Altitude minus the attitude

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The hills are alive with delicious discoveries of a Germanic nature, reveals Winsor Dobbin.

Location

Hahndorf is in the Adelaide Hills, about a 30 minute drive south-east of Adelaide, depending on the traffic. Of any Australian state capital, Adelaide has, in these hills, the closest major grape-growing region.

What to expect

The town, which has a population of about 2000, is the focal point of tourism in the Adelaide Hills, with several wineries and cellar doors within a few kilometres. Originally settled by Lutheran migrants from Prussia in 1839, it is Australia's oldest German settlement.

During World War I the name was changed to Ambleside but Hahndorf was reinstated in the 1930s. It is one of a number of townships in the region, along with Woodside, Balhannah, Stirling, Lobethal and Gumeracha.

The main street of Hahndorf is lined with elm and plane trees and many original brick and timber cottages remain intact. The town is dotted with restaurants, cafes, providores, butchers and smokehouses - and has a particularly good chocolate outlet in Chocolate @ No5.

Although grapes were first grown in the region in the late 1830s, it was not until 30 years ago that viticulture was revived.

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Some of the country's best boutique wine producers, including Shaw & Smith, Nepenthe, The Lane and Hahndorf Hill, are based in and around Hahndorf.

Before the renaissance of the wine industry, the area was known for producing stone fruits and berries.

The altitude of the Adelaide Hills means the region enjoys four distinct seasons but a range of micro-climates means a number of grape varieties thrive here.

They range from stylish sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to pinot grigio, pinot noir and some sensational cool-climate shirazes.Where to eat

The Lane (thelane.com.au) is the creation of colourful local character John Edwards and his family and houses one of Australia's best winery restaurants, with spectacular views from its veranda. Fresh, regional fare is served alongside wine from labels The Lane and Ravenwood Lane. It's the perfect venue for a long, decadent lunch. Chef James Brinklow's rillettes served with orange marmalade are legendary here, as are the salt and pepper calamari. (Lunches only, with some twilight suppers during summer.)

The Mustard Seed (themustardseed.com.au) serves dishes from India and Burma; Bistro 25 and Cafe Casalinga are relaxed. They are all in downtown Hahndorf, where you'll also find two country-style pubs serving meals with a Germanic theme - the Hahndorf Inn and The German Arms. Think a massive pickled pork hock or schnitzel at the Hahndorf Inn, or a giant German hot dog or steak with several German beers on tap at The German Arms.

Wineries and cellar doors

Hahndorf Hill (hahndorfhillwinery.com.au) has tasting packages matching some of the world's finest chocolates with its own wines. The new taste experience, which has replaced the former weekend restaurant, is known as ChocoVino. Bookings are recommended.

On the road to Balhannah, Shaw & Smith, which only opens its cellar door at weekends, produces one of Australia's best sauvignon blancs and outstanding chardonnay and shiraz. Across the road, Nepenthe offers an excellent range of wines to sample along with regional cheese platters.

Places to stay

Adelaide Hills Country Cottages (ahcc.com.au) is seven minutes from Hahndorf and has five secluded, self-contained cottages in private parkland, while the Grand Mercure Mount Lofty House (mtloftyhouse.com.au), about 10 minutes away, is a boutique country house-style hotel with spectacular views of the Piccadilly Valley.

The Manna of Hahndorf (themanna.com.au) has 50 stylish, updated motel-style rooms set back from the main street and within a stroll of restaurants, shops and pubs. Rooms have flat-screen televisions, reverse-cycle air-conditioning and wireless broadband.

The Retreat at Stirling (the-retreat.com.au) is a luxury two-bedroom villa with heated indoor swimming pool, while Aldgate has the Cladich Pavilions (cladichpavilions.com), which features self-catering B&B accommodation.

Main attractions

There are several outstanding gourmet stores in the main street of Hahndorf, including newcomer Harris Smokehouse (harrissmokehouse.com.au), which has tastings and sales of smoked seafoods filleted and smoked on-site, while Chocolate @ No5 (chocolateno5.com.au) is set in a delightful 1850s cottage and sells a wide range of sweet treats - including a wonderfully rich iced-chocolate drink and handmade chocolates.

Udder Delights (udderdelights.com.au) features tastings of its gourmet cheeses, which are now sold nationally, and holds cheesemaking classes. Also check out Max Noske and Son Country Meat and the eclectic Taste In Hahndorf, a great place from which to source a range of local gourmet goodies including German-style smallgoods, mustards, pickles and chutneys.

Lovers of fresh fruit will enjoy the chance to pick their own strawberries at the Beerenberg Farm (beerenberg.com.au), on the outskirts of town, from late October to early May each year. Visitors are also welcome to stroll around the rose-covered pergola and enjoy the scent of the flowers used in Beerenberg's rose-petal jam. During the week they can look through a large window to see what is being cooked up in the jam kitchen.

The Olive Grove/Lloyd Brothers (www.lloydbrothers.com.au) sells a range of olives and olive oils, while Humbugs of Hahndorf is a great spot for children of all ages with its selection of local and imported sweets.

Art lovers will want to visit The Cedars, the estate of artist Sir Hans Heysen, which includes his home, studio and gardens, while there are several arts-and-crafts stores and art galleries.

Markets

The Hahndorf Craft and Produce Market is held at St Michael's Church on the fourth Saturday of each month but the delightful Adelaide Hills Market, in an old woollen mill in Lobethal, is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also, there are regular weekly or monthly markets in most other Hills townships.

Natural attractions

Many Adelaide Hills gardens are part of Australia's Open Garden Scheme (opengarden.org.au), while the Barratt Wines vineyard (barrattwines.com.au) also has waterfalls and a Japanese garden.

Just up the road

The rest of the Adelaide Hills are dotted with small cellar doors and restaurants. The town of Woodside is home to Adelaide Hills Gourmet Foods (famous for its pizzas), Woodside Cheese Wrights, Melba's chocolate factory and the Woodside Providore.

Bridgewater Mill, adjacent to the Petaluma cellar door in Bridgewater, is a favourite lunch spot for wine industry types who enjoy chef Le Tu Thai's creative cuisine, while the Lobethal Bierhaus, the Stanley Bridge Hotel and Sunday lunch at Chain of Ponds cellar door are also popular with the locals.

Stirling, a few kilometres back towards Adelaide, has several excellent dining options, including Locavore, which specialises in sourcing food and wines locally.

Tucked away inside the Stirling Hotel (stirlinghotel.com.au), the Mallee Grill Restaurant serves top-notch food in elegant surroundings. It pays to book.

Among the smaller cellar doors well worth exploring are Golding, which has created a sculpture walk; JL, which is a cellar door/art gallery; and Tilbrook Estate, which has a cellar door in Lobethal that is actually part of the working winery.

Also check out the weekend lunches at Howard Vineyard at Nairne and go wine sampling at Ashton Hills (for outstanding pinot noir), Barratt, Bird In Hand, Cloudbreak, K1 by Geoff Hardy, Leabrook Estate, Mount Lofty Ranges Winery, Robert Johnson, newcomer BK Wines and Longview, which is at Macclesfield on the extremities of the Hills, en route to Langhorne Creek.

For those who have wined and dined enough, the National Motor Museum is at Birdwood, while Mount Lofty is home to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens and the Mount Lofty Summit, which offers stunning views to Adelaide and beyond.

Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, which showcases native and endangered animals in their natural habitat, is just outside Stirling.

More information

See southaustralia.com.

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