Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wine Blog Research Survey

A little off topic from the usual blog posts on here, but I have just completed a survey created by three professors at the Carleton University in Canada who are collating information on wine blogs - from bloggers and readers. If you are interested in contributing, please go to this link:

It will take about fifteen minutes to do the survey and you can check the results at

Cheers for now,


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hot in the City? Time for a riesling, then....

"It's hot here at night, lonely, black and quiet, On a hot summer night, Don't be afraid of the world we made, On a hot summer night..."

Don't be afraid, indeed! There's another Summer of Riesling coming up and that can only be good. Less than a month to go until the sometimes brutal South Australian summer hits us. The green rolling hills of the Barossa Ranges will turn brown, the snakes will be out and about, and the vines will start bearing the harvest of 2012. Me? I plan to spend at least a few days at a beach with some of my favourite friends. It's one of my favourite places to sit and sip on a chilled glass of riesling.

It will soon be
Hot in the City, too. I just had to throw an eighties' song into this blog post, as it's about another riesling review from our friend in the Wild, Wild West; Jesse Lewis of Good Drop (and Jesse knows how much I love the music from that era!)

If you are looking to stock up on the perfect refreshment for summer, then this wine is one of our Clearance Specials - more than thirty percent off until November 20th (conditions apply). It's drinking nicely as you will see in Jesse's review below:

Karra Yerta Wines 2006 Eden Valley Riesling

I was sent two samples from Karra Yerta back in July. The 2010 was very enjoyable, and I’m impressed by the poise of this one with four years’ extra bottle age.

Classic Riesling purity with aromas of lime, orange blossom and slate. There’s a touch of toasty wafer from bottle age. An occasional note of kerosene crops up. The palate is spicier than I expected it to be; a trait which works well again the brazen lime and stone character. Noticeable palate weight and grip too (considering the variety). A suggestion of apple pie finishes off what is an enjoyable semi-aged Riesling. A top match for roast pork with crackling, I’d be willing to bet.

Very Good – Excellent.

Closure: Screwcap

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Battle of Evermore, and of Small Business.

"Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,

The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone.

Oh, dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.

The dark Lord rides in force tonight, And time will tell us all.

This blog post has been brewing in my head for at least the past eight weeks. The only thing that has changed during this time, is the placement of the goal posts that I thought I was kicking toward, in September. Life's like that. Even the best laid plans go astray. Tonight, and through to the wee hours of the morning, while listening to Led Zeppelin's  Battle of Evermore, I pondered many things, especially the word 'battle'.

In October, I drove, or was driven, over three thousand kilometres in distance. Toward the end of the month, it became a battle. Being surrounded by death or the dying of some of those I love and admire most, became a battle. Working so much still, knowing how tough it is to sell even a good competitive wine, let alone have all the energy necessary to run a family and two businesses, became a battle. There were days when I felt like I could sleep forever, and many more nights where I couldn't sleep at all. Existence became a battle. I'm picking up, if only because the pressure from most fronts has dropped, for now anyway.

The tough part was not being in a battle, it was not knowing how long those current battles would last. It's hard to keep going when you are worn out on every level. And unfortunately, a lot of small business owners are. Thus, I pose to you, just how important really is it for small businesses to remain viable in your neighbourhood, state and country?

As I drove to Melbourne, in the early days of October, I set myself some goals - for Karra Yerta Wines, Collective Barossa, my family and myself. They seemed to be the correct ones to aim for at the time. Five days later, on my return home, they were still the best options. I had been grieving heavily (that story will come in due course), and my heart and soul were drained. As I stopped at small country towns, and not so small ones, I took note of whether McDonalds, Woolworths, Coles and the like, were there. Watched for wind farms. Paid attention to well, things.... Lots of things.
Life. I paid attention to my life, society, my place in it, my future and the future of all of us. I pondered deeply, about much.

I also gently spoke with other small business owners of many different kinds of retail outlets. They all said it had been a tough winter season. Lots of them were battling to pay the bills, as I was. Overheads in the wine industry, let alone the retail industry, are high. Even though I know what profit is, I am yet to see any, and that is fine as long as you have some idea how long the battle will last, for it is only then that you know the correct time to implement your Exit Strategy. One of my dearest friends, who is so gravely ill at the moment, and for whom I am already grieving, taught me the importance of an exit strategy and I am forever grateful to him.

I am also grateful to the many people who have helped me promote or sell our wines in the past month. Our 'Special Clearance Sale' ends on November 20. I need to sell lots of wine ("lots" to me is less than a few hundred cases) to have cash flow and reduce my overheads to remain viable with Karra Yerta and Collective Barossa.

Another thing I am grateful for is the never ending support from James, Steven (Kurtz Family Vineyards) and Mark (Gumpara Wines). Steven and Mark's commitment to selling their wines through (and serving behind the counter of) Collective Barossa, has been remarkable. Almost two years on, we have become an even tighter machine and work together so well. The respect we have for each other is incredible. It's another reason for me to keep going when I am so tired, when I can no longer speak a fluent sentence from sheer exhaustion of too many phone calls and too much talking. I love my quiet time at home, more than most people, I am sure. But for all the hard work, I still love my job. I love the people I work with, and I love meeting the amazing people that walk through the doors. These are the things that keep one going through the battle. These are also the things that change the positions of my goal posts.
Life's like that. Even the best laid plans go astray........

