Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

In the last year, I have developed a serious appreciation for wine.  It’s grown substantially from a preference for white and an affinity for sweet German wine to a real interest and growing understanding of grapes and regions and vintages.

In the fall, on a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake as we drove past beautiful lakeside vineyards, it occurred to me that while I lived so close to some of the best wineries in Canada, I didn’t know a whole lot about them.  I’d never been to one except by driving by and wasn’t even sure how to go about visiting a winery!  A shame, really.

Fortunately for me, and for lots of South Australians, some of the best wineries in the country are located only a short drive from Adelaide.  On Easter Sunday, Andrew and I headed out for a cellar door tour and a drive through McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s renowned wine regions.

If you’re like I was a year and a half ago, you’re thinking, “that isn’t saying a whole lot, Heather!”  Prior to dating an Australian wine aficionado, I too was under the impression that Australian wine = oaky chardonnay from a bottle with a kangaroo on the label.  Not so.  The vast majority of Australian wine that’s available in Canada and the United States is produced for export only.  And it’s pretty crap.  

If you know what you’re looking for, a good restaurant’s wine list may feature some excellent Australian bottles.  Andrew was able to spot some gems at different restaurants in Toronto and it became pretty clear that the better wineries send wine through trade only.  We couldn’t find anything half-way decent at the LCBO.

Every bottle of Australian wine I’ve had since coming to Australia has been excellent.  Yes, I’ve had a bottle or twelve.  So sue me.  It’s all in the name of blogging!  The wine we sampled as we drove from cellar door to cellar door did not disappoint.

McLaren Vale is beautiful with its rolling hills and never-ending sky.  Grape vines blanket the region and in autumn their colours range from pumpkin orange to gold.   I loved how different wineries posted signs along the road beside their vines.  Some even noted the type of grape.  Having just finished a bottle of Scrubby Rise sauvignon blanc the night before, driving past Wirra Wirra’s Scrubby Rise vines was pretty cool.

After sampling the wine at a couple of cellar doors we went back into the town of McLaren Vale and stopped at a cheese shop.  A few wineries had restaurants or a bit of a mezze to enjoy but as it was Easter they were pretty booked.  I never consider cheese a compromise, however, and two delicious selections later we were back on the road. 

Wirra Wirra’s winery is not too far from the town and we took our cheese to their cellar door to find an appropriate companion.  We tried a few options and in the end picked a sparkling moscato called “Mrs. Wigley”.  Quite delicious, the Mrs. Wigley Moscato comes in a 500ml bottle and it isn’t exactly a bargain at $18.  When we saw that it’s alcohol content was only 4.5%, Andrew pondered value for money but I was pretty sure I didn’t care.

We enjoyed our cheese and moscato on the patio where there was prime people-watching.  It was a lovely end to a really excellent day.  The more I see of South Australia the more I love it and sitting under the sun with a sampling of local cheeses and wine practically poured from the barrel, I felt very fortunate.  

“After two glasses, wine is wine.”  Several years ago, my grandmother rather infamously made this statement over Thanksgiving dinner.  It stuck in our family and while  I’m still inclined to believe her I’ve become much more interested in those first two glasses.  As we drank our moscato and surveyed our surroundings, a large piece of carved stone sat next to us.  It read:

Never give misery an even break, nor bad wine a second sip.
You must be serious about quality, dedicated to your task in life,
especially winemaking, but this should all be fun.
– Greg Trott


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 As it turns out, Adelaide is a beautiful city…what a relief! just as I knew it would be.  I haven’t yet decided which Canadian city it most closely resembles but I am enjoying discovering the highlights in my quest to pin one down!

On Good Friday, we awoke to a beautiful sunny day.  I’m sure that my readers in Ontario will have little sympathy for me given the miserable spring they’re enjoying at the moment, but I have been having a hard time coming to terms with winter approaching here in Australia.  It’s very odd to be stepping through crunchy leaves in April.  So, I’m taking every spring-like opportunity I can and last Friday we ventured into the Adelaide Hills for a picnic with a view.

A twenty minute drive East of Adelaide takes you to the hills – a completely charming, rustic collection of hillside villages and country properties.  Once you’re through the tunnels and off the freeway, the windy roads are an awful lot of fun to drive and the views are spectacular.

Mount Lofty marks the hill’s summit with a lookout area and restaurant, a fire-spotting tower and Adelaide’s television transmission towers, of course.  I took exactly two photos of the view as it wasn’t the clearest day for pictures but in person it did give a sense of the area, Adelaide and the coast in the not so distant distance.

There are several parks and sights to see but we ventured into the botanical gardens to find a spot to enjoy our picnic lunch.  By now, the wind was picking up a bit and we’d felt a few rain drops but I was determined to eat outside in the open air. 

So we did.

We settled in the shrub garden and while the grass was a little damp it was beautiful.  I’ve had some fairly spectacular picnics in my life (inside the Colosseum, for example) but I’ve never picnicked surrounded by gum trees full of laughing kookaburra. I couldn’t help but sing the “Kookaburra” nursery song as they laughed around us.  

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That’s not a monkey, that’s me!

– Marion Sinclair, 1936

Andrew was surprised this summer when he discovered that the entire Poole family was quite familar with this tune.  An Australian song, “Kookaburra” made its way to Canada and the United States through the Girl Guide movement.  Marion Sinclair was a teacher who worked with her school’s Girl Guide company and “Kookaburra” was first performed in 1934 at an annual Jamboree in Frankston, Victoria.  The Baden-Powells, founders of the Scouting and Guiding movements, were present.

In recent years, “Kookaburra” has been the subject of much controversy in Australia.  Questions about its copyright status and infringement resulted in lawsuits in 2009 and in 2010 Australian primary school director, Garry Martin, asked school children to replace the line “gay your life must be” with “fun your life must be”.  After an outcry that Martin was banning the word “gay” from his school, he stated: “All I was doing, relatively innocently, was substituting one word because I knew if we sing ‘Gay your life must be’ the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter.” Right.

When we were finished lunch we walked through the gardens a little (though not extensively… there looked to be a beautiful gully and lots of surrounding hiking trails) and then headed to the car for warmth and a bit of a tour.  Vineyards decorate the Adelaide Hills and South Australia’s fall colours are lovely.

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