17 November, 2008

Beauty in the Barossa - A wine valley weekend

It was a gorgeous weekend, followed by days of intense catch-up work on my latest writing assignment. But let's forget work and talk about the beauty that the Barossa Valley shared with us, last weekend.

The entire trip came about as a gift from hubby's boss. A lovely, considerate favor of a pre-paid cabin in a quaint little caravan park on the edge of Tanunda. With our lower cash-flow, these days, the mini-break was such a welcome getaway from all the daily drudgery of home.

We drove up to the wine country early enough to catch the last bits of a legendary local farmers market with the mission of living a 10-mile diet for the getaway weekend. We scored some nice duck legs, a strange local (muntrie) berry jam, some fresh eggs, and tasty produce. Perfect fixings for a gourmet meal.

As a stroke of fortune, while dining at a neighborhood lunch spot, we learned that TV cooking show host, Maggie Beer, had a farm a short trek from where we were staying, so this became a goal of the day. Up to the Pheasant Farm we went, and what a sight, indeed!

The Beers have, what must be, the most beautiful and varied game bird collection ever. There were pheasants of every variety, peafowl, geese, ducks, grouse, squab...a veritable smorgasbord of spectacularly feathered friends.

It was a peaceful afternoon wander about the native-planted bird alley, where we had the frequent company of no less than four peacocks, though the only way we got to see them at their flourished best was from the rear. Yes, we were mooned by a peacock. Cheeky devil.

We made our way back to the farm shop and tasted everything that shop had to offer. There were jams, jellies, sucos, chutneys, pates, fruit pastes, vinegars, and verjus, oh my! We hardly needed food for hours. But they fed us further still as the cooking demonstration began.

For those local to Oz, you might recognize this photo as the set of ABC's The Cook and the Chef. I adore this show, and it was a genuine treat to sample some of Maggie's recipes in her "home" kitchen. Should you view the season opener, know that we were there when the tongue was being simmered, and the Pavlova was puffing!

The rest of the weekend passed at an easy pace, with walks through vineyards, wineries, a second local market visit, and midnight Monopoly in our delightful little cabin. Hubby was beside himself when we stumbled across a classic Ford show at one of the vineyards, and even I got a bit giddy over the 1922 restoration we saw.

My favorite, of course, was the wine tasting at Chateau Tanunda. This place is glorious! Croquet fields outside, salt trains chugging by, old sandstone construction, and flawlessly manicured gardens everywhere

The whole trip really motivated us to get hopping on the garden. We got ideas for fruit tree cultivation, rose plantings, veggie patch planning...oh it was a treasure trove, that place. It was hard to leave!

But, the promise of the hunt for a new pup drew us homeward, and now that mammoth critter is anxious for some outdoor play, despite the icy wind blowing this morning. So off we go, our Laney-dog and me. We've a lot of training to cover, and it's going to be a very busy day. In the grand scheme, it's really good to be home.

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