September 22, 2015
Having always wanted to take the Indian Pacific since I was a kid, I could hardly say no to the chance of helping to host a group of international travel writers aboard its special Food & Wine train. This iconic railway quite justifiably prides itself on the quality of its cuisine and wine list, and I was able to choose around forty of my favourite Australian wines to pair with the delicious output of its onboard Queen Adelaide Restaurant. Commencing with a couple of sparkling wines from The House of Arras for the meet and greet as the train started to roll out of Sydney’s Central Station, we journeyed through tastings of chardonnay and shiraz from NSW, South Australia and Western Australia before a late and memorable degustation of seven courses and thirteen exceptional wines, the last of which was a delightfully fresh Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port from 1984.
Having wisely chosen to sleep through the sun-break tour of Broken Hill at 6 am the next morning, I was in better shape than most to enjoy a fresh seafood lunch as we made stately progress past Peterborough down south towards the Barossa Valley and Adelaide. Breakfast that morning was also something quite special – great coffee, juice and eggs Benedict as the train cruised at peak velocity – a stately 110 kph or so – through scrub and farming land populated only by the occasional sheep and emu. Wines at lunch included great chardonnays from Lake’s Folly and Giaconda, plus a rather youthful 2007 Springvale Riesling from Jeffrey Grossett.
After an afternoon in the Barossa Valley – visiting the newly extended Barossa Valley Cheese Company in Angaston and tasting 100 year-old port at the stunningly renovated Seppeltsfield winery, my part of the trip was book-ended by a creative and generous winemaker dinner at Hentley Farm. By that time my body was only too happy to check into my hotel in Adelaide before returning to Melbourne the next morning. The posse of travel writers and their indefatigable hosts from Great Southern Rail reboarded the train to cross the Nullarbor and de-train in Perth. My spirit went with them – it’s a journey I’m going to complete one day soon.