Monday February 9, 2009
A warm, sunny and a very windy day that is still causing problems for controlling bush fires in Victoria. The death toll is now up to 131 and growing; the worst bush fires in Victoria’s history and very sad to see on the TV.
We left Murray Bridge and drove towards the vineyards of the Barossa Valley. The farmland en route was more hilly and stony than yesterday but everywhere is just as parched; brown and yellow are the dominant colours in the landscape.
We headed for Tanunda in the heart of the Barossa Valley. This area was settled more than 160 years ago by an entirely European community from Silesia (now part of Poland). Mapped by Surveyor-General Colonel William Light in the 1830s, the valley was originally named after the Spanish town of Barrosa where the English were victorious over the French in the Spanish Civil War. It was later misspelled and came to be called Barossa.
We found a great B&B for two nights called Barossa House. Our very genial host Lee Prettejohn immediately recommended a few small local wineries to visit and where to go for valley views and kangaroos. In the afternoon, we went to wine tastings in three small wineries: Gibsons, Langmeil and Whistler and also dropped into the Wolf Blass visitor centre (just to see what the big wine factory looks like!). We bought a bottle of Gibson’s Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz blend, which we later took to the restaurant for dinner. (In most restaurants, you can take your own wine and they charge a nominal corkage fee.)
Before dinner we also drove to the Mengler Hill Lookout and Sculpture Park which afforded good views over the valley and then to the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park to see if we could spot kangaroos, which we did.
Many of the grapes in the valley have been scorched by the really hot temperatures of the last two weeks and the crop of certain varieties has been hit badly. A lot depends on how much the vine foliage has shaded the grapes and whether the rows face north/south or east/ west. Certainly, many vineyards are already harvesting though according to one vintner, they were originally planning to start the harvest towards the end of February.