A lot of visitors to Australia head straight for its best-known attractions, such as the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef. But explorers who have time to venture inland will be pleasantly surprised by the wine-tasting country of South Australia, a small state on the southern coast. The Internet can help you explore the area and plan a tour.
South Australia's hilly, green scenery is reminiscent of the Europe that many homesick settlers left behind. Much of the state, like the rest of the country, is desert, but in some of the southern part, where it rains, the landscape is almost verdant.
In those hills are many winemaking operations. The Adelaide Hills area, a semi-rural suburb above the city, has long rows of grape vines staked up and down backyards and former pastures. Tucked along the Adelaide Hills' shady, winding roads are many winemaking operations with cellar doors _ shops where visitors can taste and buy local wine.
One of the best known is the Penfolds brand _ http://www.penfolds.com.au _ which has wineries in Adelaide and in the Barossa Valley nearby. Click on "experience Penfolds" to find out more about Penfolds' cellar tours.
Another giant is Hardys, which gets its grapes from South Australia's Clare Valley, Riverland, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Connawarra as well as other regions of Australia. Hardys _ http://www.hardys.com.au/ _ has a Web site as ambitious as its network of distributors around the world, and it's a good place to go for an overview of South Australian wineries. Click on "Wine Making" to get started.
Even if you haven't made it to Australia lately, you have probably noticed Yalumba on your supermarket shelves. The winery _ http://www.yalumba.com/ _ bills itself as the country's oldest family-owned winery. Click on "'winery" from the home page to get a virtual tour of Yalumba's graceful grounds in the Barossa Valley; and go to "Wine Information" for a long essay on the history of the screw-cap.
Of course, not all Australian wineries are household names in the United States. The unassuming Rockford, which has a collection of old stone buildings at its Barossa Valley winery, has a minimalist Web site that states "At Rockford we're into actual not virtual." But other Web sites carry information about this small place, which distributes only around Adelaide and at its own cellar door. You can buy Rockford wines online at the Old and Rare Wines Collector House _ http://www.winehouse.com.au _ and find some description and photos of the winery at Michael Skurnik Wines _ http://www.skurnikwines.com. Just type "Rockford" into the search bar.
The small Kabminye Wines _ http://www.kabminye.com _ in the Barossa Valley offers little more than contact information on its Web site, but its winery has gorgeous views and an excellent restaurant. All its wines are made with Barossa grapes.
Open up the Web site for Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards and Winery in McLaren Vale _ http://www.kaybrothersamerywines.com/home.html _ to hear an Australian-accented overview of the 120-year-old vineyard. The site carries several photos of the vineyard and of the McLaren Vale's hilly landscape, wildlife and grape vines.