A few weeks ago I was approached by Jacob's Creek Wines who asked me if I would be interested in doing a 'behind the scenes' photoshoot at Jacob's Creek Winery in the beautiful Barossa Valley and be a guest of Jacob's Creek for 3 nights. Jacob's Creek have just launched a ‘Made by’ campaign. They have a fantastic new TV ad which you can view here.
Wine is birthed from the land, but shaped by all the dedicated people behind the brand with their passion and the care they take with everything they do; Jacob's Creek is inspired by a tradition of winemaking that is over 165 years old but also about the simple enjoyment of sharing the wines with others. So I was excited to be asked to be part of the campaign.
As any WKA reader will know by now this is one of my most favoured parts of Australia, as I have so many friends down there now, due to my many visits for photo work in the past 1.5 years, and it really is a very special part of this diverse and beautiful country. It holds a very unique place in my heart due to the passion in its people for producing incredible wine and food.
I was asked to fly down and be a guest of Jacobs Creek as they wanted to show me all the winery has to offer visitors and have me sample their superb wines and sublime food.
Over all I had an incredible time. I leant so much about wine I never knew before. I love drinking wine, but over the past few years during my career in food, I have been blessed to get a much better understanding about the craft and passion which goes into wine production. I hope this extensive post inspires you to get down to the Barossa region and experience all the things I did at Jacob's Creek, first hand. It was a fab time for me and I thank Jacob's Creek for their unending, warm hospitality :)
So I flew down early morning from Sydney, and met up with Celest and Ruth from Jacob's Creek Wines and with the girls alongside me, my journey into learning all about the world of Jacob's Creek began!
On our way to the Barossa we stopped at the Mount Lofty House lookout to look east over some Adelaide Hills vineyards that supply Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Jacob’s Creek Reserve wines. It was a stunningly beautiful spot, located in the Adelaide Hills ~ an area I hadn't visited before. It's very, very picturesque with its undulating hills and vibrant green vineyards which are dotted all over the area. Even flying in to Adelaide, I was quite taken-aback with how pretty it looked from the air, and how different in appearance it was in contrast, to the dryer and more arid Barossa Valley region I have come to know now so well.
After a leisurely half hour or so drive from the Hills region we arrived at the Barossa Valley and at the very striking Jacob's Creek Visitors Centre
Visitors inside the Centre enjoying a wine tasting.
The wine I liked most during my 3 day stay ~ and typically the most expensive one in their extensive range (!)
Fancy a picnic with a bottle of vino and a gourmet lunch? The staff will organise this all for you and you can enjoy it down by the original actual Jacob's 'Creek' itself, out the back of the visitor's centre, or in the expansive grounds which are filled with gum trees, Kookaburras, flowers and vineyards.
A few words of love from some happy visitors...
Following a quick look around the building and being fully inspired by the surrounding countryside and vines, the girls and I started my visit at the centre's bespoke Jacob’s Creek Blend Bar to make our own wine! Woohoo!
This was really great fun and quite a novelty for me to have such a cool and unique opportunity which I had never done before..
My host was the very welcoming Sasha Bown ~ who is a very knowledgeable Wine Educator & Sommelier at Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre.
'Blend' by Jacob’s Creek offers wine buffs and novices alike the chance to collaborate with a wine expert and create their own drop perfectly matched to their individual palate. During the experience, customers work one-on-one with a winemaker or sommelier to create their own wine blend. With the wine expert as your guide, you add different amounts of the various component wines to match your taste preferences and create your own signature Blend.
The experience uses four of Jacob’s Creek’s most popular red and white varieties, namely Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache in the red category and Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris in the white. Once you decide on your preferred Blend, (in my case I opted for a Red blend and preferred the Shiraz and Pinot) your own personal wine is professionally blended by Sasha, using your personal recipe and it's then bottled on the spot by the state-of-the art Blend machine (very Willy Wonka), complete with a personalised label. Being bottled and sealed professionally is important as it ensures the wines can be cellared for a future special occasion.
