Wine Country Days

17, 21 and 25 October 2019

Rather more thematic than chronological, this post describes our three days spent exploring the wine regions around Adelaide. There was tasting, of course, but we also found some unusual and interesting non-wine related attractions amongst all the vines.

The Clare Valley, 17 October 2019

Passing through the Clare Valley on our way to Adelaide we were more taken by its landscape of wheat fields than its vines and rudely left without trying a drop! We did, however, find something more intriguing.

You would be forgiven for thinking there is no other Australian film than Priscilla Queen of the Desert but our explorations of the locations of Australia’s films are not limited to that great work. Oh no, there is much more to come! So as a diversion from drag queens in the desert we moved on to schoolgirls on a rock.

In her 1967 novel about the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls from a Victorian boarding school, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay wrote “Appleyard College was already, in the year nineteen hundred, an architectural anachronism in the Australian bush – a hopeless misfit in time and place.”

It’s not hard to see why Peter Weir chose Martindale Hall to double as Appleyard College in his film adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock. It really is the kind of Georgian style mansion you least expect to find amongst the wheat fields and vineyards of South Australia.

Built with 32 rooms in 1880 for bachelor Edmund Bowman Jr, he was by all accounts a better hedonist than pastoralist. The house had a cricket pitch, polo ground, racecourse and boating lake. His smoking room is evidence to his love of travel to exotic places but his debts saw him selling the house only 10 years later.

The house passed into the hands of the Bowman family who’s son Valentine died aged 8 and is reported to haunt its halls along with some fairly spooky toys.

From one of the bedrooms I heard Stefan calling me, excitedly. “Come here, quick” he urged! As I walked through the door to what was the ensuite he was pointing “look, a bath!” It’s true we get very excited about baths. We don’t see them very often, let alone get to use them. And this house had at least two of them. That’s just greedy!

McLaren Vale, 21 October 2019

To start our week with the Sissies in their home city they took us out to see one of their favourite wine growing areas, McLaren Vale, just a short drive south of Adelaide. We started with a delicious lunch at one of their favourite restaurants, The Salopian Inn, which has an equally delicious menu of 230 gins. We didn’t try them all. We had wine to taste!

To start we went to the Primo Estate where Anna and I worked our way through a taste of their whites, from prosecco to rose,

while Stefan and Michael got very serious about tasting the olive oil also produced at the vineyard. Honestly, that is olive oil in their glasses!

We stopped next at the D’Arenberg Estate’s controversial cube – a $15million monochrome Rubik’s cube in the middle of a vineyard

where instead of wine tasting we went to a small exhibition of penny arcade machines of a haunted nature.

We made one final stop at a vineyard with a garden straight out of the English countryside, the Coriole Estate. There we did try some more wine and returned to the city with the car a little heavier for it.

The Barossa Valley, 25 October 2019

Our trip to the Barossa Valley was very nearly ruined early on by an encounter with South Australia’s traffic police. Having turned off the highway, Stefan was soon aware of flashing lights following us and pulled off the road. A brief and friendly encounter established that we had been going 108km per hour in an 90km zone. Warned we could have been in for a $480 fine the very kind officer let us off with a warning. Phew! He waved us off with an “enjoy the wine tasting – just be sure to limit it to 4!” We continued, slowly, to Tanunda.

Tanunda might have changed its name from Bethanein during WWI but it can’t hide its German roots. It was founded by Lutheran refugees escaping persecution in Prussia.

Those early settlers and their leader Gotthard Fritzche are buried in one of the churchyards amongst more recent graves bearing German inscriptions.

We walked through Tanunda to its eponymous Chateau where they have been making wine since 1890. Not being a big fan of the German variety, I tried some of their Reisling and it turns out I like Australian Reisling quite a lot!

But this wine country day was also destined to be less about the wine

and more about the Big Rocking Horse. At 18 metres high it certainly does it job of stopping the traffic for the wooden toy factory. The nearby signposts made us reflect on how far we’ve come on this journey and Stefan had a chat with the talking cockatoo.

It had started raining so we found shelter in Birdswood’s National Motor Museum and again marvelled at the early cars that tackled Australia’s early tracks.

Australia’s own car manufacturer, Holden, was established in South Australia in 1856 and was well represented amongst the hundreds of cars on show. This included Mrs Holden’s Holden! The last cars came off Holden’s Elizabeth production line in 2017 and now Holdens as well as Fords are imported from Germany, the US and Canada. The American Owners of Holden (General Motors) and Ford Australia decided that labour costs were to high in Australia and closed all Australian car production, having a devastating impact on local economies.

Whilst Stefan drooled over cars like the Bugatti Veyron

I was more fascinated by the story of Alice Anderson and her all women garage workshop. She and her staff offered car repairs, chauffeuring and driving lessons for women. By 1925 Alice was receiving 50 applications for her apprenticeship programme. In 1926 she was found dead in her workshop from a gunshot wound.

Tick’s relatives, the Land Cruisers, were also well represented including one beautifully painted to depict a journey taken by a group of Pitjantjatjara women.

The lush green hills of Adelaide’s wine regions always took us back to the city where we got to live like locals for a week with the Sissies…