Saturday, January 18, 2014

Adelaide and beyond

I could easily be an ambassador to Adelaide.  It really has everything, the city is very walkable, and there are so many great places nearby that can fill in an afternoon...a day...or a weekend.

Many people suggested we check out Victor Harbor which we did on a recent Sunday afternoon.
This horse drawn tram from the town to Granite Island is famous, but we couldn't see ourselves riding when it was such an easy walk.   Note the sign warning of penguins!

Rugged coastline around Granite Island

Causeway from Victor Harbor to Granite Island
Adelaide was in the news this week when temperatures hit the mid 40s, and wildfires starting burning in South Australia and Victoria.  While it was indeed hot, both of us feel we'd rather contend with hot extremes versus the Polar Vortex that descended on Canada and the US earlier in January.'s a "dry heat". 

Within a couple of blocks of our apartment there is the State Library, Art Gallery, South Australian Museum and many other historic buildings that are fabulous to explore.  To beat the heat, we headed to the SA Museum .  After two hours we realized we only got a taste of it, and will have to return.  Some of the exhibits date back 150 years, and are beautifully displayed.

Beautiful exhibit of South Pacific Islands dating back to the 1800s.

Interesting exhibit of the 1914 expedition to Antarctica

Aboriginal exhibit
One of the best things about living in Adelaide, is the close proximity to wine country. Within a 30 minutes to 2 hour drive, we can be in the: Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Valley and the Coonawara wine region. 

In fact, the Penfolds Magill Estate is just a few kilometers from our apartment.  It was established in 1844 and is home to the legendary Penfolds Grange wine. 
While the majority of land has been taken over from the city for housing, the original buildings are a reminder of Penfolds' beginnings.

Tunnels with wine casks
Penfolds has a rich history, and we went on an interesting tour followed by a wine tasting.

Some of Penfolds high end wines; unfortunately not part of the wine tasting!
We've been learning a lot about wines since moving to the region.  People around here are very knowledgeable, and know the best vintages.  I found this chart on-line that has made picking out new wines a little easier and less of a hit and miss.  A general rule of thumb for South Australian wines is that 2008, 2010 and 2012 were great years for reds.

Andrew MacEwen from the Kansas office was here for a couple of days of meetings, and joined us when we went on a tour of the Barossa Valley, about an hour north of Adelaide.  We tasted wines at two large operations: Jacob's Creek and Wolf Blass, and two smaller ones:  Langmeil and Chateau Tanunda.  We also visited Maggie Beers for a food tasting.  Could the day get any better?

The countryside heading north from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley resembles the Alberta foothills with wheat fields that had just been harvested. 

Smoke from the wild fires in the Eden Valley can be seen in the horizon to the right

Jacob's Creek has a huge range of wines; our favorite was a Reserve 2012 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jacob's Creek winery set in stunning countryside
 Maggie Beers is a famous Aussie who has created a food empire.  Her products are sold all over the country, and we had a great time tasting many of her unique offerings.

Next stop was Wolf Blass.  It's a huge winery, and we had a chance to taste several of their brands.  We've always enjoyed Yellow Label Cab/Sauvignon, but were introduced to other labels such as red, blue, silver, gold and black.

Andrew treated us to our favorite from the wine tastings -- a bottle from the Wolf Blass Coonawarra winery, which we shared at lunch.
After lunch, we went to the Langmeil Winery, said to be home to the oldest Shiraz vines in the world which date back 170 years.  We all really enjoyed visiting the smaller winery and getting a more intimate look into small production wineries.

Entrance to the tasting room at Langmeil

Grapes beginning to ripen on the Shiraz vines planted 170 years ago

A great day with Andrew - here we are standing in front of the old Shiraz vines

The branches of the old vines are beautifully knarled.

Two of our favorite wines from Langmeil Winery

Our last stop was at Chateau Tanunda that was established in 1890 and recently restored after being abandoned for many years.

Not only did we have a great day of drinking fabulous wines and eating delicious food, we met a wonderful couple on holiday from the U.S., Mike and Caroline Clifton.  We had such a good time talking to them, that we invited them to our apartment for a BBQ after the tour along with Andrew.  The evening was filled with interesting stories, much laughter, good food, and yes....more wine!

By the time we leave Australia, I'm pretty sure we'll have the equivalent to a Masters degree in Wine Appreciation.  And while we have learned much about vintages, grapes, and wine regions, the most important lesson is that it doesn't matter if it is a bargain wine or a fine vintage -- it is that the best wines are those shared with friends.

Cheers, mate.

"Wine is bottled poetry."
                      Robert Louis Stevenson

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