Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tilbrook Estate Cellar Door - Lobethal

The Adelaide Hills have developed a fantastic reputation for producing distinctive, high quality wines.  And deservedly so.  With over 50 cellar doors and more than 90 wine labels, the Adelaide Hills is Australia's most vibrant cool climate wine region, all set against a backdrop of stunning scenery.

Like me, you probably love a good wine.  But with so many Adelaide Hills cellar doors and so many labels where do you start to sample the best that the region has to offer?

A particular favourite of mine is Tilbrook Estate.  Tilbrook Estate is a boutique winery (one of the smallest grape to bottle wineries in the Adelaide Hills) producing fantastic wines in the rustic ambience of the Old Onkaparinga Woollen Mills in Lobethal (40 minutes from Adelaide).  The Tilbrook Estate vineyard is located only a short drive from the cellar door, between Lobethal and Lenswood.  Lenswood is known Australia wide for its quality apples and pears, but it is also one of the coolest wine grape growing areas in the Adelaide Hills.  This results in some breathtaking wines of a very high standard, with the winery probably best known for their Reserve Chardonnay and Late Harvest Botrytis Pinot Gris.

The philosophy behind Tilbrook Estate is simple: "Hand made by our hands".  In this day and age that is an increasingly rare commodity.  A visit to Tilbrook's cellar door offers the visitor the opportunity to view a working winery, talk directly with the winemaker and sample the range of award-winning wines.

In an addition to the existing range, Tilbrook Estate recently released a sparkling variety named Moneypenny - a reference to the character from the James Bond novels (James' mother worked for British Intelligence).  In keeping with the "hand made by our hands" philosophy, this sparkling is made in a very traditional French style using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties.  These are whole bunch pressed, fermented in tank, with the second fermentation in bottle and then disgorged by hand.  The result is a very fine sparkling indeed!

 For a unique Adelaide Hills experience, I highly recommend Tilbrook Estate's "Licenced to Chill" package.  This includes a structured tasting of their range of wines, private tour of the winery, barrel and tank tasting, and disgorging your own sparkling!  Follow this with a cheese platter and your own bottle of personally disgorged sparkling Moneypenny - a very chilled way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon!  You'll need to book in advance but I highly recommend it.

If sparkling isn't your thing, Tilbrook Estate produces a range of reds and whites, including a stunning Reserve Syrah and my personal favourite, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.  All wines are available for tasting at the cellar door, and for purchase by the glass or by the bottle.  In addition to being a skilled winemaker, James Tilbrook can also whip up a brilliant coffee which you can enjoy with a range of Emmalines cakes and biscuits (also produced in Lobethal).  It all makes for a perfectly relaxing afternoon!

The cellar door also welcomes groups if you want to gather some friends together, book ahead and make a day of it.  Group bookings will be treated to a unique Adelaide Hills Wine Region experience including a tour of the winery with barrel and tank tasting.  This unique opportunity allows visitors to experience how wine develops differently depending on whether it is matured via tank or barrel.  You'll experience how different French oaks influence the flavour of wines, and during vintage period discover how wines taste at different stages of development.  For the wine enthusiast this presents a unique opportunity to be immersed in the process and bask in the passion of a craftsman winemaker.

Tilbrook Estate is one of the Adelaide Hills best kept secrets.  The ambience of the Old Woollen Mill and the passion of the winemaker make this a must-see destination on any Adelaide Hills itinerary.  Highly recommended!

Visit Tilbrook Estate website

Tilbrook Estate, Building 17, Old Onkaparinga Woollen Mills, Lobethal.  Phone 8389 5318 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stirling Market

I don’t know about you but it’s usually about this time of the week that I start to get excited about the weekend.  The Adelaide Hills are in full autumn glory at the moment- leaves changing colour, grass turning to lush green, that slight chill in the morning air.  One of the best spots to enjoy this blaze of colour is Stirling, and this Sunday is market day!

Despite many efforts to the contrary, Adelaide isn’t renowned for its market culture – the plethora of market failures in recent years are testament to this.  Stirling Market has bucked this trend and become the benchmark for other markets to be measured against by having a strongly held vision which they have remained true to, resulting in a market of exceptional quality.

On the fourth Sunday of every month Druid Avenue closes to traffic and the street becomes abuzz of market umbrellas and gazebos as the market traders move in.  More than just a market, a visit to the Stirling Market is shopping heaven if you’re looking for something different, something handmade, something special…

Among the stallholders you’ll find original artworks, sculptures, furniture, homewares, clothing, fresh baked products, skincare, as well as cutting edge fashion and jewellery by local designers, all guided by the ethos of “make, bake, grow, sew”.   This is a market forged on quality – no mass-produced, tacky, imported junk here.  In most cases the person selling you the item is the person who made the item, and they’re all more than happy to talk to you about their product.  You will find things here that you won’t find elsewhere.  Personally, I’m not the mass-produced, Ikea-loving type.  I like decorating with unique pieces and that’s what brings me back here time after time.

