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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sth Australia through the words of Marie Dale...

We have had a very busy time here in Adelaide - we started in the south in an area called McLaren Vale & soon discovered that it wasn't possible to do one poster for the whole of South Australia not only because there are just too many to represent, but also that the separate areas are just that -separate - and shouldn't be lumped together. Fair enough. That was invaluable information and just what we needed to be comfortable with the project.
Our first few days we collected 31 doors & then headed north to THE BAROSSA and found a huge supply of wonderful doors with so much history eg Jacob's Creek, Charles Melton, Seppeltsfield, Langmeil etc. It's a huge area with several little pockets of wineries so that has meant quite a lot of driving, all in lovely countryside of course, and having 2 of us means I can keep records on the run & try to help navigate, something that I'm not too good at esp with the maps that aren't quite true.
The weather has been freezing, cloudy, showery and yesterday we had to cope with rain & mud - very unpleasant, but we managed to get lots done. We can't believe how well you did on your own in NZ, you deserve a medal!
Dad looked up his cousin when we got here last week & we visited him & his wife on Sunday.

It's amazing up here seeing all the churches - a large part of the history is German so the people who came here in the early 1800's were Lutheran. That means most of the churches are Lutheran, with the odd Anglican or baptist. So every few k's there's another Lutheran church with at least 2 in each little village, and the are very beautiful old buildings. Haven't seen inside one as they are always locked.
The foxes were just lying there for all to see - not sure what the motive is - someone suggested it kept others away but not sure about that. I don't think foxes would be wandering along the road thinking about which fence they might climb over or under? They are real pests here for the sheep & chicken farmers.

We've had a few tastings, not many and they're all great - we've bought a couple of loverly reds, one shiraz & one merlot. The shiraz was quite expensive & needs a few years to mature so we'll put that away. It's from a winery called Stanley Lambert Wines & is owned by a family from Wisconsin. We met the son, Kirk.
The visit to Jacob's Creek was terrific. The PR guy there, Jim Keane, couldn't have been more helpful & showed us all over the property to the old original barns, houses etc. They have an amazing set up there with an animal farm, bush walk, convention centre etc.
Thus the trip so far...

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Friday, July 30, 2010

A day in the life of Renee - the novel...

I wake up to the awful polyphonic sounds of my LG flip phone.. after rushing around I am ready in a jiffy. I really try hard to stay quiet for my house mate but I just "canno dooo i' cap'n"  ... I jump in my car that smells like pina colada, drives like a sofa strapped to a boat and has no stereo ....
Once I've checked the answer phone at my boss/now my temporary desk "you have No new messages...not even from your mother"... I run through my list of things to do that I've (hopefully) written the day before.
The first hour I spend usually biking around/through the cave on the winery's fixed gear cruiser bike collecting barrel samples to test for SO2 (sulfur dioxide in the wine). Then I spend an hour running the SO2s on a laboratory apparatus which takes 10 minutes per sample. This is usually done to the awful musical beats of the cellar crew which usually consists of Journey, the Eagles, Huey Lewis and some random Mexican music thrown in to the mix. Ok I get it, we should appreciate the oldies so we can appreciate the music we have now. But every day...?
When I have my own winery,  music will be mixed and performed to the tasting room by a live DJ with the music amplified all around the complex on amazing speakers and subwoofers... yep..
10 am its break time... I make sure I taste every sample before tipping it out.. So with wine stained teeth I greet the crew for a quick couple of peanut butter smothered bagels. We usually all talk about what fish tastes best and the best way to cook it. Then we might have a quick discussion about the World Cup soccer before the conversation slips into Filipino and I start to day dream about whats for lunch...
I then finish up my laboratory work and get stuck into emailing, calling, organising vineyard visits or fungicide spraying. This is the first year I've been really actively involved with the vineyards and whats happening in each one. So after just a couple of weeks I am becoming really familiar with what is happening in each block, how far behind in growth it all is etc...
Because this area had such a huge amount of rainfall we are quite far behind in growth and vineyard management will be really important, picky and different to the previous years. Which means I have to spend alot of time jumping in the Kawasaki (4WD little cart) and zooming around the estate checking out the growth of the vines and grape flowers/bunches. ((This is very exciting! Except for when it runs out of gas 1 mile away from the winery))
Once the vineyards have been visited I may have some blending to do. The nice white clean laboratory gets a sprinkling of red wine droplets all over the place as the mad scientist in me comes out. "90% of this with 3% of that... and 2% of this...with 5% of that hmmm somethings missing.. how about 95% of this with a pinch of this, a splash of this and a dash of that...oh look out I should be spitting this...luckily I'm not driving today!" whew!
Sometimes the heroine in me shines through... a keg tasting before it is used to top wine is pretty standard issue when it comes to being a winemaker. It would be terrible if one bad keg ruined a whole batch of wine. All those "wine fairies" who sneak around in the dark and drink from the barrels leave these barrels a little empty after a while which means the barrels have to be topped up with some wine...
The other day I was brought a sample from a shady little keg to use for topping.. the wine, it looked clean, smelt ok, but tasted pretty average...i jumped on my bike and waved down my coworker - just in time - to tell him he couldn't use it...whew! sometimes that happens and you just have to sacrifice the odd keg in order to save the rest of the lot in barrels.  
After work I jump in my dodge dynasty, beat box my way home where my awesome housemate awaits me with some home grown fresh vege goodness or some sweet food in the fridge or plans for a potluck dinner.  Yes it usually involves food or if I'm lucky maybe even a run! 

