Monthly Archives: January 2013

Vintage 2013 arrives

7.54am, Thursday 31st January, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA

Morning folks, and it’s a welcome fresh dewey morning at that … a nice break in the pretty constant heat that we’ve had throughout December and January. This is what an empty grape arrival bin looks like here at Yalumba, sitting just above the crusher – but it won’t be empty much longer. The first grapes of the 2013 season are about to arrive. Our chief winemaker Louisa Rose has waved the big green “go” flag, and it will be Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that go first … destined for the Y Series. So here we go

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Australia Day 2013 with Coffee and ‘Shakespeare in the Vines’

5.14pm, Saturday 26th January, The Lawn, Old Dining Hall, Sppeltsfield Winery, Barossa West, South Australia

OK folks, here we are set up with Barossa Coffee Roasters at Shakespeare in the Vines. It’s still a bit warm out there in the sun, but the breeze is already cool, and I will bet money that in about an hour, the wind will drop completely, and we’ll have a superb evening on our hands. It’s a long long way from snowy London, and the Globe Theatre tucked into a corner of the south bank of the Thames, but it’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and it’s all happening in the Barossa.

Here’s the lawn an hour and a half ago when we set up the coffee machine, and switched it on to get hot and frothy.

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We’re underway, and the crowd is building – it’s a sellout at 400 people – and because it’s Australia Day, we’ve got Australian coffee in the machine. It’s the Single Estate “Green Cauldron Byron Bay”

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OK let me tell you a bit about this Green Cauldron coffee, grown in the hinterland near Byron Bay. This is the most southern spot in the world that coffee is grown commercially. It’s just the weird crossover of mountain and moisture that makes this microclimate work, and as it comes off the machine, it absolutely smells like the thick glossy centre of your favorite dark chocolate truffles.Paul – who is Barossa Coffee Roasters – put some milky froth on top of a healthy shot of the coffee – no sugar – let it cool and had me taste it. No word of a lie, it’s ‘Cafe Au Lait’ vanilla laced lovely stuff! Try and find these folks…..at the Barossa Farmers Market on Saturday morning, at Pure Espresso in Glenelg, the Maggie Beer Farm Shop between Nuriootpa and Seppeltsfield, Hentley Farm, Appelation Restaurant, Charlie Melton’s cellar door, and……in the coffee machine (not the full on whiz bang commercial number) at the Yalumba winery staff cafe ‘Scribblers’.

6.38pm. Curtain Up!

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8.11pm The interval coffee rush is over, and Act II is underway!

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Tour Down Under in the Barossa

4.35pm, Saturday 26th January, Seppeltsfield Road, Near Marananga, Barossa Valley, SA

Afternoon folks, I’m helping my mates at Barossa Coffee Roasters tonight – they’re at “Shakespeare in the Vines” tonight, on the lawn in front of the old Seppeltsfield Dining Hall. But before I get to that……it’s ‘Tour Down Under’ time in South Australia. The annual invasion of the Lycra clad pushbike warriors is in full swing! Today they’re down in the Southern Vales, and yesterday it was the Barossa Valley – finish line in the main street of Tanunda. Now the actual professional athlete pushbike boys ride in the Santos Tour Down Under, and that’s one part of our Barossa stage, and the other event is the ‘BUPA Challenge’ where amateur riders get the opportunity to ride a leg of an international level cycling event. The complete ‘Stage 4’ circuit is 127 km, but cyclists can choose to start at different parts of the circuit – doing 127 km, 46.5km or 20km if you start at Nuriootpa!

Why I am I explaining all this? Because our own in house amateur pushbiker – Liz Schoen who looks after selling Yalumba wine into continental Europe and Ireland – did the whole 127 km of the BUPA Challenge. Here she is, fitting in a smile and a wave as she flew past the winery front gates on Eden Valley Road, before heading down the main street of Angaston, through Nuriootpa and on to the finish line in Tanunda’s main street

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And maybe….if I start training now…..I might just be able to do the 20km section from Nuriootpa to Tanunda…..in 2015!!

Time for a new work truck?

9.19am, Wednesday 23rd January, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA

Morning folks, sorry I’ve been off the air, but now that we’re back at work full time and into the swing of things, should be back to having a chat with you every day. We just had a tremendous weekend where the town of Tanunda was invaded by almost 300 hot rods for the annual Valley Hot Rodders ‘Cruise On’ . The main street was closed on Saturday afternoon and lined either side with shiny bright cars from the 1930s to the 1980s of all persuasions – muscle, chrome laden, cut down, chopped, lowered, polished, lifted – but all of them very much loved by their owners. There was a wooden dance floor set up on the street in front of the Tanunda hotel where a rockabilly band belted out tunes till the wee hours and it was wall to wall dancers in everything from Bobby sox to leather!

I’m very lucky to have to top work ute (for those of you not from Australia ‘ute’ is short for utility vehicle, basically a truck cab and a tray behind. They’re called pickups in the USA, but in Australia, a ‘pickup’ is something completely different…….let’s leave it at that! ) which is your Toyota Hilux 4 wheel drive. Lovely! As you can see here when we went up to the Northern Territory – alongside the Dog Fence just north of the opal mining town of Coober Pedy, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

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But after walking up and down the Tanunda main street last Saturday night, I reckon I might need a new work ute, and I found some really good options. See what you think, I reckon I’d look good in any of them actually

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See ya same time next year Parkes