Quality food and produce is my passion.  Foodie’s in particular will love this market – homemade pies, German gourmet hot-dogs, curries, wine.  There is a wealth of fresh produce – including fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly baked breads and locally made cheeses.  There’s also a fine offering of plants from various growers – all great quality and fabulous prices.

Being just off of the main thoroughfare of Stirling, banks are plentiful so access to cash at ATMs is easy.  Stirling is also a great spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner if you want to spend some time in this beautiful town.  You’ll find me having breakfast with the family at Tranquilo every market Sunday.  The food is always brilliant (the Salt and Pepper Squid and Open Steak Sandwich are lunch favourites), but it is the attentive customer service that keeps me coming back.  For coffee lovers, this is probably the best coffee hit you’ll get in the Adelaide Hills and they do a fine breakfast that will power you on for most of the day!  The Stirling Hotel is also fabulous having recently undergone a major refurbishment.  A fine selection of local beers and ciders on tap, and a fabulous menu coupled with beautiful surroundings makes this a place to wile away a lazy Sunday in the Adelaide Hills.

Stirling is less than 15 minutes from the CBD via the freeway.  From here you’re within easy reach of Mount Lofty, Bridgewater and Hahndorf.  Whether you come just for the market or make it part of a hills daytrip, a visit to the Stirling Market is a must for this weekends itinerary!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who said the best things in life aren't things?

To my regular followers, this is not a post about the Adelaide Hills.  I promise to get back on track with a cool Adelaide Hills blog later today, but I firstly needed to share a confession.
I crossed an invisible line yesterday.  The line between not being the owner of an iPhone and being the owner of an iPhone.  For the past 19 months since starting my latest mobile phone contract, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t NEED an iPhone.  I’m not anti-Apple.  It’s not like I’m a crazed neo-Luddite.  My Samsung phone is perfectly fine.  Why do I NEED an iPhone?
I’ve watched as people around me have become indoctrinated into the Apple family.  At work it’s not much of a concern – I work alone in my Lobethal office 4 days out of 5.  Sure, the clients who visit, the tenants on-site, the winemakers, the businesspeople and most of the tourists who come in have the mark of the Apple beast.  In social circles it’s worse – people comparing apps and ringtones, merrily networking across tables and laughing at the in jokes that only the cool people know.  But even with all that, I’ve still managed to convince myself that I don’t NEED one.
It’s funny because I was always the innovator or at least the early adopter.  In 1994, I had a part-time job delivering KFC (yep, for a little while there in the mid-90’s KFC did home delivery – those were the days!).  I drove a 1978 Datsun 280ZX, listened to Nirvana, worked hard and played hard.  I had a large social circle and I was always the first in the pool.  So being the cool hip thing I was I just had to have one of those new mobile phones.  It was the first thing I ever had on credit - I can’t remember what I paid for it back then but it was a small fortune.  It was the ironically named Motorola 9660 Ultra Sleek (aka The Brick).  33cm tall and weighing over a kilo this thing could cause serious blunt force trauma if swung correctly.  I was the first of my friends to own one and I thought I was shit hot.  I still have the phone – it makes a cool conversation piece now.

I later became a Nokia owner and went through five or six different models – always staying one step ahead of everyone else, always the innovator.  But then in 2000 I moved to Brisbane.  My social circle changed and so did my priorities.  I stopped being the innovator.  I stopped being the early adopter.  I still liked to have a phone – it’s a necessity, right?  It just didn’t have to be the current flavour of the month.  I became the early majority.  I got into a Nokia rut and didn’t care too much about the features.  Then we had kids and priorities changed again.  It wasn’t until 18 months ago that I upgraded and got a Samsung (not even a good Samsung), because I still didn’t think I NEEDED an iPhone.  I was officially the laggard.
Until yesterday.  I won a competition.  One of those in 25 words or less tell us such and such about our great product (so great I don’t remember what I said or what the product was!).  I became an iPhone owner.
Has my world changed?  Yeah!  Like George Costanza said in the Seinfeld massage episode: “I think it moved”.  Just like in the Bible I was blind but now I see. 
People have told me that’s why there’s a bite out of the apple in the Apple logo – it symbolises something you are missing, something the product will supply, something that once tasted you want more of.  Others say they put the bite in the logo so it would look less like a cherry.  Well my cherry has been popped baby.  I’m no longer the Apple virgin.  I have arrived.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things that go bump in the night

A few nights back we were sitting in the lounge watching TV when there were sounds of movement from our fireplace.  Scratching and scurrying.  We’ve got a fireplace with an old cast iron insert and a flue door that closes in the summer  months.  Being the Adelaide Hills and with the cooler night time temperatures I dismissed it as being a mouse.  Happens every year – until it gets cool enough to light the fire – they don’t hang around for long then!  Not a big fan of mice; they’re dirty, smelly, diseased little creatures that shit everywhere!  They make me feel unclean.  My dogs love them – it’s the Jack Russell instinct.

