Wine not?

Trip Start May 31, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Saturday, January 19, 2013

I've always been intimidated by cellar doors. The gateways of a winery have been unpredictable to me; I've often had the feeling that on entering my net worth will be quickly assessed, and I'll be promptly ignored or given the cold shoulder.  What I want is merely to taste the wine, and perhaps buy a bottle. In Beaune, France, this meant spending 10 euros to quaff and spit (if you like) 10 different wines. That was a pretty good deal actually, because after spending 10 euros my French improved dramatically and I was able to speak fluently for a few hours, until the wine wore off. In the Niagara region in Canada I waited around 2 hours for a tour, prior to having a few sips. And in Spain, Dave and I did our best to understand an hour long presentation in Spanish before trying the 3 wines they had to offer.

Luckily, the Aussies have made this experience easy to enjoy. We choose a winery, drive up, and then pick a wine or two (or three for the person not driving) to try. No secret handshake, no entry fee, no extensive tours that you need to plan the entire day around. The only things to be considered are their hours- which are generally all afternoon, and who will do the driving.

Technically, I don't think you are obligated to buy any wines, but we always have. The bottles on sample are usually over $15, which is the same price that you would pay for a cheap cask (2-4 L) of wine. If you like wine cheap and plentiful, a cask is obviously the way to go, but if you are interested in tasting a few good quality varieties then present yourself at a cellar door.

The first winery we visited back in September was Wangolina, just 10 minutes out of Kingston in the Cape Jaffa wine region. They've converted the family cattle station into their cellar doors, and there are still cattle roaming nearby, as well as many gum trees and a good sized family of kangaroos. We were the only people there, and the friendly lady behind the counter let us try three of their wines. Is three the limit? I don't think so, but they stop offering after three. She seemed happy to have someone there, and was pleased to meet the new doctor in town... this novelty has worn off by now. It was a nice experience- no fuss, no judgements, we asked a few questions about the wines, and settled on a bottle or two. We were back there a few weekends ago for a small wine festival. They had tents, chairs, live music, food for $5, and wine by the glass or bottle. It was well attended by tourists and locals, and a pleasant day.
The second winery we went to was Zema in the Coonawara region, about 100 km from where we live. It was busy when we pulled in, and the parking lot was filled with luxury SUVs. This cellar door is amid the vines, on a stretch of road that is packed with vineyards and cellar doors. The middle aged lady behind the counter was somewhat frazzled from the multiple groups.  Next to us was a couple our age, dressed in designer clothes, with an air of superiority. My first thought was that they must be from Victoria (the neighbouring state with which South Australia has a rivalry), although since then I've met many down to earth Victorians.  I feel safe in assuming that they were probably from the city though.  The man was very impressed by the limited series of shiraz, and bought a box (as in 12 bottles, not a 4 L cask) for a cool $600. The first card he used did not work, and he quickly whipped out another one. The wine there was good, but as we were not buying wine by the box like the person next to us, I'm afraid we did not get the same service, nor information about the winery. We were also fresh from trecking around the Naracoorte caves, not from the salon like the other patrons, and driving a 2007 Camry, so I'm not sure if that played into matters at all.

We have since gone to several other cellar doors, and learned more about wines. For example, Dave has discovered that the grapes used to make the sparkling roses are not peeled by hand, but by machine. Cellar doors are not something to be intimidated by, and maybe I'll learn to speak Aussie after one of these visits, if we stay long enough.

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