My own blend turned out to comprise of 30% Pinot Noir, 60% Shiraz and 10% Merlot ~ the latter was really surprising to me, as I am usually not a mad fan of Merlot as I normally find it way too dry for my palette. I tried a few different combos and percentages but, with Sasha's guidance, this one produced the result most akin to the type of red wines I love, which are, gutsy and plummy. This is why I have come to adore the Barossa Valley's red wines ~ esp. their Shiraz blends.
I was totally stumped as to what to call my own blend, as I am useless at thinking of fun and silly names on the spot, so we decided it only fitting, due to, me and What Katie ate being a guest of Jacob's Creek, that we call it “WhatKatieDrank” in honour of the blog :)
My two 'What Katie Drank' bottles of wine...
Note: This experience was open to the public at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre during Spring at a cost of $50 per person, but is now closed and will be moved to a new location in the coming months.
Next up was lunch at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre which is the home of the Jacob’s Creek™ wine brand.
It's a really impressive space, very light, bright and has utterly stunning views out over the extensive vineyards right outside the building. It was really inspiring to eat lunch at such a gorgeous spot, with the superb scenery outside. It is open to the public and encompasses a cellar door, restaurant, history gallery, display vineyard and a walking trail along the banks of the famous Jacob’s Creek. The award winning Jacob’s Restaurant allows visitors to explore Australia’s food and wine culture with a lunch menu featuring fresh, seasonal produce presented with wine recommendations for each dish, with sweeping views of vineyards stretching up to the surrounding Barossa ranges.
For lunch ~ which was prepared by the (gorgeously warm and friendly) Genevieve Harris, who is the Executive Chef at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre ~ I got to enjoy one of their 'Paddock plates' which consisted of a range of (superb) local meats with pickles, relishes and our garlic and rosemary focaccia and then I opted for the Sugar and vodka cured Atlantic salmon with blood orange and fennel salad. Recipe below BTW for you all to try at home. It was really fresh and clean, and not normally being a massive fennel fan, I really enjoyed it paired with the smoked salmon.
I also got to enjoy more wines with the girls :) and they were:
Wines: White – 2013 Jacob’s Creek Limited Release Barossa Semillon Red - 2010 Jacob's Creek Limited Release Negro Amaro
Note: The Jacob’s Creek Limited Release wines are available exclusively at the cellar door at Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre and reflect special projects by the JC winemakers, where they have explored different styles or grape varieties or blends. Wine is always evolving and their winemakers like to experiment with making new wines which are then shown to visitors to the cellar door to gauge interest and appeal.
Sugar and vodka cured Atlantic salmon with blood orange and fennel saladRecipe by Sean Lindley, Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre
Roasted Eden Valley lamb cutlets, smokey eggplant, lentils, sweet potato, mint and pomegranate dressing ~ which one of the girls enjoyed for mains.
I was really taken with Genevieve. She was a super approachable woman, extremely cordial and really accommodating to me in regards to getting some shots of her food where she really went out of her way to make my job a lot easier as it's not easy juggling eating amazing food, guzzling fab wine and taking pics at the same time...(!)
Genevieve's career began over 25 years ago in 1986 at Grey Masts restaurant in Robe South Australia, followed by Neil Perry’s Blue Water Grill in Bondi and then Christine Manfield’s first restaurant, Paragon, in Sydney. She then went to South East Asia including a two year stint as Executive Chef in a luxury resort in Bali. She returned to Sydney as Executive Chef at Bathers Pavilion in Balmoral, earning the restaurant two hats from the SMH Good Food Guide. In the 1990s Genevieve moved back to Adelaide and ran the highly regarded Nediz restaurant with her sister. In 2003 Genevieve stepped out of the kitchen and into food writing, teaching, catering, consulting and styling. Finally the lure of a busy kitchen saw her join the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre as Executive Chef in 2012.
The Jacob’s Restaurant is open to the public daily for lunch from 12-3pm, and the Visitor Centre from 10-5 pm every day. For bookings call 08 8521 3000. Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat.
After a very lazy, fab food and flowing wine filled-lunch, it was off to check out where I would be staying... and Holy Moly, the guys did not fail to impress me.