Same noise happened the next night too, and the one after that.  I was about to put a packet of Ratsac on my list of essential purchases on my next shopping trip.

But last night was different.  The scratching and scurrying gave way to a chirping and squeaking.  A pang of guilt swept over me.  It must be a bird stuck in the chimney!  I didn’t care when it was a mouse – I figured you got in, you can get out (those things can squeeze through some crazy gaps!).  But a bird?  What if it has a broken wing?  What if it’s in pain?

Not having a torch I used the next best thing and grabbed my phone (thanks for the flashlight app!).  I pushed open the little cast iron door in the fireplace and shone the light in.  Staring back at me from the darkness was this:

A ring-tail possum!  Poor little bugger must have been running across our roof, lost his balance and fallen down the chimney.  And I’d ignored him for days!

Being the manly man that I am I instantly jumped into action mode.  I closed the flue door, and got prepared for battle.  I knew I had to get him out but I wasn’t just going to stick my hand in there and pull.  Have you seen what a possum can do to a man?  They’re savage little bastards when backed into a corner!  I pictured claws, razor sharp teeth and shredded flesh.  I quickly donned two long sleeve tshirts, a hoodie, two pairs of trackies, my hiking boots and a pair of riggers gloves.  I moved the leather lounge out of the room – I had this image of an hysterical possum getting out of my grasp, swinging from the curtains and tearing strips off my furniture as retaliation for my ignoring his plight.

Meanwhile, my better half has calmly rung the lovely volunteers at Native Fauna Rescue SA.  If you don’t know about them you should look them up, and if you’re an animal lover with some space in your home and free time on your hands you should consider volunteering.  We were referred to a local volunteer who was only too happy to come out and assist with the rescue.  Only problem was they had just had a call from another person who had just found a koala which had been hit by a car – obviously a life and death situation.  They would come out and assist us later in the night – they estimated around midnight!

We decided to chance opening the chimney flue door and bribing the possum with fruit.  I opened the front door of the house and we sat quietly in the corner waiting for any sign of movement.  After about 20 minutes a little furry face appeared, and my possum friend crawled out into the fireplace and onto the lounge room floor.  He looked at us and we looked at him.  I was still picturing an episode of “When Animals Attack”, or the scene from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation when a psychotic squirrel launches itself from the Christmas Tree.  But our friendly possum only wanted one thing – freedom.  Without a wave goodbye, he sauntered casually to the front door, onto our driveway and up the nearest tree.  And we haven’t seen him since.

It was a different way to spend a Sunday night!  Much better than watching TV.  It gave us a story to tell and my wife got yet another opportunity to laugh at my calmness under pressure!  Gotta love living in the Adelaide Hills!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Adelaide Hills - Price Marks, Trust Marks and Love Marks

In brand management we’ve been discussing what a brand is from the perspective of Price Marks, Trust Marks and Love Marks (as per Uncles text “Perspectives on Brand Management”).  You’re probably wondering what this has to do with a blog on the Adelaide Hills.  Everything and nothing I suppose.  I just thought it might be cool to try and keep with the Adelaide Hills theme and mix a travel blog with some marketing insight.  Happy to take the criticism....

Price Marks
It’s apple and pear season in the Adelaide Hills and harvest is in full swing.  Excellent quality and above average yields, but a depressed market brought about by a high Aussie dollar impacting exports and price pressures from supermarket discounting campaigns.   Apples and pears are examples of price marks.

Whilst an apple may carry a sticker denoting the name of the orchard or grower, they are otherwise brand free.  Attempts to differentiate the product lay in the form of promoting the region, variety and, in fruit market circles, the orchard.  To Mr Mum and Dad consumer these variations go largely unnoticed.  Sure, we care if it’s a Fuji or a pink lady, and the locavore within us probably cares if it’s locally grown (New Zealand apples and fair trade agreements are four letter words in the Adelaide Hills).  But that’s where it ends.  The consumer in the supermarket or greengrocer isn’t going to demand apples from Joe Smith’s orchard over those of Fred Bloggs.  In the end, at the point of purchase, it mainly comes down to a price driven purchase decision.  Price too high and you’re just the rotten fruit at the bottom of the tree (metaphorically speaking..).

