A day in McLaren Vale: fine wine but mind the cyclists

Way back in autumn, when the leaves were a gorgeous motley of earth and fire, our friends took us for a day trip through McLaren Vale, the famous wine district an hour out of Adelaide. It’s a fairly compact region, hilly and twisty and bedevilled with lycra-clad cyclists, but if you’ve got the patience and the reflexes, it’s definitely worth a trundle.

Naturally, the key ports of call are the wineries, and each of the ones we visited managed to offer its own individual appeal. I found that the shiraz by-and-large didn’t have quite the kick of the Barossa wineries, farther north, but still managed to give the luggage restrictions a test on the flight home. I’m sure the security dudes are used to the clanking of bottles in carry-on.

wirra wirra winery

Wirra Wirra

Wirra Wirra is a big’un — so big it has its own trebuchet and a handy look-out over the nearby grape vines. Its landmarks include a bush sculpture of giant cricket stumps, and a massive rough-hewn redgum fence known as Woodhenge marking the property’s entrance. It is the home of one of my favourite tipples, Church Block. Pilgrimage is too strong a word when the drop is available from every bottle-o, but we took our communion anyway.

chapel hill winery

Chapel Hill

The religious theme continued at Chapel Hill, where the cellar door occupies a former church that also houses an art gallery. Pews are available for those wanting to sit while taking in the works. The building is gorgeous, an ironstone church dating to 1865: it preaches shiraz and chardonnay with outreach to pinot grigio and sangiovese, amongst others, and has a truly tempting The Devil tawny port.

Serafino winery


Serafino was a bit of a disappointment, actually; the staffer was busy doing the books or her nails or something, and the wine just didn’t grab us. Love the stained glass door, though, and, outside, there was a gorgeous lake and oodles of galahs and water birds, including hungry geese and ducks: more than enough to hassle the few picnickers making the most of the spring sunshine.

Coriole winery


Coriole’s cellar door is based around stone farmhouses dating to the 1860s, is surrounded by flower beds and terraced gardens and affords a fine view across vine-covered hills. When we dropped in, it had a wee fridge of olive oil, vinegar and cheese. It describes itself as a fattoria: “A vineyard and winery where other food products may be grown and produced.”

fox creek winery

Fox Creek

This is the historically inaccurate Red Baron wine-barrel Fokker at Fox Creek, probably our favourite stop on the road trip. It operates from a stone cottage best described as intimate and offers some of the best shiraz we tasted. The smallish rooms are set up for lounging while enjoying art exhibitions, and the staff were amongst the friendliest and most welcoming we encountered. The grounds are littered with sculptures. The pictured Fokker gives its Red Baron name to one drop; Vixen, an easy-drinking red, is among the vineyard’s most popular offerings, while Shadow’s Run is named after the owners’ late dog and is a perfect summer quaffer. The Short Row shiraz shows that Fox Creek has depth past the barbecue; we have a bottle earmarked for a special occasion next year.

Natalie Potts


This is our unofficial wine guide and good friend, Natalie Potts. She not only knows her way around McLaren Vale, armed with a trusty map marked with helpful red crosses and underlined SHIRAZ in full caps by her parents, but she writes stories, too. If you click on the picture, you can read more about her yarns, some of which are available on Smashwords. If you click on the other pictures, you’ll find more pictures of McLaren Vale at my Flickr site.

It’s worth noting that Adelaide Writers Week is on next year, in March. I did mention that McLaren Vale is only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, didn’t I? Good-o.

Patricia Piccinni’s fantastic body of work

patricia piccinini vespa sculpturepatricia piccinini sculpture

And I thought Ron Mueck’s sculptures were amazing…

And fair enough, they are. But Patricia Piccinni’s work, on show at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, blew my socks off. Not only are her sculptures incredibly life-like, right down to the dimples, the hairs in the moles, the subtle blue veins under the skin, but they take us into the future. Strange critters imbued with incredible personality inhabit this vision, a vision largely made in a human laboratory. Cloning and gene splicing are among the issues that Piccinni’s sculptures examine, and most carry more than a hint of melancholy. A purposely spliced pig-like creature carries a litter destined to be spare parts; another creature is made as a breeding ground for hairy-nosed wombats. A young girl plays with over-sized stem cells as though they were blobs of plasticene. Two boys play with a hand-held game machine, but they wear the faces of old men.

Also in the exhibit are some cool trucks and even cooler mopeds given animalistic life, photography and audio-visual displays.

But it was the incredible emotion that Piccinni fostered in her fabulous future creatures that elevated this exhibition into the truly remarkable.

Will we — can we — still love our creations tomorrow?

  • Lisa Hannett also saw the exhibit and describes it with far more eloquence here.
  • now listen here

    Keith Stevenson has kindly made a podcast of my short story Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn, at Terra Incognita. It’s up now. The story is the latest in a monthly series that includes Sean Williams reading an unpublished short story and Cat Sparks reading her The Bride Price. I’m looking forward to next month’s story, by Trent Jamieson.

