By Melissa Keogh
Visitors to one of South Australia’s most famous wine regions can add a new experience to the list of must-see destinations with the opening of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company.
The all-in-one chocolate factory, cellar door, café and ice-creamery at Tanunda has opened to the public in time for the sweetest holiday of the year – Easter.
The $5.5 million facility is the Barossa Valley’s first chocolaterie and cellar door and has created between 20-30 local jobs in hospitality and retail.
Owners Chris and Sandy Day travelled the world sampling the sweet stuff and drawing inspiration from chocolate meccas of Bruges, Florence, Bariloche, and Daintree in Australia before launching their own venture.
“The world-class Barossa Valley Chocolate Company has been inspired by the very best experiences from across the globe, from Bariloche in Argentina to Napa Valley in the USA and the Chocolate Line in Bruges, Belgium,” Sandy says.
At the centre of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is a mesmerising chocolate wall, inspired by the Venchi Cioccolato e Gelato in Florence.
Over the past year head chocolatier Amy Sajinovic has developed a range of more than 250 chocolate products, taste tested by 2500 South Australians. The range of delectable sweet treats includes milk, dark, white and ruby chocolate. A salted caramel and cider truffle has become a fast favourite, as has a signature truffle infused with Vineyard Road ‘Stan the Man’ wine.
A retail space showcases brightly packaged chocolate blocks, boxes and Easter eggs, while visitors can see the chocolatiers in action through a wide viewing window. An ice creamery serves freshly-made gelato, while the 150-seat Benni’s Café boasts a menu of locally sourced produce to be enjoyed indoors or on the deck overlooking a large water feature and surrounding vineyards.
A number of other food producers in the region are supported through Benni’s Café with produce from Steiny’s Traditional Mettwurst, Barossa Valley Cheese Company, Barossa Valley Cider Company, Apex Bakery, and more.
“As much as possible is sourced from the Barossa,” Chris says. “These are all families doing great things for SA, and together, we can put SA on the map.”
The Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is the latest addition to the FABAL Group, which also owns Vineyard Road Wines, some of which are made from surrounding vineyards and can be enjoyed at the cellar door. FABAL is also the joint owner of the Vasse Virgin @ Seppeltsfield skincare business.
FABAL Group CEO Chris Day says his and Sandy’s idea to pursue a chocolate venture in the Barossa was inspired by regular family trips to the Margaret River and its famous chocolate company – a destination enjoyed by young families.
The Barossa chocolate venture was also spurred by a need to value-add to their grapegrowing operations and strengthen the value of agritourism in the region.
“As grapegrowers we’ve been through drought and survived, but in 2011 just as we went to pick our grapes, deluges of rain came through and destroyed our crop,” Chris says.
“I said we had to do something to protect ourselves by value-adding to the business … agritourism is a big chunk of our future. By 2013/14 we started working seriously on Barossa Valley Chocolate Company and we started travelling around Australia and internationally to some of the best chocolate making places in the world.”
At the heart of the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is a ‘fun for all’ concept ensuring both young and old can enjoy the visitor experience.
Sandy, who has a background in graphic design and fashion, was behind the design and feel of the facility, working with local architect Jamie Gladigau of JBG Architects to create an open and sophisticated design.
The chocolate packaging and displays are brightly coloured – a nod to the ‘fun for all’ motto. Large chocolate letters placed in drawers was a concept inspired by the Days’ visit to Bruges in Belgium.
“(In Bruges) I could see all this action in the corner, kids opening drawers with chocolate letters in them, and they were having so much fun,” Sandy says.
“Then last Saturday (at the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company) I saw a family with little children playing a game with the letters, it was lovely to see.”
Visitors can indulge in a specially-curated chocolate and wine pairing experience with Vineyard Road wines in the cellar door. Chocolate making classes will soon be introduced, as will the ability to hold weddings and events.
Local family business Ahrens was involved in the construction as well as electrical company Yates Electrical which installed a 100kW solar system on the roof.
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