We arrived in the Clare Valley, the reisling capital of Australia, at lunchtime. We hadn’t heard of this region until arriving here, only its more well known cousin, the Barrossa Valley, south of Adelaide. Our memories of reisling was the dreadful Lutomers and Blue Nuns of the 1970s. These reminiscences had already been put to rest in Adelaide where this grape variety was reintroduced to our palettes. The Information Centre provided a ‘cellar door’ map of the area. This is all the wineries where you can go and have a tasting, with the expectation of purchases and there were loads.
We were also a little peckish so after a quick ‘scenic’ tour in dour weather we went in search of lunch. The first ‘pub’ we came across looked very inviting and we were able to have a kind of tasting at the same time. They sold a wide range of wine by the glass with details of the vineyard and grape of origin. This was accompanied by an excellent steak and super chips (or fries as we have to get used to calling them as ‘chips’ are what we know as crisps – very American). We had to drag ourselves outside again as the weather had deteriorated yet further and we relished the warmth and dry. The prospect of a night out in the swag wasn’t terribly appealing.
By now it was mid afternoon so we felt that we really ought to try to find somewhere we could return to camp for the night. This area was much more arable and fenced off so there didn’t look to be much choice. After driving around for a while we concluded that it wasn’t very practical for several reasons, lack of possible sites, nowhere dry to lay the swag and most importantly, no dry wood to make a camp-fire.
Most of the cellar doors were closing at 4-4.30 so were just missing them and ended up back at the information centre just as she was starting to clean the coffee machine although technically there was still 20 minutes before closing. The woman was very helpful and obliging with both our sustenance and advice on where to stay for the night. We found ourselves in a similar cabin to the previous night, perfectly adequate although much less plush, in a camp-site in Leasingham at the bottom end of the valley. Again, as the weather closed in and the rain lashed against the windows we were mightily relieved to be under semi-solid shelter with some prawns, scallops and cheese left over from the last night’s dinner.
We had deliberately not enquired about checking-out time and nothing had been mentioned so we were in no hurry to depart on a wet Sunday morning but eventually packed up at 10.30 and rolled next door to the Claymore cellar door as they had an art exhibition and local produce for sale. We thought this might kill some time before it became a more acceptable time to start on the wine! However, on opening the entrance door against the buffeting wind and driving rain, we were met by a very friendly lady who proceeded to pour our first wine whilst we chatted about Liverpool football club after noticing the large poster of Bill Shankley! One of the wines, all of which are named after music tracks, was called ‘You’ll never walk alone!’ We ended up buying 2 bottles of Reisling called Joshua Tree which is very nice and fresh despite having a connection to U2.
We were heading back out north through Clare town but just before we got into the shopping area we spotted the Kirihill winery which was the origin of our favourite wine from the previous lunch so had to drop in! Again, another lovely chat with the lady serving there but with considerable indecision about which to buy. Eventually we opted for a bottle of the same that we had tasted the previous day so not a particularly good sale for her (and no sign of any other punters, possibly due to the inclement weather)
We started to head back to Hawker with 180km to go. The land in the area seemed almost English, green rolling hills, which are not usually that succulent, according to locals. The only immediate anomaly was the unusual outline of the gum trees but periodically there would be a mob of kangaroos lying around the field, sleeping and playing, grooming and preening to remind us where we were. As the light started to fade we shifted to the middle of the road. This is the safest place to drive at night, there being so little traffic, as the animals creep out from the bushes and dive in front of the vehicles. Two little critters did try to execute a heist on the Saab but Roger managed to spot them in time so didn’t add to the succession of road-kill we had passed en route.