January 2011


Some great quotes ‘borrowed’ from Garrison Keilor’s Writer’s Almanac:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.

Wonderful!

 

We didn’t just go away to drink our way around South-Eastern Australia, but part of the idea was to visit some of the iconic areas and educate our palates. As a result, we will probably change the way we buy wine: we now feel we know enough to choose good wine from areas we have some familiarity with, at least for a while.

So here’s an end to the tasting dozen! We will investigate the Wine Society’s cellar for our favourites and rely on the Internet!

Here are the wineries we visited and some tasting notes of the best stuff (often pinched from the web-sites).

BAROSSA

Whistler Wines

Whistler’s was our first stop and favourite among the Barossa wineries. In hindsight, it was a shame we did not also visit Rolf Binder and Kalleske, as both these wineries seem to have a similar attitude to their business: a very friendly welcome, a family business passionately tended and good value wines with a particular character. Any, next time for those two. Whistler was a lovely place to visit and we met Sally Pfeiffer, one of the family who runs the place. We tasted pretty widely from their list, but our favourites were:

    • Audrey May 2010: Lifted aromas of melon, lime and tropical fruit flavours.
    • 2008 GSM: a blend of 52% Grenache, 27% Shiraz and 21% Mourvedre. A lovely, spicy red.
    • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: The first of the Barossa Cabs we tasted, and one of the most accessible. A 91 pointer! Figs and toffee.

 

    Torbreck

    This is unquenstionably a high quality winery making some interesting wines, but Torbreck knows how to charge. We both felt a little out of our comfort zone here, but the winery and vineyards are absolutely picturesque. I guess you pay for old vines, but $200 for Runrig seems a bit excessive!

      • 2009 Cuvee Juveniles: yum. An unoaked Grenach blend that was well-priced.
      • 2009 Woodcutter Semillon: the budget end of the range, but most refreshing. There is actually not much citrus but lots of honey.
      • 2008 Woodcutter Shiraz: a great wine for the price. Rich and long shiraz.

    There were other greats, including a Roussanne Marsanne Viognier blend that I thought interesting, but I thought the high end reds were over the top in terms of price.

    Seppeltsfield

    The winery is now out of the hands of Fosters and in the care of a trust company. The grounds are superb. I still don’t know who has control of the old Seppelt’s Great Western.

    The range of wines is still pretty basic as table wine production was phased out years ago and only recently re-commenced, before the take-over, but what there is shows some promise: after all, there are plenty of vines around Seppeltsfield. There is a great shiraz, of course. The fortifieds are a different story and I was taken with the sherries – a term now out of date! The Blanco and the Flora reminded me of drinks at the end of the day at Orchard Hills, but so much more refined than Chestnut Teal, the oloroso that was the standard in those days. These are wines of restraint and refinement, stunning aperitifs, with that nutty flavour that is hard to resist.

    As for the Tawnies, the DP90 was a bit of paradise on the tongue. The dry finish is very much to my liking. I fear I could get to like wine of this quality far too much!

     

     

     

    Langmeil

    Rockford

    Charles Melton

    Maggie Beer’s Farm

    CLARE
    • Sevenhill
    • Pikes
    • Reilley’s wines
    • Tim Knapstein
    • Crabtree Wines

    ADELAIDE HILLS
    The disappointing Hills: great Sauvignon Blanc, but the reds were thin and — apart from Nepenthe — the wineries were pretentious tourist traps. We were probably unlucky in our choices, but the best SBs seemed to be made somewhere else. However, we did make the acquaintance of savagnan.
    Shaw&Smith
    Nepenthe
    The Lane

    MCLAREN VALE
    Coriole
    d’Arenberg

    COONAWARRA
    Redmands
    Balnaves
    Hollick

    BALLARAT
    While dining we tasted: Bests Great Western Shiraz.

    RUTHERGLEN
    All Saints
    Pfeiffer
    Buller

    Also tasted while dining: Anderson’s Pinot Gris, Stanton & Killeen Viogner and Durif, Campbells liquor muscat, Cofield Riesling.

    The ones we missed:

    This will be our last post because tomorrow we return to sunny Picnic Point. On reflecting on our journey over the last two and a bit weeks we would have to say we have had a wonderful time. Having spent the last few years travelling overseas, we have enjoyed the experience of reacquainting ourselves with a landscape that, in our former lives, both of us visited over 25 years ago.