So, in finishing off this rather heartfelt rant, I ask you all to consider supporting as many small businesses as you can. Once they close the doors, the chance of them reopening is probably non-existent. Drive past the big boys and just sometimes, drop into a small family business instead. A winery, a bottle-shop, a book shop, a gift shop, a restaurant, a cafe'. These are the people who through their own passion or stupidity (sometimes I wonder which of these two categories I fall under - maybe both!) decide they want to work long days, for perhaps no monetary payment, to follow their dreams.

I like small business, I like living in the country, and I love living in Australia. Let's all try to help Aussie small businesses survive in the future. The choice is ours! It really is that simple.

Cheers for now,


Thursday, October 27, 2011

So many drafts, not enough time.....

Just a short, sharp and sweet note to say, yes, I have lots of drafts of blog posts in the making - some from May this year, even. Watch this space over the coming weeks - the eagle has landed and the keyboard's about to get a pounding..........

Shortly, this actual post will be about something interesting:) Lots of changes to come, time permitting! Watch this space!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our first review from the wild, wild west.....

For some odd reason, I have never had contact with anyone in the West in regards to our wine - with tastings or with reviews, so it is with great pleasure that I present the very first review of any of our wines from the Wild, Wild West, courtesy of the very dapper Jesse Lewis:) Thanks, Jesse! To check out more of his fine work, please visit his website:

As a start, I sent Jesse a bottle each of our 2010 Eden Valley Riesling and our 2006 Eden Valley Riesling, just to show him our wares, as he had not tasted any of our wines before. He surprised us with this wonderful review of the 2010 rizza:

Karra Yerta Eden Valley Riesling 2010
July 25, 2011

I haven't been drinking a lot of Riesling of late. This one has reminded me that I should be, regardless of the wet and cold weather.

It's fabulous to smell - lime, mineral, pear, apple, even a bit of mixed lolly estery action. You can pick out each aroma like they're wearing name tags, fluoro vest, or very loud shirts. This is a wine that you can sniff at for minutes, before realising that you haven't even tasted it yet. I know this because it's the second time I have done so.

What strikes me about the palate is that it shows a typical Eden Valley delicacy - limes across mineral - but a ripple of flavours pass through on the finish, without the wine losing its cool. Acidity is integrated - part of the wine rather than a separate entity; so much so that I almost forget to consider it. Every spot of flavour clings tight in the mouth, and the wine makes a lasting impression both on your tastebuds and memory. A remarkably good dry Riesling.

Rated: 94 points

Closure: Screwcap

Source: Sample

2012 Wine Companion results

Karra Yerta Wines was rated a five star winery (for the first time, ever) in the James Halliday 2012 Wine Companion. Our wines submitted for this edition were scored as below:

Karra Yerta Wines 2010 Shiraz Grenache
93 Drink 2012 $20 Date Tasted Jan 11

Karra Yerta 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Rating 94 Drink 2017 $25 Date Tasted Jan 11

Karra Yerta 2010 Eden Valley Riesling
95 Drink 2020 $25 Date Tasted Jan 11

To see the full reviews, you will need to become a member ($39.95 per year) at or purchase a hard-copy 2012 edition of the Wine Companion.
Copyright prevents me from publishing the entire reviews.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Finally, I'm back on the chain gang: 2009 Eden Valley Cabernet reviews

Whoa! I can't believe it has been so long since my last blog post. Indeed, it's been a crazy, busy year but I'm Back On The Chain Gang and writing again. Yes, we may have lost our entire crop from the Karra Yerta Barossa Ranges vineyard, for perhaps the first time in fifteen or more years, but we did manage to source tiny amounts of Barossa Cabernet and Barossa Shiraz to make a 2011 Shiraz Cabernet. It was a very difficult vintage, and such a wet summer proved too much for the incredible old vines to cope with, despite the best efforts by James. They fare much better in temperatures nearing the mid-forties.

Thus, I have been clearing our other Karra Yerta stock and working hard at Collective Barossa with not only our wines, but those of Gumpara Wines and Kurtz Family Vineyards. Most rewarding. If I thought I was in for a lazy few months until next vintage, I was mistaken. All good though; the great reviews keep coming and finally, I feel like we are making progress with our (Karra Yerta) brand recognition. There's nothing better than a midnight surprise of finding an email order in one of my inboxes:)

Our website is desperately in need of updating, and this will be tended to once our fabulous webmaster returns from a two month long holiday in the UK. In the interim, I'll be posting the past three months' reviews on here and also putting up some other posts that I have written in the previous months. The draft on the post about my trip to Brisbane in May is almost complete but I'm finding it hard to not write a novel! Yes, what an experience!

In the meantime, here are the swag of reviews that we have received since my last post i
n April.

