This review of The Louise in Barossa Valley is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
We don’t arrive in Adelaide until the sun is already slinking away. By the time we negotiate the main road north (helpfully named ‘the Main Road North’) it’s coal-black out, the air is mint-crisp and the city’s far behind us. We’re heading to the Louise in the Barossa Valley, an hour plus some, according to our impressionist map. We pass a Penfolds sign and can almost smell the Grange. A few more turns through the rolling hills and we see the inviting glow of our home in the valley for the next two nights.
It’s late but we’re welcomed warmly at reception and taken through our booking – a private wine tour has been arranged the next day as has dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Appellation. I’m tasked with filling in the following morning’s breakfast order – a job that in my ragged state seems impossibly difficult. I tell our check-in man I’m having a brain freeze as we just somehow gained 30 minutes flying across a few borders. (South Australia is half an hour behind the east coast of Australia.)
We’re staying in the Seppeltsfield Suite, one of 15 too-lovely lodgings at the Louise, which we enter through a spacious private courtyard to find a fresh and modern living room. Impressed and excited, we conduct the obligatory opening of drawers and doors – and then something unexpected happens. I unpack my clothes. I can’t claim to know other people’s habits, but I am much more a suitcase and ‘floor-drobe’ kind of guy (to the consternation of Mr Smith). But, as I fold the last of my underwear neatly into the drawer, it strikes me: I am already relaxed in this space. I’m not sure what I can pin this on – the rich, restful colours of the room, the country air, the plush, cosy furniture, the sleep deprivation?
Mr Smith runs the cavernous bath and we both soak, fitting comfortably, candles lit, jets pulsing. I’m sure I have a micro-sleep. Towelled off, Mr Smith pours us both a generous glass of the dangerously delicious complimentary port and we snuggle on the sofa, ignoring the lure of the LCD television. We resist a refill and retire to our enormous bed with its peak of cushy pillows.
The next morning we’re awoken by our arriving breakfast (I picked well). I try out the espresso machine and it makes a mean latte. We’re sorely tempted to stay here, meander through the weekend papers, and laze on the terrace deckchairs that overlook the tapestry of vineyards in more shades of green than a paint chart. However, we’re here for the true Barossa experience.
Almost all we know about the Barossa is wine, wine, wine – this is the spiritual home of Australia’s bold, brassy reds. And having just finished a month of self-imposed abstemiousness (for charity, for liver), we are more than ready to dive in. First up though, we take in the sights and smells (including dizzying wafts of bacon) of the nearby farmers’ market, a showcase of Barossa’s non-boozy bounty: artisan cheese, rustic bread, just-plucked veggies. The feel here is genuine and local – it’s not (yet) swamped with moneyed tourists.
Bellies full, we swing into action, ticking off some favourites: Henschke, Grant Burge, Charles Melton and Torbreck. Mr Smith is designated driver, and I’m quietly sozzled. We meet up with Sally Kalleske of Kalleske Wines in the early afternoon and get a private tour – arranged through the Louise – where we learn a great deal about wine-making, and we also meet their pet pig Wilbur. The little oinker, named after the rambunctious runt of Charlotte’s Web, has his hungry snout set on my footwear, so we don’t linger long in his pen. Kalleske is an organic, biodynamic winery. The holistic theory I like, but some of the practicalities of such a venture – like preparing soil with a cow’s horn stuffed with manure – is lost on me. No matter, the wines are truly fabulous and our host delightful.
Towards the end of a glorious afternoon, we head back to our suite and prepare for dinner at the Louise’s award-winning restaurant Appellation, arguably the foodie crown of the Barossa. We start with an apéritif and end – some three hours later, after traversing the local, seasonal, sensational tasting menu – with a bread and butter pudding so awesome I still haven’t shut up about it. Other highlights included punchy prosciutto-wrapped pigeon and lamb as tender as mother-love. Still buzzing, we follow the lit path back to our suite and climb into bed, completely satisfied.
Next morning, Mr Smith opens up the shutters to our (we dream) private vineyard and we loll about in bed, reading the paper and inventing unique wine blends. Our flight time ensures we can’t lie about forever, so we shower (did I mention it came with a choice of two drenching rain shower heads in a capacious room of its own, with a third shower in a linked outside space?) and hit the road. We’re sad to see the Barossa and the Louise fading from our view during take-off but delighted about our shipment of vino arriving in seven days. As we fly across the border, we lose that half an hour again, but at this point I’m not sure that I really care.
Anonymously reviewed by Paul McNally (Epicurean editor)
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