    We have marvelled at the variety of landscapes, gained new found respect for farmers and for those who slog it out in unforgiving environments and isolated rural communities. We have admired the respect shown for colonial architecture, especially outside of NSW, and for the care taken to preserve our heritage. We have enjoyed the opportunity to taste the best of Australian food and wine and to meet a wide variety of people and listen to their stories. We will miss the “QLD”s at the many lovely pubs we frequented. We have cherished the time spent in the car admiring the scenery, reading the daily news to each other, composing our daily blog, reviewing the books we have shared, singing along with the sound track to Chris’ last 50 years, reflecting on the past year and sharing our hopes and dreams for the year ahead.

    We have enjoyed the time spent with family and made wonderful new acquaintances and today was no different.

    After an amazing home cooked brekky at our B&B, we headed off for a walk through the town and out and around the river. We visited three wineries in the district which barely scratched the surface but we were concerned about the damage done to our credit card and the lack of room left in the car. All Saints, a very old winery previously owned by a local family for over 100 years, was our first port of call. The grounds were beautiful, the wine was so so but the Indigo Cheese shop was a great find. We tasted and then purchased some great local cheeses, olives(Chris did anyway), dukah, olive oil, jam and chilli.

    We then headed off to Pfeiffer wines, which was again on a lovely property. We tasted a sensational award winning riesling but I ran out of enthusiasm as the White selections also ran out. Chris bravely battled on tasting the reds which he really enjoyed. Our third and final winery, Buller, was a real find not just because if its lovely well priced wines but because of the delightful young thing behind the counter who informed us that she had only been drinking legally for two years! Despite her youth, she had a good knowledge of the wines and pointed us in the direction of the best wines on the cellar list urging us to avoid the “really cheap stuff”. Her selections were spot on and we purchased some Sav( nothing like the NZ stuff), their award winning Shiraz and Durif, a speciality of the region.

    We then returned to Rutherglen and took a walk through the main street determined to find momentos of the region other than wine that we could also share with family and friends. Our first stop was “Ripe Rutherglen” a cheese and chocolate shop that offered tastings of local cheeses, olives, olive oils and even pickled cherries! We grabbed a local sheep’s Camembert and a Cajun flavoured goat’s cheese and moved on to another “taste” of Rutherglen, an art gallery.

    The gallery is relatively new and provides another outlet for Melbourne artists. There were some beautiful artworks and jewellery, including some pieces made from old typewriter keys, but we (Paula really) was especially taken with some glass works done with recycled glass, which were very affordably priced. We picked up a gorgeous bowl that will take pride of place on our new buffet in the loungeroom.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon before dinner, chillin’ on the verandah of our wonderful B&B, watching the storm roll in, enjoying the cool change that accompanied it and the cleansing smell of the rain, whilst savouring the last moments of our extraordinary holiday.

    One of the things that Chris and I like to do is to vote for our best experiences while on holiday, he will compile his list, particularly the wineries but here is mine:

    Paula’s “picks” —
    • Best accommodation: Bank on Main, Rutherglen, closely followed by Reilleys’ cottages in The Clare Valley. ( I should really make special mention of my brother’s apartment in Adelaide because of its location and the fact that it was free)
    • Best Accommodation facilities: McCracken Resort Victor Harbour
    • Best meal: Reilleys in The Clare Valley or the Walkerville Arms.
    • Best homecooked meal: Salmon, Salad and Tiramisu at Aidan and Shannon’s place.
    • Best breakfast: Bank on Main at Rutherglen or the one we cooked with local produce at Reillys.

    Ballarat is an unspoiled Victorian city which we enjoyed momentarily as we walked in search of a place for breakfast. We resisted the temptation to eat at the Hotel ‘s buffet breakfast mainly because of the rich food the night before. We admired the beautiful mid to late Victorian architecture which had been lovingly restored, particularly the lace work on the hotel verandahs. It was also a city of churches including 9 varieties of Methodists all now underutilized Uniting Churches.

    We chose breakfast at the pub which was not only popular with guests of the hotel but also large numbers of lycra clad cyclists visiting for the Australian Road Racing championships- Victorians love an “event”.

    We crossed the road to St Patrick’s Catholic cathedral where the friendly priest was doing a “meet and greet” with locals and visitors in the church before mass; a nice touch. It was a nice mass with a choir and an MC who announced the hymn numbers like a bingo caller but we miss the more relaxed atmosphere of our local parish.

