Barossa Vintage Festival …..at Yalumba

6.28pm, Friday 17th April, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA

Morning again folks, and back in the Valley  just in time to catch the biennial local Barossa Vintage Festival. At Yalumba, we invite the local producers to set up at the winery for the day, add all of our wines by the glass, bring some dusty bottles that just happen to be vinous gems up from our Museum for a special tasting in the Cooperage, run a cooking school – this year with Jordan Theodorous from Peel St in Adelaide, invite some local musicians to play on the front lawn……then open our doors to anyone who happens to be in the Barossa who would like to spend the day with is. This all happened day before yesterday…..and I whipped around and caught as much as I could on camera…..even the weather co operated, and a top day was had by all!!

Our side lawn Producers Marketplace being set up early

  

Then mid afternoon in full swing…. 

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Meanwhile, at the Jordan Theodorous (Peel St, Adelaide) cooking school….

  

  

  

  

The big wine auction is on this morning, the street parade between Nuriootpa and Tanunda is tomorrow, then the long lunches on Sunday…….

Juke joint Festival – Clarksdale MS

5.37am, Friday 17th April, Barossa Valley, SA, Australia

Morning folks, back in the Barossa Valley and time to catch up with the Vintage Festival which is in full swing…..but first, here’s a picture postcard story of one of the best music fists I’ve ever seen – the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale – smack bang in the middle of the Mississippi Delta…..a big flat runway of row crops and pecan groves that hugs the River and runs from south of Tunica down to north of Vicks burg and Jackson. This is for all intents and purposes the birthplace of the Blues…..and if you’re a complete novice to that musical world – like me – then the easiest way to explore is by using the fabulous ‘Mississippi Blues Trail markers’. These will take you across the state and introduce you to the folks who wrote, played and recorded The Blues……and where they lived, travelled and performed. Occasionally you’ll come across a ‘juke joint’ which was a local hole in the wall venue for folks to hear the blues – usually open one or two nights only, at the end of the working week – and always with some sort of food ……generally southern BBQ. I tracked across the top third of the state of Mississippi, ending up in Clarksdale the week of the festival, and stayed at the Shack Up Inn. This is the brainchild of a couple of local blokes who bought an old cotton gin on a few acres, then over several years turned the gin buildings into a motel, bar, and music venue. They salvaged sharecropper shacks around the area, and re located them onto the Shack up Inn grounds……nd the result is a ‘trailer park’ community of shacks of all shapes and sizes, all modified just enough to have hot running water, indoor plumbing! And a kitchen. Just about all the work has been done with ‘found’ and salvaged stuff from the region, so it’s one of the most unique accommodation venues in the USA, and I love it. I stayed for one night about 4 years ago, and it took me a long time to get back for the Juke Joint Festival….but it was well worth it!

So here’s the week leading into the Juke Joint Festival ……as I had to leave town early on the Saturday morning to get across to LA and on back to Australia. Next time I’ll try and do the whole thing.

 

 

 

Here’s the Shack Up Inn…

 

  And my home for 5 days ….used to be that of the “Fullilove” family

  

Then off to explore Clarksdale MS and find the best food stops….

  

 

   

  

  

Then more exploring to find the local ‘juke joints’, and find out who’s playing when

  

Reds – on Sunflower Avenue, lucky enough to see ….

 

Then there’s other buildings in town set up for the Festival as venues….sometimes it’s just the footpath in front of a store….everything possible is used, as come Saturday and Sunday the streets of the central town grid are closed to cars, and you just trundle from one artist to another…..stuffing the tip tins as you go. Here’s a few that I saw, with some of the Friday acts

  

  

This is Morgan Freeman’s ‘Ground Zero’ blues club and cafe

  

  

  

This years poster – art by local Cristen Barnard

  

  

  

 

 

Then it was goodbye Shack Up Inn….and Clarksdale MS….till next time

  

“Put on my blue suede shoes……and I ….boarded the plane…..”

8.51pm, Friday 3rd April, 2979 Millbranch Road, Memphis, TN, USA

Evening folks, and I spent a lot of the day trekking across the U.S. at 33000feet – finally arriving in Memphis, this being  my fourth pilgrimage to the town who’s fortunes were tangled up with the Mississippi River trade and shipping cotton, site of the National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the home of Elvis Presley for most of his adult life. This is just the jumping off spot though – the road trip is all about criss crossing the top third of Mississippi – ‘the delta’ – and the Juke Joint Festival next week in Clarksdale. So welcome to Memphis roadtrippers….early night tonight because it’s going to be a big week!

  

  

So much to see…..but this trip it’s just the Stax Soul Label Museum, then off to Corinth, Mississippi. I’ve done Graceland three times, so I’m not letting the international fraternity of Elvis fans down, and I’ll be in his home town Tupelo in a couple of days – watch this space for an Elvispotting moment I’ve got planned!

