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Life is a Cabernet Tours Review - Unique and Delightful

By Barbara Keer

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Victorian homes


I was delighted to learn about “ Life is a Cabernet Tours”.  What a great name.  What a great company.  They suit the tourists’ every need.  Everything about this company is designed to enhance the comfort of the client.  Tours are structured so visitors can make the most of the time.  Arriving at the airport, one can be picked up and taken to places of interest while waiting to get into a hotel room.  Conversely, if an individual needs to vacate a room and has time before boarding a plane or other transportation, a tour can be arranged to fill this time.  Our personal tour request was a visit to Taylor’s Winery in the Clare Valley.  This destination was not part of the usual tour offered but due to Ralf Hadzic’s knowledge of the area and his creativity, he presented us with a wonderful personalized tour that was fun.

Ralf Hadzic, founder of “ Life is a Cabernet”, was our guide through Adelaide and  the Barossa and Clare Valleys.  It turns out that Texas and South Australia are sister states, established the same year, 1836 and have parallel Germanic, Lutheran heritage. Ralf was living in Texas and came to work on the sesquicentennial being mutually celebrated in 1986.  He like Adelaide so much, he stayed.  Ten years ago he began “ Life is a Cabernet” with an intention of providing individually designed tours of South Australia’s wine areas.  Today, he has a fleet of six vehicles, and 12 drivers.  Tours also incorporate music that is pleasing to the client and wine tasting that specifically suits an individual's palate.

Looking out from Whispering Wall


Ralf’s stories of early Adelaide captured our attention, as we drove toward the Barossa Valley. We saw some of the Victorian homes built by moneyed peerage and aristocracy who founded Adelaide, Australia’s only non-penal colony. The homes are beautiful, five minutes from downtown and two to three times less expensive than comparable homes in Melbourne or Sydney.  William Light was Adelaide’s city planner, his father having planned Christ Church, New Zealand.  The grille work on some of the homes in this area was reminiscent of architecture in New Orleans.  

Driving along, we learned about Australian wines.  Each Australian state has a wine region.  One area in South Australia is the community of Jacobs Creek.  Wine making has increased greatly here and in all of Australia.  In 1990, Jacob’s Creek produced 300 million cases of wine.  In 2008, they produced 2.8 billion cases of which 2.4 million cases are exported to the United Kingdom. Talking to our friend from Wales, he said that in Wales “Jacobs’s Creek” is used synonymously with “wine”.
 
Water is a very significant problem in this area and the Torrens River is very important in this regard.   We enjoyed the view when we stopped to observe Kangaroo Creek, which holds water from the River Murray supplying 40% of Adelaide’s drinking water and then stopped at the Whispering Wall.  This dam was built between 1899 and 1902 and has an unexpected property.  Aside from being a very large dam, set in a beautiful recreational area with a gorgeous lake, one can hear the whisper of a person on the other end of the dam so clearly you would think they are whispering over your shoulder.

Ralf Hadzic in front of Grant Burge tasting roon


 Driving through the Barossa Valley, we began to observe vineyards in every direction.  We learned about the major wine areas nearby. English and Irish immigrants established wineries in McLaren Vale in 1840, and the Barossa Valley in 1842, which soon became the larger wine producing area.  In 1968, wines began to be grown in the Clare Valley beyond the Barossa Valley.  We also began to notice differences in the width of the stems of the grape vines.  There were plants of five to ten years, some twenty-five to thirty years and to our great surprise, some were one hundred year old.  Australia escaped invasions by pests that killed vines in France and California and boasts some of the oldest grape rootstock in the world.

A lovely Grant Burge bottle


Our first stop for wine tasting was Grant Burge.  The wines we tasted were very pleasant and we were charmed by one of the new bottles, it was so lovely. And the port from one hundred year old stock was certainly an experience we won’t forget.  The flavor was complex and full and unlike anything we had every tasted.  We had a pleasant chat and went on to the “Cellar Door & Café” still within Grant Burge Barossa Vines. We had delicious “flat white” coffee and the best carrot cake ever and enjoyed their beautiful view.  Find out more at: www.grantburgewines.com.au

View from "Cellar Door & Cafe"


Driving along, we passed an area that was once heavily populated during the Australian gold rush, which followed California’s gold rush. It’s a very small town now with buildings that look like the wild west of the United States.

Site of Maggie Beer's TV show


Maggie Beer’s was our next stop. This is “A Barossa food tradition” with food and wine tastings all day and cooking demonstrations at 2:00p.m. daily.  She is a lady who does it all; runs a restaurant, produces wine, has a weekly television show,  "The Cook and the Chef”, makes pates of all kinds which we sampled including some that are vegetarian and more.  Her products can be purchased at her website: www.maggiebeer.com.au

Looking out from Maggie Beer's


 In “ The Cook and The Chef”, Maggie introduces Executive Chef Simon Bryant to her home region and the people who supply her with the produce she has used to create her culinary reputation. Maggie is an untrained chef who has written many well-received cookbooks. We also enjoyed the view of the beautiful lake in her backyard.

Taylor's Winery


On arrival in the Clare Valley we observed a different look. It is an area more recently developed and more open and rugged than Barossa.  Adam Eggins, chief winemaker greeted us and explained that Taylor’s Winery is the largest family owned vineyard in the Clare Valley and is currently expanding its capacity in order to supply wines to Britain and the United States.  Wakefield wines were only recently introduced to American market. See “Wakefield Wines Reviewed – A Visit to Taylor’s Winery” to learn more about Taylor’s winery and Wakefield wines or go to: www.wakefieldwines.com

Taylor's wine cellar


Ralf was very flexible because the visit to Taylor’s Winery was longer than expected. He arranged for our last stop to accommodate us.  It was a lovely location where they produce their own wine and serve great food. We had a gourmet Plowman’s lunch, and enjoyed some lovely wine produced on the premises.  I loved its name, Skillogalee, and it is “the very essence of Clare Valley”.  Learn more about them at: www.skillogalee.com

Here is Skillogalee


Driving back to Adelaide, we learned that of the wines produced in the area Barossa Valley produces 70%, McLaren Vale produces 20% and Clare Valley produces 2to 3%.   Approaching Adelaide, the statue of William Light and his vision Adelaide, were before us, an organized and functional city rimmed with two public golf courses, tennis courts, cricket area a sports arena and a drive-in movie theatre.  It is puzzling that only 8% of international visitors come to South Australia because it is a “Don’t miss it” place.

Through the door to great food at Skillogalee


A visit to Adelaide can surely be enhanced by “ Life is a Cabernet”.  Sixty-five percent of clients are referred by a hotel concierge (our concierge at the Sebel Playford Adelaide knew him well), and eighty-five percent of the clients book the day before their tour.  Fixed tours include visits to: The Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, and Kangaroo Island. More information at:  www.lifeisacabernet.com.au/Tours.html  We highly recommend a visit to Adelaide and a tour with “Life is a Cabernet”.

An on time delivery after a great tour by Ralf Hadzic




Photos: Leon Keer



Published on Dec 31, 1969

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