Wine time at Heathcote

Armstead Estate, at Lake Eppalock

Armstead Estate, at Lake Eppalock


On our third visit to Heathcote, home of some of my favourite reds this side of the Barossa, we actually got out to some cellar doors.

Previously, we hit the three in the main street — one is a Hub for the region, so there’s a selection of the local offerings to be had there. This time, with the benefit of a three-night stay and superb winter weather, we ventured forth from our base at Cranford Cottage (I’ve extolled its virtues previously, and these remain undimmed (indeed, they come with additional ‘resident’ kangaroo, and egg rings *wink*); a three-nighter is the minimum to really gain the benefit of this bucolic B&B). Being invited to join a Friday-night soiree and meet some of the locals, including winemakers, all friendly to a fault, just added to the impetus to make the most of the weather — and the wine.

Just up the road is Downing Estate, and OMG, the humble cellar door — essentially a garage under the house — belies the quality of the wine. We scooped up very well priced ’07, ’08 and 2011 shiraz, had a chat with vintner Bob and played ball with his dog Max.

Fishing, Lake Eppalock, from Armstead Estate

Fishing, Lake Eppalock, from Armstead Estate

Then we chugged to the other side of town, out to the shore of Lake Eppalock, to take in the lakeside splendour of Armstead Estate. The cellar door is in an old hut near the 1865 homestead, with fire, cheese and olives, and again the wine was hard to resist — even a Marsanne came home with us, this riesling-style white earmarked for a hot day and a cheese platter. A cab sauv and a Roxy’s Paddock shiraz rounded out the souvenirs. There are plans afoot to add B&B cottages, and what an addition they would make to this already ideal picnic spot.

We’d run out of puff so skipped Sanguine Estate and its enticingly labelled Kindred and Progeny reds (players of Vampire: The Masquerade will understand the temptation, as if the quality of the vino wasn’t enough): got to save something for next time.

We did, however, keep up the tradition of a meal at the Willow Room — Kirstyn had venison and I had barra, both dishes brilliant — but were a little dismayed to see the business and building up for sale. Here’s hoping the tradition of fine food and top service continues!

Morning mist at Cranford Cottage, Heathcote

Morning mist at Cranford Cottage, Heathcote


I can also report that the gravel drive up to the Mt Ida lookout is not rewarded by an unrestricted view: perhaps best seen from the porch with a tipple.

Among the region’s many events, two to keep track of are the Heathcote on Show in June and the Wine and Food Festival in October. Or just pop out on a spare weekend: it’s little more than an hour from Melbourne.
 

Sunset at Cranford Cottage, Heathcote

Sunset at Cranford Cottage, Heathcote

More pictures

Cherry Crow Children: rich pickings

cherry crow children by deborah kalin
Cherry Crow Children is the twelfth of the Twelve Planets series published by Twelfth Planet Press, with a thirteenth and final volume to come. This most recent volume, by Deborah Kalin, is well worth the wait.

Kalin is a fellow Melbourne writer with two fantasy novels and a handful of short fiction to her name; this volume of four stories is a strong addition to her bibliography.

These stories are of endings, and of secrets, and of quests, each situated in isolated and harsh settings that encourage a certain bloodymindedness and limited vision. To go delving in these locales is to risk much. Discovering can be dangerous, even lethal. Perhaps best not to explore this terrain if one is feeling blue.

In ‘The Wages of Honey’, a man looks for his cousin in a fractured mountain village; ‘The Briskwater Mare’ has a young woman tied to her fate for the apparent good of a town; ‘The Miseducation of Mara Lys’ tells of clockmakers and the price paid for pursuing their secret workings; and the titular story is one of a forest folk who risk the wilds for a crop of drug flowers.

Australian women writers challenge 2015The settings are engagingly, succinctly drawn, with customs and seasons and economies adding depth to the worlds as the characters navigate the social currents. One cannot help but rail with Kalin’s protagonists as they are caught in the eddies. The stories draw longer, the worlds deeper and darker; the forest denizens of the eponymous final story are wild and amazing.

