Last weekend was the annual weekend away with a bunch of friends – a couple of nights away in some salubrious location for a break from the everyday, and usually a fair bit of wine and food.

We hit up the Barossa Valley, one of South Australia’s prime winegrowing areas, and discovered another annual event almost entirely by luck.

Artisans of Barossa is a coöperative venture for seven small wineries (the site introduces them all), craftspeople doing what they love (hopefully for some financial return!) with carefully picked grapes (some of the oldest vines in the world for Shiraz and Mataro, for instance).

While we were planning our sweep through the Barossa’s wineries prior to the weekend, we discovered that Artisans were having their annual “cellar door day”, a ticketed event in a closed shop that includes winemakers from all the member wineries, a broader-than-normal range of wines on tasting, and platters all afternoon – for the princely sum of $35/head (that was this year; hopefully it stays as reasonable in the future). Considering we were tasting bottles with RRP up to $140 for up to five hours, this is superlative value.

The wines? Bloody terrific … and the range of styles showcased the differences in Barossa’s sub-regions as well as the winemakers’ approaches to their task. While the region’s heavy hitters (shiraz, grenache, mataro, riesling) were well represented, there were quite a few “alternative” varieties to check out, including marsanne, roussanne,  durif, saperavi, barbera …

Throw in regularly-appearing food platters from chef Mark McNamara, and it was a very pleasant (and eye-opening) way to spend an afternoon. The problem? It only happens once a year … fortunately, they do other food+wine events regularly, so check the site for more information, and keep an eye out for next year’s cellar door day!

The artisans:

Hobbs of Barossa (ask how the “Freckles” range got its name 🙂  )

John Duval Wines

Massena

Schwarz Wine Company

Sons of Eden

Spinifex

Teusner