Monday, December 27, 2010

Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part 1

This blog post was originally written for, and published on "Barossa Dirt - True tales and twisted vines" in November 2010.

From left: Don Ross (Secretary of the Barossa Valley Archives & Historical Trust), Carl Holm

During the past few months, we have had the pleasure of the company of some wonderful visitors to our home in this magnificent part of the Barossa Ranges, which my husband refers to as ‘God’s Country’. It’s so much fun to sit at the kitchen table in our old cottage, sharing fine wines and food, and getting to know each other ‘face to face’ as opposed to electronic or phone conversations.

Each of these visitors has their own special reason for arriving on our doorstep, or indeed, in our neighbourhood, and it’s their own diverse reasons that will create a segment of my Barossa Dirt posts. The four subjects are all very interesting people – two are in the wine business in the USA, the other two are from Sydney – one involved with the wine business and the other with journalism.

My first interview is with Carl Holm, who is a Sydney-based freelance journalist. He has a passionate interest in German history and has visited the Barossa twice in 2010.The photo above is of Carl (at right) with Don Ross, who is the Secretary of the Barossa Archives and Historical Trust. The photo was taken inside of the Barossa Museum.

ML – What was the initial reason for your first ever trip, or contact, with the Barossa, and what year was it?

CH - I was collecting audio material for a radio documentary for Radio Deutschewelle, Germany’s international broadcaster, in February 2010.

ML – Which Barossan personalities have made a lasting impression on you?

CH – Peter and Margaret Lehmann, because they are very funny and pull no punches. They also fire off of each other when you speak to them together.

ML – What are some other interesting places you have been to in your travels, and/or which interesting people have you met elsewhere in the world?

CH – I worked in Germany for three and a half years, and in the process fell in love with France. I also love the Czechs for their ‘gallows’ humour.

ML – Compared to some of these places, what makes the Barossa an appealing place to visit?

CH – The time that I spent in Germany gave me an interest to investigate the waves of German immigration and the Barossa Valley is part of that.

ML – What are your favourite Barossan places to visit and why?

CH – The smaller wineries that have exclusive products that are not readily available outside of the Barossa. I like visiting old churches and cemeteries. One day I would like to come back with a tent and a motorcycle and see it from a different perspective, again.

ML – Do you have any favourite Barossa foods or wines?

CH – Wines: Henschke Pinot Gris, Kies Family 2000 Dedication Shiraz. Food: The kangaroo fillet from the Tanunda Clubhouse.

ML – What is the appeal of Flaxmans Valley to you?

CH – The only banjos you hear of a night-time are the banjo frogs.

ML – Thank you, Carl for answering these questions, and for being a fan and advocate of the Barossa.

Cheers for now,

Marie Linke

Tiny URL for this post:

The importance of being earnest.

This blog post was originally written for, and published on "Barossa Dirt - True tales and twisted vines" in September 2010.

ear·nest 2 (├╗rnst) n. 2. A token of something to come; a promise or an assurance.

The name ‘Barossa’ is quite well-known, and its adjacent GI, Eden Valley, despite having some rare, very old vineyards, could be considered one of the new kids on the block as far as global public recognition goes. But somewhere in between these amazingly beautiful, yet different GI’s is a secret sub-region. Despite a variable grape production since the 1860’s (starting with currants being grown), it is only in the very recent past that Flaxman’s Valley has begun to emerge publicly as the quiet, mysterious, yet stunning and very special wine-producing place that I have been fortunate enough to live in since 1985.

A special ridge exists in the northern part of Flaxman’s Valley. It stretches from Bob and Wilma McLean’s property on the northern tip (the McLean’s property was one of my ancestors original homesteads), to the southern tip where the famous Heggies and Pewsey Vale vineyards lie. This ridge is bordered by the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park, with the Tanunda Creek weaving a well-worn path through properties and park alike as it heads to the west, down Menglers Hill to meet the Para River. In between these two tips are the miniscule settlements of Randall-Town and Argent-Town, aptly named after the families that settled there in the early 1900’s.

The Randall families planted vines and fruit trees on settlement. They worked the vineyards passionately for numerous decades. A kilometre to the south, the Argent families did the same thing. The old vines tended by the Randall families by hand, are now the grapes behind the Ringland Vintners, Hobbs Vintners and Karra Yerta Wines brands. Further to the south, the remaining Argent vineyard provides the bulk of the Flaxman Wines portfolio. Vineyards planted by my own ancestors existed on the (now) McLean’s property until the vine-pull scheme of the eighties (the previous owners pulled out the precious old vines). Bob and Wilma McLean have since replanted, thankfully.

The wines that are produced from this ridge are incredibly special, and as there is not a mains water supply at all in the area, even for housing, most of the vineyards are dry-grown aside from the very rare watering in major heat-waves by irrigation from small dams or bores. Irrigation is not a major part of the care-taking of these vineyards as the region itself has a very high rainfall average (around twenty-eight inches). Most of the vines are so old and deep-rooted that they seem to fare very well in the extremes of the South Australian summers. Not to forget that while the Barossa Valley floor sizzles, it is usually at least a few degrees cooler in the Barossa Ranges. On forty-five degrees celcius days, that can make a huge difference to survival of canopies, and subsequent grape protection from the elements.

