Friday, June 22, 2012

Birthdays & Bonfires in the Barossa.

Following up to my previous post, I'm back home in the beautiful Barossa Ranges after another stint of working away. Within a six hour drive, I went from an afternoon of being sandblasted, in the middle of Woop Woop where the sun was shining and it was indeed short-sleeves weather, to an evening in the rolling hills of the Barossa where the first raindrops started falling on my car windscreen at Stockwell. Along the way, I finally managed to take another stack of photos of the Australian countryside that I am currently smitten by. The photo above is one of them, and thus today's blog post song is Elvis Presley's Mystery Train. Yours truly is a big Elvis fan. I'm not sure how many songs I get to listen to on each 450km trip to work, or back, but it's a lot. Elvis is often on the playlist.

My first day at home was the perfect example of a Barossa Ranges winter day; I awoke to the magnificent sound of rain falling on the roof, I could see the heavy mist through the lace curtains and there was a hint of crisp air in the bedroom despite the wood-fire going in the lounge-room of my cottage, down the hall. All was good in the world and as winter is my favourite season, and moreso now since I am often living in a region where there is little rain and certainly no mist, it was the most blissful feeling to be able to lay in bed and literally soak up the magnificence of the day. I pondered much and then eventually arose to start planning the day, and the weekend, for it is my youngest son's birthday this weekend. Oh how time does fly. He will be seventeen tomorrow, on Saturday June 23. Happy Birthday to my fabulous Son #2 (as I call him, regularly:)

I think a bonfire by the redgum stable may be in order. With marshmallows toasting on the antique fork that I used as a little girl at my grandparent's farm oh so many years ago. Bowls of home-made soup and a barbeque. Good home-style country cooking, which is what we Barossans do best. I am spending this afternoon in the kitchen making lots of delicious goodies and honestly can say that I do miss cooking. I do not need to cook when I work away nor do dishes. As a mother and wife for so many decades it feels strange to not do these tasks on a daily basis but it sure does make my time at home much more productive:) I never leave home to go back to work without having at least three meals in the freezer for the family to pull out when the need arises.

Once the cooking is finished, then it will be time to go for a look in the cellar for a bottle of red wine to indulge in tonight, in front of the fire, and a couple of special ones to enjoy tomorrow. I promise to try hard to steer away from anything grenache related but it won't be an easy task. Currently I am very much enjoying the Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache (one bottle less out of my half-case since opening that with last night's dinner of beef schnitzel) but I am thinking that a bottle of McLaren Vale Shiraz may be the perfect companion for tonight's beef cassoulet. So much wine, so little time. 

Winter really is a gorgeous time of year, for many reasons, but first and foremost I think it is hard to beat having a bottle of red with a slow-cooked meal unless perhaps one is indulging in a bottle of riesling with beer-battered flathead and home-made chips. Yes, these are the things that life is about. On that note, it's back to the pots and pans for me, and I do wish you could smell the aromas floating around my kitchen. You can take the woman out of the kitchen but you can't take the kitchen out of the woman........ Cooking rocks, just like Elvis!

Cheers for now, 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The best of both worlds.

"You say times are tough
 We've got the best of both worlds here
Things are rough
We've got the best of both worlds here
Times are tough
We've got the best of both worlds here"......

In three days time, it will be two months exactly since I started a different job, in a different industry, in a different part of Australia. It's been one hell of a ride! I truly do have The Best of Both Worlds at the moment. It's such an adventure, in every way, and I still sometimes sit and ponder how vastly different my 2012 is to what I had planned. 

For one thing, it is a wonderful feeling to be earning a wage. More importantly, and despite the fact that I still have many loose ends to tie up regarding Karra Yerta Wines and Collective Barossa, it is an incredible feeling to be able to travel home and have 'days off'. Real days off where I do only what I want, and feel no guilt whatsoever. I have gone from a lifestyle of Barossa/wine/dine/retail/people/people/people to one of the Outback/mining/isolation/no people/emus/kangaroos.

But most importantly of all, I see almost everything through different eyes. I feel reborn. Enthused. Inspired. I have turned my life upside down and many of the changes have been scary but as a person who used to need plans and order in everything, I am embracing disorder in my new life as a gypsy. My goals now are to take things a day/week/month at time, sell all of our older wine stocks (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages), enjoy more peaceful days and have more quality time with my family, good friends and my dog (and hopefully a new little lamb which I bottle fed tonight. He was orphaned a few days ago.)

I am finding life outside, or somewhat outside, of the wine industry rather relaxing. The pressure has lifted and I now find myself enjoying a glass or bottle of wine regularly and from a totally different perspective. There's no more hoo haa. It is so refreshing! I am now more of a consumer than a producer and I like it. In fact, I love it.

A lot of things happened, most of them unexpected, and it has been a thought provoking past twelve months. As one who was so passionate about promoting the Barossa, and I guess, feeling obligated to as an owner of businesses and as a resident who really did love what the Barossa stood for, I can now stand back and have more freedom with much. I also see the Barossa with very different eyes. Where I spend most of my time now reminds me of how the Barossa used to be twenty or thirty years ago. I wonder where both places will be in another thirty years. I wonder where I will be. So many questions in life, and most have no answers. 

So (while I ponder which questions are important to continue to seek answers for, and which ones are to go in the Forget-About Box) on the days I am back in the Barossa, I shall enjoy my time at home in my cottage, enjoy popping into my favourite coffee shop (Keil's Fine Food and Coffee) for my lattè fix and to see Veena and Sarsi, enjoy replenishing my stock of Gumpara, Kurtz Family Vineyards and Yalumba wines, and spend as much time as possible living. Doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. Then I will be back off to work in the amazing part of Australia where the sunrises and sunsets are like no other. 

I do have the best of both worlds, for now anyway. While I have it, I will lap it up and enjoy it. Life is too short and there is still so much to learn, see and experience. To do that, I need to be out in it, not stuck behind a counter day in, day out. I miss working with Steven and Mark and meeting the amazing people who used to come into the Collective Barossa wine sales/tasting room but I am still working with and meeting great people and sometimes but not too often, I even talk to them about wine:)

Cheers for now,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not really a road to nowhere. It leads to a pot of gold.

 "We're on a road to nowhere,
Come on inside,
Takin' that ride to nowhere,
We'll take that ride......"

I've arisen after an eleven hour much needed sleep. It's been a massive five weeks since I started a new life, out of the wine industry, out of the Barossa, and in a whole new world. I have seen parts of Australia that I never thought much about before and my passion has come back, but not for the wine business, and not for the Barossa, but for the remote parts of Australia where the things you see most often are emus and flies. Oh, and the most amazing skies; sunsets, clouds, sunrises, stars and moon risings. And more than ever before, I value my rare time spent with my family, in my cottage in the Barossa Ranges.

I am still selling wine (taking orders via the internet whilst away and processing them on the rare days that I am home in the Barossa) as there is still a lot to sell, and the sooner it is gone, the better. I am also still indulging in wine - most nights I lob to dinner with a bottle in hand. It's a great way to ensure a deep sleep after a long, hard day at work.

I don't miss anything right now, and it sure has opened my eyes to much. Life has become an adventure. Nothing is permanent so I am enjoying the ride. To have received my first pay after so many years of working for nothing, in fact, working to only get deeper in debt, was the best feeling ever. I have even had very premature thoughts of planning my first ever overseas holiday. I am going to Texas. Yep, I sure am! Everything is bigger in Texas! Ha! I have some great mates who are keen to have me lob on their doorstep so I am going to do just that.

As a person who lived, loved, breathed, my life in the Barossa, (and more particularly, the Barossa Ranges), loved the rain, mist, fog, windy roads through the hills, my transition and new love for life in flat country, dry, dusty, colourful country where everything appears to be just waiting for an artist's palette and a willing eye and hand, has been as much of a surprise to me as my sudden life change was to many of those around me. No promises. No regrets. A new life. Life did not begin at forty for me. It began at forty-five.

Tonight though, I am looking forward to a peaceful evening in my cottage, and a Barossa/German dinner of kassler, vegetables and wine. I am waiting for the rain, then the wood fire will get started and I will spend my blissful days off indulging in doing not much. After all, now that I actually have 'days off', surely that is what they are for:)


Friday, April 20, 2012

I am the Walrus, but I'm not crying, I am smiling.

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together,

  See how they run like pigs from a gun, See how they fly. I'm crying"

6.30pm Wednesday 18th April, 2012.

