Our day started with the discovery of a rather large, though dead, spider in our room. Becky was concerned. She really doesn’t like spiders and it didn’t help that Australia has many poisonous spiders, including the dreaded, deadly Brown Funnel Spider that apparently has a penchant for crawling into empty shoes. After Becky’s careful search of the room did not reveal any obvious signs of additional spiders, our host at the B&B was called in and pronounced the dead spider as “harmless”.
“Yeah, it’s harmless,” we said, “It’s dead.”
“No, no, no.” replied our host. “It was a harmless Huntsman Spider.”
“Well, OK,” we replied, “But it’s big enough to steal our luggage!”
Fortunately, this was the last of our Australian spider experiences, though I’m guessing Becky will check the suitcases real close before we use them again.
The early breakfast time at the B&B got us on to the Shiraz Pilgrimage road early. In fact, a little too early as the first winery we stopped at, Turkey Flat, had yet to open. We stared wistfully at the locked door of the tasting room wondering whether our profound feelings of loss and disappointment were an indication that it was time to consider rehab.
We soon found another, open winery so the morning’s disappointment soon faded. In fact, we found 10 additional wineries to drive away any last vestige of disappointment that might have lingered. You can never be too careful about this sort of thing.
You’d figure that with 3 to 5 wines per winery and 10 wineries, we’d have enough practice tasting and spitting out the wine without drooling and dribbling on ourselves. At least it seems like it should have worked that way.
The wineries we visited included some with a significant international presence (Yalumba, Henschke, Two Hands, and Turkey Flat). We stopped at some smaller wineries, also. The locals usually recommended these wineries to us and they included Bethany Wines, The Willows, Gibson’s Barossa Vale Wines, Whistler, Rockford, and Charles Melton. Unfortunately, the excellent wines fashioned by these smaller producers only infrequently make their way out of Australia to the U.S. Almost uniformly, the top of the line Shiraz we tasted at all of the wineries we visited was inky dark, fruit laden, complex, and delicious.
The non-Shiraz red wines we tasted were also good for all of the varietals except for the Pinot Noir. The Barossa also produces great Cabernet Sauvignon, but it gets lost in comparison to the Shiraz. We also tasted some good Merlot (sounds like an oxymoron to a Californian), but we were told that the Merlot doesn’t go to the States because they can’t sell it there. Something about the movie Sideways, they say. In general, we preferred the single varietal wines compared to any of the ever so common Shiraz blends we tasted. We were told that blending Barossa Shiraz was difficult and we’d have to agree. All the Shiraz blends we sampled in the Barossa Valley just seemed to dilute the power of the dark side of the spectacular Shiraz.
We returned to the room to find that the power adapter for the laptop that has been trailing us throughout Australia finally found us in Tanunda, a week after being shipped by Patty (thanks, Patty). The power adapter was well tanned and coated with fine grains of sand, making us suspicious of what it had been up to. Now that we can charge the laptop’s battery, maybe we will be able to find an Internet connection sometime soon.
For dinner we headed to the best restaurant in Tanunda, 1918 (conveniently name after its street address). Saying that it is the best restaurant in Tanunda is not saying a whole lot, but after the Universal Wine Bar fiasco in Adelaide, we’re not complaining about a decent meal. We decided to reduce the amount of wine we were carrying by opening the Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon that we had purchased in at the National Wine Center in Adelaide. We immediately realized why we bought the wine. It was good.
We ate outside. As dinner was winding down, we struck up a conversation with a couple from Sydney who was also doing a wine tour of The Barossa and had seen us earlier in the day at Henschke. They found the food and lodging situation in the Barossa Valley to be “shocking”. Spoken like true Sydneysiders. And it is true; the services in The Barossa are relatively primitive, particularly given the wine culture and the quality of the wine. The Barossa is like Napa forty years ago. The upside, of course, is that the area is like Napa forty years ago, and is pretty quiet and low key making it nice to visit.
The temperature was still pleasantly warm as we headed through the vineyards back to our room. Suddenly, we saw a mass of lights in the middle of vines. It looked like we had come upon a landing of an alien spacecraft. “Shit, THEY must like Barossa Shiraz, also,” we thought. As we got closer, it turned out that we were partially correct. “THEY” did like Barossa Shiraz and “THEY” might have even been “aliens”, or at least, guest workers. What we saw was the beginnings of the grape harvest, which they do at night, as much as possible, to keep the harvested fruit cool.
Back in our room, Becky did another thorough spider search and declared the room spider free. We were soothed by the sounds of the rebroadcast of the cricket match as we fell asleep. At least we think it was a rebroadcast. The matches go on forever and cricket always seems to be showing on one of the six or so channels we get at all times of the day.