1

A Sunday in the Barossa

rockfords 2

A celebration of excellent weather, the gentle environment and our astonishing privilege: an autumn Sunday in the Barossa!

The trick (or life hack as the young ‘uns call these) with winery tours is to keep the itinerary simple: don’t fall for vaulting ambition, or an overly complex itinerary. With this in mind Claire said, “I reckon we should go along Krondorf Road.”

Beginning at Grant Burge Wines a highlight was the view down to and across the rolling valley floor with the trees all gilded and brunette and anticipating their winter drink. There was a lengthy list of wines to work through and these were uniformly adequate if somewhat devoid of charisma.

Noting the massive bottles on display we spoke of the biblical names ascribed to these: Methuselah, Balthazar and my favourite to say, often apropos of nothing, Nebuchadnezzar: holding 15 litres, an unholy receptacle with catastrophic hangovers for the extended family (perhaps not the kiddies).

rockfords 1

Rockfords is always a delight. The former stables host the tastings. All stone and pastoral calm; inside is warmly dark, and the punters drift and mingle, scuffling to and from the counter. Above our heads is a row of dusty, hoary bottles, the labels whispering of meeker times. With our dear friend Trish in mind we bought a bottle of Alicante Bouchet as voices murmured about us, all low and vaguely thrilling and festive.

The Basket Press Shiraz is Olympian, and I remembered I’d a bottle at home, a significant birthday gift from old friends Bob and Trish. As always with long-distance wine I’m torn: do I lay it down for years on the hazy promise of a milestone, or given life’s uncertainty, dash home on an otherwise unspectacular Tuesday, and turn the church key?

It was divine to then emerge from this intimate dusk and into the cobblestoned light of Rockford’s courtyard. Dust and pollen and laughter pirouetted about in the golden air, and I remarked to Claire how I found it difficult to believe there could be a happier place on the planet.

hallets 2

Our clocks had chimed midday and so we drove westward. Our pace was like that of the horses and carts of centuries ago when stoic Lutherans slapped the reins, and crunching the carpark gravel at St. Halletts we both noted how it had been decades since either of us had visited.

The cellar door has a generous, handsome bar. Even the toilets are luxurious in their appointments. We discussed the received silliness of the various euphemisms for these: bathroom. Aside from the physical hopelessness of the cistern, who’d wish to take a bath in one? And restroom: these may have once offered welcome refuge, but with an unsophisticated world view shaped by my amenities experiences out the back of Adelaide Oval I reckon toilets are like proctologist visits; get in and out (as it were) as quickly as you can.

We chatted over our cups with the woman serving the drinks. She was Parisienne and pregnant. On a working holiday years ago she met her eventual husband in an aisle of the local hardware store, and now here she was. It was a natter in keeping with the day’s themes of warmth and gratefulness and she popped extra crackers on our cheeseboard.

With the Para River acting as a gentle guardian there’s an ample lawn punctuated by some silent gums and wooden tables, like those favoured in English country pubs. We had cheese and olives and sunshine and stillness. And a glass of wine each. My sparkling red was exquisite, delicate and with a haughty effervescence that contrasted ever so slightly with the surroundings.

hallets 1

“Do you know what my favourite drink is when wine-tasting?” I asked, the sun slanting across the lawn.

“A shiraz?” Claire suggested.

“No, but good try.”

“Go on then.”

“After the last winery it’s the Pale Ale I have at a pub.”

So, our day ended with a first. We swung into the Sandy Creek pub, a boozer I must’ve passed a thousand times, but had never entered.

With the light collapsing beyond the low hills we sat out the front and watched the steady stream of cars and trucks and vintage jalopies roar along the highway as on the TV inside the Crows and Dockers began their unwatchable match.

It had been a sunlit day of space and conversation and bursting gratitude.

sandy creek

Advertisements
0

A Day on the Green: Nostalgia by the North Para

 

plw

T-shirt slogans can capture a moment, and a couple summers’ ago, from an English website I bought one that featured no imagery or graphics, just plain text in a small black font

c. Marsh b. Lillee

Music festivals like Saturday’s Day on the Green are the preferred habitat of the hipster t-shirt, and I saw many, but this was the standout, catching the zeitgeist in this time of disenchantment: the alarming rise of herb rage

fcuk coriander

With band members Link, Ringo, Wally and Jaws Meanie, the Meanies opened our afternoon with their energetic brand of irony-infused punk, and each song is a brisk splash of droll turbulence. Lead singer Link Meanie sports a Chopper Reid ‘tache, a diesel mechanic’s physique, and a B-grade back pocket’s self-deprecation. As Link would attest, it takes enormous dedication to look like you don’t care one dot. “10% Weird” is a great song, and it’s a cracking set. We’re off to a flier.