But there are always exceptions to the rule of a hot, dry, Barossan summer. In January 2007 we had almost two inches of gentle rain which made for an exceptional vintage. Our 2007 Karra Yerta Riesling remains one of our best produced yet.

The wines from this ridge will continue to impress for many decades to come. I can assure you of that. Some of the special visitors that we get to the region also confirm it, but more about that in one of my next posts.

Cheers for now,

Marie Linke

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

One of the best rizzas in the world, no schist!

Welcome to my one hundredth blog post! Firstly, thank goodness that it's November - October was a mad month for us; I had two trips to Melbourne; one driving, one flying; we released our vertical riesling six pack (2005 to 2010 vintages, all in the one pack), and we won our first ever Gold Medal.

Then, of course, there were the numerous samples to send to wine writers across the country and once they were received, and subsequently written up, things became even more hectic. I'm slowly catching up with things and so today, during breaks between customers at the Collective Barossa shop, I'm utilising the spare time to post the latest reviews on our 2010 Eden Valley Riesling.

There are three reviews. One each from Philip White, Jeremy Pringle and Julian Coldrey - all riesling lovers, and all terrific advocates of the special little vineyard that produces our riesling, year after year. Many thanks to them for their honesty, and their support of our tiny business.

The first review is from Jeremy which can be found here:

Karra Yerta Wines 2010 Eden Valley Riesling

Eden Valley 12.5% Screwcap $25 Source: Sample

I've tasted/consumed six straight vintages of Karra Yerta Riesling now and I think I'm starting to get a feel for a very special vineyard and a style of winemaking for which I have the greatest respect.

This may be better than the superb 2009. It has the same purity and a similar flavour profile; maybe a little more forward, but it's longer and the acidity/minerality is simply stunning. Limes with a suggestion of green pear and watermelon. There's talc on the nose but it's more about river pebbles on the back palate. A little spice for good measure too.

Clarity and intensity are faultless and that tart, minerally dryness goes on to meet the horizon. Quite approachable and very enjoyable now, especially as the acidity is on the softer side for the region, but it will age gracefully too. Supremely good Riesling. It reminded me that I still appreciate the classic Australian style a great deal, especially when the quality is this high.

Winery website-

Thursday October 21, 2010


The second review is from Julian Coldrey - which you can read in full here:

This is a wine I look forward to each year.

Youthful spritz in the glass and swirling, estery fragrances on the nose. This is many things at once: the Karra Yerta vineyard with the vivid, neon-pastel tones characteristic of this site, an Eden wine full of bath salts and minerals, and a product of its vintage, showing a richness I've not seen from this label before. Realistically, this needs a few more months to blow off some residual sulfur and show its pristine self, but already there's much complexity and detail, which is impressive in any wine, let alone a wine made so simply and available at such a reasonable price. No wonder Australian Riesling is so revered.

The palate is powerful and full, again showing a relatively rich, fleshy fruit flavour profile. In addition to the expected lime rind and lemon juice, there's a hint of papaya alongside crystalline minerals and rather breathtaking acid. Good intensity. The texture here is wonderful; chalky, dry, etched. It's a refreshing foil to the fruit flavours and ensures this wine leaves the palate clean and refreshed and, most importantly, eager for another sip.

Another cracker from this vineyard.

Karra Yerta Wines Price: $A25 Closure: Stelvin Source: Sample

Posted by Julian on Saturday, October 23, 2010


Finally, our third review - this one from Philip White who was the first wine writer to give us the confidence to continue with our dream of making special wines from the remarkable hilltop vineyard:) Philip's review was published in The Independent Weekly in mid-October 2010.

Karra Yerta 2010 Eden Valley Riesling, $25, 12.5% alc, screwcap, 94+++ points.

This is as tight, austere, flinty and reserved as Riesling gets. Grown by the Linke family in the ancient schists and sandstones of the Flaxman's Ridge in the High Barossa, it's an unirrigated old vine marvel that's set for a good 30 years of cellar. While some will simply find it far too tense and humourless, it never fails to draw wows and bows from the hard-core Rizza set, and still has my head shaking in awe. It deservedly won Gold in the recent International Riesling Competition in Canberra, and it's selling quickly, so jump.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More reviews and medal news!

I had a completely different blog topic for this post but then realised that I have neglected to write about some very good news for Karra Yerta!

Our big news for the week is that our 2010 Karra Yerta Wines Eden Valley Riesling won a Gold Medal last week at the
2010 Canberra International Riesling Challenge. This is Karra Yerta's first Gold Medal and needless to say, we are incredibly happy.

It just so happened that we received this news a day before flying to Melbourne so while we were away, we celebrated the win, along with the birthdays of two special friends, by drinking french champagne and of course, some Karra Yerta Riesling:)

We have also had two other reviews written recently - one on the 2010 Riesling, and one on our 2007 Shiraz Cabernet. Both reviews are written by our Sydney friend, Andrew Graham, who we have been sending wine to for years now. As you will read in Andrew's reviews, he prides himself on his honest appraisals. He's a true wine lover, and integrity must be his middle name. Please read his thoughts below, and then go to the links to his page to see further comments, from Andrew and myself.

Please note that our website is still to be updated with this wine (and in fact our recently released 2010 Shiraz Grenache), however both wines are already on the website order form. It is an understatement to say that I have a huge to-do list!


