Friday, July 14, 2006

A blustery day, and wine


The wind is still blowing so hard I can hardly stand up, and as I head south the rain begins, a drizzle giving way to a mean pelt. This clearly calls for a few stops in the Clare Valley.

As Sonoma is to Napa, Clare is the less known sibling of Australia’s nearby and famed Barossa. But it’s wines … especially its Rieslings and Shirazes … are quite something.

The wine-tasting experience is easy and intimate, without any fees. One place a woman greets you in a wood-furnished tasting room before a fire, the next offers tastings in the former mud room of a farmhouse. Deb, of Elvira Olive Oils, serves up her oils and her homemade jams in a small room just off her carport. Her ketchup … seasoned with anis… is unbeatable.

Best red of the afternoon: Knappstein’s 2003 Shiraz, with a smart peppery finish, about $17. Best white: Kirrihilli’s 2006 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, fruity with an oak finish, about $13.

4 comments:

Laura Boyd said...

Are you taking orders to ship back to US?

jl lewis said...

Eighteen years ago, to satisfy a personal pledge I had made to go around the world before I was thirty-five, I embarked on a ten month odyssey that included five weeks in Australia. I spent over a year planning the trip and convinced my best friend, a young lady I had been teaching with for seven years, to come along. We quit our jobs and set out with backpacks and a small tent.

After France, Holland, India, Nepal (I celebrated by birthday eating a birthday cake baked by five sherpas over a wood fire in a small village on a seventeen day trek to Annapurna Base Camp), Thailand, Malaysia and Christmas in Bali we landed in Sydney in January of 1988. Our arrival coincided with the kickoff to Australia’s Centennial Year. Tall ships, fireworks, parades, the whole nine yards. After exploring Sydney, we took a train to its outskirts and began a circular journey of 5,000 miles, mostly by thumb.

We hitchhiked from Sydney, through Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Coober Pedy, and all the way to Alice Springs. From there we bussed it to Cairns, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and then hitchhiked south back to Sydney. Not really knowing how far we would get by thumb we played it by ear. Much to our surprise the rides were frequent and easy. Included in our gear were two rectangles of sturdy cardboard, spray painted black and a roll of drafting tape (indistinguishable from masking tape only by its ability to easily peel off and re-attach). On one sign we spelled out a direction or destination while the other always said, “HARMLESS.” Upon getting a ride we could then rearrange the pieces of tape and spell out another direction. On the black background, the letters really stood out. And people would literally pass us, put on the brakes, turn around and come back just because they liked our signs. Several of our rides were from people who had never picked up hitchhikers before. We flew across the landscape and enjoyed the freedom and exhilaration of not knowing quite what would come next. Sometimes we ended up in a campground, sometimes it would be a cheap motel room, and sometimes it was a room found through meeting people in small town pubs. Many times the cost was reduced to buying a round of drinks (“our shout, mate”).

We met an incredible number of friendly people. Often we found ourselves being taken home, fed dinner, put up for the night, fed breakfast, and returned to the roadside the next morning. We became fast friends with an older couple on the way to Melbourne. Their son traveled to the States a year later and stayed in Miami with us for a week. We toured the south coast for a day with a recently married couple who were members of the Australian Underwater Hockey Team (yes, this is an international sport and I finally saw it played late one evening on ESPN). We had a ten hour ride into Adelaide with a wonderfully friendly bloke named Terry Lane, who drove a sixteen wheeler pulling twenty rodeo ponies. Outside Surfer’s Paradise we were taken home by an older fellow in a VW van. He had traveled the world as a young man and then settled into “bringing the world to him,” by befriending travelers that would cross his path. In Melbourne we met up with two young Aussies we had shared a guest house with three months before in New Delhi. We took the ferry to Tasmania, rented a “wreck” for three days and picked up every hitchhiker we came across.

Many of the young people we met worked just long enough to qualify for unemployment. Getting “on the dole” seemed to be a relatively easy and quite popular thing to do. This made me ponder an interview I had seen before the trip where feminist Germaine Greer told Dick Cavett that the male Australian’s position on labor was “horizontal.”

Australia was a magical experience from the cities, to the outback, to the Great Barrier Reef; so magical that on a beach in northern Tasmania I proposed marriage to my traveling partner. Seventeen years and two kids later, we sit looking back on that experience and tell our stories about the many people and places we came across.. If we ever decide to run away, we know some great places to hide...
J.L. Lewis Miami

Jane said...

JL: Great story, thanks for sharing! Laura, we've already overspent our customs allotment!

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