The Five Icons of Winter in the Adelaide Hills
Settle in by the fire with a glass of red, tuck into a plate of hearty German fare in Hahndorf or soak in an outdoor tub overlooking the misty hills. The magic of winter has arrived in the Adelaide Hills, so embrace the best of the season with these local tips.
Ask any skier, there is no greater luxury than enjoying views of the ski slopes while swaddled in hot bubbles and wreathed in steam. And while it’s true the Adelaide Hills doesn’t have snowy peaks, it does have some view-tastic hot tubs, and a few of them are outside. Do we need to add that the experience is enhanced by a bottle of something special and sparkling?
When Sequoia Lodge at Mount Lofty House Estate in Crafers opens in July it will feature two outdoor hot tubs as well as a heated infinity pool. The trio are likely to prove the highest altitude al fresco soaks in South Australia, topping out at 727m and open to guests staying in the 14 super-luxe suites. Enjoying stellar views over the Piccadilly Valley, they’re fed by Mount Lofty’s natural spring waters. In a misty dawn or under frosty starlight, these elevated soaks are sure to inspire.
The Ruhe Pavilion (Pavilions at Lenswood) is equipped with a private Japanese Cedar hot tub on its own private deck overlooking a steep forested slope which gets busy with birdlife and marsupials when the twilight hour arrives. Still in the heart of apple country, Ode to Orchard in Lenswood has a gorgeous old claw-foot bath that sits in the lee of an elevated stone cottage overlooking 16 acres. Trés rustic, trés chic and trés-trés Insta. Further south, Acorn Nook is a rustic eco pod with gorgeous outdoor bath in Dingabledinga on the Lazy Ballerina winery property opposite Kuitpo Forest and a stone's through from Willunga, McLaren Vale and Meadows.
Chefs in Hahndorf correctly forecast three inevitabilities of winter: cold days, wet days and days when pork knuckles will sell out. What is it about this legacy from the low countries of the German-Polish border? Is it the gluey yumminess of slow-cooked pork, easing itself off a creamy-white bone? Is it the braised cabbage, the bed of mash and the litre of Hills-made weiss beer? Or is it that ultimate guilty indulgence, which only winter can sanction – the order of crispy pork skin?
I'll have what they're having...
The words ‘cool climate’ and ‘Adelaide Hills’ still make people think ‘white wine’ – typically Savvy Blanc and sparklings. The fact is, however, cool climate reds are totally on-trend and the Hills are up there with the best of them. Will this be the winter when you come to properly appreciate what’s on your doorstep?
OK, then – make me see red...
Let’s start with Shiraz. Shiraz grapes grown in the Hills enjoy hot days and cool nights, giving winemakers a chance to move away from those big, heavy reds to produce a more sophisticated and elegant wine. Think fruit bombs with lots of pepper and spice, fine tannins and length galore. For proof of concept, get thee to Anderson Hill winery, a beautiful little rustic cellar door in Lenswood enlivened by dogs, firepits and forest views. Their 2018 O Series Shiraz took a Best in Show in the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Next – Pinot Noir. Adored by sommeliers for producing the greatest wines in the world, Pinot is actually called the ‘heart breaker’ grape because it’s so temperamental in the vineyard. Yet Pinot flourishes among the valleys and vales of Adelaide’s closest wine region, to the extent our producers are right up there with the best of producers from Yarra, Tasmania and Marlborough. You can try some peak Pinots at cellar doors like Ashton Hills (Ashton), Vinteloper at Lot 100 (Hay Valley) and Shaw + Smith (Balhannah).
Equipped with this new-found appreciation, you’re ready to indulge your palate with a wine tasting experience or long lunch at any of the Hills’ 50 plus cellar doors. Note also, there’s a three-day red-fest going down at the Winter Reds Cellar Door Weekend held annually in July (rescheduled to 27-29 August this year!).
Winter fires are as much a part of the Hills landscape as the paddocks and creeks, and have been so for generations. Whether you’re in a pub, a winery or a restaurant there’s every chance you’re being warmed by a crackling stove or a popping hearth.
Light my fire...
For some picture-perfect heart warmers, pull up to the bonny log fire in the The Uraidla Hotel (Uraidla), the gorgeous old hearth at Stanley Bridge Tavern (Verdun), the strangely elevated but delightful fireplaces in Miss Perez Kitchen & Bar (Stirling) or the blazing braziers at Barristers Block winery (Woodside). If you prefer your fires under a chill sky, there are fab firepits at Anderson Hill winery (Lenswood), Tilbrook Estate (between Lenswood and Lobethal), and Artwine (Woodside). And since winter is the safe season for a campfire, you can put your own fire-making skills to the test in campsites across the region as well as a string of self-catering retreats like the CABN tiny houses near Kuitpo.
Come late winter, when the rains are starting to abate, The Bridgewater Mill scores the ultimate Zen balance with an almost perfect fire-and-water combo. Around 5pm, just as dusk is falling, a mobile bar is set up on the generous timber decks. Next, a series of long fire troughs are lit to warm the small tables and intimate nooks formed by settees. And finally, the beautiful 1859 waterwheel (known to locals as ‘The Rumbler’) is made to turn thanks to a chute of water, all lit by a soft amber light. Under a cold, starry night, it’s quite heavenly.
Looking for a winter spectacle of mud, thud and grudge? Look no further than the Adelaide Hills footy league, a competition that really heats up when the months turn cold. Hills footy is hard and hectic, thanks to inter-village sporting rivalries that go back over a century.
How do I get my fix of footy?
The present league (Hills Football League, formed in 1967) is the largest outside of Adelaide and hosts 19 clubs. Each Saturday, ovals across the region reliably fill up, with crowds at their most feverish when finals start in August. Juniors usually enjoy first bounce at 9am, but you might be best arriving for 2.30pm when the Div 1 A-Grade teams face off. By this time, the braziers are roaring, the barbecues are sizzling and the home crowd and visitors are desperately trying to outdo each other, either by exercising their vocals or honking their car-horns.
A few basics. Entry will be around $7, a snag or a burger will set you back around $5 and if you really want to fit in, you should wear chequered flanny (several layers) and uggs. The piece de resistance is a ute, reverse-parked and suitably accoutred in the back with chairs, doona and esky. As well as local colour, a few ovals are enhanced by sublime country surrounds (Nairne, Macclesfield and Kangarilla are prime examples) as well as very supportive local pubs.
Reflecting the standard of play, you might see a few famous names on the field, like ex-Crows Matt Jaensch and Kyle Cheney (playing for Hahndorf) and former Melbourne player Alex Georgiou (Lobethal). And thanks to long-standing rivalries, some grudge matches are guaranteed to please: look out especially for Bridgewater-Bremer vs Mount Lofty, Birdwood vs Gumeracha, and Hahndorf vs Mount Barker. See the fixtures.