Sunday October 17, 2010

Karra Yerta Riesling 2010 (Eden Valley, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25

Source: Sample

This picked up a gold medal over the weekend, which prompted me to pop some in the fridge. Second time I've had this actually and it looks even better now with an extra month in the bottle. Definitely an opulent wine this year, but in a very correct fashion. Again excellent stuff. Maybe a little fuller than the 09?

It's green in the glass this. Water green and neutral looking. But the smell! What wafts out is Eden Riesling perfection. Lots of lime juice, wet pavement and more lime juice in a big, nose-filling dose of Eden awesomeness. Palate is dry and pithy, showing some banana ferment characters, grapefruit and soft (though powerful) acidity. Long. Very long. Interesting to note that 'soft' acidity, for I tend to think that Eden and Clare Riesling acidity can sometimes be a little hard and clunky (which I often wonder whether that's due to injudicious additions). Not this wine.

All in it's a lovely, powerful, concentrated Riesling in classical form. For mine this is what Eden Valley Riesling is all about, and it's a style of wine that I absolutely dig.

The glass in front of me appears to be leaking.... 18.7/95


Friday, October 8, 2010

Karra Yerta Shiraz Cabernet 2007 (Eden and Barossa Valley, SA)
Screwcap, 14.5%
, $25
Source: Sample

Dear Flaxmans Valley,

I love you.

Or at least I love the wines that are produced from the grapes grown upon your rolling rocky hills. What's more, my love is stoked by just how consistent these wines are. Year in, year out, I am surprised by just how good your wines can be, like a warm and generous embrace that never loses it's intensity.

But this wine is not wholly sourced from within the confines of your vineyards. Oh no, this includes some warmer Barossa Valley fruit, contributing some different flavours to your elegant intensity.

Thankfully though, this cross blended red does your reputation good justice. It smells of ripe, briary red raspberry fruit, beetroot and sleek chocolate oak. It's a warmer nose than shown by some of the previous vintages of this wine, with a warmer palate to match, but it still feels... vital. Full of life. Soft and languid, polished and generous. It's still a little harder, a little more meaty, stewed and chewy in the context of the typical Karra Yerta style, but it never crosses over into desiccation.

In short, it is another good wine from a superb vineyard. It's not the greatest wine of the lineage, but it's - again - an enjoyable drink. 17.2/90

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keep your eyes on the road, and your hands upon the wheel.... and the laptop.

I started writing this post on my way home from Melbourne, one of my favourite places to visit, so rather than start from scratch, I am going to try to continue the flow as I sip on a glass of red, and reminisce about my wonderful five day break that I waited three hundred and sixty five days for. I didn't have the Roadhouse Blues at all:) Oh, how I love The Doors! But back to my post which I started four days ago:

It's a magnificent spring day and as I have a few hours spare, while my co-driver takes the wheel, I plan to utilise the time to catch up on my blogs and other social media.

On the long weekend of October, every year, I travel to Melbourne to meet up with a group of Melbournian ladies to attend the
Hawthorn Football Club Best and Fairest Dinner (officially known as the Peter Crimmins Medal Dinner). It's always great fun and I also make the odd wine appointments here and there. This time round however, I seemed to have spent more time talking about wine privately, than at business appointments, and as I could actually share a glass or two whilst doing so, it made a nice change from standing behind the counter of the Collective Barossa shop.

I think that I made much progress on convincing people that riesling is worth revisiting. I am still amazed at the general misconception that in a city of (what I find) predominantly Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay drinkers, most people think riesling is a sweet wine. If I had a dollar for every time that I heard people speak of the rieslings of the late seventies/early eighties with much disregard and certainly not fond memories, I'd be fairly wealthy at the moment. It's very rewarding talking to people and being able to hand them a glass of our riesling, and see their reactions. I really do think that riesling will become more popular sooner than later, especially now with the International Riesling Scale which tells consumers, in a simple diagram on the back label, just how dry or sweet the contents are. I simply didn't have time to get the scale put on our 2010 riesling but certainly will for our 2011 vintage.

The Hawthorn Dinner was wonderful, the wine meetings and new friendships made were incredible, and the journey itself through Victoria was magnificent. Due to the recent rains/floods, the drive through Victoria was astonishingly green and lush. In past years, I have seen dust and fields of yellow and brown; smelt the drought in the air, felt it in my skin. Scary stuff when it's usually the last days of September or first days of October (not even summer yet) when I have witnessed the dire need for good rains throughout the state.

Through such pretty towns as Great Western, Ballarat, Inglewood, Horsham, Bendigo, Loxton, and through the heart of mallee country; Pinnaroo, Bordertown, Ouyen, I saw Australia's raw, natural beauty. I saw through the eyes of the international travellers that lob into the Collective Barossa shop, travelling to or from, Adelaide to Melbourne. I felt their sense of wonder. It took my friend and I approximately fifteen hours to drive back (it usually takes about nine or ten hours). We stopped at some towns for petrol, coffee, food, and a spot of other shopping, but most of the delay was caused by me wanting to stop and take photos! I had a very patient and understanding friend with me. I think in the end, he loved it, even though it meant arriving home many hours late, at midnight:) Sorry about that, Sue:) I feel that I captured some of the heart and soul of rural Australia in my photos this year, which is a total contrast to those taken at the same time/same events from 2009. Amazing.