I was driven over to THE most GORGEOUS old sandstone building which is hidden away near the Visitor's Centre. The site we were staying at was the original estate of the Jacob family including William Jacob after whom the creek was named, and his siblings John and Ann. Ann Jacob’s cottage has been fully restored for private B&B accommodation. Note ~ this property is sadly not available for public rental. In addition there are some semi-restored ruins which house the outdoor kitchen garden and a wood oven. Also on the site is an old dairy which is now a vineyard shed, and a number of cork trees. These were planted by Colin Gramp in 1971 and were due for their first harvest of cork forty years later in 2012. They will be harvested again 9 years later, and then finally 9 years after that the first cork suitable to use as wine cork will be harvested. The house really was very stunning. I didn't get to take any shots of the inside sadly, but it was a gorgeous mix of old and new. I could have moved in straight away, so much of it was exactly to my own personal tastes.
So once I had uttered the words "Ok girls, I so want to own this house" about 17,000 times, and a bit of a natter with them over a chilled glass or two of sparkling in the kitchen, we were off for dinner.
Honestly I had no idea what a treat they had in store for me and I was taken-aback at the amount of effort Jacob's Creek went to for me and the girls. I really was made to feel like royalty. I felt extremely spoilt and well looked after. I feel very lucky to have been a part of the experience.
Hosted by Nick Bruer, (super bloke) Senior Red Winemaker at Jacob’s Creek and a meal prepared by Veronica Zahra, Executive Chef at Jacob’s Creek Heritage Vineyard, my dinner for the first night of my stay consisted of:
Spicy duck cold roll with nuoc mam cham2013 Steingarten Riesling (Eden Valley)
Tuna & Avocado Sushi2014 Jacob’s Creek WAH* (white)
Chicken Yakitori2013 Jacob’s Creek WAH* (red)
Thai Red Beef Curry 2014 Jacob’s Creek Lamoon* (red)
Mushroom Raviolo with creamy garlic sauce ~ Recipe here. 2013 Jacob’s Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay (Barossa/Kangaroo Island)
Eye-fillet Black Angus beef with tarragon butter and jus 2010 Centenary Hill Shiraz (Barossa Valley)
Almond croquant, chocolate ganache with caramel sauce ~ Recipe here. 2010 Jacob’s Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet (Barossa/Coonawarra)
Nick started his career as a chemical analyst at the Australian Wine Research Institute, after completing a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering in 1985. His interaction with the wine industry spurred him to study winemaking (Bachelor of Applied Science (Wine Science) at Charles Sturt University) where he graduated dux of his class in 1997. Following this he gained winemaking experience at various local wineries until becoming a winemaker for Jacob’s Creek since 2000. On top of his scientific prowess, Nick also applies a strong creative and artistic flair to his winemaking and is known among his colleagues as a master of wine descriptors!
One of the coolest ladies I met during the trip was one called Veronica Zahra. What. A. Lady!?
We clicked instantly and let's just say, we're not dis-similar in our in-ability to talk (non-stop) ;)
Jacob's Creek Heritage Vineyard Executive Chef; Veronica Zahra
Veronica is an amazingly sweet, warm, open and down-to-earth woman and is the Executive Chef at Jacob’s Creek 1847 Heritage vineyard, where she cooks exclusively for VIP guests. Veronica grew up in Broken Hill and her cooking skills are self–taught, so I think this might have been why I had such an instant affinity with her. Veronica is driven entirely by a passion for delicious food which started with Mediterranean cuisine but has expanded well beyond into Chinese and other Asian cuisines. She established her own successful catering business in 1992, but since 2000 Veronica has been at Jacob’s Creek and is probably still non-stop talking to some guest right now whilst they are savouring her super cuisine ;)
Dinner was served in the red room in the Heritage Vineyard Homestead, which is a fully restored bungalow that was built for the Gramp family in 1922. I almost fell over when I saw the table setting ~ each one holding about 11 empty wine glasses. I knew we were going to be in for a really good night of great food and lashings of wine...
Before dinner we enjoyed a canapé on the Heritage Vineyard's grounds and I was given a little tour or the original Jacob's Creek cellar...