Tuesday 3rd May 2011 on his website Wine Will Eat Itself:

Karra Yerta 2009 Eden Valley Cabernet
Eden Valley 14.0% Screwcap $25

Flavours and aromas first; Blackberry, boysenberry, cigar leaf, mocha and spice with just a touch of mint on the finish. It's very bright and the fruit gets lighter in colour as it moves through its line, reaching raspberry coulis by the end of the road...but the intensity never

Love the structure here. The acidity and tannin are spot on ensuring that it not only drinks well now but will hold together as it improves over the mid-term (at least). Truth be told, I'm not generally a fan of Eden Valley Cabernet but I am a fan of this. Not unusually for Karra Yerta, it over delivers for the price.

Only 32 cases were made so you might want to move fast on this one. Drink it young or drink it with some age. Either way, you can't lose.

Winery website-

Next, is Andrew Graham's review of July 4th, 2011 from his website Australian Wine review. (

Karra Yerta Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $25 Source: Sample

This comes from High Eden (which is the only official Barossan subregion by the way, the rest are unofficial. That's David Wynn's doing) and, with only 32 cases produced, it's a rare beast indeed. I don't think it's as dark, concentrated and sinewy as the 'estate' Shiraz, though no doubting the appeal.

The core of that appeal is just how bright it is. Bright and juicy, looking ripe if somewhat simple in style. There's a nose of blackberry, etched in sweet and easy French oak, and then more light sweet blackberries. Palate too is all easy openness and light, with bouncy blackberry fruit and even, soft tannins.

I actually thought this might be a little too simple real enjoyment, but considering that it still looked vibrant (and surprisingly serious) the next day, I'm erring in it's favour. 17.1/90

Finally, here's the review from Gary Walsh of The Wine Front ( which was posted on his website on July 1st, 2011:

Karra Yerta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
It’s labelled on the front as Barossa Ranges, but comes from High Eden, which sounds like a really nice sort of place – somewhere you might eat apples in the nude, play with snakes and smoke spliffs – guilt free preferably. This is a total production of 32 dozen and yet the winery is professional enough to have a bottle image available.

A brown sauce like spice along with some mint and lavender perfume lends it immediate interest. There’s dark fruit flavours along with something fresher, like wild strawberries, and a dried herb savouriness. Medium weight, yet fleshy, with firm silty tannins and excellent pitch and carry. Not over-made and charismatic too. Think it’s going to age very well and most likely improve (more importantly). Sort of want to rate it higher, but I’ll hang the plus sign on the front door for this one instead.

Rated : 93+ Points
Tasted : Jun 11
Alcohol : 14%

Price : $25

Closure : Screwcap

Drink : 2012 - 2019+

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And the Riesling Rocks On.....

It's near the end of Vintage 2011 for Karra Yerta Wines, and that is a story in itself. This post though, is about yet another glowing review for our 2010 Eden Valley Riesling. I look forward to my trip next month, to Brisbane, to showcase many more of our wines to a small group, and plan a Collective Barossa roadtrip after pruning.

This review, by The Wine Wankers, was posted on Monday May 28, 2011. You can read it on their site here:

Karra Yerta Wines 2010 Eden Valley Riesling

If it was the reviews of this wine from Messrs Graham and Pringle that brought Karra Yerta to my attention and thus purchase the wine, it was an even more recent review from Chris Plummer that prompted me to pull it out from storage and crack it open.....

From the get-go the aromas on this wine were escaping out of the bottle - before I'd even managed to get any into my glass the floral notes, accentuated by some varietal lime were luring me in. Supported by a typical minerally edge - think pebbles smoothed by the flow of a river - and some chalkiness adding further interest and edginess to the wine.

In the mouth, more lime, a touch of talc and all checked in balance by some decent acid that has your cheeks puckering up for more. The wine feels like it will go on forever. In two senses, for leading reviewer Philip White has given this wine something in the region of a 30 year life-span, but on the more immediate horizon it keeps coming at you...wave after wave.

I had the wine open for two days and it barely shifted. The only reason it survived this long is I wanted to see how it held up. Do yourself a favour, acquaint yourself with this wine whilst you can.

Source: Retail
Price: $25
Alcohol: 12.5%

Closure: Screwcap


Saturday, March 26, 2011

A new release, and some new reviews!

We officially released our 2009 Eden Valley Cabernet last week and sent out samples for the first time in what seemed like forever. I've been too busy to get to that rather important task since having the Collective Barossa shop open, but in my moments of waiting for customers and indeed, for vintage to start, I did send out a half dozen bottles to some of our regular wine writing friends, and even one to a 'new' taster:)

First review received on the Cabernet was from Philip White, and it was in the InDaily on March 23, 2011:

Karra Yerta Wines Special Release Barossa Ranges Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points ($3.01 a drink

“HEY Ma, the lightning just smote the blackberries!” So without turning to gooey, mucky jam, the whole dang crop’s just hanging there smouldering in a cloud of dust and blue ozone, with teasing whiffs of blueberry, mint, violets and eucalypt, naughty on the acrid summer breeze. There’s pleasing crème de cassis, too. It’s the prettiest, most adorable bouquet, as cute, humorous and totally fried as, say, Keith Richards at 30. The palate is lithe yet intense: like a small block Chevvy in very tight tune. James Linke made only 32 cases of this incredible, bone-honest high-country Cabernet from old vines and no water. It should cost you $100, or $150, if all the realities of such farming regimes are honestly acknowledged. $3.01 per standard drink? Nuts! Now for gratuitous wickedness; 10 years and pink lamb for hard-core cabernet perves.


Next is another review on our Cabernet - this one from Julian Coldrey from his site 'Fullpour' which you can read here:

Karra Yerta Wines Special Release Barossa Ranges Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

One of the benefits of writing a not-for-profit wine blog is that I can skew my tasting towards wines and producers in which I have a particular interest. So, when this wine arrived today, it shot straight to the top of the sample pile and indeed was quickly opened when I sat down to taste. I've enjoyed all the Karra Yerta wines I've tasted, to varying degrees of course, and I believe this is the first straight Cabernet I've tried from this producer. Grapes are sourced from High Eden, thirty two cases produced.

I was half expecting the down-home, earthy style I've enjoyed so much in Karra Yerta's Shiraz and Shiraz Cabernet wines, but this is a different beast, stylistically. The nose is positively squeaky with bright fruit and high toned aromas. I don't look to Barossa Cabernet for (what I consider) varietal character, and I'm not getting a lot of the cooler climate leaf and cassis typical of, say, Coonawarra Cabernet. In its place, a simpler and more accessible aroma profile, with edges of well-judged nougat oak.

The palate was initially both disjointed and confected, and for a moment I thought this might be the first Karra Yerta wine that disagreed with me. But just a few minutes of air has seen this really come together with dramatically increased complexity and a satisfying, acid-driven structure. It's a fundamentally bright, crowd-pleasing wine in style, though, and may not be everyone's idea of Cabernet. No matter - entry shows a gentle attack that builds quickly to a red fruited middle palate, all riding nicely textural acidity. Oak is a discernible yet subtle influence throughout, contributing vanilla and nougat in turn. The after palate gently darkens in profile before a soft, lightly tannic finish rounds things off.

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

Posted by Julian on Monday, March 21, 2011


Finally, our 2010 Eden Valley Riesling was reviewed by Chris Plummer of Australian Wine Journal. His glowing review is here:

Karra Yerta Wines 2010 Eden Valley Riesling

- Eden Valley, SA
- $25
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

If there's such a thing as a blogger's favourite, then Karra Yerta Riesling may well be it. Messrs Coldrey, Graham and Pringle have had more good things to say about this wine than Eddie McGuire at a Nathan Buckley testimonial.

Quite simply, Karra Yerta's Riesling reflects a special vineyard that's clearly planted to the right variety. Made from 80 year old vines, it's elegantly scented with a classically austere fragrance of pebbles, mineral and chalk, given a perfumed lift by limey florals as well as a pinch of pear for good measure. On the palate however, it speaks volumes, by pumping an incredibly sumptuous depth of pure and youthful Eden Valley riesling flavour, honouring the amount of time its vineyard source has spent tapping into Mother Earth. It's utterly pristine and borderline transparent in the clarity of its saturated mineral and white pear flavour, but like a lot of the region's top 2010s, it thrusts into gear on a very long, wickedly limey finish, peppering the mouth with nuances of chalk and glistening acids which penetrate with searing precision. The whole package is remarkably well defined.

ü+ Distributors, sommeliers and independent retailers should take note; Karra Yerta's is as fine an impression of 2010 Eden Valley riesling as I've had. Drink to 2025.
95 points

New car, caviar, four star daydream. Think I'll buy me a football team.

Theoretically, this post should only be about reviews and vintage updates. Whilst we have had a few new reviews published in the past week (I will post them, in a separate post, after this blog entry), vintage 2011 for us, aside from the transporting of barrels of our 2009 and 2010 reds to our local bottling facility, has not yet started.

After months of summer-pruning, mowing (more than usual, due to the constant rains and higher growth rate), spraying (again, due to the unseasonal wet conditions), the laborious task of getting bird-netting on to protect the moreso than usual, valuable fruit, our vintage has looked a bit grim and as of today, though we have done a few baume' tests, not a single grape has been harvested from our special little hill-top vineyard.

Our eighty-year old riesling grapes are always the first to come off, and they are sitting, waiting, perhaps even sleeping in this cool weather, thinking that perhaps, this year they will amount to nothing. The flavours of the fruit are amazing. I tasted some juice only last week, and to think there may not be enough of a crop off the tiny block to warrant the high costs of processing (there is a minimum tonnage limit, so if we pick only one tonne, we still pay the fees for three tonne/five, or whatever it is - can't be bothered finding the contract, sorry), is a damn shame.
We usually pick between two to two and a half tonne but it's most doubtful that we will get near that in 2011.

Economic viability is important, no matter how passionate one is. It simply will not be in our best interest to spend so much money on making a fabulous wine, that to make it worthwhile, we would have to charge $35 or $40 a bottle for. Maybe more, even. I think you get the idea. Our reds will be the same, but the costs are more drawn out, so that decision will be made at the time that it needs to be made.

Our grapes all taste amazing, and an article in last week's local paper quoted the very talented Louisa Rose, as saying that the flavours will be magnificent, despite the difficult conditions. Crops are down, state-wide more than likely. Too much rain, and the lack of the usual South Australian hot dry summer has been a little too much for the vines to bear. I guess we can't have a cracker year, every year. Ask the cereal farmers.

From my perspective, the Barossa and Eden Valleys, and the people, seem somewhat in limbo. I'm sure we are not the only region. Normally, the roads are full of hustle and bustle. During a normal vintage, as I drive to work each day, the vineyards are lined with cars, pickers' heads popping up and down throughout random vineyards, harvesters or tractors holding me up as I travel down Mengler's Hill. Quite simply, it appears to be happening in dribs and drabs, as opposed to its usual ferocity. Some people's faces are showing the stress of their hard work of the previous year amounting to little product or payment.

As stated in my recent
Fear and Loathing post, it's already a savage industry. It's about to get worse. Some families/wineries may not make it; if the sale of the grapes fall through ie no crops, or not good enough quality. Botryitis is rife, in many South Australian vineyards. We have all battled mildew. It's hard work running a vineyard and at times like this, I am grateful that our incomes from the grapes and wine are not responsible for feeding our family, or paying the household bills. I am also thankful that Karra Yerta has enough stock from previous vintages to tide us over at the Collective Barossa shop, if at worst, we produce hardly any wine under our label, this year.

My heart goes out to those who are struggling, and my admiration to those who are in their vineyards, probably right now, cutting the diseased bunches out slowly, and thoroughly, by hand so that their crops will be as good as possible. No doubt, as Louisa Rose said, there is the potential to have some absolutely stunning wines produced from this incredibly difficult season.

It's going to be a struggle, and the good thing about the Barossa is that our german heritage stands us in good stead to put our heads down, work hard, and find a way through. I'm not sure how some will manage, but they will. The money factor will be hard and no doubt there will be many struggles to find funds to pay the bills, but Mother Nature has made it clear, that from all levels, perhaps only the strong will survive.

Sometimes, as much as we rely on it, "Money" is not the thing that gives us the resilience we need - sometimes it's the passion. On that note, I am off to buy myself a football team...... Or, perhaps just watch one, whilst indulging in a fine glass of Barossa red, and pondering as to when, or if, I will have to wash out the grape-buckets.

PS. The photo below, of vines on Basedow Road, Tanunda, was taken on November 24, 2010. This photo pretty well sums up what most of our summer weather has been like. Not what it should be, at all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There ..........

After the very strange weather of the past months, this week has been a delight in the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and many other parts of South Australia. Perfect weather for a bit of exploration of all things magical, before the Karra Yerta Wines 2011 Vintage starts (only a few weeks away, now).

I had a morning trip to Adelaide yesterday, and as is my usual manner, drove to the city via the Adelaide Hills. This truly is the most beautiful way to get to Adelaide from the Barossa, and there are no shortage of photo opportunities on the way. Once my business appointments were finished, I had a spare hour or so until my meeting on the way home to peruse a fabulously charming old building, so utilised the opportunity to have a quick peek and take some photos of the setting of
The Garden Of Unearthly Delights (part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival) which is held in February in the parklands on the eastern side of the CBD.

Though there were no acts playing during my visit, it was still a lovely place to walk through and get a feel of just how magical it must be when the stages are full, and the entertainers are in full bloom under the beautiful lighting that is most noticeable, even in the day time. The Garden of Unearthly Delights is in action at Rundle Park from February 10 until March 13, so there's still time for you, and me, to catch some of the national and international acts that are appearing.

Now, if that wasn't enough enchantment for one day, my next stop literally took my breath away. It was in the lovely little hills village of Gumeracha (approximately forty kilometres east of Adelaide, and about twenty kilometres south of the Barossa), which like most of the towns in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa, is steeped in history. Like Tanunda, which now has historical marker posts scattered throughout the village, Gumeracha has its own historical walk.

One of the many places of interest on the Gumeracha historical walk is the incredibly beautiful Randell's Mill, which was built in 1849
under the managment of pioneer William B. Randell (1799 - 1876), who at the time was employed by the South Australian Company. William Randell had a strong interest in milling, and archived letters indicate his strong desire to form a partnership with George Fife Angas (whom Angaston in the Barossa is named after) to establish flour mills in South Australia. The partnership never eventuated, to his dismay, but Randell forged ahead and sited a location near the banks of Kenton Creek, and the incredible building still stands to this day, in what we know as the township of Gumeracha.

With two-foot thick solid bluestone walls, and at its completion, excess of thirty foot ceilings, the mill began its checkered history. Milling ceased in 1874, after the death of William Randell, and the property became a butter and cheese factory for a short time, under a co-operative of local investors but it was not successful and came under private management. On the 19th February, 1912, the mill was partially destroyed by fire, and with severe structural damage, and most of the machinery being lost, it was left in a state of disrepair for a period of time, during which local children used it as a playground.

In 1923 it was sold to the then AMSCOL Company as a depot for milk collection until daily city deliveries made the property redundant. The first two storeys of the building were re-roofed at the second storey (the fire of 1912 had destroyed the third storey) and some form of cold store was put in place, but despite this, the building was left deserted again until 1947 when it was purchased and used as a slaughter house until 1977. Changes in the meat processing industry and the introduction of hygiene standards also made this endeavour redundant.

In 1978, a fellow named Peter Brokenshire came across the mill and commissioned architects to reconstruct and restore the building. This was a massive undertaking as the questionable structure of the building, and the lingering mess and smell of the slaughterhouse did not make things easy. However, Mr. Brokenshire persisted and in 1979 restoration of the mill was successfully completed and the result of that can be seen today. The Brokenshire family used the building as an art gallery and at the end of 1979, Randell's Mill was formally opened by the then Lieutenant Governor Sir Walter Crocker.

So now you know the history of this magnificent and very precious building. What you are not aware of yet, is what it has become today. This is where the magic steps in.

In 2006 the mill was opened as a bed and breakfast. Part of the mill was restored using red gum, recycled timber, wrought iron and cathedral glass to enhance and compliment the old stone walls. This has resulted in an incredibly beautiful historic, yet modern, stunningly decorated self-contained bed and breakfast. Only a section of the original mill is used for the bed and breakfast, while the remainder continues to be the private residence of the owners.

Bronnie and David Nash purchased the mill in late 2008 and with their love of local history and their surroundings, have tastefully continued restorations of the mill, and I have to say, on arriving at the mill to have a look at not only the mill but the bed and breakfast facility (so that I can recommend it to my visitors to the Collective Barossa cellar door outlet), I was almost speechless from the 'wow factor'. I have seen and stayed in a lot of accommodation, and in my previous years, cleaned a lot of them, also (one of my favourite places to work as a cleaner of such was at the magnificent Collingrove Homestead in Angaston).

I felt like I had fallen down the rabbit-hole, like Alice,
and ended up somewhere in countryside France or Tuscany, and that was before I had ventured inside the actual accommodation facility. The building, the garden, the courtyard; the incredibly special feeling of being in this totally peaceful and visually enticing environment, is hard to put into words. Scattered throughout the gardens (the guest one and the owner's) are magical objects that create such an ambience that it is hard to do anything but walk around in awe. It gives you the feeling of never wanting to leave, and some of the comments in Bronnie's guest book are testament to that. It really is such a special place, and once you know the history of the actual mill, it only makes it moreso. This building could so easily have been demolished after the fire of 1912. Thank goodness it wasn't.

The inside of the B & B accommodation is simply amazing. Upstairs there is a loft bedroom, so tastefully decorated that it beckons you to lay on the comfortable bed and not wake up for a day or so. Downstairs is a tidy, spacious living area with all the modern amenities, including a stunning kitchen with all provisions provided (this includes fresh eggs from the chickens on the property - see the photo below of Bronnie with the resident pet pig, Mr. Windsor, the chickens and one of her friendly dogs) and a gorgeous bathroom, including a spa.

Bronnie's decorating skills leave nothing to be desired and she is known for her extra special touches to make guests feel very spoilt. Many of the Randell's Mill customers make return trips and it's so easy to see why. I can write another hundred words, or take another fifty photos but in the end, much like a perfect sunset on a Kangaroo Island beach, there is nothing - no way at all - that I can bring to you, what it is that I felt or saw, as I visited the mill yesterday afternoon. You simply have to experience it yourself. You too, will start looking for the
White Rabbit, as soon as you pull into the driveway.

For more information on Randell's Mill go to their website for email and phone contact details: or check out their Facebook page or Twitter account and become a fan/follower. It is an indulgent self-contained, more than reasonably priced accommodation option which caters for couples - perfect for wedding nights and of course, short breaks. One night stays are possible, but a small surcharge applies. Two night stays are recommended to really soak in the relaxing atmosphere. Give Bronnie a call or email to check out prices and promotions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Somewhere over the rainbow......... there's hope.

I find it ironic that I am following on from my previous post with this one; timing is everything in life. Sometimes when you become cynical, something lands in front of you which brings back your feeling of hope. Always remember, that you have to get the rain Before You Get The Rainbow.

I have received some fabulous emails in regards to my last post, and I thank the writers for all of them, the comments received, twitter messages and retweets. Your feedback and honesty was much appreciated:)

So, a few days after airing my frustration and disappointment at certain happenings within the wine industry (and not by any means, tied totally to the Barossa, if that was misinterpreted), I had the fabulous experience of what it is that I was trying to make you understand - the importance of working together in tough times.

Yesterday, on my day off from the Collective Barossa cellar door, I decided to go to the shop anyway, and take care of our guests who were coming for lunch, so that Mark from Gumpara Wines could focus on serving behind the counter. I enjoy working with Mark, and Steven of Kurtz Family Vineyards as we all share the same philosophies and always have lots of laughs, in between discussions on ideas for the future of our own wineries, and Collective Barossa.

Now, getting customers in for lunch and a wine-tasting may not sound like much of great interest but it was the steps that happened for them to get there that was relevant.

The customers were from Sydney, they were brought to us by a tour operator from the McLaren Vale region, the operator of which had collaborated with a bed and breakfast operator at Gumeracha, to bring the customers to visit not only our cellar door in Tanunda, but two other local wineries, a new beer shop and one of the local pubs on the other side of the Barossa (plus a few other retail stops in between). To top it off, said customers also had the pleasure of meeting a local tour operator who runs a horse and carriage business.