To all of the friends and business acquaintances - old and new - who made our trip and stay so very hospitable and full of incredible memories, sincere thanks. I look forward to visiting again in the near future! And, if you are reading this and have not travelled through the towns that I have mentioned, mark it down on your to-do list as it truly is worth it:)

My recommendations for this trip are the Country Bakehouse at Loxton (country style food which is always sensational) and the Melbourne Tramcar Restaurant (an amazing experience and the staff and food are A+).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows with a Lazy Ballerina.

There's nothing like spending a cool night in a warm place. I can't think of a much warmer place, in many ways, than the Lazy Ballerina cellar door at Kuitpo, just a ten minute drive from McLaren Vale and an hour and a half from the Barossa. I've mentioned the Lazy Ballerina and James Hook many times, and frankly, if you still haven't got the message that this is a must-do for any wine fan, then you must have a good reason for it.

It truly is a remarkable place, and the wines are divine. The Hook family (James, his Mum and Dad) are incredibly hospitable and know how to put on a good show, and a good show it was on the evening of Saturday September 11th, 2010, when for a bargain price of $20 per person, you could taste the Lazy Ballerina new releases (2007 Lot 13 Grenache and 2006 Fortified Vintage Grenache) and enjoy the never-ending and most delightful Italian-inspired goodies made by the hands of Mrs. Hook. What an incredible experience.

I took some of my best friends with me on the night, and the husband of course. All three of them had never been to the Lazy Ballerina before, nor met any of the Hook family. All three were completely impressed, with everything - the wines, the people, the food, the setting, the cellar door, everything! How could you not be? The gardens, even at night, are stunning and I can recall the very first time that I met James Hook; he was busily loading wheelbarrows of mulch to spread over the enormous and beautiful garden. A busy man who always has a smile and such lovely manners, even when totally worn out from gardening after a hard days work at his other job(s).

Our small group was also joined by Robyn Smith of Robyn's Southern Spirit Tours. Robyn kindly provided accommodation and arranged transport for the night and was just as impressed by the wines on offer. My accompanying song for this blog post sprang to my mind when I thought of the bus trip home that night - what a great memory to have forever; full bellies, the taste of those delightful wines still fresh in our mouths (and a few cases next to me on the bus:), lots of laughs and a perfect end to a wonderful evening. Ironically, this song is filmed on a bus, but that's not why I chose it - that was due to the fact it was such a happy, bright, feel-good song. And that is exactly how I felt on the night and still feel when I think of it. Here it is: Lesley Gore's 'Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows'
- a classic from the 1965 film 'Ski Party'.

I also met Bec Hardy and Richard Dolan who are very lovely, and I managed to finally bring some of the K1 wines home with me. K1 is definitely on my list of cellar doors to visit on my next trip south. An extra surprise was personally meeting one of my Karra Yerta Wines Facebook fans, Judy. We had an absolute ball getting to know each other and plan to meet up again soon.

I truly love going to McLaren Vale - the hospitality down south is second to none. I always have a great time. The bonus is of course that I also love the regions wines. Tough life being in the wine industry. Seriously, it's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, you know!

Look, look, look, lookin' out my back door.

I'm quite enjoying picking out my favourite songs to listen to while I write my blog posts and do other computer work. Tonight while I was thinking of this particular blog entry, I had a Creedence moment, so the song for this one is 'Who'll stop the rain?'

I'm listening to the song, and the rain, right now. Last weekend, Spring really was here with the glorious sunny Spring days that the Barossa does best but Winter has given us a reminder tonight that perhaps she is not quite ready to move on. The Barossa has had an amazing amount of rain over the past few weeks and our dam filled up, almost overnight. Our old, deep-rooted vines are loving it, and it will certainly hold them in good stead for a hot, dry summer, which will be here soon enough.

When the rain falls so steadily, and for so long, I am even more appreciative of the fact that I live in the Barossa Ranges, where flooding is not quite the issue as much as it is to those who live on the Valley floor. I witnessed the aftermath of the Barossa floods in the early eighties and will never forget the devastation that it caused. I can still remember the interior of the house I helped to clean. I was completely stunned at how almost nothing was able to be salvaged. It took months for people to recover from that.

The photos below were taken in the first week of September - the first is of our dam, which rarely fills to capacity, and the second is of the Bethany Creek. It was quite amazing driving through the Barossa and seeing so much water about in the first week of September!

On a completely different note but still Barossa orientated, last Thursday night I was privileged to be part of a core group asked to attend a meeting at the Tanunda Club to discuss my involveme
nt in an innovative idea of the Barossa Wine and Grape Association to promote the Barossa. I won't elaborate at the moment other than to say that I feel very honoured, and am really looking forward to being a participant and spending more time doing what I love to do - writing. If you want to see a whole different perspective of the Barossa from some of the personalities in it, then keep an eye on this page, which should be officially launched sometime in October, if not before: Barossa Dirt. It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm already making notes to use over the coming weeks.

