Head For The Hills

Sequoia Lodge sets a new benchmark — and makes the Adelaide Hills a true destination for escape.

By Richard Clune 28/03/2022

We may be in the bush, though there’s no point beating around it—Sequoia Lodge is currently the ultimate expression of modern luxury accommodation in this country.

This is an experience fully formed and exquisitely delivered, a sojourn here a wondrous match for cherished memories of serviced seven-star ski chalets in Chamonix or Colorado, or any water-lapped top-tier Asian resort. And to think we’re talking about a property etched into a rise of the Adelaide Hills.

Here’s the thing about Adelaide—it’s never really held great appeal. Sure, as those not already installed we’re always told the living’s great, affordable, accessible and calm. There’s an abundance of things to engage with, and the locals coo about an assured rethink that’s been happening in the capital and its surrounds—“better now than ever before” is a familiar refrain.

Yes, but it’s always still been, well, Adelaide: a dusty and generally hot outpost where they mangle the pronunciation of various words (“castle’), hold aloft a generic lager for wide praise (West End “red tins”) and claim Lleyton Hewitt as a golden son.

Well, move past all of that and realise that Sequoia and all it offers is now reason enough to head for South Australia.

Our recent meander to the state involved a slew of Covid restrictions—an arranged poke prior to leaving, a further poke on arrival and in room quarantine awaiting the right result. While such protocols are now relaxed, they offer a first glimpse into the heightened level of service in place here.

Photography at Mount Lofty House by Aaron Citti

These various nasal intrusions mean a late-night arrival. No bother, though: it’s straight to a personal pavilion that offers a welcome, illuminated hug on entering—warming lights clicking on, a TV rising from a wooden bench in a high-def embrace.

A menu is laid out and open—a finger failing to slide past a wagyu burger with salad and chips, its arrival (left at the door for obvious Covid reasons) quick and its taste trumping any previously consumed hotel burger.

Woken by sumptuous (if penetrative) daylight means a chance to properly engage with the split-level pavilion. Opened in August 2021, 14 “suites” are strung along a curved ridgeline in the grounds of the acclaimed Mount Lofty Estate.

Photography at Mount Lofty House by Aaron Citti

The designer suite—yes, let’s call it that—boasts a lower lounge with stone fireplace and leather sofa which leads to a balcony that offers “impossible” views across the Piccadilly Valley and its bountiful botanics (think truffles, vineyards, orchards and more) and a large, inviting day bed.

Interiors here are upscale and warmly wooden. Blonde highlights come via the use of local materials that extend throughout each suite and into Sequoia’s main lodge, a narrative that neatly aligns to the punchy artwork of distinctly local fauna by artist Stephen Trebilcock.

We could easily discuss the ensuite and why the shower should come with a manual for the number of buttons, taps and jets it presents—though just know that it’s equally luxurious.

A negative Covid result secured and it’s time to leave the suite, somewhat sadly since we’ve developed quite an easy rapport. The main lodge is the central meeting area and a place of dining—a glassed box of wonder framed by views and a lavish fireplace that furthers the “luxury ski lodge” feeling. Here too the attention to service and detail from staff goes well beyond a smile or hello. They seem genuinely excited by what Sequoia stands for, especially as visitors begin to flow in from other states after the reopening of borders.

A breakfast of duck waffles (true) with confit duck leg sets a solid agenda for what’s to come (also know that the seasonal fruit salad is one of the best, and prettiest, we’ve indulged), which today is a visit to a renowned local winemaker.

That there are four world-class wine regions within 50 kilometres of Sequoia is a very strong lure. Today’s adventure with Sequoia and Mount Lofty’s zestful wine director, Liinaa Berry, leads to the Ngeringa vineyard and the laconic charms of the man responsible, Erinn Klien.

Started in 2001 from a section of the famous Jurlique herb farm run by Erinn’s parents, today he and his wife Janet champion organic wines grown without herbicides or artificial fertilisers.

Ngeringa produces flavoursome natural wines—“shiraz is where we’re at”—alongside pinot, chardonnay, syrah and a delicious pét-nat (farmhouse champagne). Erinn and his team offer a hearty lamb lunch that includes hisown vegetables, prepared to levels that make vegetarianism a concept we are more than able to swallow.

Experiences such as this are central to what Sequoia offers. While there is a chance to lounge and spa and soak in the minerals of the property’s naturally fed hot-spring pools, claiming contact with the local environment and community, learning, indulging, embracing something new and unique, is what sets the property apart.

Such curated experiences—six to eight are inclusive, others additional—are far from limited to food, wine and wellness. This includes getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari or Lamborghini for a day’s fast-paced touring (the roads around the Hills are alluring), behind-the-scenes tours of the RM Williams workshop (replete with a personally fitted pair of boots), koala watching, stargazing, hiking, yoga and more.

Still, let’s get back into the food and wine. A second day’s outing is with Coast & Co’s Simon Burley—an exclusive day trip that dissects the highlights of the impressive and rightly renowned McLaren Vale wine region. Burley and his robust Discovery 4 vehicle allow access to wineries and areas often not accessible to the public, which means a glorious itinerary that begins overlooking the cavernous, 650 million-year-old Onkaparinga Gorge and out across Gulf St Vincent.

Our bearings set and it’s onto the single vineyard Samson Tall (try the grenache rose), lunch at the former railway line Salopian Inn (which holds more than 200 gins and a mean pork bun), the renowned Bekkers vineyard (the 2019 chablis made in France delights alongside the awarded syrahs and grenaches) and then Yangarra—where a detailed tour of the set-up is washed down with a rather stunning grenache blanc.

Indulgence continues across a Maker & Somm evening at Sequoia—an intimate experience led by Berry which allows guests to engage local producers and their wares—over a stunning meal served in the lodge. We may have strayed into wine-connoisseur territory but there’s nothing stuffy here, as evidenced by an exceptional evening spent with Vanguardist (if you haven’t, you really should) founder Michael Corbett.

To come to Sequoia is to also sample the three-hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, a beacon of fine dining that shines well beyond state and even national borders. Opt for the top-tier paired menu and prepare to have your senses truly sated across delicate dishes of delight that on our visit covers venison, crayfish ravioli, quail, wagyu brisket, squid and more—aligned to an international parade of drops that include French pinot noir, Spanish tempranillo, Alsatian gewürztraminer and more.

Sequoia Lodge—named after the towering US trees planted in the grounds by the then-owner Arthur Hardy in the late 1800s—proves a destination like no other currently offered in Australia; a luxury escape that sets a new benchmark as it
takes guests on an indulgent adventure.

All-inclusive packages from $2,400 per night; sequoialodge.com.au

This piece is from our new Autumn Issue – on sale now. Get your copy or subscribe here, or stay up to speed with the Robb Report weekly newsletter.

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