Sunday, 25 May 2014

A day in Watervale, paradise

Decided to stay an extra night in Watervale, with this amazing couple, because this is a beautiful area. There are over 20 wineries within a 30 km radius. There are so many. So if you can imagine that, driving down through the stunning valley and at every turn-off you see a sign for another winery.

The Riesling Trail runs from just north of Clare down to Auburn. It used to be where the old railway line passed through the valley, but all that is left now are the black and white station signs at each towns. Now it is a very well maintained (fine) gravel road, offering cyclists a break from the cars, trucks and all other sorts vehicles.

Today was also the first day I've noticed the change of seasons. Autumn is coming. The leaves are changing colour and the trees are going bare, ready for winter. It reminds me so much of Europe, this area of South Australia close to the border (of the eastern states). So much trees, greenery, farm and above all, life. Western Australia had some, but the majority of Australia’s population lives on this side of the country and I can understand why, it's beautiful here.

Anyhoodle, like I mentioned, staying with a lovely couple. One of them is a nurse in a local hospital and the other works at one of the wineries. So this morning when I asked if I could stay another night, she gave me a map of the area and suggested a few wineries I should check out.
So off I went on my bike. Had no luggage on, which felt incredibly weird! I was really unstable for the first couple of kilometres (and more so after the first couple of wineries).

So you turn up at the winery and head into the cellar. Here you can learn more about the particular wine they produce and get to taste some of them.
I am by no means an wine expert, far from it, but I do appreciate a good red wine. Because I'm riding at least 120 km tomorrow, I had to limit myself in how much I actually tried. I haven't done enough wine tasting to get into the culture of spitting it out again after having touch you tounge for five seconds. So when you've been to four wineries and tried over seven different types at each place, you do notice the effect when get back on that bike again.

So first stop were two award-winning wineries, the Kilikanoon Winery and the Penna Lane Wines. Both had very friendly staff, that were passionate about their products and were able to provide you with detailed information about the entire process from grape to bottle. Penna Lane Wines also serve lunch on the weekends. We're not talking cheese and crackers here, but lovely and rich flavoured country style meals, made by the winemakers mother. Lovely woman. Makes a killer broccoli and bacon soup with fresh bread. YUM! So after having tasted the wine and also their homemade chutney and jams, I was on my merry way down the road.

Next stop was the Mitchell Winery. Though it was quite an interesting place, seeing as they produce everything there and I could see the entire process, the wines weren't AS GOOD as the others. Later I was told they mainly produce wine for other wineries, which is used to mix in with their own wines.

Last stop for the day was the Skollogalee Wines. Their Shiraz was quite good, fruity and rich on flavour. The Riesling however (which is what this area is known for) was exquisite! I'm not a big white wine drinker and Riesling just brings back bad memories from high school of pre-drinks before going to some godforsaken house party. But this was totally different to the standard German Riesling we're accustomed to in Europe. It had a much more of a citrus flavour and a lot more refreshing (yes I know I'm not using the “proper” wine terminology here, but sue me...).

After this I decided to call it a day and headed up to Clare to do a bit of food shopping, before taking the Riesling (bike) trail back down to Watervale (15km south of Clare).

It was the feeling of pure joy seeing the valley, riding on the trail and passing through vineyard after vineyard. The changing colours, autumn coming in. The sweeping hills with rows of vines neatly lined up next to each other. This to me is like my own personal Disneyland. It's magical, colourful and ever-changing.

And as I was riding down from Swan Hill into Watervale, faced with the spectacular scenery, I could not help but to think of Europe. About how much travelling New Zealand and Australia has made me love Europe even more. It might seem odd to some, but I'm more determined than ever to settle down in a European country after having seen all this. It reminded me of Pembrokeshire and Brecon National park in Wales (UK) and about the fjords on the west coast in Norway. Even the forests close to where I grew up and the variety of rivers.

So to family and friends; relax, I'm coming home to Europe, not settling down in Australia. Though I still don't know which European country, but at least you'll have me within reasonable flying distance.

A huge thanks to Louise and Kerstine for having me. They have a beautiful home and a lovely (and friendly) greyhound. Both do something they're are passionate about and I greatly admire that. I wish them both the very best of luck and hopefully I'll meet them again some time in the future, maybe on a bike trip in Europe. Who knows.

Tomorrow I'm heading off again. Leaving the Clare Valley. I hope to do just over 120 km tomorrow and then do about 110 km the day after into Renmark.