All in all, the most incredible example of people from many different regions, working together to provide visitors to our state with a personal and most memorable experience. By all accounts, the customers have already stated that they had an absolute ball during the entire trip, from start to finish. They personally told me that having Mark (from Gumpara) sit and chat to them (whilst I was preparing their lunch) was a highlight of their day, and they truly enjoyed his company. Everyone was happy; the customers felt that they had been spoilt, and numerous businesses had sales on the one day from these happy customers.

So how hard is it, really? That's right - it's not. I rest my case. I'm still cynical but know that there are many more opportunities like this, so will welcome any future ventures, and do my best to work with these like-minded business owners to enjoy what ultimately is about us all working to live, not living to work, and showing each other respect. Selah.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fear & Loathing: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Wine Industry.

I've been in the wine industry for just over five years, now, and have met some of the most incredible people that one could ever wish to meet. Life-long friends, with whom I will continue to share many fine moments, over incredible views, foods and wines. Lots of deep belly laughs, and moments that make life special. But for every good part of life, there are always disturbing ones. Moments that make you step back, and wonder.

When Karra Yerta entered the wine-world, it was a tough time. Very tough, actually. I mistakenly saw it through rose-coloured glasses and can remember telling my husband of my plans to create a brand (he had been making wine for our own personal use for many years, but we had never sold any, nor applied for liquor licensing to do so to the public) and the words that came back to haunt me were "How hard can it be to sell three hundred cases of wine, a year?" That phrase bit me faster than a pile of bull-ants, my bare feet standing directly on top of their nest. I knew we had very, very good wines from an incredibly special old-vine vineyard but that was of no help. None.

I also had the support and advice from the very lovely James Lindner, of Langmeil Wines, and being a Barossa girl, whose parents had worked at Penfolds for almost thirty years each, an insight into the industry and many friends who were already involved either with the viticulture side, or the wine side. I had worked at Yalumba and Penfolds, myself, even. None of this helped much. Simply, despite the fact that I had not lived a sheltered life in any way (think hitch-hiking across the country at sixteen and partying like there was no tomorrow) I was in no way prepared for the savageness of the wine industry.

What I have realised in the past months, is that if I thought it was savage then, what has it become now? Savage doesn't even begin to describe it. Ask the vignerons who are still waiting for payment for their grapes from two years ago. Or the businesses that label or bottle wines, who are still chasing up payments from the wineries from last year, or ask the wineries who are owed tens of thousands of dollars from their distributors (the ones who refuse to answer phone calls or emails.) Or the wineries who make stupid and unprofessional errors in the process leaving people with wines who, maybe years after the wine-making, have a product that they have to recall. Or the wineries that process other honest people's grapes, make wine from it, charge top price and then when it is corked/exploding/damaged in some other way, take no responsibility whatsoever. Savage, I tell you. SAVAGE. And it's hurting families who are struggling to survive in this often, depraved and decadent industry.

If there's one thing that knocks one's confidence, it's being continually deceived and misled. Liars believe their own lies, and justify telling them by their own belief in their lies. Eventually, it makes you question your own integrity, and possibly, your sanity. The fact that grape-growers were handed Beyond Blue pamphlets (Beyond Blue is an Australian depression initiative) last year shows me that it's not only our farmers who are becoming suicidal, but now, we can add vignerons and dairy farmers to that equation. People who have worked their land for decades, being caught up in the abyss of deception.

But back to 2006. I recall the very embryonic stage of trying to sell our wines. The pressure was on - we had lots of stock, another vintage upon us, and my husband was wondering why I was not having any luck with getting our wines stocked anywhere. And I mean, anywhere. Thus, I set up a few appointments, one of which was the turning point of my entire life. The rudeness and arrogance of the people with whom I had said appointment devastated me.

The good thing about that experience was that it led me to a fellow called Philip White. In my wine-ignorant state, I had no idea who he was, as during his times of writing for 'The Advertiser', I was busy raising my children and doing volunteer work on School Councils and the like. Wine was not part of my life, in a business sense, until I hit the road trying to sell it. Via James Lindner, I managed to get hold of a list of people in the media who he suggested I contact in view to get our wines reviewed, in the hope of getting something in writing to back up their quality. The list intimidated me to no end, even though I only recognised a few names (James Halliday was one, I forget who the others were). I chose Philip White randomly. I sent him an email. When it bounced back, I turned into a nervous wreck as I simply couldn't handle HEARING any more rejection - I preferred to READ it.

To cut an already very long story short, I ended up having to call Philip (no way did I want to tell my husband when he got home from work that I had still not made any progress!) and before I knew it, I was in the car, wine in hand, and heading to Philip's residence to take him samples of our first ever Karra Yerta riesling and shiraz.