Trust Marks
Living in the hills I love good wine and good food.  It’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by it.  Cheese is one of my biggest weaknesses (that’s almost a cliché job interview answer).  There are a few award-winning cheese producers in the Adelaide Hills, but none rocks my world more than Udder Delights.

Udder Delights make fantastic cheese and I highly recommend it (in fact I’ll make my next Adelaide Hills blog about Udder Delights).  They produce a whole range of cheese varieties in my home town of Lobethal, and sell via their own branded cheese cellar in Hahndorf, as well as via gourmet stores and supermarkets nationally.  The logo, branding and package design is distinctive and consistent across all products in their range.  

Trust marks are borne from projecting and building a confidence in a brand through consistency – consistency in labelling, consistency in quality, consistency in customer service, etc.  It’s about consumers sampling your brand, enjoying the experience, recalling your brand, repurchasing your brand and being similarly satisfied, and repeating.  Attitudes form and consumers come to trust your brand.

Udder Delights do a bloody good job of this.  I haven’t managed to get through their entire product range, yet somehow I know that it’s all good.  It’s reliable.  It’s quality.  It’s consistent.  

Oh, and do yourself a big favour......grab an Udder Delights triple cream brie and a bottle of Bird In Hand Chardonnay, and sit back, relax and listen to that soft harmonious note which is the universe turning smoothly on its celestial gyros...

Love Marks
It’s interesting what Adelaideans recommend to interstate or overseas visitors as suggested destinations that they simply must visit while in South Australia.  Even more interesting is that, more often than not, the usual suspects are suggested – irrespective of whether the suggestor has been there recently, or ever been there at all.  If a place can be a brand, and a brand can be a lovemark, then in terms of Adelaide Hills destinations I would go so far as to declare Hahndorf as South Australia’s love mark.

The idea of lovemarks is that they are bigger than brands.  A lovemark is about passion, love, emotional connectivity.  It’s about the heart more than the mind.  Brand image, brand awareness and brand equity are all products of the mind. Lovemarks are products of the heart.

South Australians LOVE Hahndorf!  Despite various bastardisations including a number of dubious developments, the entry of multi-nationals and the loss of the traditional German feel that made the town unique, Hahndorf remains on the top of many people’s itinerary, thanks in part to the recommendations of others who have elevated the town to lofty heights (many of whom have not been there in years).  I can see how it’s possible.  Good company, good food, good wine, good service and good experiences all combine to create good memories.  Stick this in the repeat cycle and enjoy these experiences several times and it can work to create intimate and emotional connections, from which commitment is borne.

Don’t get me wrong – I like Hahndorf!  It has many cool shops, and many a fine eatery.  I eat there regularly.  I take my interstate visitors there too.  And I recommend it to interstate and overseas visitors.  It’s just Hahndorf is not the be all and end all of the Adelaide Hills to me.  Just as you can’t say you’ve seen all of France because you’ve been to Paris, you can’t say you’ve seen the Adelaide Hills because you’ve been to Hahndorf.  We’re so much more than that, despite what the fanbois may say.  Hell, are the Adelaide Hills MY lovemark???

What do you think?  Is Hahndorf South Australia’s love mark?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Melba’s Chocolate Factory Woodside

Being surrounded by fantastic gourmet foods, wines and produce is one of the luxuries of living in the Adelaide Hills.  And there’s always something here for the kids too (or the kid in all of us!).

35km’s from Adelaide on the Onkaparinga Valley Road is the town of Woodside, and just outside of town you’ll find Melba’s Chocolate Factory.  Using 1940s era confectionery making equipment, Melba’s manufacture their large range of chocolate and confectionery products on-site. 

From the moment you walk through the door you’ll be overpowered by the aroma of chocolate, liquorice and other confectionery being made fresh on the premises.  The interior is decorated with a myriad of antique signage, heritage shop-fittings and old packaging in keeping with the heritage status of the building and the 1940s equipment being used.  Surrounding the main shop area are rooms where the manufacturing occurs.  These are barricaded off, but otherwise open, allowing visitors the opportunity to view the traditional confectionery making techniques being used.

Melbas produce a wide variety of confectionery, from liquorice sticks and chocolate frogs to scorched almonds and rocky road.  If you have kids prepare for the onslaught!

If you are a sweet tooth then Melba’s Chocolate Factory is an ideal destination or stop during your next visit to the Adelaide Hills.  

Like Melba’s on Facebook to get a $10 discount voucher.