Good morning. I've just had a sleepless night, courtesy of a very loud snorer. Earplugs were useless against this particular beast, and the whole bed shook with each blast. I'm typing this through tired eyes, so please forgive any perceived bleariness.
Thursday 30th November 2006
I ask the Canadian couple (who aren't actually a couple, but a bloke called Sebastien and the sister of his ex-girlfriend [Melanie]... it's a long story) if they would mind dropping me at the nearest vineyard, so that I could walk back. They said that they were planning a tour of various vineyards themeselves and that they would be more than happy for me to join them. I jumped at the chance.
First stop was Howard Park Wines. V friendly lady, who advises us on which other wineries would be best for our subsequent stops (there are lot!). Good selection of wines (Mad Fish = cheaper range; Howard Park = more expensive - both the same winemaker). Unfortunately they are out of Temperanillo, which is a shame as it would have been interesting to compare it to a Rioja.
Next stop Karriview Wines. A rather sour-faced lady here and a tiny winery with only 3 wines available for tasting. One Pinot Noir was decidedly odd.
Next up was Harewood Wines. Seriously good wines (lots of awards) and v (over?) friendly chap. Things take a turn for the surreal when said chap (Peter) announces out of the blue that he has terminal cancer and only 6 months to live. What do you say to that? At first I wonder (rather cynically) if this is some form of elaborate marketing ploy. But it is just too sad/bizarre for that, surely. It emerges that he has shunned conventional treatments (against the advice of his doctors) and is now following a purely spiritual path (partly thanks to his new girlfriend - who he has just met [gold-digger?]). He showed us his crystal and proceeded to hold it against his cancer. He also talked about his magnetic bracelet and the hours of meditation he does every day. And the piece of resistance: He insisted on a group hug before leaving.
Prior to this episode the Canadians were considering buying a case of wine (and I was half-inclined to buy a $24 bottle of delicious Pinot Noir), but we were completely thrown by Peter's little announcement, so ended up making our excuses and leaving without making a single purchase (after what must have been at least 30 minutes of trying to make the right noises and listening to Peter's spiritual ponderings). Very sad and not just a little odd, he must have desperately needed to get it off his chest, although talking to a bunch of strangers who had just rocked up for a bit of wine tasting might not have been the best time or place.
Luckily there were no such revelations at Somerset Hill Wines, just fresh mushrooms grown in their cellars and some nice wines (I bought a half-price bottle of the 2002 Pinot Noir for $12). Before that we had briefly popped into another winery (can't remember the name) with a cheese-tasting place attached, but the woman there was so off that we only stayed long enough to fill up on cheese samples, quaff a couple of wines and beat a hasty retreat.
By this stage of the day we were all feeling in need of some further solid sustenance (the cheese didn't quite succeed in soaking up all the alcohol), so we popped back to the hostel for lunch.
This left just two of the best wineries in the area for a final fling. West Cape Howe was first, where the wines were excellent and the lady helpful and informative. We also tried some delicious olive oil. I bought a bottle of cleanskin (no label - therefore cheaper) Pinot Noir for $10.
Fortunately, we had saved the best experience for the end of the day (or maybe it was because of our ever-increasing intoxication*). Either way, Forest Hill was fantastic. Despite a heavy cold the lady was charming and funny (even joking about the fact that her 3 step-children hated her... we were beginning to feel like counsellors by this stage!). She seemed to give us bigger measures as we went on (and they were pretty big to begin with). Then, at the end of the tasting, she asked us if there were any wines that we would like to taste again. We said that we had rather enjoyed the rose, so she proceeded to give us the bottle and tell us to help ourselves. A nice end to a rather epic (and at times frankly bizzare) day. Cheers to that. Hic.
It was also the perfect way to avoid the worst weather of my trip so far. It was overcast and cool all day, with rather frequent heavy showers, so it was nice to just have to run between the car and the cellar door.
* well, for Melanie and I, but not for Sebastian as he had drawn the short straw and was driving (and therefore skipping a lot of the wines and spitting rather than swallowing).
Friday 1st December 2006
The two Canadians were driving to Albany so offered me a lift (and tour en route), instead of taking the bus. I was therefore able to cancel my bus ticket and would be able to pick up the refund from their office in Albany.
On the way we drove the scenic route and popped into West Cape Howe National Park (almost as good as the winery of the same name). My camera sort of started to work again, but only in video mode (it takes photos but they are massively over-exposed and therefore almost a complete white-out). Shelley Beach was stunningly beautiful. The water was crystal clear despite the huge waves and I saw a seal playing in the surf. From the lookout above the beach you could see the Porongorup and Stirling Ranges in the distance... quite beautiful.
Have to upload this now as apparently I am not allowed to update my blog on the library computer (it counts as e-mail in their [somewhat skewed] eyes). So, the remainder will have to wait until later.
Bye for now,