The beginning of our second week in Australia. We said goodbye Victoria, hello South Australia, slightly hopeful that the weather would be warmer here. Our bus driver Wayne breathed a sigh of relief as we were back in his home territory. Our plans for today were to leave Dunkeld, get a couple of hours driving done and visit Majella in Coonawarra, then after lunch, hit the Great Ocean Road and head to McLaren Vale, hopefully making it to the Victory Hotel for sunset, which is apparently breath taking there. Well, as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We left Dunkeld and the Royal Mail Hotel rather too early for a Sunday morning – however the thought of warm croissants for breakfast (detox calling!) made it that bit easier to get out of bed. We got to Coonawarra in good time and went to Majella where Tony Lynn and winemaker Bruce Gregory were there to meet us. Tony along with his brother ‘The Prof’ Brian Lynn are part of the family that own this vineyard and have been making wine here since the late 1960’s
Modern, clean and spacious, Tony was involved in the design of the winery in the early nineties. Pneumatic presses, rotary fermenters, static fermenters, this is the hub for where these full, classic Coonawarra wines are made. For the first time this trip we saw vines that are machine pruned and harvested, this allows Majella to get the fruit in quickly when it is at its optimum ripeness. With manual labour being in short supply here, this is simply a must.
Only 100km from the sea, pretty much every afternoon they will get sea breezes through the vineyards. A fairly constant 65m above sea level, Coonawarra is flat, with no hills, perhaps just the slightest if inclines here and there. With cool nights and warm days, the diurnal range gives an extra dimension to the wines that are produced here. We tasted The Musician, a cabernet shiraz blend from 2009, it had eucalypt and mint on the nose, with ripe primary fruit characters and a lick of vanilla on the finish. The 2008 Majella Cabernet was lovely. Eucalyptus and mint again on the nose, integrated tannins and ripe blackcurrant fruit gave it depth of flavour. The 2004 Mallea had a depth, concentration and structure that showed it was a wine for the long haul. Just starting to open up, coffee and chocolate, spice, vanilla and ripe black fruits were displayed in this full wine.
Back on the road, we hadn’t gone too far when we had to make an unexpected stop – a problem with the wheel bearing on the trailer. After two hours spent in a small town called Kingston, which happily had a giant lobster to keep us entertained (honestly!), we were ready to get on the road again, however our plans to eat at the Victory had unfortunately by this time gone by the wayside. Plan B came into force. We headed instead up to Wellington for dinner. To get there we had to cross the mighty Murray river on a ferry. In a local bar we were introduced to the chicken ‘parmie’, (of which we had heard a lot), Australia’s contribution to world cuisine (it has been said). With all feeling replete, we continued with the final leg of this particular journey, ready for what McLaren Vale has to offer us.