Mushroom Raviolo with creamy garlic sauce ~ Recipe here
Almond croquant, chocolate ganache with caramel sauce ~ Recipe here
Both above recipes by Veronica Zahra
Day 2 and it was up for a sumptuous breakfast consisting of an amazing array of pastries, fresh fruit and good coffee, we were, well.... off for more wine, this time red, with Dan Swincer, who is one of the Red Winemakers at Jacob’s Creek
Here I got to sample various parcels of Barossa Shiraz from 2014 vintage tasted from French & American oak barrels; Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon from 2014 vintage, from French oak barrels; Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Barossa Shiraz 2012 (before whiskey barrel, and after) and Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (before, and after) all of which are shaped by the winemakers and their passion for quality.
Dan ~ who oddly enough was the spitting image of a mate of mine, so he felt really familiar upon first meeting him ~ graduated with his winemaking degree, a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) in 2003 and then worked in various cellar-hand and winemaking roles in the Napa Valley as well as various Australian wine regions. For the last 8 years Dan has been making Jacob’s Creek wines – initially working on Chardonnays and aromatic whites until 2011 when he switched to the red winemaking team. In 2011 he was voted The Wine Society’s Young Winemaker of the Year. He is a talented winemaker and was recently described by our Chief Winemaker Bernard Hickin as ‘a master of style’.
The winery is in Tanunda and is where all the red wines for Jacob’s Creek are made. The white wines are all made at Rowland Flat, 2 km from the site of Johann Gramp’s original winery.
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel is a unique and ground breaking concept, launched first in Australia in June 2014. The winemakers take big rich red wines, mature them in traditional wine oak barrels, and then finish them in whiskey barrels. Whisky barrels are quite different from wine barrels, being made from coarser oak, with narrower staves and then toasted inside until they are charred. When wines are finished in whiskey barrels the mouth feel softens noticeably and interesting nuances appear on the palate. Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz is finished in Scotch whiskey barrels while Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon is finished in Irish whiskey barrels. I found this process really interesting and unique and you could really get a very subtle hint of whiskey in the wine. It's interesting to see a process which is shaped by a yearning to explore new ways of doing things.
Brand new American Oak barrels ready to be filled with wine.
I thought the old Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky were amazing. Really old and dark, covered in cool typography and just oozed character in comparison to the newer barrels seen earlier on the tour.
After a great start to the day - guzzling and sampling wine, we were headed back to the visitors centre for and alfresco style lunch but not before doing a very interesting and quirky exercise - the Jacob's Creek Sensory Wine Experience.
Our host was a lovely woman by the name of Louise, who is a cellar door staff member at the Visitor Centre.
This experience was total fun and it takes you on a sensory journey to explore how your five senses affect the way you taste wine. This involved using black sensory glassware to challenge assumptions you may have when deprived of the ability to judge a wine by sight, and also tasting different coloured foods, and foods with different sauces/condiments to experiment how that affects the way the food matches with the wines. I learnt a lot in this session ~ especially being a cook. I am used to pairing white wine with chicken and red with beef etc, but I learnt through experimentation, this is not always the right route to take. For example, if you are serving chicken with a fruity sauce, red wine actually works a lot better to bring out the flavour in the dish. It was a really interesting and enjoyable part of my trip and overall shaped by a deep understanding of flavour.
For lunch we enjoyed a selection of pizza from the Jacob’s Restaurant kitchen served outdoors on the northern side of the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre overlooking Jacob’s Creek. Wine: Jacob’s Creek Reserve Margaret River Chardonnay 2012.
Once lunch was over, we met up with a really nice guy called Shaun McBeath who is the Viticulture Operations Assistant Manager at Jacob’s Creek.
At the Visitor Centre there is a display vineyard that has 14 different varieties of wine grapes, each variety planted as one row. The varieties include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, etc. During the growing season, October to March, visitors can observe the differences in the growth pattern, leaf shape, bunch size and appearance, and ripening progress of the grapes to learn how unique each grape variety is. Some ripen early, some late, some have big berries, and others are small. Each has its own character and requirements to get the best quality fruit at harvest time. Beyond the display vineyard is the real vineyard, which supplies Shiraz grapes to some of our Jacob’s Creek wines. Shaun explained how they tend to the vines with careful irrigation, pruning, and managing the canopy for excellent vine health as well as ideal fruit ripening. After my visit, to answer a question I asked Shaun on the day ~ he made some calculations and based on last year’s harvest each vine produced about 2.8 bottles, so there is approximately 200 bottles of wine produced from each row.
