I went North to the Barossa this weekend, and barely made it back alive. There’s something dangerous in the air up there that pours lots of good red wine down my gullet. I think it has a name, this evil force, they call it: Travis O’Callaghan. Travis is a great guy, don’t get me wrong, he just tends to open or be around open bottles of very good wine, which is the weakness/kryptonite of any sommelier. It also helps, of course, if your father is the founder of the historically vital Rockford Wines, Robert O’Callaghan. Good wine and fantastic times tend to follow Travis around. I had a grand spontaneous Saturday with him. We spent the sunny afternoon at Rockford talking with Ben Radford, their winemaker, and tasting many wines.
I ended up buying a few cases myself, perhaps because I was carried away by the lore of the place. I was offered 6 bottles of their legendary Basket Press Shiraz, at which point I asked for 6 more. This was a bit presumptuous; since 20 year members of the wine club get 6 if their lucky, most get 2 bottles. Well, it never hurts to ask, and it was probably for the best they said no way, since I dropped some serious coin there regardless. Everyone, and I mean guests included, seemed to be perfectly at home at Rockford. O’Callaghan’s attention to detail and craftmanship abound everywhere, from ornate iron work to sprawling geometrical bricklaying.
From Rockford, Travis and I visited Ben Radford’s South African wife and pro chef, Gillian, at their 80 acre farmhouse and proceeded to taste through all of their rieslings back to their first vintage 2003. A very special place, the home of Radford Dale rieslings welcomes you like a cool breeze or Italian glove leather. You just want to stay there forever, and I almost did. There Ben makes gorgeous reislings from 75 year old vines; classic mouth watering stuff, it’s all limes and mineral.
After Travis and I tasted through their wines and ate there we headed out into that dark Barossa night. The next morning I awoke with what appeared to be a fractured elbow from trying to ward off that wine pouring demon of the night.
All is well after examining my arm, except that now I remember I left all my Rockford wine in the trunk of my car at Chris Ringland’s house. It’s best to avoid mixing Australian sunlight and red wine, and fortunately, Nathan, Travis’ housemate, drives me to my car to rescue it. Travis, by the way, to this day is not yet awake.
From there Nathan and I go back to Gill Radford’s home so I can buy 2 cases of riesling and, basically, like I said, I spent all day there and most of the night. It’s such a beautiful place, and she’s a consummate host. Walking through the bright sunlight on the vineyards and just morphing into this perfect climate was the ideal tonic for my aching wing. Steaks came off the grill later with the perfect match from Ben’s cellar: 2004 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, the very wine I was alloted 6 bottles the day before. I can’t imagine a better day, driving home with my arm in a sling, very thankful to be alive.