8.41am, Sunday 13th January, Back in the Barossa, SA, Australia

Morning folks, just a bit stiff recovering from a 13 hour express ‘no stopovers’ drive back to the Barossa from Parkes. 44degrees C is far too hot to be outside watching a parade and buskers in the streets, even if every second person you see is either an Elvis or Priscilla tribute artist! But we had a magic time! And folks, we did have a bit of a secret mission up at this years Elvis Birthday Festival in Parkes. There’s a top event which has been part of the official Festival program for 5 years now called The Elvis Poets Breakfast – started by local Bush Poetry fan Bob Steel. Spoken word and particularly Bush Poetry has had a real comeback in Australia over recent years, and it’s not unusual now to see these competitions and reading events as part of a lot of larger festivals. For this years Festival, last Thursday it was a 7am egg and bacon roll start at the Parkes Bowling and Sports Club, and to our great surprise, all of the tables and chairs set up in the club dining room and lounge area – looking straight out on to the gorgeous manicured bowling greens – were claimed within 30 minutes! A huge turnout! Eventually about 200 people were happily seated and ready to be entertained by the nothing short of fabulous “Two Short Sheilas” – the MCs for the event, Melanie Hall and Susan Carcary. This is them!Sue on the left, Mel on the right.

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Now before I go any further, I have to let you know that we had Australian entertaining spoken word royalty on deck with these two gals! Sue has the 2009 Champion Australian Bush Poet and 2008 Australian Yarnspinner of the year under her belt, and Mel won the Qantas Waltzing Matilda Bush Poetry Championship – and as part of that prize – has just come back from representing Australia at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, USA. So it was worth the admission just to see the girls do their stuff before and after this Elvis themed competition.

**check the girls out at their website http://www.melandsusieontour.com.au and keep an eye out for them, they’re off to be part of the massively popular Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year.

Now to the competition itself. To enter, you had to write a poem with any Elvis or Priscilla or Parkes Elvis Festival theme, and there were two sections….’Novice’ for the folks who hadn’t competed before, and the ‘Open’ section for old hands. I’ll spare you the tension laden moments of both the competition and the judging deliberations, and go straight to the winner of the ‘Novice’ section……..and that would be me! Yes folks, my first ever poem written for competition….ever. Here it is, you can’t buy it, you have to write your poem, send it off in the post, drive 500 miles each way, get up and read it in front of the packed breakfast time house at the Bowling Club – quaking with public performance nerves – and if you get lucky and the planets align……you win the prize! I think it looks magic mounted on the bull bar of my ute! See what you think….

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It’s Bull Bar Bling folks! Seriously though, a top event, and we shall be heading back next year to have a crack at the ‘Open’ section of the Elvis Poets Breakfast. See ya there. And to the organizers of this years competition, the whole Elvis Festival and everyone we met in Parkes – especially the boys at The Star Hotel – “thank ya very much”

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PS Best souveneir T Shirt of the Festival goes to the Star Hotel….front…and back

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Made it to Parkes

9.57pm, Wednesday 9th January, Oasis Motel, Newell Highway, Peak Hill, New South Wales, Australia

Evening folks, it’s been a long day on the road, but we’re here! Lucky enough to score a room in Peak Hill – the town that time decided to detour around … in a nice way – about 45 km north of Parkes, which will be ground zero for hordes of birthday partying Elvis fans for the next four days. Every square foot of accommodation – motels, hotels, caravan parks, tent sites, back sheds – in Parkes and the surrounding towns, is booked up 12 months in advance – so we really were lucky! Here’s how the day unfolded …

This is why they call it the Hay Plain! This is just east of Balranald, which is more or less the western edge of the Plain.

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Then another 200 km east, the other side of Hay, which is in the middle of the Plain … very arty shot! Actually, I was lazy, pulled over, and didn’t even have to undo the seat belt!

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Staying hydrated on a long roadtrip is important, but all that fluid has to go somewhere, and there’s about 250 km of not much at all before you get to West Wyalong. Thank goodness for the old ghost town of Gunbar!

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Then about 60 km south of West Wyalong, we start to hit the smoke clouds from yesterday’s bush fires around Wagga Wagga, plus a new fire front about 5 miles east of the highway. Thank goodness it’s 34 degrees C today, not 44! And tomorrow is 27, at least some relief for firefighters and the folks in all those affected areas.

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Then into West Wyalong itself, and an Australian classic! The butter cream iced Finger Bun from the Round About Bakery in the main street. Buttered of course. It’s not a Roadtrip without Roadfood!

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Finally, it’s Parkes … here’s a quick look at the main street, and the first Elvis tribute artist we run into on the way to pick up the must have program for the week. It’s Sam Luvara, he’s from Victoria, and he’s ‘Number 6’, if you want to vote for him in the ‘Best Elvis Busker’ Award!

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As you can see, the theme is “Aloha From Hawaii” this year. See ya tomorrow when we’ve been to some events, and we check out where Yalumba is on the shelves and wine lists up this way

Roadtrip with Elvis to Parkes NSW

11.03pm, Tuesday 8th January, Shamrock Motel, Balranald, Western edge of the Hay Plain, New South Wales

Evening folks, it’s been a horror heatwave day again, with bush, scrub and grass fires burning across New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. At the moment we’re well south west of the danger areas, and the southerly cool change has taken the sting off the Hay plain. That will give us a nice cool trip across in the morning.

Then it’s north to West Wyalong, and on to Forbes, and finally to the town of Parkes – famous as the home of the huge radio telescope nicknamed “The Dish” – which according to urban legend, played a pivotal role in broadcasting the details of Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moment on The Moon.

So why are we heading for this part of country New South Wales?

Because 21 years ago, the town of Parkes starting hosting a week-long celebration to commemorate the birthday of Elvis Presley – on or around January 8. With any luck, we’ll be up to our ears in Elvis tribute artists, chocolate chip and peanut butter pancakes, and chrome laden hotrods!

But right now, it’s about getting this oven masquerading as a motel room cool enough to sleep in … see you when it’s a bit cooler in the morning

Here’s how dry it is between Moculta and Truro behind the Barossa

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