Tasting Adelaide's bounty

IN the Adelaide Hills, there's a town so pretty, most of its environment has been given a National Trust status.

Sheree and Saul Sullivan, owners of Udder Delights cheese cellar, in Hahndorf, personify the location's charm and personality.

Creative and entrepreneurial, the couple has expanded upon a hobby farm business set up by Sheree's parents in the '90s.

Initially aiming for a musical career, she gained her Bachelor of Music. At 21, she changed direction and started into the business side of dairy and goat farming – the interest became a passion and she followed up with cheese making classes.

Now Sheree and husband are partners with Sheree's parents in the business. In 2006, they opened the cheese cellar doors in Hahndorf where they showcase their handmade range of goat and cow milk cheeses.

On a recent food and wine tour to Adelaide I dropped in and sampled their wares. Quality and quantity were served up at reasonable prices, by staff that were happy to share their extensive cheese knowledge.

Udder Delights follows in the Adelaide tradition of Haigh's chocolates. The fourth generation family-owned company was established in 1915. A tour around the factory points to the pursuit of perfection through each bit of the chocolate making process. One source of their pride comes from being one of the few chocolate manufacturing retailers in the world who still source and manufacture from the raw cocoa bean.

It's delight to meet staff who still hand-make and hand-wrap certain chocolate varieties, but it's also beautiful to watch the waterfalls of smooth brown chocolate run through stainless steel machines as they transform into a prized delicacy.

An extensive range of Adelaide's home grown produce comes together in their CBD central markets. Known as the oldest markets in Australia, they are huge, sumptuous, colourful and wonderful.

An eclectic range of food stalls, rich with gourmet scents and flavours feature seafood, meats, cheeses, ice creams, honey; pastries and pizzas, sushi and laksas.

It seemed to me that these products had travelled less food miles than anything I usually ate. Locals say that everything in Adelaide is only about 15 minutes away, be it beach, city or hills. This bodes well for the lover of fresh foods.

I stayed within walking distance of the Adelaide market, at the Adelaide Hilton.

This modern hotel boasts catering facilities unique to their state.

At a Hilton Hotel dinner, the group I travelled with made choices ranging from seafood to pork and yes, everything originated from local produce. The food knowledge of the young waiter spanned the menu. Without a pause, he was able to describe in detail the location, farm and preparation style of each ingredient used in a range of meals.

We followed this up with a tour through the multi-storied kitchen areas.

“Brisbane,” the executive chef said, “was looking at having their boucherie and patisserie, but until that happened, they were alone in Australia, creating everything from scratch.”

But when one speaks of Adelaide, one also speaks about Penfolds. The two are synonymous. The Penfolds estate is about 10 minutes from the CBD and these days suburbia encroaches upon its rows of grape vines.

But heritage is honoured here and much of what is now formerly known as the Penfolds Magill Estate Winery has not changed since its creation in 1844. There is a distinct glow of upper crust taste and a culture of perfection here. A stroll through the grounds with an experienced and passionate tour guide brings to your attention the wine's journey – from the vines to the bottle.

The careful attention to detail in each process fills the atmosphere with a liquid dignity. There are number of tours to choose from; the Twilight Tour and Dinner to the Great Grange Tour.

And ... you may enquire – did I have tipple of Grange Hermitage?

Yes, I did. It was a 2003 vintage and I tastefully swirled around my delighted tastebuds.

Grape growing is of course, a prime South Australian industry and around that has grown a legion of sophisticated cellar doors and eateries.

A trip around the Adelaide Hills offers dozens of choices.

One fellow, who steered a course from traditional to new age, is bio-dynamic wine maker Matt Van Kippers.

An educated, dedicated winegrower, who organic with determination provides an alternative dimension to the industry winegrower.

After attaining a degree in wine making and working in California grape vines for a number of years, Matt came home to Adelaide to set up shop with his wife and daughter.

His hilly location prevents normal vehicle access.

Matt drove us up there in his dusty red jeep, and landed us in a very rustic cellar door.

Far from the aged, intricate or ultra modern cellar doors, Matt's bio-dynamic wine barrels were housed in an extremely grassroots shed – sort of thing. Inside, he played classic blues music through aged speakers and gave us wine tastings.

In particular, he made an organic alcoholic apple juice.

Good for Matt, but bad for us, his product which he made in small amounts, was completely sold out. He was looking forward to increasing production to meet market demands, but only if he could ensure the same top quality.

As South Australia food and wine tourism has grown, so has an array of accommodation alternatives.

You can experience the elegance of the Sterling Hotel on Mount Barket Road, charming B&B's or smart city hotels.

In South Australia, the food and wine trail is long and delicious and much of it is celebrated and showcased at the annual Adelaide Review Hot 100 Wine show and Judges luncheon, keep that in mind if you plan to enjoy a culinary vacation late September.

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