This has been one of the hottest and driest summers in history, which is saying something in Australia.
I spent a good part of yesterday wandering round downtown under the severe sun looking for sunglasses, an ipod cover, a usb modem, and an fm transmitor. All of these will help me continue writing as I descend into the Barossa Valley wine country where it’s ultra bright and very disconnected from urban life. I did manage to stumble across one of the coolest pubs in history to help wet my whistle. It’s called the Exeter Hotel, and it has fresh Coopers sparkling lager on tap-a great thirst quencher.
Heat is the name of the game here ,and its effects on the grapes is watched with extreme care. This morning I drove 3 hours NW to Paringa with two winemakers to check on the progress of certain parcels they have earmarked for certain wines. At this point they wanted to find the block of grapes that would make the best rose. We all agreed it was block s11 Shiraz, which is a tiny blip in the grander scale of Paringa Vineyard’s 1000 acres. It had forward fresh fruit with soft tannins and good acidity. We sampled many other rows of vines to gauge the progress and talk with the vineyard manager, Roy, who continually stressed how the drought is forcing an early harvest and the delicacy of harvesting the grapes in a healthy fashion.
The ride home included a stop at a lookout so we could see first hand the dehydrated Murray River. I asked the winemakers to pretend they knew one another while I framed my photo, Baz asked me if i was shooting a catalogue. The river, used for irrigation, is dangerously low.
After that we drove to Waikerie (rhymes with bakery) to photograph an orange fruit shaped rubbish bin in the city center symbolizing the fruit crop that made the city famous. The perfect place to open “Waik and Bake Cafe”. There we met two local boys who took the time to join winemaker Lisa for a picture with the legendary orange shaped trash can. When I asked them what their favorite city was, they all exclaimed in unison, “Waikerie!”.