For those of you who have followed the “Wine Odyssey” since the beginning, this is a post that I’d been thinking about writing the last few weeks. So much has happened over the last 2.5 years that it’s overwhelmed me.
Much has changed since I travelled to South Australia 2 years ago to work a vintage with R Wines after quitting the high life of Bouley in NYC. First of all, R Wines, a US owned company, isn’t so popular anymore in McLaren Vale after abandoning some growers in the district due to obvious pressures overseas. Demand is low, and supply is high, and the US economy has hit the grape growers here head on. I actually hate to write that because many of the people in that company are really nice; however, it has been a rough year for everyone, everywhere, and the growers here in the Vale have taken a fair bit on the chin. Anyways, things were more rosy when I first got here.
Secondly, I live in McLaren Vale now, part of the greater Australian nation. That was THE big news to my family and, to their credit, the folks made it out this last month to visit me in Oz. They liked the strong US dollar here a lot, as well as the nice, good-natured people, the breezy life on Thorpe Ranch (my home), and above all, the warm summer weather. We had a good time together. So good, in fact that we met up again later in their trip in New Zealand.
I still come back to NYC a few times a year and still have my apartment there. I couldn’t get by without “Great Burrito” on 79th and Amsterdam for too long. But the big move has had a backlash that has just started to catch up with me. It’s dislocation more than anything, and recently I can be found looking at my dogs and asking, “who are you guys”? There’s the obvious cultural drift- I can’t talk to anybody about the NCAA games here, for example. They could care less that the Badgers went down to Xavier. This really hasn’t bothered me all that much, as I’ve been learning about rugby (a sport that really matters!), and Aussie Rules Football, and dare I say it, cricket (perfect sport to watch drinking gin, a first). But this year it’s creeping up on me, being a million miles away, and connecting with friends on FB and seeing the folks firmly reminds me I was once a Yank. My accent hasn’t changed, praise Jesus, but I feel my normal core of unrest has abated. This is good, and has been brought on by hiking the Heysen Trail with 2 Aussie bastards, a 1200km high-test trek thru the state of South Australia’s lofty ranges and deep creeks. This will lead to a trip walking the Kokoda Trail, a famous Australian battle victory in WWII, in Papua New Guinea this October. I can feel the foie gras melting off already.
Some other changes here have happened naturally, like the beautiful baby girl that winemaker Lisa Wetherell, now Lisa Miller, had named Saffron Eleanor Miller. It feels like you’ve been somewhere awhile when you know a friend through her pregnancy. Will I be here to watch Saffie grow up? She’s already starting to become more aware of her surroundings. And all my friends in NYC, Europe, South Africa and Australia with kids, how brave they are. I don’t think I could make the sacrifice. One with a future Ohio State linebacker named Bear, another with child as fashion accessory, and a third destined to be either a great winemaker, chef, yogi or brewer. They are all healthy, cool children. It wasn’t until I quit Bouley that I realized my friends were even breeding.
I’ve now seen my third vintage here in South Australia. All three have been difficult, and it isn’t until you live on a vineyard that you truly appreciate how hard it is to make a good bottle of wine. Foster’s Wine Company is scavenging the district for fruit for bargain basement prices (2-500$ a ton). They feel like vultures, and that will hurt the average price for fruit next year, but when there’s blood on the streets… I took a lot for granted as a pampered, A-list wine buyer in NYC. It’s hard out here in the country, but this is where it all happens, in the vineyard. It’s a cliche, of course, but it’s so obvious it need to be repeated.
As S.Malkmus wrote in the Pavement song “Here”, “Let’s spend our last quarter stance randomly, go down to the outlet once again”. Here I am, and it doesn’t get more random than this.