Had to have dinner though, so I chose Gus’s World Famous Chicken downtown on South Front Street

  

Top first stop! Lovely folks, and all I’m going to say is that when they say their fried chicken is spicy, they mean it! Now that I’ve eaten at Gus’s, I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much snap, chickeny crackle and zingy spice pop in your fried chicken ! And to my mates in Texas, I even ordered a whole jalapeño, sliced it up and laced the bbq baked beans – aren’t you proud of me…..waving the flag for the lone star State’s favourite vegetable!

  

  

Memphis….it’s an “All King” kind of town……the King of Rock’n’roll that is! Sun never sets on a legend roadtrippers…see ya when it’s Mississippi

Los Angeles…..City of Angels, wine, wine mags, and hot dogs!

7.34pm, Thursday 2nd April, West Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Evening folks, and Im pleased to report that we survived another day ducking and weaving about the crazy mental streets and freeways that are an everyday part of life here in Los Angeles. You have to factor in at least double your expected travel time from point to point, and you end up pretty close to the mark.So our task today was to criss cross LA twice…..out to Pasadena – north East of Downtown – first; then we had to chase Ventura Boulevard into Encino – to the north west on the other side of town; then south through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills towards Santa Monica to Cotner Avenue. Whew!! Actually thinking about what we did out there on the roads today – wears me out all over again! And I was only the co pilot! The bloke at the wheel was none other than Dave ‘Ma T’ Townsend – who does a top job working with the distributors in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii – to have Yalumba in a stack of great addresses…..retail, restaurants, and all sorts of other interesting wine savvy corners. Definitely like Thelma and Louise this last 4 days getting about California, only without the gun in the glove box, and Dave is a bloke. So not really Thelma and Louise at all…..but you get the picture!

Speaking of pictures – here’s our first stop – Mission Liquor in Pasadena…..tremendous collection of wines and spirits in one of the older towns that were once a tram or train ride out of Los Angeles the city, now part of the ‘greater LA’.

 

On to Encino, and we had an interview and mini Cabernet Shiraz masterclass with The Tasting Panel magazine…..

  

 Then off we whizzed to see the boys at The Wine House… 

 

  

Caught Adam sneaking off to the weekend with the 2010 Signature! Excellent choice!

Then, as a massive treat, Dave and I went to have a late 4pm lunch at a proper Los Angeles legendary landmark – Pinks Hot Dogs, on La Brea Avenue ‘since 1939′. I modified their bacon chilli cheese dog with jalapeños and barbecue sauce ……dogtastic!! …..if I say so myself!

  

   

 

So after a big day out there in LA, it’s an early night for me……and the 6am flight to Memphis, Tennessee tomorrow – I’ve now got a few days off in Mississippi before flying home, and we’re off to ‘the crossroads’ to listen to the Blues. Where? Clarksdale  – for the Juke Joint Festival.

See ya for now

Orange County to Los Angeles – the I 5 / 405 shuffle

6.06am, Thursday 2nd April, West Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Morning folks – we had a top run up to the City of Angels yesterday from Temecula, where we were based to do our San Diego and Palm Springs events. The main artery that runs north from San Diego all the way to Seattle in Washington state, and through to Blaine on the Canadian border – is Interstate freeway 5 – or I 5. It branches just south of Orange County into Hwy 405 and services Orange and greater Los Angeles, and together with Highways 101 and 110, makes up the loop that feeds the non stop 4-8 lanes each way ‘loop’ that accesses the Los Angelesmetro area……that can often be 8 lanes each way completely stopped, or grinding along at a snails pace. Welcome to the I 5 / 405 / 101 / 110 shuffle, as you literally duck and dive on and off the cross linking freeways to visit the fab addresses in Orange County that have Yalumba on their shelves.

So this was our day out and about, with a fair bit of driving in between…

  

Thanks for catching up with us Kyle…..and for the excellent Barossa section on your shelves…..as well as possibly the last 24 bottles of 2010 Signature Cabernet Shiraz for sale in California…. 

  

Then on to our great mates Gregg & young Olliver at Southern Hemisphere wines – specialists in all the good vinous things from Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa.

  

  How can you not love catching up these delightful  blokes! Thanks enormously for the support, and the lovely wrap on the Handpicked Shiraz Viognier

  

Then a quick healthy – no freezers at Inn n out burgers folks! – California style outdoor lunch on the run…. 

 

Back on to the highway, and on to see our long time Australian, Barossan and Yalumba flag waver – Patty – at Hi Time

  

 

I always wander the maze of sprit shelves here – bourbon, whisky, whiskey and tequila….I learn so much each time – thanks again Patty for such staunch support, and welcome aboard Gary – hope to see you both in the Barossa somewhere down the track.

Then a mad dash up to Los Angeles, to meet with the folks at a very hip spirits &  wine bar, with a lovely ‘speakeasy’ twist…..it has no name, and no photos are taken inside….so you’ll just have to trust me – it’s fabulous!!   We had a tremendous session with the chef, and we’re on the list!

  

Today we’re all over Los Angeles, so we’ll see you when it’s Friday…..and the start of the Easter weekend 

Channeling the Rat Pack  in Palm Springs….

