Beneath a sky striated with a rose-pink dawn, I tread carefully with Tanya Bingham of Barossa Wellness, who leads our sunrise walk through the wilderness. “Let’s feel the sensation of our feet connecting with the earth and appreciate the footsteps of the traditional Peramangk and Ngadjuri people that have walked here before us,” she says.
The rubbly trail skirts Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park, where droplets of early morning dew glitter the eucalypts. As the fog rises, so do we, reaching Rossiters Hut, an overnight shelter for (hardier) Heysen Trail hikers. Within its brick and corrugated iron bones is a fireplace beneath a mantle of camping lamps, rusty-framed photos, charcoal-bottomed pots and pans, and timber bunks for weary walkers. But it’s what lays out adjacent to the hut that puts the luxury in our hike.
Upon the hills of the Barossa, yoga mats invite our bodies to a flow class led by Tanya, who also runs True North Yoga Studio. Out here in the elements, serenaded by subtle birdsong, we embrace the present, as the crisp morning mist gently spritzes our faces.
Two kilometres further on, a sea of cushions on a large picnic rug laid out like a long table reveals pretty red and white chequered wicker baskets. They bear health-giving regional delights prepared by The Barossa Chef, Ali Short. We brunch on seeded pumpkin and feta muffins, fresh fruits, granola with berry parfait, green smoothies and yogi chai teas. With such appetising views, Australian landscape artist Hans Heysen would have found much inspiration for his palette (and palate) had time travel allowed him to join us today.
In a pickle
At Barossa Farmers Market, I join a Preserving Traditions workshop. During the first session, Korean-born Minka Park (whose jars of Kimchi Club fermented vegetables are whipped from shelves at markets and stores countrywide) shares kimchi-making tales from her childhood.
“There are no winter vegetables in Korea, so my mother would prepare 200–300 cabbages in one go,” she reveals. With stock-based paste, we season and jar our cabbage, watermelon radish and chive kimchi, lidding our prebiotic and probiotic potions to take home.
Marieka Ashmore and Sheralee Menz, aka Those Barossa Girls, then teach us how to pickle, sharing why they revive old recipes to keep the tradition alive. They are currently updating a 1917 cookbook created by early Barossa women, credited only by their husband’s surnames. The girls are researching tirelessly to find the first names of the recipe contributors to give them recognition. The Barossa is a people’s place.
On a new day, I head to Seppeltsfield’s old soap factory for a Vasse Virgin Natural Perfumery Workshop. Upon large tables, rows of essential oils rise like theatregoers on tiered rostra. Their stage performers being a trio of Seppeltsfield Estate wines: the 2020 Vermentino (a newcomer to Australian wine regions), a 2018 Shiraz (vinified in the estate’s 1888-built heritage-listed gravity cellar) and a 1999 Para Tawny (Australia’s longest continually produced wine label).
On the history of perfume-making, we learn that musk came from the glands of deer while amber was derived from sperm whales. But finding out that urine was added to toiletries turns up our noses (apparently high in pheromones) and learning that it takes five tonnes of rose petals to produce one litre of rose oil stuns us.
Inspired by our tasting notes and essential oils extracted from flowers, leaves, seeds, resin, wood and bark, we concoct our own perfume. According to 19th-century writer and poet Heinrich Heine, “Perfumes are the feelings of flowers.” Having composed our own signature scent, we leave, clasping our own little bottle of feelings.
Destination dining in Barossa
Returning to The Louise, I dine at Appellation restaurant. I experience the four-course degustation menu created by lauded Executive Chef Kyle Johns, who infuses local South Australian produce with a jamboree of flavours from his South African heritage. A charming sommelier arrives with each course to share the notes of paired regional wines.
Black pearl sterling white caviar hash conveys a taste of the ocean across a seabed of crisp potato, before zesty blue swimmer crab arrives accompanied by beads of delicate sea grapes. Excitement rises when the dirt(y) Inc blue lentil, parmesan custard and persimmon creation hits my spot, followed by riverine beef, koji shallot, native thyme and mustard verjuice. The journey through Kyle’s favourite flavours culminates with poached rhubarb and pepperberry with smoked sheep’s milk, before a cheese board retires my tongue for the night.
I seal my sensory Barossa stay cocooned in the comfort of my suite, tucked behind my private olive tree-shaded courtyard. Had it been summer, I’d strip for the stars under my private outdoor rain shower. But this chilly night has me run the supersize spa bath, spooning in healing salts from a wooden tub.
Sipping on scullery-made sleep tea, I loll by candlelight. I watch the flames dance around the rising thermals, kindled by my deep breathing oscillating the steamy bathwater. It’s all so quintessentially The Louise.
For personalised experiential packages designed by The Louise, visit thelouise.com.au
Feature image: Extramiles Pictures