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Things Renee learnt on her trip back to USA so far... 97 degrees F = 36 degrees C ... don't park your car for 4 months and not expect mice ... vacuum sealed packing bags are winners! and ... Air NZ sucks ...

Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.
I tell my self this as my stomach turns itself inside out and back to front and starts digesting itself. I'm in the 2nd to last row, and no one is sitting in the row behind me. I'm the first person to smell the food being cooked, and I'm the last person to be served it. I'm getting "hangry" (hunger + anger = hanger)...The aromas of lamb and butter chicken mix in together with the smells of the bathroom to my left...gag.   
 my TV screen reboots itself for the 3rd time when I finally get served my lamb casserole. I've given up on learning "how to train a dragon" and opt for half a sleeping pill... which works really well up until the part when I try doing the sly manoeuvre of stealing the 3 seats behind me. i think to myself "this is my time - i finally get those magical 3 seats of rest everyone dreams of!" - until the air stewardess says "I'm sorry we've reserved these seats for staff in case of turbulence".. what?! they have their own strappy in seats don't they? grrr .. so i opt for trying to maximise the spare seat next to me except the arm rest gets stuck half way i ask the air stewardess why its broken.. and she replies "oh no its only meant to go halfway up" Air NZ trying to deter people from lying down and being comfortable? you know, making the most of the spare space?... this makes no sense!! and i grumble myself to sleep with my legs stretching out in weird and wonderful angles only to be woken several times by the bathroom chatter throughout the night.. why must people gossip when they go to the bathroom!! grr
Back of the bus? never again... Air NZ? you're not my friend!
despite all that i made it safely and pretty smoothly in to the US.. arriving to 97 degree heat! i got picked up and managed to have a lovely catch up with my wonderful boss who helped me pick up my car i had stowed at the winery for 4 months.. yay the breaks work! and all my stuff i kept in it is still intact..
only problem was when i started to pull some of my boxes out of the boot i noticed fancy little balls of fluff... hmmm that's kinda cute and odd... and then it hit me.. the smell of mice hit my nose... and i literally had to steady myself so i wouldn't gag...there were 3 nests.. and 2 dead mice... wheres the 3rd one? all i know is, if it wasn't for vacuum sealing all my stuff, i probably would have cried.. but luckily, i had.. and instead, i laughed, and am spending the day on Monday to valet, register, and fix up my dodge dynasty...needless to say I've already started looking for a new car..
my housemate is lovely and awesome, along with the house itself bein quirky and cute with lots of character! i love this neighbourhood too :)
oh the drama! thus far are the adventures of Renee in the USA... and it hasn't even been 12 hrs yet!

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

I will stop at nothing for a good door!

I slept in. I decided that it was ok to sleep in on a Saturday and just take it a bit slower to visit some of the wineries that are what I like to call "outliers" - the ones that are much further out of town such as Yealands Estate for instance.
There was another winery I was permitted by one of the owners to visit while I was out in Awatere valley, only problem was it was shut! So I jumped the fence and walked about 1km in my heeled boots down the gravel driveway, no idea where I was going just to take a photo of their gorgeous doors. I will stop at nothing for a good door! I felt like the paparazzi, and yes, it was definitely worth it!
Yesterday was an experience of a lifetime! I went to about 12 wineries and spent a little more time at each winery - one winery in particular was awesome! Auntsfield Estate, where I was taken to the over 100 year old wine cellar which had been only recently discovered after being covered in soil to hide it throught prohibition/temperence movement. To save from sounding like a boring history book - I was blown away by the history and beauty of this place.
Blenheim/Marlborough - beautiful!!! But I fear that it would be slightly boring to live here if you weren't in the wine industry, because it is everywhere and it really seems to be holding this place together.
I'd like to give a shout out to Mum, Happy Birthday today and Mother's day for tomorrow! Love you!

