There are wine tours, and then there was the Canberra Wine Tour. It started with a nice lady picking us up at our apartment at 9am, and ended with her dropping us off at the same place many hours later, with enough wine that it took a lot of trips in the elevator, and now more cases of it in our living room than furniture. It should be duly noted that the bottle count went 2, then 6, then 18, then 68, in some geometric progression whose exponent was proportional to the number of varieties sampled.
It is no secret that south eastern Australia takes its winery industry seriously, and just within a quick drive from the capital, there are more vineyards (just on the tourist map) than in Napa. Many of these are small batch, and do not export outside the US, so you close friends may guess what exotic gifts you may be receiving when we get back, _if_ we come back, _if_ the wine lasts that long…
There won’t be many photos with this blog entry, sadly. First we were too groggy, since a circuit breaker confounded our coffee machine’s ability to produce the necessary stimulant doses, and our brains were not able to diagnose the problem, for lack of caffeinated horsepower (you see the chicken and egg problem). After an unmemorable but short ride to the first vineyard, we were tasting some very nice dry Riesling (at 10am on a Saturday) – the effect was giddying. By the time we remembered to take some selfies, we were in no shape to appear decently behaved. So, create some imagery in your mind as I describe some of the highlights. Please enjoy this reflective photo of me pondering the meaning of life at a fountain in Sydney instead – both speak to liquid embellishment.
If vineyard #1 was a small Amish kitchen with a sole proprietor who goes out and picks his grapes, winery #2 was a polished affair with a breakfast enclave and a pavilion out back with picnic tables and a sound system. We tasted a dozen reds, grew closer to our tour mates, and started longing for some nice bread and gouda to go with our 20 milliliter graduations.
We thought #3 would include lunch and the end of the day, but alas, it was a multi-warehouse commercial affair, moderated by a very nice guy who gave us some great prices on past-year syrah (or Shiraz). He was the most knowledgeable of the bunch, and although I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was downing a few samples he served along with our’s.
We saw three unusual things on the trip. First, we learned of grafting of new branches on the old vines – apparently you can grow a whole new grape without having to throw away and regrow the whole root system. If that’s the case, I want to graft some 6-pack abs onto my existing “dad stomach.” There are also rose bushes growing on each end of the row of vines. I asked to the purpose, and the owner explained that back in the day, they were indicators of incoming blight, disease, or insects. That’s not quite the case nowadays, as roses have apparently become hardier to many threats. Last, they have to throw nets over their vineyards to keep away the crows and cockatoo’s, although the birds are getting smart enough to know that they can weigh down the nets en masse, and thus still reach through to the fruit with their beaks. Thus, dogs enter the equation.
At the last vineyard, where we _finally_ had lunch, we were greeted by two cute dogs, one of which had a savignon named after her. In fact, most of the properties had dogs, to help keep away the other critters, greet us tourists and whittle away at our pocketbooks, and add to the happiness of the owners, as we so heartily know (missing our two border collies, back in the states). In fact, there is a 200-page coffee table book called “Wine Dogs” dedicated to a large sampling of canines from growers all across Australia.
We really are enjoying the differences between the two countries – I will leave you with one last one. Here’s me standing at the Parliament House the other day – you can just drive right up to it, it’s open all but two days of the year, and there’s plenty of parking underground. In fact, you’ll notice the whole building is “underground” – that’s a grass roof, and they let people walk and play on it. The beautiful flag on the top can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, and it’s the size of a bus.