into the night.
But by and large its just people having fun.
And I always reckon if it’s a different kind of fun you’re after, then do like I do, and just plan yourself a day to suit.
For this year’s visit, I wanted kid friendly, so I was working on arriving and leaving early.
I was also on a schedule, needing to be back in Adelaide around 1.
Thankfully the Organising Committee made my task easy – the program was well categorised for kid friendly options, and thorough in detail on what was on offer at each place.
I made some quick choices for the drive the next day.
Kids do involve careful timing and logistics, but with forethought and preparation, I figured I could make at least two stops, maybe three, and still enjoy the trip.
Jacobs Creek Visitors Centre
Our first stop was the Jacobs Creek Visitors Centre located on Barossa Valley Way not far from Tanunda.
The promise was for food, wine and gardening experience with cooking demonstrations, live music and a kitchen garden experience.
We arrived around 10:15 or so before any of the big crowds of the day.
We walked slowly up through the grounds, over “The Creek”, and up to the main building on this iconic estate.Mum chose a chilled glass of 2013 Jacobs Creek Reserve Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir in her Barossa Gourmet Glass, an easy to drink out of stemless option even though acrylic.
And by all accounts it was a delicious drop.
I opted to be our RAA Designated Driver offering a free bottle of water, plus free tea, coffee and soft drinks at selected venues.
We had thought we might eat – there were both breakfast and lunch options on offer – although we were a little early for the demonstrations.
But I really wanted to check out the Kitchen Garden experience, so went very happily in hand with the warm and knowledgeable Donna Pywell with my daughter (Ms P).Now regardless of my little one only being 2, this was just an absolutely delightful experience.
Donna filled us in a little on the workings of the garden while she took Georgia by the hand and gently led her through a little digging, planting and watering.
Llittle marigolds into the garden.
Lettuce seedlings into take home planters.
A pair of little gardening gloves.
And a very popular purple watering can that Ms P very quickly took to.
At just $10 I thought this was pretty great value.
I loved just being in the garden too.
Large enough to stroll a little, but not so large to get lost in – its a working garden that supplies the onsite kitchen with it’s range of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers.
It also is the source of integrated ‘Garden To Plate’ food and wine experiences and masterchef style challenges for conference groups.
Sounds like a lot more fun than a lot of the conferences I used to head to…
A quick hop down the road and we were now at Whistler Wines, where I had planned for us to have lunch.
For one, Saskia Beer was catering, which sounded pretty good.
For another, I had heard that this was a popular spot for families, and I wanted to check it out although I was warned to get there early or risk gates being closed at full.
There was a modest contingent settling in although we managed to find a spot at a table in the marquee easily enough.
The food looked great – think Berkshire Ham Terrine, Duck Confit, Cheese Platters, Pheasant Pie, and Cassoulet, along with sliders to suit the kids.
I had the cassoulet, with fall apart pork yet cannellini beans that were still beautifully firm. This was the standout.
We also had the Duck Confit and a little slider for little fingers with chicken and tarragon on a brioche bun.
Glass of Whistler Wine or two for mum – I think she tried the Cab Sav and a Merlot – (and a free soft drink for Ms P and I to share – my designated driver freebie) and it all washed down pretty well.
One of the great things about Whistler Wines is that the room to move and run about on grass.
The tables were well spaced and adorned with cloths and wattle centrepieces, a nice little touch.
Added bonus to be running around with Cooper the farm dog – loving the extra attention from all the visitors, although just who was rounding up who I’m not entirely certain.
It was actually quite a cold day so the open fires were welcome, even if I did keep a closer eye on Ms P around them.
Live music by blues band Valley Cats was added fun.
And again with kids in mind, there was a collection of play equipment, and in a tent away from the crowds a little with a selection of different activities, so Ms P could squish a little play dough before we left.
Gave mum just enough time to finish her glass..
We left around 12:30, just as a pretty large group of contenders were walking down the road to come in.
Although we ran out of time, the third on my list was Pindarie.
This is a lovely spot to visit (and their Riesling is one of my favourites).
There’s a comfy open fire indoors and a little home corner set up for the kids to explore.
All of which makes for happiness all round while you graze on the menu of share plate wine food including pies, panini’s and platters of local produce
For Barossa Gourmet Weekend, they had also shipped in a giant haystack for the kids, with music by E-Type Jazz.
I heard it was pretty popular all weekend.
My Tips: Barossa Gourmet With Kids
Safe to say that we really enjoyed our visit.
It was long enough to feel like we’d had a taste and experienced some of the fun, food and wine of the festival.
But not so long that Ms P felt out of her depth.
I’m not one of those parents who insists that children go everywhere, I reckon they like to do things their way some times, just as we do.
And there are some places I just wouldn’t take them.
But with a little forethought and planning, a Barossa Gourmet Weekend visit can very enjoyably be done.
Gold stars to the Jacobs Creek Visitors Centre – loved the kitchen garden session; that’s worthy of the trip alone.
But make sure you pack more in. Saskia’s cassoulet was pretty darn good.
So – my tips …
1.Plan: use the well-put-together program to plan your trip in advance – know where you will be for what meals and what activities, and factor in the extra time it always takes to get in and out of each venue when you are gathering up small pairs of hands.
2.Ask locals: Barossa Valley Visitors Centre or contact any one of the venues you are interested in visiting and they will happily offer their thoughts. They will tell you what isn’t in the brochure, places to include and those best avoided, times to arrive etc
3.Rug Up: Mid-August so generally its going to be cold and wet.
4.Go early: My kids are pretty young (just 2 and 5) so in my book it pays to go early before the bigger crowds.
4.Experience it: dont just resort to the clix biscuits (although these might come in handy) give the kids the chance to try something new from the delicious food on offer/ They might just like it.
My sincere thanks to the Barossa Gourmet Weekend Organisers for the vouchers as part of my visit.