As each story unveils its mysteries, as each protagonist pushes the boundaries and pays the price for their investigation, the assured prose is the measured constant.

This twelfth of the Twelve is a high point in a consistently high field.

Get your Aussie vampires here

alison goodman launches the big smoke by jason nahrung

Picture courtesy of Alison Goodman

Home again from the Continuum convention in Melbourne, at which there was much catching up, some learnin’ and some launchin’.

Always good to reconnect with the clan, and very appreciative indeed of those who were able to make the launch for Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke — my Aussie vampire duology. So great to have them out in the world!

Alison Goodman did the launch business with aplomb — just look at that hat! Here’s a quote from her speech:

The Big Smoke is based on the old European vampire lore, but given a new bright Australian slant. These vampires wear a permanent sun squint and a pair of sunglasses. The book pulses with hot weather, hot blood and hot vengeance.

For more info, or to snaffle a copy for the vampire-lovin’ reader in your family, check out the Clan Destine Press links below! (edit: worth noting the books are also available at Amazon, Booktopia et al)

We have launch date: Vampires in the Sunburnt Country to hit the road!

blood and dust by jason nahrungHot on the heels of the cover reveal, the full books are about to hit the shelves — yes, after more years than I care to think about, the story of Kevin Matheson, outback vampire, is about to be released in paperback. Two, in fact: Blood and Dust, and the follow-up The Big Smoke. How much trouble can a country boy get himself into when the vampires come a’knockin’? Plenty!

Clan Destine Press are releasing the books in paperback and ebook, raising the curtain at 4pm on Sunday 7 June, as part of the Continuum speculative the big smoke by jason nahrungfiction spectacular in Melbourne. The wonderful Alison Goodman is doing the honour, cracking a bottle of something red across the tomes! Details are here at the Clan Destine site, where online orders will also be available.

Hm. I may have to wear black for this!

Kevin Matheson, outback vampire, rides again!

Here are the covers for the ‘Vampires in the Sunburnt Country’ duology: Blood and Dust* and The Big Smoke, courtesy of Clan Destine Press.

blood and dust by jason nahrung

the big smoke by jason nahrung

 

And look what happens when you put them side by side on the shelf — VROOM!

vampires in the sunburnt country books

The books should be hitting the road in paperback and digital in June. That’s not long, is it!

* But what do I mean, Kevin rides again? Well, Blood and Dust was released back in 2012 as a digital-only title, but CDP have ridden to the rescue to make it and its follow-up corporeal as well as ethereal. Sweet.

Bush, bitumen and the horror: Bundy WriteFest

bundaberg writefest logoBundaberg inquisitor Mouse and I had an email chat the other day, ahead of my heading to Bundy for WriteFest on 16-17 May — my second visit! This is a wonderful event, very welcoming and easy going, and the Bundy Writers know how to make a guest feel welcome, yes indeed.

So I’ll be talking about writing horror and running some wee small exercises in creepiness — there’s more than 10 of us on the program, including Graeme Simsion and my old Brissie mate Peter Ball (both getting their screenplay mojo on, but in different ways), and you really should check out Kat Apel’s hat in her profile picture!

The Mouse chat can be read here. It was a pretty thoughtful exchange, and I waffled. Sorry.

At Clancy’s, and Lee’s, and Zena’s

jason nahrung by kirstyn mcdermott

Pic by Kirstyn McDermott

Hm, seems not only am I couch surfing in old Bris Vegas at the moment but online as well;
this year, I’ve talked to:

  • Clancy Tucker about journalism and writing, and
  • Lee Battersby about writing fetishes (there’s a bunch of us, revealing our fancies, or not — I got hooked on music), and
  • Zena Shapter about writing to music (well, we had to nominate a tune, and I went with a track from Attrition — make a playlist from all 57 respondents here).
  • Fun, visiting! Next, I’m off to Bundaberg. Most excellent.