    We commenced our journey preferring the longer more scenic route despite Madam GPS wanting us to travel via Melbourne. We passed through some beautiful former mining towns including: Daylesford, Castlemaine and Bendigo admiring the fantastic old pubs in the smaller towns and Bengigo’s amazing civic architecture. Bendigo is worthy of a return visit. For reasons hard to explain, the cameras stayed in the boot. We need another trip and a chance to record some great architecture.

    As both of us had visited Bendigo Pottery in former lives, a visit seemed appropriate. We took a leisurely browse through the various collections and purchased a few items for Caz and ourselves. It was far more relaxing shopping than our last memorable experience of shopping for glass in Murano in Venice when we were kidnapped by a mad power boat driver who delivered us to a salesperson who proceeded to stalk us to ensure we purchased something of more value than the cost of the “free” boat road.

    After Shepparton the scenery became a little monotonous as one straight road turned into another. The biggest excitement came from a huge thunderstorm which chased us towards Benalla.

    We finally arrived at Rutherglen at about 5pm and easily located the B&B- “Bank on Main” which is an old bank that has been beautifully restored into a residence which also includes two luxury bedrooms for guests appropriately named “Sovereign” and “Sterling”. Each room has a huge king sized bed which is about 1 metre off the ground. The bed linen is luxurious as is the spa bath and the room is tastefully decorated.

    We went for a walk through the main street which consisted of: pubs, cafes/ bakeries/ restaurants, up market clothing and gift shops and antique shops. We then returned to the B&B for a quiet drink on the verandah watching the storm roll in before heading to the Victoria Hotel for dinner. Dinner was pleasant, our hosts friendly and the local wines provided a taste of what lies ahead tomorrow.

    Enjoying listening to the rain on the corrugated iron roof and thoughts of sleep.

    We are currently on the road to Ballarat, having taken the scenic route from Cape Bridgewater. We are pleased to report that it has been three days since our last wine tasting (sounds a bit like the opening to Catholic Reconciliation); but be assured that it is only a rest before Rutherglen.

    The scenery has been spectacular with lots of photo stops at: Bay of Islands (not NZ), the Grotto and the 12 Apostles or how ever many for left after recent martyrdoms. The 12 Apostles viewing area has changed a great deal in the last 25 years to cope with the hoardes of tourists, whose varied accents made it quite a Pentecostal experience. Gone is the dusty layby: helicopter pads, kiosk, underpass to the cliffs, interpretative signs and a massive car-park now compete with the scenery.

    For once, Bass Strait was dead flat, and the sea gave eddy reflections under a cloudy sky. I remembered my polariser and got some great shots — I’m kicking myself I didn’t have it on yesterday for the seals, because you can see down through the water.

    The drive to Apollo Bay and Lorne was a slow one due to a number of “events” that were announced regularly through RTA signs. These towns and others along the way were packed with tourists to the point where we couldn’t stop for lunch. At Lorne, because of a big ocean swim it appeared that most of Victoria had slipped on wetsuits and decided to lap the bay. Even Ballarat has road-racing championships!

    We eventually found sustenance by way of some amazing pies at Anglesea but were forced to seek shelter in car to avoid the howling gale. We took
    the M1 to Geelong which confused the GPS lady who continually repeated “turn around where possible.” We must get the maps updated!

    The western districts are incredibly green thanks to all the rain. We plan to have one last posh meal tonight before the country comforts of Rutherglen.

    PS: Happily installed in the Ansonia in Ballarat, a very nice boutique hotel in the centre of town. The pub next door is very swish, but both are in Gold-Rush buildings. Time for posh nosh and nice drinks!

    We woke to an overcast morning and decided it would be better to walk while the weather wasn’t so warm, so after a nice hardy breakfast we set off.

    We were prepared with hats, water and sunscreen but not long into the journey realised that we had forgotten a vital element— insecticide. As we wandered along doing a continuous Aussie salute we reflected on the big life question: has some clever inventor invented a sunscreen and insecticide in one?

    We passed by the path which led to the “Seal adventures” boat, happy that we had decided not to indulge. We worked out that in the last 12 months we had visited seal colonies in no less than 4 countries and we didn’t need to pay $30pp to listen to a bunch of seals carouse like a collection of drunks at the local pub. We also hadn’t fully recovered from the shock of the stench of hundreds of seals wallowing on buoys in San Francisco Harbour.

    The sign had warned of a two hour round trip and a “steep climb” and it was very accurate. The spectacular scenery and encouraging sign at the halfway point “You’ve reached the half way point. You’ve done well” helped to alleviate some of the pain. We reached the summit where a sign reported that we had climbed the highest cliff in Victoria, 130m and then headed down an easier path to the observation deck for the colony. The seals, part of a 650 strong colony, were a fair distance away but their barks were unmistakeable and they moved swiftly through the water hunting for fish. We took some photos before hurrying back fearful we would be carried away by the biggest dragonflies I had ever seen but also keen to cool off in the crystal clear water that beckoned us from below.