Speaking of notes, there was much note-taking on the weekend during a visit to the Barossa by Sydney wine-blogger, Andrew Graham. Whilst I took some notes regarding Andrew, he took lots of notes about the vineyards in our area and had a chance to speak with some of the fascinating personalities of our special ridge. We hosted the afternoon for our guests in our old red gum stable and though a small get-together, it was simply sensational to sit and listen as Bob McLean and Chris Ringland discussed soils, techniques and their opinions of pretty much anything and everything to do with vines and wines. James and I, and Colin Sheppard, sat entranced by the stories told by Bob in particular, and the table of wines was one to be proud of - 2000 Chris Ringland Shiraz, 2000 McLean's Farmgate Barr-Eden, 2010 Karra Yerta Eden Valley Riesling, 2010 Flaxman Wines Eden Valley Riesling just to name some. Wow, what an afternoon.

Later in the evening, James, Andrew and I met up with the other Collective Barossa guys, Steve Kurtz and Mark Mader (and Mark's lovely wife, Amanda), for a classic Barossa pub feast at the Angas Park Hotel in Nuriootpa. We had a fabulous night with much laughter, and yet more good wine and food.

An exhausting but exhilarating day, and a real insight for Andrew into some of the people of the Barossa. I will be writing more about Andrew's visit in another blog entry in the very near future, but first I have to write about the other happenings of last weekend. That involved a trip South to one of my all-time favourite places and will follow soon:)

Monday, September 6, 2010

History never repeats.

I'm having a bit of a Split Enz moment tonight - if you aren't familiar with the song 'History never repeats' then you should listen to it here. Split Enz were one of my favourite bands in the eighties and I find them (and the Finn brothers' offshoot, Crowded House) rather inspiring to listen to, when I am writing.

Speaking of inspiring, opening the Collective Barossa shop in the magnificent historical landmark c.1866 building which houses the Barossa Museum in Tanunda, was serendipity as far as the continuing journey to write my first (published) book. I have dreamt of writing this particular book for at least five years, and whilst I had the basic concept of it in my head, I had been unable to find a starting point in many ways; the format, the publishing and a sense of confusion as to how I was going to expand on the very early history of the region with little experience of digging so deeply through archives, and not having the time to do so. So by having a shop in the Museum (also the Barossa Valley's first Post Office and Telegraph Station) and walking regularly past the amazing array of historical items whenever I venture to the toilets or glass washing area, I have found the encouragement to begin working on what will no doubt be a very rewarding project.

As my ancestors were the third largest landholders in the Flaxman's Valley area until the very early 1900's, I have long been curious as to how the land was divided up, and how much of it is still in the hands of generations descended from these first families. Some of the (previously) well-known families of this region (which I have lived in since 1985) such as Argent and Randall, married into my ancestors families, and small sections of the region were even named after them i.e Argent-Town and Randall-Town. The past fifteen years or so have seen most of these families leave the region, and with many newcomers to the area, our history was slowly being lost, and this is what gave me the original idea of recording what I could, whilst some of these family members were still alive and able to contribute to what will possibly be the first book dedicated to this region.

My landlords of the Collective Barossa shop are the small and amazing group of people who dedicate their time, on a voluntary basis, under the banner of the Barossa Valley Archives and Historical Trust. Since 1963, when the Trust was formed (due to concerns that the Barossa was fast succumbing to development and the subsequent loss of our valuable historical buildings and items) the members of the Trust have preserved an incredible array of anything and everything that relates to the Barossa and its German heritage. Many of them have recorded some of the informaton in a collection of historical books and their passion and skills are second to none.

I have enlisted the help of one of the members, Mr. Reg Munchenberg, to help me in researching information to write an accurate account of what the Flaxman's Valley area was like from settlement in the late 1840's to the early 1900's. Reg is a wealth of information and his experience in historical research is truly amazing. I thank him sincerely for his assistance, and have no doubt that without it, I would never have been able to get this project started so soon. It is really important to me that some of the older generation - my former neighbours in the area in the 1980's - get to see this book finished as they have already shown such excitement at the prospect, and gratitude to me, even in this very embryonic stage. Earlier in the year I sent out questionnaires to former residents to see if they were interested in participating, and I was thrilled to check my mail and see the completed questionnaires, copies of photos and heartfelt notes enclosed. I feel privileged to have lived out here early enough to have seen the lifestyle that was so simple and different to what it has become over the past fifteen years.

The photo below is of Reg with some of the information he has already collated for me. Now, in my spare time, I get to the fun part of reading it all, cross-referencing and formatting it into a very interesting beginning to my book. I look forward to the day when I can proudly announce that "Tales from Bullfrog Flat" is published and ready to read:)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A few of my own Barossa Secrets.

I seem to have written a lot of blog entries recently on the McLaren Vale region, which I obviously love, so thought it was time to give my own region a bit of coverage. The Barossa is home to an astounding amount of wineries - some long established, others much newer. There are so many to choose from but of course, I do have my favourites; favourites to take my visitors to, for not only wine, but perhaps for the gardens or historical buildings (Rockford, Yalumba, Henschke), and my own favourite wines (Soul Growers, McLean's Farm, Loan, Hart of the Barossa, Kurtz, Michael Hall, Tim Smith, Gumpara, Wroxton). I often struggle to decide which bottle to open at night, when I am home and it's no wonder why. There is so much to love about the Barossa, wine-wise, but we also have an amazing array of gourmet goodies, and some much lesser known than the Maggie Beer range, or the meats from Schulz Butchers in Angaston, so I would like to share some of my favourite food places with you in this post.

