Thursday, October 23, 2008

Off to the Land of Wonder, the Land Downunder

Our annual trip to Australia is occurring a little earlier than usual. Real early, like tomorrow. If we have picked our QANTAS flights correctly we should be boarding the A380 Airbus some time after 10pm at LAX for the 14 plus hour flight. This year our wine exposure is a little more ambitious than in the past. A two week road trip visiting six wine regions in three different states. The trip will start in Dubbo, NSW where Miranda and I will be joined by my cousin Ngaire and her husband Chris. First stop will be the cool climate wine area around Orange sampling wines from Canobolas-Smith, Mayfield, and Printhie. Then it will be off to The Falls for a relaxing dinner (and wine) and a good nights rest.

The second day was to be visits to selected wineries in the Hilltops and Canberra regions. But Chalkers Crossing at Young have told us they won’t be open and the Canberra wineries are holding their Wine, Roses, and All that Jazz celebration. So all we hope to achieve is to fight our way through the crowds so that we can taste whatever Clonakilla has on offer that weekend.

It may be fate that the second day promises little wine as the next two as sure to hold some of the highlights of the trip. Why? One word, Rutherglen. Well OK, four words. Rutherglen and fortified wines. For those who don’t know, Rutherglen is the epicenter of fortified wine in Australia, and the wines they make there are among the best in the world. And we get to visit the big guns like Chambers, Morris, Buller, and Campbells. And we will also drop by Warrabilla to taste the big, bold wines of Andrew Sutherland Smith. This should be two days of wine heaven.

To recover from all that alcohol we will spend the next two days traveling along most of the Murray River from Albury to Murray Bridge. We will be driving through a number of wine regions (Goulburn Valley, Swan Hill, Murray Darling, Riverland) as we motor alongside the Murray, but apart from accommodation in Swan Hill and Loxton we won’t be stopping because the next wine region on the itinerary is McLaren Vale. Tastings have been organized at Arakoon, Kay Brothers, d’Arenberg, and Mollydooker. A highlight will be a BBQ with Roger Pike and the chance to taste his Marius wines as we look out over his vineyards. We had hoped to stop by the Redheads Studio and Samuel’s Gorge but I guess they are too busy making and selling wine to answer my email request for a tasting appointment!

The next region is that little known wine making area, the Barossa Valley. We will taste at Winter Creek, Trevor Jones, and Teusner, and then recover over dinner at Vintners Bar and Grill with several winemakers. The next day will see us at Seppeltsfield. Miranda and I visit this grand old place every time we are in the Barossa, but this time it will be special as we will be tasting the wines under new ownership. Diggers Buff, Hobbs and Tim Smith will also be letting us sample their wines.

On the next day we will visit our last Barossa winery, Dutschke, before heading up to Clare Valley and tastings at Kilikanoon, Neagles Rock, Pikes and Paulett. Then it will be back to Dubbo via Broken Hill because its always good to get a little bit of the reality of the outback under your belt before you return to the maddening pace of southern California.

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