5.48pm, Tuesday 31st March, The Coral Seas Lounge, Palm Springs, CA, USA

Evening folks, the lounge singer is pushing out the old American standards in the background, as we slide into the relief of the cool air conditioned dusk of the South Seas Lounge in Palm Springs….no we’re not hanging out with Frankie, Dean, Sammy and the boys……but we’re sitting in the same bar stools!! 

Now, to our day – the first time that we’ve taken the Samuels Garden set from the Yalumba wine world out to show to the restaurateurs in Palm Springs and Palm Desert. It’s a strong set too folks, even if I’m talking from a home town standpoint. 2012 Eden Valley Rousanne – all wispy lime perfume and Chenin blanc like palate;  the 2013 Eden Valley Viognier – apricot and heady blossom lifting off a cool slippery 13 %v/v palate (yes….13.5%v/v WITH flavour and lift!); the 2013 Bush Vine Grenache all cherry & raspberry over Rosemary and tarragon savoury long but middleweight palate screaming for lamb; the 2012 The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend – again unashamedly middle weight with berry aromatics leading + lush juicy shiraz chasing + the oomph and dry of the Mataro (that’s Mourvèdre or monastrel over here in the US) cleaning up at the end; the 2010 Guardian Shiraz Viognier – our ‘metrosexual’ pretty shiraz viognier (2%)  co ferment – all aromatic  savoury lean fruit over older french oak; and the 2012 Patchwork Shiraz – yay! Traditional Barossa shiraz without the rip your mouth apart tannins – all cloves and cinnamon, juicy dark plummy shiraz and a touch of aniseed over french and american oak – bit of power with elegance going on here. And….the Palm Springs and Palm Desert locals seemed to like them!

  

 

Welcome to Palm Springs folks…..

 

 First stop…..3rd Corner, Palm Desert – thanks Tamara…..and congratulations!! (Fingers crossed….no twins!)

  

Second stop….Dish…..in the cool new North Arts District – thanks Joane & Michele

****written up as one of the top 10 hottest places to eat in Palm Springs! I would personally like to try their take on fried chicken, or the Halibut with Jalapeños!! Next trip…I’m there!,

 

 Third stop……Thanks Natalie….good luck with the new cellar!

  

Last stop……the Wine Bar Bistro……thanks Robert & Jane……..love your slide open roof! Perfect for those starry starry desert nights….and you’re underneath them sat in those fab sofas with a great glass of wine!

All in all…..a tremendous introduction to The Desert for Yalumba….thanks to Kristin from our distributor Henry Wine Group for a fab day out amongst the palms and sunshine. See ya next year with any luck, and we’re off to tour the Elvis Presley honeymoon house!

PS Meanwhile folks……back at the winery Yalumba…..the last fruit of the Vintage 2015 is scheduled to go through the crushers today. That’s what we call “short, sharp, and shiny!”. I’ll be home in two weeks, so I’ll let you know what the winemakers  think of the ferments when I get home. Cheers from Palm Springs……tomorrow Orange County!!

Spring break San Diego!!

7.23pm, Starbucks – thanks for the wi fi, Little Italy, San Diego, CA, USA

Evening folks, it’s been a top 36 hours “off the work clock” in San Diego. I should mention at this time that right now in the USA, it’s Spring Break! Yes…..just like all those movies you’ve ever seen – any possible beachside spot in the USA is turned into the biggest street party you’ve ever seen. And that means the airports are nuts, planes are jammed, hotel rooms are hard to find, and rental car rates are jacked up sky high. Welcome to Spring Break and the money printing machine that goes with it.

So consequently, we are staying in a motel – no suites, no hair dryer, intermittent wi fi at best (hence walking the 4 blocks to Starbucks to put my post up before they close at 8pm), pretty ordinary 10 channels on the telly, right on the flight path into San Diego International Airport, and alongside the railway line. But the good news is that if you put the wall mounted air con on low air, it drowns out the trains and planes. And after a while that constant burr kind of sends you to sleep. Probably doesn’t work for everyone, but works well for me. But never fear, it’s swings and roundabouts, as we’re saving some money these two nights, and move up to Temecula tomorrow night, and get a really nice place for exactly the same money…..with a hairdryer! So it’s all good. I just thought I should give you a balanced view of the wine selling road warrior world, as it’s not always Manhattan and London Bridge!!

Here you go…… 

 

That’s my people when I’m in the air….love Southwest Airlines to bits……bringing some more happy spring – breakers to town.

  

We did get a rental car for one day though, and had a quick look at San Diego….. 

Out to the Hotel Del Coronado when we got in last night, 122 years after Fred Caley Smith – the Yalumba travelling Indiana Jones  horticulturalist from the family – stayed for one night

  

And caught a magnificent sunset through the sea salt haze…

  

Oh oh…..Starbucks is closing, so I’ll post this and add some more tomorrow night. We’re working San Diego tomorrow, then Palm Springs Tuesday, and up to Los Angeles for Wednesday and Thursday

Cheers for now from Spring Break Central, CA