Bill and Gitta Malkin have travelled extensively through Australia in their motor home, free camping where they can, seeing the diverse sights of the nation, and also visiting its finest wineries.
They recently returned to Opal by Living Gems after a three-month, family-focused trip to Adelaide.
Bill and Gitta’s daughter in law was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and the family converged on the city in support.
It provided one of those rare opportunities to see their three children and six of 16 grandchildren in the one place.
“We took the opportunity while we were there to see a few different vineyards at the Barossa Valley, Clare, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and also at Hahndorf,” says Bill.
“It was nice to get out and see some things together as a family.”
The trip to Adelaide followed a six-month adventure in Western Australia, where they saw landmarks such as Wave Rock and, of course, visited several of that state’s fine wineries.
It is a passion for Bill, who has 180 bottles of red wine at his home at Opal by Living Gems, and he has a extensive knowledge of Australia’s best wineries.
“We are so lucky in Australia, we have so many high-quality growing areas such as Margaret River, Swan Valley, Hunter Valley and the Barossa Valley,” he says.
Bill prefers the personal touch of an independent estate and he and Gitta always visit local visitor information centres to ask which wineries and sights provide the best experience.
They also prefer free camping and Gitta will always peruse the ‘camping bible’ Camps 9, and the Wikicamps applicaton to find the best spot to stay, whether it is in a national park, or on a farm.
Here are a handful of Bill’s most memorable wineries.
Langmeil Winery, Tanunda
“They make some beautiful reds,” says Bill of Langmeil Winery set in the town of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley. The family-owned and operated winery lays claim to being the oldest surviving Shiraz vineyard in the world, planted in 1843, and Shiraz just happens to be Bill’s preferred grape. The historic winery is housed in original buildings built by some of the first European settlers to the region.
Sieber Road Vineyard, Seppeltsfield
Although this Barossa Valley winery recently received a double gold award at the Melbourne International Wine Competition with its 2015 Shiraz/Grenache, it was more than the wine that stood out for Bill at the Sieber Road Vineyard – it was the lovely people who run the winery. “It was one of the nicest personal experiences I have had at a winery. The lady behind the counter, Val, is a lovely, lovely person. We went back four times, it felt like coming home.”
Windy Creek Estate, Swan Valley
Another independent winery in Western Australia where Bill was highly impressed by the experience provided for visitors. The family-run estate is not just a business but the family home and it is treated as such. “A great experience with great people,” says Bill.
Vasse Felix, Margaret River
Founded in 1967 by Dr Tom Cullity, Vasse Felix was the first winery to be established in what is now one of Australia’s most renowned wine-growing regions. Bill says it is a “little bit more upmarket” than several of the other family-owned wineries in this list, and worth it for the sense of history and views from the tasting building.
Bill describes the wine-tasting experience at Hugh Hamilton Wines as the best he has experienced. Even the dirt from the vineyards is brought out for the tasters, so that they can gain a deeper understanding of the flavours of the grapes. “It was a great way to gain a good nose for a red. Such a good experience, complimented from the beautiful views from their tasting area.” The wines are complimented with cheeses and chocolates depending on which was the better fit.