Our group is at the two week mark down under. It’s amazing to review all the things we have done so far. We are now on the Yorke Peninsula, some two hours by car from Adelaide in South Australia. This sparsely populated peninsula is about 25 miles wide and some 100 miles long. Its scenic coastal communities are popular holiday getaways for urban folks and have been fishing towns for years.
But the wide open and relatively flat fields beyond the coastline is where the real economic engine lives. The peninsula is a major producer of grains and other products, including wheat, lentils, canola and barley. These crops are worth more than $290 million annually. The farms are massive and the fields spread for miles to the horizon, broken by patches of Eucalyptus trees and shrubs. I am staying as the guests of family farmers Paul and Julie Davey. Paul leases his some 3,400 acres and remains active in the business but is also busy as President of the Maitland Rotary and other interests. Their home sits in a cluster of trees and buildings, surrounded by golden colored fields.
Yesterday we had a fascinating visit to the sole winery on the peninsula, Barley Stacks Wine. Located down a somewhat isolated gravel road in the heart of wheat fields this winery works hard to make a mark. An estate winery, their 25 acres of vineyards struggle in just about 5 inches of soil with a limestone subsurface below. The owners main livelihood is their other crops but they are making a strong effort to build up the winery. For example, they have converted a utility equipment building into a very functional event hall where they stage events and welcome bookings including weddings and private parties.
Today we took a journey back to nearby Clare Valley, an important wine region that is home to some 40 wineries and renown for Riesling wines. Our first stop was the impressive Pike’s Winery and Brewery. Though young by the valley standards (started in 1984) they have roots in the wine and beverage industry dating back to 1886 when Henry Pike, an emigrate from Dorset in England, established a family business called Pikes Dorset Brewery. The Pikes became known throughout South Australia for quality beer, ales, soft drinks and its famous Tonic Ale. Though that enterprise folded in the early 1970’s, Henry’s great great grandsons Andrew and Neil, started the modern day enterprise after graduating from Roseworthy Agricultural College. Today the operation produces more than 80,000 cases of wine annually and has been widely recognized for their wines. In 1996, Pikes beer was reintroduced and with an on-site brewery and tasting room.
That was followed by a visit to another institutional wineries in the Clare, Jim Barry Wines. Jim was an institution in the wine industry of Australia. He was the first qualified winemaker in the Clare Valley, graduating as the 17th student to get a Degree in Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1947. He worked for 22 years as winemaker at the Clarevale Co-operative and and helped to establish Taylors Wines in 1969. In the early days, the industry in the region focused on fortified wines like port, but Jim was credited as a pioneer of Australian table wines.
Our team has been blessed by the hospitality of our hosts from the Maitland Rotary Club. They have welcomed us with great joy and shared so much about their community. Leaving them will be hard.