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

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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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