*

The Barossa Valley boasts Germanic villages and pastoral beauty. A most painterly aspect is Peter Lehmann’s winery on the edge of Tanunda, and it’s obligatory when we take visitors wine-tasting.

The blue-green Gatsby lawns have hosted friends’ birthdays and Mothers’ Days complete with games of cricket punctuated by adults juggling glasses of shiraz as they toss up feathery off-spinners to free-swinging kids. Today’s stage is adjacent to the North Para River while on the Nuriootpa side gum trees grasp at the azure sky. Between these are about seven thousand folks- and just a few toddlers.

*

Decades ago in Kimba my foot was broken by a behemoth opponent called Gut, and unable to play footy, I spent an enthusiastic month in the pub on the punt. The small and eclectic ensemble of TAB aficionados became my Saturday friends. Although I was the youngest by about thirty years our bond was functional, and it presented a singular entertainment. Isn’t it fantastic to enjoy the elliptical orbits of different friends? Some relationships are founded on footy or golf or wine, and with Nick and Holmesy, they’re (among other things) my music mates.

From our grassy spot, and over cans of Fat Yak we trade reviews. “The new Nick Cave album’s a bit bleak. Warren Ellis is having too much say.” And later, “The Pixies’ latest is a mixed bag. Some good moments, but a few formulaic tracks as well.” Then as Jebediah diffused their sunny pop Holmesy editorialises, “On the new Metallica the pace and fury of the guitars is like they’re channelling Lemmy.”

We’re joined by Trev. He played drums with a few bands back in the 90’s, including one who enjoyed airtime on Triple J. Another was called Imelda’s Shoes, which still amuses me. He went to every single Big Day Out. He’s still in mourning.

Late afternoon and Spiderbait is on, led by hirsute drummer Kram who is energetic like a Labrador, or Rory Sloane. He alternates vocals with bassist Janet English, a Cate Blanchett lookalike wearing oversized glasses and blonde bobbed hairdo.

The band formed twenty-five years back, but she still sings as she did back then, and I’m reminded of how enduring and immutable is the human voice. It’s remarkable. Her singing is innocent, but also as bewitching as the sirens of Greece especially on “Calypso.”

Sunshine on my window

Makes me happy

Like I should be

During one of his uproarious solos the wife says that she has a “drummer crush on Kram,” which is reasonable as, at six o’clock on this particular Saturday, we all do.

With the Barossa having been settled by persecuted Prussians Janet’s acappella introduces “99 Red Balloons,”

Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich

Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich

and the bilingual crowd ignites. On my top 100 one-hit wonders list, it’d go top 10 for sure, right next to “Slice of Heaven” and “Harper Valley PTA.”

You Am I is a favourite, but their approach is naive, and confused in application, like the Australian middle-order. Their blue lounge suits promise much, but instead there’s self-parody and simmering agitation, both on the lawns and on the stage. Timmy could chuck a wobbly. I’m unsure if he’s helped by the bottle of wine he’s necking like a Tom Waits sailor.

Around from the prehistoric scoreboard You Am I played a blistering set before last year’s SANFL grand final. At our Day on the Green they do sizzle on “Cathy’s Clown,” but this is swamped by baffling patches of novelty including the backup singers doing, “Nutbush City Limits.”

The last act is a band I always find clinical. Something For Kate’s “Monsters” is wonderful, but like Adelaide Zoo’s two giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi, their set fails to (re)productively connect. However, they cover REM’s “The One I Love,” and it reflects the gorgeous anxiety of the original.  

Our recent festival experience was the St Jerome’s Laneway event in Singapore, and this franchise is about the future, the next wave of artists, while Day on the Green looks unashamedly to the past in targetting middle Australia’s healthy hunger for nostalgia. The line-up could have been photocopied from the 1998 Big Day Out program, but this is why we’re here, in our eager dotage.

*

With midnight ticking close we’re back at Nick’s farm in She-Oak Log. Our wives have retired, and we listen to old music and drink new wine. Outside the window his crops sway in the earthy dark, and we toast our good fortune.  

 

99-red-balloons