Taking the Surprise Path to the Great Wines of Barossa, Australia

Following the recent screening at the NJ Film Festival Delicious Peace Grows In A Ugandan Coffee Bean, my husband Curt and I were asked to speak to a film class at Rutgers University. When one of the students asked for filmmaking advice, I emphasized the importance of intuition, of tuning in to the details on the side of the tunnel-vision, goal-oriented road. I maintained that the latter type of pursuit, though often ultimately satisfying, nonetheless runs the risk of missing the more fulfilling journey along the paths of life’s diversions.

And so it was for us yesterday, just two weeks after we spoke to that class at Rutgers. We had spent the past several days videotaping at a Melbourne, Australia portfolio company of a private equity client of our corporate video production company Voices & Visions Productions. One evening for dinner we happened to sit at a table adjacent to a group of people in town for a conference on the Australian wine industry. By the time the evening was over, we had virtually joined their table. James March, the Communications and Promotions Manager of the Wine & Grape Association from the Barossa Region, relayed some of the marketing hurdles they faced, and as we began exchanging ideas, he asked Curt and me to fly to Barossa where he would host us.

Our initial plan had built in two days subsequent to videotaping for our client. We had planned to drive along the ocean road, go to a koala sanctuary, and perhaps visit some wineries in the Yarra Valley. But instead, here was this unanticipated opportunity to explore the Barossa Region with folks at the helm of its marketing efforts. It required only the inexpensive purchase of two plane tickets to fly from Melbourne to Adelaide for a day and a half, with no preconditions other than brainstorming ideas and seeing where they would take all of us.

The easy thing to do would have been to decline. We had already paid for our hotel room in Melbourne, had done the research for outings to which we had been looking forward, and would be getting on a plane in two days to fly 16 hours back to the US. But for us, this encounter presented an unexpected opportunity. Worst case scenario, we would have a pleasant adventure in a part of Australia we hadn’t intended to visit. Best case scenario, the experience would lead to a future project of some undefined nature. We said yes.

I write this now from our hotel room in Melbourne, having just returned from Barossa. We still have no idea where our decision will lead, and we are comfortable with letting percolate ideas we exchanged with James and waiting to see if any take root. We have a sense of accomplishment from simply knowing we followed our instincts and made the journey, which was filled with some of the best wine we had ever tasted anywhere in the world.

The Barossa Valley grapes were brought to the earth’s most ancient volcanic land filled with limestone, phosphate and clay – the continent of Australia – with a settler named James Busby from New South Wales who had gone to Spain, France, Italy and other European countries, gathering grapevine cuttings along the way. He brought them to Australia, where Lutheran settlers from Silesia (then Germany, today Poland) escaping religious persecution in the first half of the 19th century had fled, as had British emigrants. These settlers began planting vineyards with the cuttings initially brought by Busby. With the rich earth, light, sun, and other conditions, the crop flourished. When in the 1800’s an outbreak of phylloxera louse in Europe destroyed many of the grapes, these original crops of some of the world’s most famous vineyards continued to thrive in regions like Barossa. Indeed, at Hill of Grace, a vineyard that is part of the great Henschke wine line in the Eden Valley, the grape vines stem from the 1860’s. And the tawny (aka “port”, renamed because it is a product of Australia, not Portugal), holds barrels over 100 years old.

To introduce us to the Barossa region and enable us to come up with ideas, our friends at the Grape and Wine Association shared some of their delectable libations and scenic views, which they mixed with a constant stream of information filled with delightful historical tidbits, a lot of pride, and plenty of “no worries”es.

While I don’t know whether we will eventually have an opportunity to work on video production projects in Barossa, I do know that our family will greatly appreciate the rich, apricot flavors of the Seppeltsfield tawny we bought for Thanksgiving dinner and that we will finally begin a wine cellar because we will be able to stock it with a Kalleske Grenache that tastes of strawberry jam and chocolate that linger smoothly in our mouths after we sip it and a Henschke Johanna’s Garden — not the grapes from a century and a half ago, but an incredibly rich and tasty Shiraz nonetheless.

When we first met our friends at the Barossa Grape and Wine Association at that dinner a few nights ago, they said that their marketing goal was to put the wines of their region on the map of discerning American wine drinkers whose impressions may have been clouded by a few inexpensive but popular Australian wines of a much lesser quality. Having just returned from their little piece of heaven where the air and the hills are saturated with the scent of wines whose excellence we have rarely experienced, we are on board to help spread this delicious message that we were fortunate enough to acquire along one of life’s little surprise paths.

One Response to “Taking the Surprise Path to the Great Wines of Barossa, Australia”

  1. Tweets that mention Taking the Surprise Path to the Great Wines of Barossa, Australia « Ellenfriedland's Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ellen Friedland, Ellen Friedland. Ellen Friedland said: Taking the surprise path along the video production trail and finding one of the world's greatest wine regions: the Ba…http://wp.me/pyg7V-1b […]

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