Friday, January 20, 2012

Barossa Valley – South Australia

Novotel Barossa Valley resort
My wife, for a surprise birthday gift, booked us into the Novotel Barossa. This beautiful resort sits high above the valley overlooking the vineyards below. It also backs onto a golf course. Like most better resorts it comprises of a large pool and sunning area, restaurant, games area, massage and beauty services, conference rooms, wine tasting rooms, product sales and bar.

The rooms are spacious with a king bed in all. Everyone has a balcony and view with some views facing back to the resort and are the nicest. The mini-bar is well stocked and rooms are serviced daily and kept clean and neat. No complaints with the service. Meals can be delivered to the room at a lower than restaurant price.

The restaurant has the pick of the views which stretch into the hills. The wine list, as to be expected, goes on and on for pages. Not only many local wines but French Champagne and other imports. The food, which included for us breakfast, lunch and dinner, is very good.  The big breakfast was excellent with a great selection of cold and hot food.  I tend to over eat here but it is real hard not to.

For dinner, one night, I had skippy (kangaroo) which was very good and my wife the mushroom soup, also excellent. Wines are a generous serve and reasonably priced as were the meals. Staff are warm and friendly and only too eager to please.  Service is brisk.

Novotel Barossa is not cheap but it is an excellent place to stay. We have thoroughly enjoyed both our visits and look forward to a third. It is within twenty minutes of most of the surrounding small towns, wineries both large and small and most of the sites worth seeing. A car is essential and will allow you to enjoy some of the best scenery Australia has to offer. Take the trip.

Lyndoch Bakery and Restaurant
Lyndoch is only a short drive from the resort and holds a number of small shops, winery, service station and a few bakeries. Of the Lyndoch Bakery the bakery section is small and is part of a larger restaurant/bar complex. It has some great tasting pies, buns and cakes.  

On our first visit we dropped in for coffee and a bite. I had strudel and coffee (the coffee is strong, don’t order a double shot). The strudel was big and jammed full of fresh apple, cloves and cinnamon and went perfectly with a latte’.  The following day we went back for breakfast and I had their Kelly Pie. This is a small meat pie with egg and bacon on the top. If you go, order one. They are a very tasty and a meal in themselves.

Lord Lyndoch Hotel
We had dinner one night at the Lord Lyndoch Hotel. We were attracted to the hotel because the young manager claimed they serve “life changing” Black Angus steaks. How could we refuse? My wife had the 200g Scotch and I the 400g Black Angus. Though I still feel like myself and my life has not changed in any one direction the steak was good.  If you’re a steak-kind-of-guy a visit this historic hotel should be on your list when in the area. The manager, Scott, is funny, friendly and runs the hotel (for his parents) very professionally.  He is passionate about the food, the wine and the hotel and will make your visit “life changing”. Just ask Scott.

Tanunda Bakery
The locals will tell you this is the best bakery around. And they’re right. The Tanunda Bakery has a huge range of gorgeous looking cakes, breads, etc. on display. The coffee is good too and we had a cake and coffee here. Also we took away a pizza bread stick which we had with pate’, chorizo sausage, and Chateau Dorrien red wine in our room . The pizza bread was delicious and the sausage and pate’ made by Barossa Fine Foods from a butcher in Angaston rounded out a perfect day of tastings, sightseeing and winery bashing!

Seppeltsfield Winery
The approach to the newly name Seppeltsfield (formerly Seppelts) is something to see in itself. Kilometres of date palms line the road way into the winery now owned privately by three families. The new owners have made some big changes and are pushing some new ranges. We had purchased four bottles of tawny dated 1879 and 1880 some years back to now find they have grown in investment value.

Seppeltsfield is the only winery with yearly releases of consecutive 100 year old tawny ports. We were lucky to taste the 1912 pre-release to sell for $999 a half bottle. These ports taste like nothing you have ever tasted and “hang” in your throat and head for hours. We also tasted a new range of ten and twenty-one year old ports. For $10 extra the twenty-one year old is a far better purchase. The winery is worth a visit. The grounds and buildings are extensive.