    Smoking … was published in Dreaming Again last year. The collection won a Ditmar (for best collection) at the National Science Fiction Convention in Adelaide earlier this month. Cat Sparks also won a Ditmar, and Sean Williams was deservedly awarded the Peter McNamara award for being an all-round awesome dude. This year’s Ditmars were hard to fault, in fact, with very deserving winners across the board. I was quite chuffed to see Rob Hood, Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott land theirs, and took delight in the awarding of the William Atheling Jnr award for criticism or review go to Kim Wilkins for a superb, scholarly article about genre bias. The full list of winners can be read here.

    Ditmars announced

    So the Ditmar nominations have been announced. How Alison Goodman’s Aurealis-winning Two Pearls of Wisdom failed to garner a best novel nomination is beyond me. Well, not really. Clearly, she needs more voting blocs in her corner.

    Here’s the list posted by the committee (with, I hope, the original typos and misspellings corrected; apologies if I’ve missed any) that will be voted on by members of the natcon in Adelaide next month (with members of last year’s also eligible). I’ve got a bunch of pals on this list. I hope they do well.

    Best Novel
    Fivefold, Nathan Burrage
    Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Simon Haynes
    Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
    How to Ditch Your Fairy, Justine Larbalestier
    Daughters of Moab, Kim Westwood
    Earth Ascendant, Sean Williams

    Best Novella
    Soft Viscosity, David Conyers
    Night Heron’s Curse, Thoraiya Dyer
    Angel Rising, Dirk Flinthart
    Creeping in Reptile Flesh, Robert Hood
    Painlessness, Kirstyn McDermott

    Best Short Story
    Pale Dark Soldier, Deb Biancotti
    This Is Not My Story, Dirk Flinthart
    The Goosle, Margo Lanagan
    Her Collection of Intimacy, Paul Haines
    Moments of Dying, Rob Hood
    Sammarynda Deep, Cat Sparks
    Ass-Hat Magic Spider, Scott Westerfeld

    Best Collected Work
    Dreaming Again, edited Jack Dann
    Canterbury 2100, edited Dirk Flinthart
    2012, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne
    Midnight Echo, edited by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
    Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine, edited Angela Challis
    Creeping In Reptile Flesh, Robert Hood
    The Starry Rift, edited Jonathan Strahan

    Best Artwork
    Aurealis #40 cover, Adam Duncan
    The Last Realm, Book 1 – Dragonscarpe, Michael Dutkiewics
    gallery in Black Box, Andrew McKiernan
    Creeping In Reptile Flesh cover, Cat Sparks
    Cover of 2012, Cat Sparks
    Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan

    Best Fan Writer
    Craig Bezant for Horrorscope
    Edwina Harvey for Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet
    Rob Hood for Undead Backbrain
    Chuck McKenzie for Horrorscope
    Mark Smith-Briggs for Horrorscope
    Brenton Tonlinson, Horrorscope

    Best Fan Artist
    Rachel Holkner, for Gumble Soft toy and other works
    Nancy Lorenz for body of work
    Andrew McKiernan for body of work
    Tansy Rayner Roberts for Daleks are a girl’s best friend
    David Schembri for body of work
    Cat Sparks for Scary Food Cookbook
    Anna Tambour, Box of Noses and other works

    Best Fan Publication
    Horrorscope, Brimstone Press
    Scary Food Cookbook, edited by Cat Sparks
    Asif! (Australian Speculative Fiction In Focus)
    Australian SF Bullsheet

    William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
    Dark Suspense: The End of the Line by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (in
    Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine #3)
    George A. Romero: Master of the Living Dead by Robert Hood (in Black:
    Australian Dark Culture Magazine #2)
    Bad Film Diaries – Sometimes the Brand Burns: Tim Burton and the
    Planet of the Apes, Grant Watson (in Borderlands #10)
    “Popular genres and the Australian literary community: the case of
    fantasy fiction,” Journal of Australian Studies, Kim Wilkins

    Best Achievement
    Angela Challis for Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine and Brimstone Press.
    Marty Young and the AHWA Committe for promoting horror through the
    Australian Horror Writers Association
    Talie Helene for her work as AHWA News Editor
    Steve Clark for Tasmaniac Productions
    Damien Broderick for fiction editing in Cosmos Magazine
    James Doig for preserving colonial Australian horror fiction and his
    anthologies Australian Gothic and Australian Nightmares.
    The Gunny Project: A tribute to Ian Gunn 1959-1998, Jocko and K’Rin,
    presented MSFC

    Best New Talent
    Peter M. Ball
    Felicity Dowker
    Jason Fischer
    Gary Kemble
    Amanda Pillar