Firstly, whilst many visitors to our area know of the Angas Park range of dried fruits, not many have discovered my ultimate favourite place to get special fruit goodies. A few kilometres out of Angaston on the northern side (the road to Moculta) there is a turn off onto a quaint country road called Gawler Park Road. Almost two kilometres along this road, on the left hand side, is a divine family business called Gully Gardens. The orchard has been tended for many, many years by the Steicke family (whom our family have known for a very long time) and they now have a gorgeous little shop (next to the same shed that I have sat in and cut freshly picked apricots for them) where you can buy their beautiful tasty produce, either dried or fresh.

Gully Gardens is owned and operated by Rick and Rosemarie Steicke with the help of their family. Some of their dried fruit specialties are apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, prunes, minced products, confectionery, chocolate dipped fruit, goodie baskets and gift lines. Their fresh fruit in season includes apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums. They are open on Thursdays and Fridays from 9.30am to 3.00pm, Saturdays 9.00am to 12.00pm or by appointment. I highly recommend a visit there and as you will see from the photos with this blog entry, it is more than worth it.

Next on the list is Victoria and Frances McClurg's sensational Barossa Valley Cheese Company. Every time that I walk into this shop, it is a feast for the senses. Victoria, Frances and their small band of helpers make the cheese on-site and it really is an asset to the region, with the cheeses winning many awards already. The inspiration for this business was Victoria's travels through France, and she also did three vintages over there. She was incredibly impressed with France's love of cheeses so on her return to Australia she set about starting up her own gourmet cheese business, and this is the result of that, and her business partner and Mother, Frances, passion and hard work.

Their range of hand-made artisan cheeses include Vache Curd, Peri Feta, Babybert, Barossa Camembert, Barossa Brie, St. Kitts, Washington Washrind, Wanera, Petit Prince, and Petite Princess. The Barossa Valley Cheese Company is open Monday to Friday 10.00am to 5.00pm, Saturday 10.00am to 4.00pm, Sunday 11.00am to 3.00pm. You can visit their website here: They are located at 67b Murray Street, Angaston.

Finally, my favourite place in Tanunda for a light lunch or coffee: Keil's Coffee & Fine Foods is a little cafe' at 63 Murray Street, Tanunda, and a visit to them is one of my daily habits (their fabulous coffee often helps me get through the day after only five or six hours sleep, when I am working at the Collective Barossa shop:)

They have the most divine range of home-made cookies, slices, cakes, wraps, quiches and other light and lovely lunches. Shortly, they will be also offering freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. Their coffee is sensational and they also sell bulk packets of it, and a small range of other goodies, such as olive oil and olives. I send a lot of my Collective Barossa customers there as it is only a few minutes walk, and some of them have even popped back into the shop to say thanks for the recommendation (a sure sign that I am on the right track when I say that Keil's is a great place for a cuppa and a bite to eat:). The staff are always friendly and though it's small, it's comfortable and cosy. Keil's Coffee and Fine Foods is open Monday to Friday 7.30am to 5.00pm, Saturday 8.30am to 5.00pm, Sunday 9.00am to 4.00pm. Closed on Christmas Day.

So there you have it, three of my favourite non-wine Barossa Secrets. Make sure you put them on your list when next visiting the region. You will love them all!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recent Ratings and Awards - July/August 2010

The end of July always signifies the release of the James Halliday Wine Companion. We submitted four wines for the 2011 edition and again, received some very encouraging and rewarding scores, which I will place at the end of this blog entry.

We also quietly released our Karra Yerta 2007 Shiraz Cabernet, which was featured in The Big Red Wine Book recenty. This particular wine was also reviewed by Philip White in "The Independent Weekly" 22nd July, 2010, the review of which is published below.

2007 Karra Yerta Wines Shiraz Cabernet

$25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points

Made by hand by James Linke, with fruit from the Barossa floor and the Karra Yerta Vineyard on the wind-whipped Flaxman’s Ridge, this lissom red comes from a different era.

It is nothing like the industrial mono muck that the modern industry churns out.

It has intensity but modesty, extreme confidence, but elegance. It has no jammy, gluggy aspects, but rather a slender, refined, supple form, with a bouquet that simply oozes good health and living berries.

Amongst all that fresh ripe fig and prune, mulberry and blueberry, there’s a tantalising hint of Brazil nut. It’s like fruit cake mix before it hits the oven.


2011 Wine Companion results

Karra Yerta Wines was rated a four star winery which is a terrific rating for someone as small as us, with not a great deal of history and a very small range. Our wines submitted for this edition were scored as below:

Karra Yerta Wines 2007 Shiraz Cabernet
Rating 92 Drink 2017 $25 Date Tasted Feb 10

Karra Yerta Shiraz Cabernet 2006
Rating 91 Drink 2016 $25 Date Tasted Feb 10

Karra Yerta Eden Valley Riesling 2009
Rating 91 Drink 2017 $25 Date Tasted Feb 10

Karra Yerta Sparkling Shiraz NV
Rating 89 Drink 2015 $35 Date Tasted Feb 10

Friday, July 16, 2010

Heading south to Cadenzia Country.

"Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favourite things...", so sang the Lennon Sisters.

In desperate need of a short break
(also known as 'market research') and a breath of fresh sea air, I took it upon myself to indulge in a few of my own favourite things last weekend. I took a road-trip to see my Southerner friends on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Despite having some of the world's best wines at my fingertips here in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, every now and then I get an urge for something a little different. In winter I crave the divine red wines from the McLaren Vale region, and in summer, some of the equally extraordinary rieslings from the Clare Valley. I see no reason why I must have one favourite of anything when there are so many delicious wines available to me, most within a few hours drive. And so, off to the Vale I went.

Getting away early was impossible, as I was late to leave the shop due to tying up loose ends, and it was quite a treacherous drive from Tanunda to Clayton Bay on the winding, branch-scattered roads in the pitch black night. But I arrived safely, armed with some of my own regions finest wines - a Kurtz Family Vineyard GSM and a Tim Smith Shiraz, plus one of Karra Yerta's own museum stock 2005 Eden Valley Rieslings. My lovely hostess for the night, Annabelle, had waited patiently for my arrival, and had the glasses ready. The storms hit sometime around 4am but by then we were sleeping peacefully, ready to hit the road to McLaren Vale early the next day.

The early start failed dismally, so knowing that we had already missed the wonderful Willunga Market, we took a scenic route through the winding hills past the quaint tiny villages of Finnis and Ashbourne, before detouring through a special little area called Kuitpo Colony. What an amazing and beautiful part of the world! You can read more about Kuitpo Colony here:

A quick drive past the Lazy Ballerina cellar door, one of my favourites in the region, to McLaren Vale saw us land at the lovely pair of stores, Fall from Grace, and Blessed Cheese. Gill Gordon-Smith is the owner of Fall from Grace and stocks an incredible array of international wines. I left with a most interesting bottle of French Shiraz. The photo here is of Blessed Cheese, a delightful licensed cafe which has the most amazing array of goodies, as you can see.

After that, we headed further north
to find another friend who was to accompany us to a lovely lady's thirtieth birthday at Port Noarlunga. A fine night of fun and music was had by all. I must say that the Southerners really do turn on the hospitality and despite the chilly night, it was perhaps the most enjoyable, and warmest, in every way, party that I have ever attended. Thank you, Laura, and to Robyn and Mick also:)

The next morning after the mandatory recovery breakfast of cheese rolls with ham, tomato, lots of cracked pepper and a wee glass of pear cider (to cleanse the soul), we headed to Yangarra Estate Vineyard where we were given a tour of the recently opened cellar door ,and a tasting of the delectable Yangarra wines by the very charming Manager and Winemaker, Peter Fraser. All of the Yangarra wines are delicious but my personal favourite was the 2008 Cadenzia, which I haven't stopped raving about since my return. For more information on the McLaren Vale Cadenzias please go here:

Dragging ourselves away from the cosy Yangarra Cellar Door, with its luscious leather seats and wood fire, was extremely difficult, but one has to do what one has to do. So to the chorus of clinking bottles, Annabelle and I headed back to the Bay via the Meadows market, another little country town event where you can buy all sorts of plants, jewellery, fruit, vegetables and many other goodies. The sun was shining, taking just enough chill off the air so that it wasn't unbearably cold, and it was a magnificent afternoon for a drive, back to the Barossa via the Bay.

I arrived home just after dark, with some fine McLaren Vale wines in my back seat, a warm heart from the kindness shown by the Southerners to their Barossa guest, and a mind full of wonderful ideas to utilise in the Collective Barossa shop over the coming months. It really was a great little short break and has given me much faith in the future of the South Australian wine industry, and the potential for all areas, if we are willing to work together. I have the world at my fingertips, or should I say the glass? Either way, it's time to pour another glass of that magnificent Yangarra Cadenzia. Try it, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The W Files: Winter, Wine, Wine Front & Walsh

Winter has hit the Barossa Ranges. It's magnificent. Rainy days, freezing nights, and the daily evening drive up to the Ranges, via Mengler's Hill, is always challenging in the thick pea-soup fog. I simply love it! This area never ceases to amaze me with its natural beauty no matter what season it is but in the winter it really puts on a show. If you are out and about early enough in the mornings, as you drive into Angaston, the gullies fill with mist and it really does look like there are oceans between the hill-top ridges. It is also the season for home-cooked farm-style meals and lots of red wines. Divine.

So it's no surprise that June is the release date for a very special book written by two passionate wine appreciators, Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh. Their job must be rather intense working their way through numerous tasting samples submitted to them throughout the year, but somehow they seem to survive, and come up with a terrific guide for the punters. We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Karra Yerta has an inclusion in the 2010/2011 edition. The Big Red Wine Book is available from any
good book store for around $24.95 and you can also follow the guys on their Twitter site or become a member of their website, The Wine Front.

We suggest that you grab a copy of this book as soon as possible as there are some sensational recommendations in it (more than one thousand!), but in the meantime, here is the review that Gary wrote on our newly released 2007 Shiraz Cabernet. For your information, 93 points falls into the 91-94 point category which is described as 'Excellent. Better than excellent. Hunt out a good price and buy up'.
We also featured in the Best Red Blends over $20.

