The Louise hotel is the brightest star in the Barossa Valley accommodation firmament, an exquisite, contemporary boutique dwelling featuring 15 architecturally inspired suites on a vine-lined hillside. Concern for guest satisfaction and food-and-wine passion have informed every decision at this South Australian retreat: privacy is paramount, facilities are state of the art, and the restaurant is truly outstanding.
11am, but flexible subject to availability (charges may apply). Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £538.54 (AU$1,050), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include continental breakfast.
Wine tasting is a Barossa must: ask at reception about local cellar doors, or exclusive tastings by appointment. For in-room indulgence, tuck into the house-baked cookies and decanter of port awaiting you on arrival; then order a massage in your suite to chill out after.
At the hotel
Infinity edge lap pool, fitness centre, guest laundry, sauna, bicycles, gardens, and guest computer. In rooms: free WiFi, flatscreen TVs, DVD player, BOSE Wave CD player, iPod dock, espresso machine, minibar, Vive and Molton Brown toiletries, rubber ducks in spa baths, private courtyard with terrace and gate intercom.
Our favourite rooms
We like No 29, a Stonewell Suite, the best of the 10 suites revolving around the entrance piazza – access is via a private courtyard. The living and sleeping areas are an exercise in seductive mod tones (from raspberry to aubergine), leading onto a superb bathroom complete with underfloor heating, walk-in shower, spa tub, recessed candle nooks and an outdoor shower for star-lit shampooing. The terrace is perfect for an evening glass of red overlooking the vines. Marananga Two-Bedroom Suite, is a two-bedroom affair in a separate wing with even more enticing vineyard views.
The infinity lap pool overlooks the surrounding vineyard.
Bring a high tolerance level for intellectual wine-speak as you taste the best Barossa reds (expect to hear ‘toasty’, ‘berry’, ‘liquorice’ and ‘tobacco’ used at least thrice daily).
Additional experiences include accommodation and dining packages incorporating meals at Appellation (the in-house restaurant) and wine-tasting.
Children over 10 are welcome.
In such a dry state on such a dry continent, it makes sense that run-off and hotel greywater are recycled for garden irrigation. Food is locally sourced too, supporting community producers.
There are window seats as well as tables by the fire in the restaurant’s two zones with views across the vines.
Snappy, sassy, self-confident.
The Louise’s award-winning in-house restaurant, Appellation, serves dinner nightly (there’s just 48 seats, so bookings are essential). Executive chef Daniel Murphy's menus are underpinned by the ‘locavore’ philosophy, with 80 per cent of the menu’s seasonal produce sourced within a 50-kilometre radius. Choose four courses from their seasonal, daily changing Chef's Tasting Menu, and opt for brilliantly paired Barossa wines.
Adjacent to the restaurant, an elegant modern lounge bar serves pre-dinner drinks, including a heady selection of local wines, spirits, cocktails, beers, and a bar snack menu of charcuterie, Angus beef burgers, and other bites. Retire to the terrace to watch dusky sunset colours shift over the vine rows.
The restaurant is open daily from 5pm for drinks and from 7pm for dinner. Last dinner orders are around 9.30pm.
Continental breakfast is served in your suite each morning. An in-suite lunch menu, from 11am to 3pm, includes salads, local meats and cheese platters. A more substantial in-suite dinner menu tempts with terrines, gourmet burgers, platters and desserts.
The Louise is located in Marananga, in the north-western Barossa Valley wine region, north east of Adelaide.
Adelaide Airport (www.aal.com.au), which receives domestic and international flights, is 75 kilometres away.
Trains connect to Adelaide's Keswick Terminal station from major cities Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Darwin, operated by Great Southern Rail (www.gsr.com.au). Adelaide is home to famous train the Ghan (www.gsr.com.au), which runs from the city to Darwin via Alice Springs in both directions, if you fancy linking a cross-country trip with a stay in the Barossa Valley wine region.
From Adelaide, South Australia's capital, it's about a one-hour drive to the Louise. Download a driving map with instructions from the hotel's own website (www.thelouise.com.au). Free parking is available at the hotel.
Please advise the hotel if you wish to arrive by helicopter. Transfers are available on request (it's a 20-minute flight from Adelaide Airport).
Worth getting out of bed for
The Louise can book you in for ‘Breakfast with the Kangaroos’ at dawn, where a local guide whizzes you away in a 4WD to a nearby conservation park. After a 15-minute hike, your guide will unfurl the picnic rug and plate up a gourmet breakfast, rousing the curiosity of ’roos who enjoy their own tucker nearby (it’s not kosher to feed them). Wine tasting in the Barossa is an essential experience, with over 100 world-renowned winemakers within spitting distance. The Louise has partnered with Two Hands Wines on a vineyard safari package; your personal guide will pick you up from the hotel for a day of exploring the private vineyard estates. You can also ask at reception about local cellar doors and exclusive tastings by appointment, or contact tasting-tour operators Barossa Experience Tours,Barossa Epicurean Tours or Barossa Valley Tours. If you're going it alone, consider visiting the biggest and best Barossa vineyard Penfolds in Nuriootpa, home of the iconic Penfolds Grange. Major labels Jacob's CreekandPeter Lehmannare both near Tanunda. More of a G&T lover? Book in for a tasting at Seppeltsfield Rd Distillers.
Local winery Hentley Farm (+61 (0)8 8562 8427) offers one of the Barossa's best dining experiences, with tables set out in an intimate, elegantly restored stables under the vines. For a modern twist on south-east Asian cuisine, matched to a well thought out and intriguing wine list, book in at FermentAsian(+61 (0)8 8563 0765) in Tanunda. Vintners Bar & Grill(+61 (0)8 8564 2488), in historic nearby town Angaston, is a smart yet relaxed open-plan restaurant surrounded by vineyards, with a welcoming bar and courtyard for outdoor dining. Dishes draw on local South Australian fare, including peppered kangaroo, pan-fried Kangaroo Island halloumi and SA prawns and oysters, plus there's an award-winning wine list. Another local favourite is the 1918 Bistro & Grill (+61 (0)8 8563 0405), on Murray Street in Tanunda, set in a historic home with a jasmine-scented terrace. Food is fresh, seasonal Mod Oz fare with Asian and Middle Eastern influences, such as steamed black mussels with Asahi beer. Good bets on Angaston's Murray Street include the pizza-purveying Roaring 40's Café (+61 (0)8 8564 2901).
You might have seen South Australian celeb Maggie Beer on TV's The Cook and The Chef or Masterchef, or tasted one of her range of condiments, preserves and pâtés. Swing by the brilliant Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop (+61 (0)8 8562 4477) on Pheasant Farm Road, Nuriootpa, for a superb gourmet picnic lunch. Swing by Darling's for a breakfast of home-made muesli and granola, vegetarian breakfast and coffee from Kindred roasters. Pop into sweetly scented Fleur Social for single-origin coffee (with a decadent brunch or as an any-time pick-me-up). In Tanunda, bright contemporary café Keils Fine Food & Coffee (+61 (0)8 8563 1468) delivers a decent caffeine fix, as well as home-made soups and pies.
On Tanunda’s main drag, Murray Street, the 1846 Tanunda Hotel(+61 (0)8 8563 2030) is an anything-goes kinda joint: pool tables, big bar meals and a welcoming beer garden. The Barossa Valley Brewingcompany (+61 (0)8 8563 0696) produces artisan-style beers and a tasty selection of tapas in a restored Barossa home overlooking Heinemann Park in Tanunda.
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.