Writing by the dock of the lake

writers soaking up the sun at Lake Mulwala

Lake view at Mulwala

The writing group to which I belong hit Lake Mulwala at the weekend for a three-night writing retreat. What a brilliant spot it was, with a dozen of us camped in a two-storey joint on the lakeside: a drowned forest, a plethora of birds — including cockatoos and a black swan who came a’visiting — and some amazing moon rises, including a blue moon!

The town sits on the New South Wales side of the Victorian border, across from the rural town of Yarrawonga, and took about three-and-a-half hours of scenic driving to get to from Melbourne. We also popped into Euroa to stretch the legs and scarf down a very tasty lunch.

wine by the case

Winery supply run

It was also fortuitous that the Rutherglen wine district is only a short drive away. After tasting and lunch ($20 with a drink, w00t!) at Rutherglen winery in town, we hit All Saints (with added cheese!), Stanton & Killeen and Campbells . We returned with the rattle of bottles; fortifieds mostly. The muscats hit the sweet spot.

But the aim was writing, when we weren’t chowing down on our self-catered banquets. And writing we did, each in their own way. I managed to untangle a lot of the knots in a new novel, so slowly but surely that yarn is coming together. There was plotting. There was scribbling. Typing. Solitaire. Ahem.

Mulwala lake retreat

Wordsmiths at work

It is such an advantage to be able to get away to somewhere quiet with like-minded souls and just butt up against the story. With only cockatoos and pretty sunsets to distract, it was a very productive and rewarding time indeed. Having a nearby walking track along the lake edge was an asset, too, because sometimes the brain just needs some downtime to process and come up with some subconscious solutions.

The retreat has added impetus for a new Supernova website, which seeks to draw together the various news and views of the members as well as extol the simple virtue of having a constructive support network to keep you on track. Ellen has written about the retreat there to help get the ball rolling.

Sunset over Lake Mulwala

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  • 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.