Stefan Ahrens grew up playing on the grounds of Kingsford Homestead. A sprawling 225-acre estate on the south-eastern edge of the Barossa, the property has had many prominent owners over its 165-year history. In 2000, Ahrens was ready to add his name to the list. But three days before it went to auction, Kerry Packer beat him to the punch and for the next seven years it served as the fictional home of McLeod’s Daughters.
When Ahrens and his wife Leanne Ahrens finally acquired the property in 2009, they turned it into boutique luxury accommodation. But after a three-year, multimillion-dollar redevelopment, it’s reopened in an entirely new form.
The grand, two-storey Georgian homestead (now christened Kingsford the Barossa) was built from large sandstone blocks originally used as ship’s ballast and is flanked by lavender bushes. Inside, the original cedar staircase and smooth slate hallway remain, but the eight suites have all been upgraded. Most notable is the gasp-inducing 73-square-metre Matilda Suite that boasts a four-poster bed, a private verandah and a cavernous bathroom with twin showers, bathtub and fireplace.
Past a glass-plated banquet hall overlooking a saltwater pool and outdoor bar (one of three on-site), a new extension includes four modern suites with graceful coved ceilings and earthy colour palettes offset by contemporary artworks on the walls, plus custom-made pieces from Handmade & Found and Jam Factory. Retractable TV screens enhance the minimalist feel, leaving the focus on floor-to-ceiling windows that look east over rolling pastures, where Black Angus cattle graze peacefully.
Two standalone cottages bring the total to 16 rooms, with the rest of the property’s 225 acres given over to rolling farmland crossed by gum-lined creeks and patches of remnant vegetation, including one that shelters the Insta-friendly al fresco “bush bath”.
The Ahrens spent three years working on the design for the expansion, which was overseen by the Ahrens Group (of which Stefan is managing director). It’s a far cry from the projects usually undertaken by the national construction, engineering and mining services company: “We’ve never done anything like this before,” Ahrens admits, “but it was a true passion project. We built the framework, the balustrades, even the wine racks.”
He sees the property as more than just a luxurious retreat. “Our vision is to bring the food, wine and culture of the Barossa Valley together in one place.” The on-site Orleana restaurant heroes local produce, with Musque chef Stuart Oldfield at the helm, while the 25-metre Kegelbahn (an antiquated nine-pin-bowling alley) by the downstairs bar is the most visible symbol of the region’s German heritage. But it’s the incredible collection of wine that really sets Kingsford apart.
Ahrens’ personal cellar provides the basis for what that he hopes will become “the best collection of shiraz in the world, and the best collection of Barossa wine in the world”. In the private wine tunnel, where a 21-metre-long table can seat up to 70 guests, there’s room for 6600 bottles across six vaults. The museum already contains a complete vertical of Penfolds Grange (with another nearly complete set available for purchase), and will soon house the world’s only complete vertical of Hill of Grace, on loan from winemaker Stephen Henschke’s private cellar.
Incredibly rare bottles from Yalumba, Peter Lehmann, Langmeil and Kaesler are part of a growing collection that’s helping Ahrens make good on his bold promise. “Some of these bottles have not been moved in 30 years,” he says proudly. “They’re coming from the winemaker’s private cellars.” And the focus is not exclusively on local wines; there’s also a vault filled with magnums, six-litre methuselahs and a 15-litre nebuchadnezzar of champagne.
Ahrens says this is just the beginning, with plans to integrate every aspect of the region’s heritage into the offering at Kingsford. “Our aim with this property is to create a lasting legacy, for this to be somewhere you can experience the best of the Barossa in one place.”