Somewhere, among rows upon rows of grapevines in the Barossa Valley, there’s a robust plant with my name on it. Well, beside it, more accurately – on a plaque. Which means it’s possible that one day as I tuck into a glass of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz, I could be drinking my namesake. Or it could be the fruit from a vine named after any number of visitors who have travelled to this historic winemaking spot.
We’re at the original homestead of William Jacob, after whom that now-famous creek was named. It’s extremely hot – the kind of weather that results in luscious South Australian wines, known the world over. And as the sun bears down, ripening those little purple globes, 40 of us from 13 different countries are donning our aprons and preparing to cook our way to potential glory.
We’re taking part in a Jacob’s Creek Garden to Plate Challenge on the canopied lawn of the estate. Each team, recipe in hand, must collect ingredients from the kitchen gardens to make a designated dish, which will eventually be judged by the estate’s chef.
India, China and New Zealand are represented in our crew and two of our members confess to never having cooked before… challenge acccepted. Herbs and vegetables plucked fresh from the grounds, and tasks divvied up, we set out to make the best Beef Kofta Balls with Tzatziki this competition has ever tasted. It works – we win. An auspicious start to our day here.
As we mingle, tasting each other’s efforts, a glass of bubbles ever-full in our hands, we wander the vines to find a tree to name before being called to the table. And not just any table – this 15-metre-long beauty is crafted with a pane of glass running down the middle to represent the creek. It’s a beautiful setting from which to enjoy the concept of Jacob’s Creek “Our Table” – a place for people to share their love of food, wine and storytelling. Soon the stories are flowing.
Prior to the trip, we each submitted a recipe that held significance for us. The menu now in front of us is the chef’s selection of these and each dish is introduced by its owner – we start with Shiitake and Pork Spring Rolls, a favourite memory of a mother’s cooking in Japan; next up, a Kingfish and Vegetable Ceviche so delicious it brought a tear to the eye when first eaten on a memorable trip to Mexico; a Cauliflower Risotto was a pivotal dish for a guest from China (it was the first thing she cooked that didn’t make her family want to order pizza instead); Fried Noodles with Chickpea Shoots and Prawns is the chef’s interpretation of a Thai guest’s favourite traditional dish from home; and finally we finish with a Serbian guest’s warm and delicious memory of her grandmother’s Sour Cherry Cake with Jersey Cream.
As if to cement the memory of this exceptional day, a storm rolls in as we dig our spoons into the last of the cake – we watch as the drama unfolds over the vines in the distance: intense, brooding clouds; rolling thunder; flashes of lightning; and then the sudden roar of the rain on the tent above us.
The music plays and we continue to swap tales of our own chosen dishes. Of course, our glasses are never empty and as we sip, we have more of an understanding of the craft and care that has gone into each bottle, reflecting on our time at both the winery and the stunning vinous setting of the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre – where the day before we experienced a food and wine matching masterclass.
Context of the rich history of this iconic brand is also made real at a lunch at the original home of Johann Gramp. It was 165 years ago that Johann Gramp planted his first vineyard on the banks of Jacob’s Creek, vineyards which became a thriving business that evolved and expanded to what we know today as Jacob’s Creek wines. Johann’s great-grandson, Colin, at 95 years of age, is still involved with the company.
Gum trees, rolling hills, expansive skies – this region’s breathtaking landscapes are only complemented by a deep-seated local appreciation of wine and food that make it such a pleasure-filled destination for those seeking the finer things in life.
A repeat visit will definitely include checking in on my own little piece of this vinous wonderland.
Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Ben Bryant is proud of the newest vintages from the ‘Double Barrel’ range of premium red wines finished in whisky barrels. Available throughout New Zealand, the 2015 (fourth vintage) Barossa Shiraz and 2014 (third vintage) Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, are the perfect matches with an array of dishes like roasted rack of lamb or seared beef fillet.
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Barossa Shiraz 2015 and Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, the perfect autumn drop, widely available for $21.99.
We’re at the original homestead of William Jacob, after whom that now-famous creek was named. It’s extremely hot – the kind of weather that results in luscious South Australian wines, known the world over.