I'm not sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come. I am sitting in the back seat of a SaaB 340 waiting for my favourite REX air hostess, Rachel, to bring me a coffee, and writing this blog post on a 'sick bag' which is the only accessible piece of paper I have.  I know, right? Never miss an opportunity to write a story and my writing hand has been itchy but work has kept me very, very busy. As I sit on the plane, I am feeling most reflective and have just realised that I am sitting here with the most satisfied smile on my face. Perhaps in my work attire, it is not unexpected. Perhaps after my efforts of the past three or so years, it is not surprising. And my efforts of the past fifteen days have been enormous.

I met Rachel about a month ago when I flew to NSW for a job interview. I had a seat at the very front of the plane, just across from Rachel's seat. We had a lovely chat during the flight and I must say that I have been most impressed with all of the REX staff that I have dealt with in my recent travels, particularly Rachel who tonight could see how exhausted I was after working twelve hour days for fifteen days, with only three days off in between. She gave me a lovely smile and then handed me a pillow to rest my weary head. Noticing that I was in my work clothes (and remembering that when we first met I was on my way to an interview) she sincerely congratulated me on my success in getting the job that I wanted so much.

I have been away from the Barossa and my home for fifteen days only but in so many ways it feels like months. 'Time' has always been something that the concept of I struggle with, in every way, but moreso in recent weeks. Where I work now, I do not need to know what day it is and I don't, until it is time to pack my bags and head to the airport. I am at work well before the sun rises and back 'home' as it is setting. I have made new friends and look forward to meeting more people in the the future months.  I have turned my back on and walked away from my home, the Barossa and the wine industry. I never foresaw this and do no regret it. I thought I would be selling wine for the next five or ten years at the Collective Barossa wine sales outlet.

Life, like death, changes everything. And everything has changed for me. I love it. I love my new job, I love the part of Australia where I now work, I love my friends for being the amazing people that they are, for so many of them have helped and continue to help me with this new phase of my life.

I have done things in the past weeks that I never thought I could or would do. I have faced many fears and conquered most of them, so my piece of advice to you all is to embrace change, work hard and surround yourself with good people because no matter who you are or what you do, the world will truly be your oyster. Tomorrow never knows.

Cheers for now,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Day in the Life… Vintage 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy,

About a lucky man who made the grade,

And though the news was rather sad,

Well I just had to laugh,

I saw the photograph…….”

As I sit at my laptop with The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’ playing loudly, I ponder the lyrics, deeply. Behind my laptop (which is on the kitchen table) is a beautiful bottle of riesling that I am yet to taste. It was a gift to me today from one of the nice guys in the wine industry of the Barossa; John Hughes aka ‘Riesling Freak’. He’s a top bloke. I am ashamed to say I have not tasted his wares before, though I have heard highly of them. John is making a name for himself in the wine business with his amazing rieslings from the Clare & Eden Valleys - the best of both (riesling) worlds.

I visited John today because I was delivering something to him, to pass on to our mutual friend, James Hook, of ‘The Lazy Ballerina’ at Kuitpo (McLaren Vale). I unashamedly adore McLaren Vale and its wine, particularly the Cadenzias, being the massive grenache fan that I am.

But what's in my glass, tonight? What am I sipping on as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard? I picked up the bottle of Kurtz Family Vineyards 2008 GSM from my kitchen bench but alas, it had barely enough left for a taste. I do love Steve Kurtz’s GSM. So much in fact, that a nickname I gave it in 2010, (‘Sexy Berries’) has become synonymous with this wine, far and wide, as it should. At $18 a bottle, it truly is one of the most sensual, best value wines from the Barossa. I call this one 'The Johnny Depp of Wine'. Hence, 'Sexy Berries'. Yours truly is as much in awe of Johnny Depp as I am of grenache.

Steve, much like John and James, is a champion. Good people make good wine. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times – I don't drink or buy wine produced by people I do not admire and/or like. And I have a very good wine in my glass, right now, but it’s not from McLaren Vale, nor the Clare, Eden or Barossa Valleys. It’s from Western Australia.

Thus, I introduce you to what I call the ‘Sean Connery of Wine’: the Blue Poles 2008 Reserve Merlot. Simply amazing, and made by another exceptionally nice fellow (whom I am yet to ‘physically’ meet), Mark Gifford. The last time I opened a bottle of this beautiful wine, I cooked a (home grown) mutton pot-roast to accompany it. It was divine; the meal and the wine. These are the parts of being in the wine industry that I love. I have made some incredible friends, and yes folks, some enemies. That’s life. My life is too short to have people in it that are not worthy of my very rare free time or energy. I have buried too many dear ones, at far too young ages in the past few years. I like and love good wine and good people. And I love this Blue Poles Merlot. It is an absolute cracking wine!

Now, somewhere in this post, I have been distracted from the main subject, by thoughts of these fine men and their fine wines, but that is part of the process of pondering ‘A Day In The Life’.

What I intended to write about primarily, was Vintage 2012. It appears we are not having one. We lost our entire crop from the precious little hill-top vineyard on one of the highest ridges in the Barossa Ranges in 2011. Too much rain, too much spraying, too much disease and in the end, we decided the quality we were seeking simply wasn’t there. In 2012, the crop is looking fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, actually. Our canopies are still amazing, and a lot around, aren't. It's a very important thing, at this stage of the harvest.

The jury (the two of us who are partners in Karra Yerta Wines) has not returned yet from the deliberation process, and a final decision will be made in the next few days, but by all accounts, I am of the opinion that Karra Yerta Wines is not going to make any wine from this years crop of shiraz, semillon and riesling and that we will simply try to on-sell the grapes. Why? Because it’s simply not a viable business proposition, and no matter how much passion you have, no matter how many hours you have spent hand-tending the vines, no matter how truly skilled you are in viticulture (as James from Karra Yerta is, after decades of tending to vineyards), thus producing excellent grapes with minimal intervention, there comes a time when you have to make decisions which are sensible, especially in this economic climate. It is not viable, nor sensible to spend another twenty thousand dollars (maybe less, maybe more) on making yet more wine (around two or three hundred cases, only) when you still have a backlog that is costing you daily for storage.

Our wines are not of a poor quality, in fact our rieslings are becoming well known and much loved all over Australia, and are very reasonably priced, yet still we have a backlog, even of the infamous Aussie red blend – shiraz cabernet. We have too much in stock, so for the first time in a number of years we have declined the regularly sourced Barossa Shiraz grapes and the Eden Valley Cabernet that we purchase (usually between one and one and a half tonne only of each). I can only speak for myself, as the writer of this post, but today, I am losing my passion. Slowly but surely. It’s time to wind things down a bit and stop living to work, and start working to live. There is a big difference.

I have just closed the Collective Barossa shop (one week ago today) after twenty five months of an average of ten to twelve hour days, with no real holiday in between. The timing of closure of the shop has fit in perfectly however, with the launch of a new online wine business called Wine Buzz, and David and Amber have taken over sales of the Collective Barossa group of wines which is simply fantastic. It certainly is great to see their passion, and to have someone else helping me sell our wines. As I have already stated in a previous blog post called 'The Battle of Evermore', I can only spread myself so thin. I will write more about the closure of Collective Barossa in the coming week/s, but for now, what is relevant is Vintage, or the lack of.

All around me, be it in the Barossa Ranges or on the Barossa floor, the harvesters or the hand-pickers are out and about. Unlike 2011, the region is bustling with trucks and extra vehicles and people. It is a great sight. It means there are many grapes to be picked, and from what I see and hear, some very, very good grapes. I hope the good guys of the game have a fantastic successful year. I also hope they are able to sell their grapes at good prices, or sell their wine when it is bottled and ready to go. I have many opinions on much, but really, to write them here today, is not necessary.

What is necessary is to think about the future. My future, and my family’s future. My children have grown up and it makes me realise just how fast time has gone in the past ten years. I want some of my time back. I want to have a holiday and let’s face it, I could have an incredible holiday for ten thousand dollars. Of course, there is still the issue of selling the wine we have left in storage, and now with the closure of one business, I will have more time for that, if I stay in the wine game. It's ironic, considering that our family are fifth and sixth generation Barossans, that I am seeing many things through different eyes, and frankly there are lots of questions to be raised about much. The Barossa is changing a lot, on many levels. It is going to change a lot more by the end of 2013, that's a given.

The next month will give me more direction as to much, and I look forward to many new adventures. Change can be scary, but it can also be good. I do believe that everything is as it is meant to be, right now. And that includes The Beatles playing in the background as I read over this post for a final time, choose a photograph to accompany it, and look at the bucket of riesling and shiraz grapes which will be given a baume` test later on today, Sunday March 4th, 2012. Just another Day In The Life. It's been an interesting day/week/life, indeed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow..... after all, I may be of 90% German heritage, but there is also a wee bit of Irish in me:)

Cheers for now,