We woke up to a lovely sunrise in Hopetoun, birds slipping and sliding overhead on our dewy sunroof. We packed up to head south into wine country – yay! – and started our day at the Bow Bakery in Hopetoun.
It was only a three-hour drive to Coonawarra, and I was hoping to get there around lunchtime. Along the way, we passed through a town called Rainbow. Wouldn’t you think with a name like Rainbow, there would be heaps of rainbows to greet you driving in? It kind of markets itself, right? But no. There was one good one in the center of town, but otherwise, these Rainbowers had nothin’ on Sydney World Pride.
Saw some more silo art along the way, too:
We were going to swap drivers in a small town called Nhill, where we stumbled across the Australian Pinball Museum!
(I have had The Who’s Pinball Wizard stuck in my head ever since.)
I had to ask the museum guy how to pronounce the town name: “nil.” As in, there is nil to do in Nhill except play pinball! So I did!
But even better, they had a Ms Pac-Man arcade machine! This is MY game! I used to be able to play for a half an hour on one quarter. Well, here I had a dollar token, which got me three games. We would be here all day! The callous on my middle finger even started to come back. Poor Adam. Didn’t know what he was in for.
Falling short of the high score, we alas left Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Sue in Sherwood’s exhaust and crossed the border from Victoria into South Australia. This meant lots of long stretches of very straight road. Hardly a car or a curve to be seen.
About lunchtime, we arrived in Coonawarra – a 20-kilometre stretch of wineries. Oh, the horror!
As a wine region, Coonawarra has a moderate climate that closely mirrors that of Bordeaux in France. But despite being 100 kilometres from the coast, cool afternoon sea breezes still reach the vineyards. The region is renowned for its terra rossa, or red soil, which produces some of the finest red wines in Australia, particularly from Cabernet Sauvignon, but also some really elegant Shiraz (which turned out to be my favorite). The Cabernets are typically medium to full-bodied, with firm tannins and concentrated aromas of black fruits, with hints of mint and eucalyptus notes. There are also a number of Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blends.
On day one here, we walked part of the Coonawarra Wineries Walking Trail, covering three wineries – Redman (I did some content work for Redman during my short stint with Mastermind Consulting); Brand’s Laira (where we had some much-needed lunch) and a lovely cellar door experience; and Wynns Coonawarra Estate.
Adam, good soul that he was, was the designated driver for this bit. (As much as he likes to drink wine, he could skip most of the tastings and just drink whatever I want to bring home.) But he was ready for a drink now, so back to our campground … at Bellwether Wines. Let me repeat that: camping at a winery! Now this is my kind of camping. And Adam’s, too, now that he could enjoy a glass or two. Every day at 4pm, Bellwether hosts a tasting for their overnight guests inside the winery, which is an old sheep-shearing shed. Here, we met fellow campers from Melbourne and tasted eight of Bellwether’s wines – lots of different varietals not necessarily common to Coonawarra. We also watched Jo punch down some of the grapes, and I even picked out a snail or two from the must.
With the tasting done, we retired to the camp kitchen with our fellow campers, and we made grilled cheese sandwiches over the campfire.
And this was Mabel, wine dog extraordinaire: