Roger Jones of The Harrow Inn, currently touring Australia, sends the following recommendation.
What do you do if you want to visit the inner sanctums of the Australian wine industry? Most of the cellar doors of the top vineyards are either closed to the public or have a secondary VIP room where the cream of the harvest is poured.
In Adelaide this issue can be taken care of by Ralf Hadzic who runs the Chauffeur company Life is a Cabernet. Ralf has a fleet of upmarket luxury cars and people carriers including the top-of-the-range Chrysler 300c (Wayne Rooney's mode of transport in the UK!).
Ralf has run Life is a Cabernet since 1999, but his claim to fame is as the man behind 'Fat Cat', the iconic character that all Australian children were brought up with (and put to sleep by at 7.30 every night) in the 1970s and 1980s. Fat Cat is a bit like the British Basil Brush, and is of course fondly remembered by all these winemakers.
Ralf has built up a very close relationship with the top luxury hotels of Adelaide and with all the top winemakers in South Australia. His expertise is in assessing clients' worth and knowledge and matching them with the correct level of service (freebies) from the wineries.
If you want to meet Roman Bratasiuk of Clarendon Hills, Ralf's your man, and luckily the last client taken there (not me) spent Aus$40,000. He also arranges wine shipment and reservations in the best restaurants. He has his nose to the ground and I was introduced to numerous 'underground' winemakers whose wines are rarely seen outside an inner circle of collectors. In return I was also able to pass on a few contacts of my own to Ralf.
Whilst driving around in his luxury Chrysler 300c, his efficiency in forward planning and organisation has no limits. He has chilled bottled water in every door, red wine remover and anti-perspirant in the glove compartment, a chilled box to hold samples in the boot and a constant flow of entertaining stories about the wineries, as well as professionally keeping everyone informed of what, where and when.
On introducing Frank Mitolo to Ralf (Fat Cat), Frank said that as a 7 year old he had tried to phone his feline friend at Channel 10 but was refused access. Quick as a flash, Ralf replied that a phone call to Frank last week to secure some wines was equally ignored. So they now have each other's mobile numbers and are happy with my introduction.
Rates start at Aus$60 an hour.
Bob Ross, Franklin Lakes, NJ adds:
I noticed a recommendation for a wine tour in the Barossa, and would like to suggest an alternative - Barossa Daimler Tours with John Baldwin. My wife Janet and I took two tours with John and had a delightful and educational time. John seems to know everyone in the wine areas around Adelaide; we spent three fascinating days together.
One of the highlights was John arranging for me to become a member of a wine tasting group that, by chance, had a major tasting of over 30 Sparkling Shirazes (aka Sparkling Burgundies), with at least 60 members present and very welcoming to this Yank.
John's cars are immaculate, his food is delicious, the wine and winemaking introductions are priceless.
Libby, his wife, makes the arrangements, and she is as delightful and John himself.
Very highly recommended.