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The week is flying by down here in Marlborough! Every winery is being fantastically helpful, and I have stories to tell from each one..dont worry i'll spare you most of them!.

Marlborough - Not friendly enough to let me know I had something on my face all day… yet still a VERY friendly and helpful wine region!

I’m in love with this place and I’m falling in love with the idea of growing and producing Pinot Noir here. Interesting to find out that a few producers are making Syrah!! Which will be VERY interesting to see how that turns out - Maybe with global warming it will be a future varietal for Marlborough ? ;) Theres also a couple of places producing Montepulciano (yum!)

Driving west out of Blenheim towards Renwick with the numerous wineries and brown hills either side of the valley, vineyards as far as the eye can see, reminds me of Napa Valley. It is a very different climate obviously and none of the wineries seem to overshadow their customers with their prowess, prestige or money like they do in Napa. Its ‘New Zealand’s Napa’ having put NZ on the map in terms of premium wine, much like Napa did for USA, but its definitely still KIWI!

I really seem to get that the people here must LOVE their lives because everyone is so lovely. There seems to be a buzz here, every winery I go to the people have been receptive, positive and helpful. I can’t wait to get this product into their area because it will be another celebration of Marlborough and something else they can pat themselves on the back for.

Something I notice down here is the ingenious ways of using old barrels to decorate… Mahi winery has a stunning weave pattern of barrel staves from floor to ceiling… other wineries use old barrel staves to create a bike stand or two. I love it!

27 wineries down, all of which had some door of interest to photograph too!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spent the morning watching a 25 Tonne sleeping giant sleep.

Camper vans
Crayfish stalls
Train tracks
Braided rivers
Fur Seals
Dramatic skies
I had a fantastic morning on the magical, beautiful waters of Kaikoura watching a sperm whale sleep. Luckily it woke up and finally decided to dive! But UNluckily my photos did not do the experience ANY justice! I am upset about that, but my memory will just have to last. We also bumped in to about 150 - 200 dolphins and a couple of fur seals!! Magical!
The drive up to Blenheim was amazing ... all along the coastline I almost cried at how beautiful it was - I cry at random things. But I am honestly boggled at why I didn't grow up in this area!!! It is soul healing!
Driving up Highway 1 and coming up around that first bend to see the grape vines spreading across as far as the eye can see, with the beautiful ocean right next to it. SIGH ... what an amazing place. I feel like I am somewhere foreign, I really had no idea how beautiful this place was...
Bring on the rest of the week!!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank GOODNESS for long johns I say - BRRR it was cold in Christchurch today!!

It all began with an overheating car… luckily we had a spare! We threw my luggage into the spare car’s open boot like a rigorous rugby passing drill, jumped in and zoomed off weaving our way through the awful Auckland morning traffic. GRRR TRAFFIC! Luckily I knew some shortcuts from my old Villa Maria days, and we got to the airport with 10 mins to spare! Yessss! Landing in Wellington was a bit hairy compared to landing in Christchurch where we glided in perfectly!!

Picked up my rental car and some groceries, cranked the iPod and headed north towards Waipara. Wow driving through Christchurch brought flashbacks of 7th Form, (Senior year) High School Soccer Nationals where we won the tournament and played the Final while it was snowing! EGGS Leg….ends! I half expected “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Buttercup” or Christina Aguilera to start playing on the radio! Ahhh…Great memories!

The main thing that caught my attention on the drive up was the sky. What amazingly dramatic clouds that form over Canterbury!! Detailed clouds carpeted the blue sky, and the Autumn sun still managed to shine through and light the vines with such drama!

I stopped off at a few wineries on the way up but the coolest winery was Muddy Waters winery! Why you ask? Because once again I bumped into an old University class mate!! Actually one of the same ones I bumped into in Yarra… how funny! And the owner was awesome too… That really made my day =)

Stunning wineries down here and really lovely people so far! Waipara seems to me like it is a valley that is full of hidden treasures yet to be explored, and its so close to Christchurch! It also has a quirkiness to it that I love.

Sitting in my room at the Albatross Inn, and its things like the communal guitar, people making brownies, recycling in the kitchen, hot water bottles, and signs such as “please do not use the provided towels for dolphin/seal swimming” and “In the case of Tsunamis a man from the street will yell at you to get out.” that make me fall in love with this place called Kaikoura.

Whale watching tomorrow!! Yes, real whales! Not fat people lying on a beach but REAL live, water spurting, tail splashing, whales!

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