The highlight of the trip came next. I got to plant my very own Shiraz vine on the northern bank of Jacob’s Creek! I joked I felt like Kate Middleton :) It was a really touching gesture as my vine will be called after me, with its very own little plaque at the bottom and will hopefully grow strong and produce grapes to make super wine in years to come.
A little kiss for Irish luck...
The Katie Quinn Davie's Shiraz vine... :)
After our tour and I got to plant the vine, we headed over for a quick look at Steingarten Vineyard which is one of the iconic vineyards of Australia. It was first established in 1962 after Colin Gramp (Johann Gramp’s great grandson) returned from a trip to Germany where he had seen Riesling vines planted on steep rocky slopes. Seeking to emulate such a vineyard in the Barossa, he petitioned his family but they refused him. Not to take such a set-back, he quietly arranged a friend with an excavator to meet him up there at the top of Trial Hill early one morning, and set about establishing his vineyard on the Eden Valley side of the border of Eden Valley and Barossa Valley regions. But the site was so steep that the tractor and excavator rolled, and the ground was so hard and rocky that it could not be penetrated. So Colin did what few others would even consider. He used dynamite to break up the rock so he could plant his vines! After that his project was no longer a secret, since the sound could be heard right across the valley. But the vines were in the ground, and it was no point having them removed. Six years later in 1968 the first Steingarten Riesling wine was made and released soon after. The vineyard celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. Due to the windy, exposed site and the frugal rocky soil the 50 year old vines look incredibly skinny and frail, but produce fruit full of personality and terroir. The name Steingarten aptly means Stone Garden in German.
Back to the cottage for a quick freshen up and then we were off literally 20 metres away to a cooking class.
Held in the outdoor kitchen at the historic Jacob’s Estate (where I was staying) the Kitchen Garden Cooking Experience involved us all first picking fresh produce from the kitchen garden, and then working with the Chef Genevieve Harris (as mentioned above earlier) to prepare a gourmet meal. The rustic dining was on the hessian covered candle-lit table inside the walls of the one of the property's outbuildings. The latter in particular really blew me away. The atmosphere inside the room, complete with authentic, old distressed plater work, open old wooden beams, open window and old fireplace, really made for a very magical setting, esp. at night as it got dark and the light beamed in from a small window in the room on the left. It looked and felt extremely fairy-tale-like along with the candles which were dotted around the room.
Tim the gardener hard at work pulling garlic...
The gorgeous Genevieve, telling us all about her beloved 'Society Garlic' which she picked and served on scallops to us later for dinner...
Me, pottering about the abundant garden, picking leaves and nasturtiums for the evening's salad... _
Free-range chicken on the BBQ in preparation for the main of Herb rubbed BBQ chicken
Ruth cooking up a storm on the open air kitchen BBQ, of thinly sliced zucchini strips for the evening's canapé starter course...
Plating up the Shaved Laschinken with fresh cheese on potato roesti canapés which we all made earlier in the day...
Seared scallops with society garlic flower
A shot of the hand-picked from the garden; Rocket & nasturtium salad which accompanied the main herbed chicken dish...
The evening's table setting...
James checking out the evening's wine selection...
A big cheers! ... to a girly communal veggie patch foraging and cooking effort done well...
The beautiful table and room, post dinner, pre dessert...
No trip to the Aussie countryside would be complete without one of these little (sometimes large) fellas... :) Photographed in the Jacob's Creek Heritage Vineyard on my last day just before heading to the airport...
They will ship the prize out directly in early January to a WKA blog reader based in Australia or New Zealand.
To win, simply leave a comment below stating which of all the Jacob's Creek experiences you would most like to partake in if given the chance, and Celest or Ruth from Pernod Ricard will pick a winner on Jan 6th.
Best of Luck!