Peter Lehmann Wines
Many of the bigger wineries will offer a lunch platter. These often consist of a selection local smoked and cured meats, olives, breads and cheese. Olives are also grown in the area and are well worth a try. Of the platters offered the Peter Lehmann platter appeared the best. We had put in a hard day of wine tasting and finished here before heading back to the room.

The wines are very good, well priced and have won many world class awards. Lehmann buildings, inside and out, are worth a serious look. There is a large picnic area right near the cellar door so either bring your own and purchase a wine or two or try the lunch platter. Very pleasant.

We returned the following day for the lunch platter which is more than enough for two and a bottle of the Mentor Cab.Sav. Staff, here, were very friend and decanter and re-bottle our wine to get some air into it. This did improve the wine and combined with the platter, under the shade of gum trees, made for an excellent and relaxing afternoon.  We will return. You should try it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Los Argentinos restaurant - Franskton

Los Argentinos restaurant (bar and grill) brings something new to the sunny Frankston by the sea. We have many Asian and Italian restaurants a few Mexican, Greek and European but this, as far as I am aware is the first Argentinean restaurant for the area. Hurrah!  Depending when you visit you may have parking problems. Read the parking signs well or the night may workout very costly.
A friend had dined here a few times in the past and knowing my passion for food and drink had suggested my wife and self should try it. So we did.  On a Friday night it was quieter than expected but at this point it is a new restaurant. Frankston's culinary base starts at McDonalds and the thought of well prepared good tasting food would frighten most local away. Particularly from a country they didn’t know existed. Fine diners won’t find silver service but will enjoy the rustic ambiance.  Service is excellent too.

On entering you pass by the open flame grill and notice a very large steak or two under the care of a dedicated cook. Steak is featured on the menu but there is many other dishes which will equally entice. There are also some Argentinean and Chilean wines to chose from. I selected the Argentinean red and found it fragrant smelling, delicious and full bodied. The wife selected Sangria and a seafood dish. She loved the meal but the Sangria was not for her.
The steak was 400g of quality meat and just a tad rare for me but also very flavorsome.  The baked potatoes, which come with the steak, are large and the meal should fill you. Once finished the chef may come out and ask you for a comment. All staff were warm and very friendly making the whole experience excellent and not expensive.  Every aspect of this restaurant is pleasing on a number of levels. To think Frankstonians can now safely try other divers foods not served at McDonalds is heartening. Steak lovers: eat here!

Revisit:  Los Argentinos import a lot of their meat. Once more a good meal at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Australian Wine Tour and Rochford Winery - Yarra Valley

My daughter gave me an Australian Wine Tour ticket for father’s day. A great gift for a guy who loves wine. Leaving from the Melbourne we headed to the Yarra Valley and visited four wineries. Two were distinctly upmarket, modern and large and two were rustic and quaint. I felt Kellybrook Winery, one of the more rustic cellar doors, really didn’t want visitors. The area around the cellar door is very illkept and there is absolutely nothing inviting about the Winery. A further personal insult was that there was nothing I tasted which I liked. Others shared my opinion. Kellybrook is a successful winery so they must be doing something right, it just wasn’t obvious to me.

Rochford Wines is a modern complex of cellar door, restaurant, gallery, picnic grounds and lookout turret.  Our host was knowledgeable, engaging and an excellent ambassador for Australian wines and Rochfords particularly.  Part of the tour package was to lunch at Rochfords. The meals were selected on the bus on our way to Rochfords so the kitchen could have meals ready after our testing. Many selected the ocean trout. With the meal we got a full glass of one of three wines. Nice.

The crux of this post is to pass comment on the lunch provided by Rochfords. I would think we were treated as any guest in the restaurant that day even though nineteen of us arrived as an organised tour. The trout, possibly the smallest serve I have ever seen, was dry and tasteless. This opinion was shared by those seated near me with the same meal. The trout sat on tabouleh with a green garnish. Left quite hungry and disappointed I managed to scavenge extra bread for a filler.

Rochford wines is worth a visit, it is a grand place and holds many outdoor entertainment events through the year. Go for a tour, a tasting then maybe coffee and cake after. It is worth the effort. Rochfords have gone to a lot of trouble and expense to present an impressive complex. Thay are passionate about their wines and providing a memorable experience for their visitors. The food side of the business needs a revamp. But then I’m basing my impression on one visit.