Karra Yerta 2007 Shiraz Cabernet

Price: $25
Region: Barossa Valley, Eden Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Seal: Screwcap

Value: 4/5

Auction: N/A

Score: 93/100

Only 170 dozen of this wine produced.

2007 Release.

It's not a big wine but it's full of flavour and charm. It's beautifully made too. It tastes of chocolate, florals, menthol, blackberries and pepper spice. There's a nice clip of cedary oak too. Chewy tannins add texture and it has a long, chocolatey finish. Lovely quality and lovely to drink. Walsh describes it as 'a real elbow tilter'. DRINK 2010 - 2017.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old wines, new reviews and other news!

Now, while I am on a roll, on the writing front, I will add an entry on two fabulous recent reviews we received, plus another snippet that is wine-related. One review is from Julian Coldrey, the other from Jeremy Pringle (both Brisbane-ites) and the final person to rate a mention, is Sydney-sider, Andrew Graham. All three of these fellows have been mentioned by me before, and again, I thank them for not only being great advocates for the wine industry, but also for their support and encouragement of small wineries. Sometimes when you are so small, as we are, it is hard to get people in the media world to try your wines, let alone get a response out of them. These three guys are totally awesome and on behalf of the entire Australian wine industry, I thank them all for their passion and integrity.

The first review was published on Julian's website, Full Pour, and featured our 2005 Karra Yerta Wines Bullfrog Flat Shiraz:

Karra Yerta Wines 2005 Bullfrog Flat Shiraz

There's a reason why I've not posted recently, and it's not entirely related to a lack of time. I have indeed tasted several wines this week. And they were all crap. Which does wear one down after a while. The point of my drinking, or so I have convinced myself, is to enjoy moments of abstract sensual pleasure. I drink wine for the same reason I listen to music; to hear, feel, disagree, discover. In other words, I drink to experience beauty. So a series of ugly wines gives me absolutely nothing to write other than tiresomely self-reflective introductions like this.

Anyway, it's Saturday night and I'm worth a good wine. So out popped this sample from my tasting pile, a wine that has been waiting a few months to be experienced. I tasted the companion Barossa Shiraz a few weeks ago and found it intensely pleasurable. So it was with pleasure that my first smells and tastes of this wine revealed a similarly characterful, regionally-driven wine. Which you prefer may simply come down to your passion for one region's flavour profile over another.

Fabulous aromas of dirt roads and crushed stone, along with warm blackberries and well-judged, nutty oak. This is one to smell through the course of an entire evening, and to watch duck and weave through its full range of expressions, including the merest hint of aged leather. To be sure, there's a lot in here, yet it's not a self-consciously difficult wine. It just is, with a sense of easy, natural vibrancy that speaks both of its origins and its intent.

Entry brings dense, liqueur-like fruit into focus at the temporary expense of some minerality, but the latter is flung back into the picture on the mid-palate, which is the wine's high point of complexity. The structure is notable at this point, with firm underlying acidity and plush tannins keeping things in shape without ever seeming like the main event. A bit of vanillan oak pokes out its head through the after palate, but this wine is and remains all about spectacular fruit character; squashed blackberries and stones and dusty summers.

What a treat. This is easily a $40 wine.

Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample
The second review was published on Jeremy's website, Wine Will Eat Itself, and featured our (Museum stock left only) 2005 Karra Yerta Wines Barossa Shiraz:

Karra Yerta Wines 2005 Barossa Shiraz

Barossa 14.6% Screwcap $25 Source: Sample

I've been known to swoon over Karra Yerta, so I'll warn you now; I'm going to do it again. This is precisely the sort of wine that reminds me exactly why I do what I do. A wine that created a palpable sense of excitement as I drank it.

The amount of evolution that it underwent over the course of 5 hours in a flat bottomed decanter was stunning. I enjoy the fact that wine is a living thing. It's the subtle movement of a bottle's attributes which create so much of the interest and joy I derive from this strange and entrancing liquid.

Sweet blackberry & red cherry berry fruit along with earthy notes and bottle age leather & truffle. Soft and plush yet detailed, with a velvet entry quickly being pulled into a formation of real conviction. There's a fair bit of
coffeed tannin ready to see the fruit through a few years yet. More plum and red cherry than raspberry with savoury dark chocolate adding another distinct layer of rich flavour. Some rusticity with a slightly ferrous edge. The finish seems to linger for an eternity. This is simply, seriously gorgeous stuff. The acidity is integrated but still fresh and I loved the tannin presence and chewiness. As it breathed, the wine loosened up, adding a sexy hint of liqueur cherry that offset the earthy depth perfectly, and all the complex components came together into one cohesive and beguiling identity.

It was a privilege to drink, especially given that very little museum stock of the original 64 cases remains. Look out for the next release. I can hardly wait.

Winery Website-

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Finally, not a review, but still a terrific snippet of news is that my new business, Collective Barossa, featured in an article written by Andrew Graham, in the current edition (June/July 2010) of Gourmet Wine Traveller. It's a wonderful article and describes just what the Collective Barossa shop is all about. Grab a copy tomorrow, turn to page 15 and see what Andrew so kindly wrote about us. In the same edition, there is also a fabulous article on Riesling which is one thing I always like to see:)

Cheers for now, it's time for my final effort at writing for the day - our first ever newsletter for Collective Barossa:)