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:)