    After a quick change at the B&B we headed down to the beach. Chris described it as a “Paula surf” which translates as dead flat. You would have to walk out 500ms or more before the water went above waist deep. We had also overestimated the water temperature which was a “refreshing” (Chris speak for “cold”) 20 degrees. Needless to say we didn’t stay in for very long. We sat on the beach to warm up and do some reading but the heat from the sun eventually drove us back to the B&B. We drank oj and munched on tim tams ( a gift from our hosts) and veged out reading.

    Later in the afternoon we took a drive into Portland in search of a QLD at a nice pub and something for dinner. We took a drive out to the Cape Nelson lighthouse with its spectacular views interrupted only by the sight of huge wind turbines which dominate the landscape around both capes. We were a little taken with the beautifully restored 4 star accommodation cottages which are available to rent for those who like an uninterrupted view of the coast and who don’t mind a little isolation.

    We were surprised by the size of the Portland port and the volume of container traffic it held but were disappointed by the quality of pubs, lamenting our departure from SA, the home of Aussie pub culture. We finally settled on a nice cafe with views to the port and enjoyed our first oysters of the trip and some nice risotto washed down with a local drop.

    We headed home after dinner making a small detour to the blowholes at Cape Bridgewater but the only blowing that was going on was that provided by more giant wind turbines. We headed back to the B&B and in the absence of TV other than several SBS channels, we wiled away the hours before bed reading and listening to the mesmerizing crashing of the waves.

    Tomorrow we begin our journey along the Great Ocean Road to our eventual destination, Ballarat.

    Thursday morning found us walking around Penola township
    and along dirt roads amidst the vines as part of our early morning
    constitutional. We did our own breakfast thing and headed along the
    road to Coonawarra for a bit of a look. Paula drove because it was
    red territory, and the visit to Redmans was something of a homage
    to growing up at dinner beside Dad, and that first introduction to
    red wine in the 1970s. I remember lots of Orlando reds from the
    Barossa and Connawarra ‘clarets’. We were lucky enough to come
    across one of the Redman brothers, who took me through a complete
    range of 06 to 08 Shiraz, Cabs and a fabulous Cab Merlot. It was a
    refresher course in red wine; and even though I still prefer the
    Clare Shiraz, the Redman version was an elegant for wine. The Cabs,
    on the other hand, were traditional reds with elegance and power —
    in a sense, not a wine to drink yet, but good in five or ten years.
    An interesting gesture in the longevity of both the wine and the
    drinker… Balnaves gave us a nice white and a good range of reds,
    and the conversation Paula so enjoys. Our host’s daughter was at
    the MacKillop Memorial School and so we were able to get some
    impressions of the canonisation from the local community’s
    perspective. I wasn’t entirely taken with the wines, so we toddled
    down to Hollick, which had been Mark’s recommendation. Like
    Balnaves, it was a very swish operation with a wonderful cellar
    door, and Hollick boasts a restaurant that would have been worth
    staying for. However, we had to make do with the wine, which proved
    to be a nice surprise: well-made, well-priced reds which were
    characteristic of the region, and some out-of-the-box thinking — a
    restrained Sav, a fun carbonated white, a sound Pinot sparkling and
    a promising Pinot Noir. And a Tempranillo blend that was spot on. I
    need to get home and cook a leg of lamb to accompany it! I had
    agreed to stop at three wineries, and that’s about my limit for a
    morning, to be honest. Mt Gambier was our first stop and we payed
    out homage to the Blue Lake. We drove down the road to Port
    McDonnell — another Mary MacKillop point of interest — and
    picnicked by the Harbour, full of lobster boats. Pate and goats
    milk cheese by Bass Strait was pretty memorable. The road took us
    through some pretty isolated areas. Timber plantations predominated
    with isolated dairy and beef and occasionally a glimpse of my
    favourite indigenous building, the shearing shed. After two hours,
    wind turbines sprang on the horizon and we knew we were close.
    Victoria’s dramatic coastline took our fancy immediately. Few would
    come the way we have and most would miss the 100 metre cliffs, seal
    colony and expanse of white beach. We are comfortable in our bed
    and breakfast, with a great view and the promise of walks and
    swimming in the morning.

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