I was so anxious that I was almost beside myself, but I kept driving and hoping that by some act of God, all would go well. It did. Philip was most hospitable and invited me into his home so that he could taste the wines, there and then. As he did so, I told him of my last experience with the rude and arrogant people in Adelaide, and he quite rightly compared the entire experience to me being in a Reservoir Dogs situation. He was spot on. They were vicious -but in a silent, smiling, assassin kinda way - and almost made me give up. Philip actually wrote an article in the January 27-February 2, 2007 edition of 'The Independent Weekly' on our meeting and in it, mentioned the Reservoir Dogs. I wonder if they ever knew it was them that he was referring to. I have that same article laminated and hanging in my office. For many years, it was my inspiration to keep trying to get our wines 'out there'. It worked. In 2011, Karra Yerta is still in the game.

So, now we have the crux of this blog post. It was my own 'doggie situation' that has inspired this post, and this is why: I recently met a lovely young woman who lobbed quite unexpectedly on my own doorstep. She was flustered and dejected for she too, has been chewed up and spat out by retailers, distributors and no doubt, others on the winery side of the industry. I saw so much of myself (of five years ago) in her that I was still thinking about her last night when I went to bed, and again on waking this morning. On top of all the other things I have heard, witnessed or experienced recently, it was the final cherry on the top of the ugly - the Fear and Loathing - side of being in the wine industry.

Of course, I tried to help her, if only to explain that it was nothing that she was doing wrong, that it was just a savage market. I told her of my own experiences and gave her the addresses of certain wine-writers that I found to be most supportive of smaller wineries, and particularly of ones who really are passionate about their products (madly so, in fact, as the hope of profit surely gives us sleepless nights - what is profit? I am yet to find out!).

I think she was most surprised that I was sympathetic to her and her quest, but how could I not be? I could already see what she was facing before she told me. The stress showed on her face. Her pretty face and kind heart would only make it easier for those who enjoyed boosting their own egos at her expense. I have tried, and will continue to, try to help her. It's the least I can do.

I believe that the wine industry needs to have a good hard look at itself. I have worked hard for the past year, particularly, to not only promote the Barossa Valley as a region, but also to promote South Australian wines (I am not ashamed to admit that my favourite red wines are mostly from McLaren Vale, and why should I be? I also adore Clare and Eden Valley rieslings, if you really need to know). South Australia has so much to offer wine buffs - magnificent wines from the Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa, Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek, Flinders Ranges, Clare, even Kangaroo Island - is it not better for us to work together than against each other? I do not understand how many people put up brick walls and just make life harder for themselves, and my 'good' wine friends, and me, in the long run. I don't drive a fancy car. I don't live in a fancy house. I like to think that I do not have a huge ego, and that I am helpful to people, not detrimental and deceptive. What I do have is a great circle of wine friends - other winery people, wine writers, customers etc and I feel truly blessed to have them in my life. It's a bloody hard industry to be in, and the sooner that people show some foresight and humility, the better. Then, many of us will be able to stop
Running Through The Jungle.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part 2

This blog post was originally written for, and published on "Barossa Dirt - True tales and twisted vines" in February 2011.

From left: James Linke, Andrew Graham, Bob McLean, Colin Sheppard, Chris Ringland.

During the past few months, we have had the pleasure of the company of some wonderful visitors to our home. 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 people 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 my next few 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 second interview is with Andrew Graham, who is a Sydney-based wine-writer ( and an enthusiastic and passionate wine-lover.

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

AG – Interestingly enough my first ever ‘serious’ wine was a Barossa Shiraz – it was the year 2000, and up until then I’d really just been a beer and spirit drinker. Wine had always been around my house, and cask wine had been a friend on more than one occasion, but I’d never really taken wine seriously. This wine was different though. It had the most luscious silky texture that I really loved. That wine was a 1998 St Hallett Faith Shiraz, and looking back I can understand exactly why I would have liked it – lots of flavour, lots of simple Barossan goodness.

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

AG – Charlie Melton is one person who first made an impression on me, with his sometimes laconic but always honest personality – and excellent moustache – epitomising of what I imagined great Australian winemakers to be. I like his wines, too. Bob McLean is another ‘larger than life’ character whom I very much respect due to his almost unrivalled knowledge of the area.

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?

AG – That’s an interesting question! Perhaps the best way to answer this would be to talk about the more interesting winemakers I have met, such as some Indian vignerons whom are working on one of the larger Indian vineyards. Their enthusiasm was unbridled, happily admitting that whilst their wines were still not quite there yet, that India would eventually become renown for it’s wines.

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

AG – One of the appealing things about the Barossa is simply how unlike most other Australian wine regions it seems to be. I’m sure it’s a cultural thing, driven by the old German heritage, but grape-growing and winemaking seems to carry even more significance in the Barossa, more respect even.

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

AG – That’s an easy one. Flaxmans Valley is the most attractive part of the Barossa. It’s the extra lushness and greenery, that comes courtesy of Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park in part, that makes it feel that much more natural and peaceful. It’s colder though, which I’m no fan of as I’m a warm blooded Sydney man who doesn’t deal well with cold!

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

AG – Did someone say Linke’s bacon? Barossan smallgoods are the picks in the food department. Eden Valley Riesling is not the ideal smoked meats match, but it does refresh…

It was a pleasure having Andrew visit, and we look forward to his next trip to the Barossa. My next post will feature a very interesting couple from the United States. Stay tuned.

Cheers for now,

Marie Linke

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