Friday, December 17, 2010

Rare Lizard seen in McLaren Vale - James' scoop find.

Amazingly these photos of this lizard in McLaren Vale have caused a stir.

I took them on Tuesday and posted them to Facebook. From the pictures I took I have been contacted by the SA museum who wants to find this specimen. They believe it might well be a Lace Monitor - "Bells Form" Varanus varius... Read more.

It seems to be a rare find and has been believed to be extinct in South Australia. The museum doesn't believe that there are any Lace Monitors in the Adelaide Hills, or specifically any "Bells Form Monitors" in SA.

I look forward to crossing paths with Mr Lizard again - and that is an exciting find indeed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Top 5 - Interweb Joys.

My list journey continues. Music is the food of the soul - and my pop culture of choice. Here are the favourite things technology has given me this year...

2010 Favourite Things Online.

#1 - Slates Cultural Gabfest- A podcast fresh from New York City's - Slate Magazine. This is THE SHOW about the week in pop-culture. I have enjoyed many hours walking with the Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner keeping me up to date with the latest in movies, various musics and literature.

Yes, I admit it has one weakness, as the US is a little bit ahead of Australia sometimes you have no idea what they are talking about because often movies/products are released stateside first before the rest of the world, but they put in 'spoiler alerts' if you don't want to find out the details of the latest Matt Damon think piece.

I recommend you subscribe to the weekly Culture Gabfest podcast feed via iTunes.

#2 - Boing Boing Blog; I love the way it mixes humour with science and technology news. It is also no slouch in reporting on the political arena either.

Above - This pair of early rescue masks, shown above, dates from between the mid-1800s and World War I. They look a bit familiar, right? Almost a 100 years before Darth Vader and 3-CPO hit the big screen in "Star Wars" in 1977, these two smoke helmets were worn by firefighters carrying our rescues in smoke-logged buildings.

I can't really explain more. Just visit and explore.

#3 - Near Map. Near Map makes Google Earth look myopic. Near Map's provides an amazing level of detail because imagery is actually taken from an aircraft, and is higher res than a satellite.

#4 - Drinkster - Philip White's wine blog. This year Whitey covered geology, history, urban planning, water rights and Krug.


“ ... irreverent, guffaw provoking blog ... perfect for when the wine world gets too depressing ... knits solid news and events to titles like Paris Dumps Jugs For Cans in Top Blomo ... irresistible ... ” WSJ’s wine expert, Alice Feiring


#5 Hootsuite - Social Media Dashboard. I am disorganised at the best of times and Hootsuite is a great tool for keeping track of everything I like online. It is not sexy, but it is practical.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Summer Storm - Winemaking Behind the Lens.

The build up over McLaren Vale.

The thunder storm wave. Photo by Peter Kennedy.

The wind did howl, and the wind did moan.

The hot road steams after the first storm passes.

The vine canopies drip wet.

The second thundercell passes over Paxton Vineyards Thomas block.

The third wave storm over the bones of the ol' Tatachilla winery.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cellar Door - Vintage Motorbike Fest!

The weather was fine, the day clear, then the rumble came. A dud groan echoed in the Kuitpo Valley. The smell of 2-stoke and 4-stoke lingered in the normally pristine pine forest air.

These pics taken during the visit by the southern area's Vintage Motorbike clubs to our cellar door. The group brought near fifty, fine pieces of machinery.

The boys from Scarpantoni were in fine form. No plants were harmed during the day, but carbon was burnt in the name of vintage horsepower.

My pick of the day was a 1956 Matchless Scrambler.

My Dad told me a story about when his brother, my Uncle, raced a car in a Matchless Scrambler and my Dad was the pinion passenger.

The two of them hit a bump going over a bridge. My Dad nearly fell off, going about 90mph and just caught the fender over the back wheel. He says it was the closest he ever got to instant death.

Kids, present day Motocross was an evolution of the British off-road event called scrambling and scrambling bikes were the first type of dirt bike.

I am sure they didn't have Hi-Vis when these motorbikes were built.

I can only take pictures... the sound and the smell was something else.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Transcription of Minister Holloway on ABC radio 891.



DAVID BEVAN: Good morning, Minister.

PAUL HOLLOWAY: Good morning David.

DB: Well are you going to cut a special deal for Leon Bignell and the people down at McLaren Vale, and not one for the people at Mount Barker?

PH: Well look, it’s not a question of special deals. What happened was when we went through the Thirty Year Plan we set aside, we picked out the important horticultural areas of the state, which is the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale and er the key watershed parts of the Adelaide Hills for example.

But this government has not added any land in the southern parts of Adelaide to the urban boundary other than Bowering Hill and as Leon’s just mentioned to you we we we’ve changed our policy on that in relation to uh keeping that for for tourism purposes.

This particular land at Seaford Heights has been zoned residential for twenty years and it was er in the urban boundary for, ever since we’ve had an urban boundary.

Now what we, what we –

DB: So how many houses are you determined to see down at McLaren Vale? How many extra houses?

PH: Well it isn’t McLaren Vale. It’s, it’s not at McLaren Vale. There’s there’s been no change to the boundary in that, in that er –

DB: But hang on - [confused jumble of voices]

PH: We’re talking about Seaford Heights. Seaford Heights is not McLaren Vale. It, it’s it’s adjacent ... but the area we’re talking about is adjacent to the current developments … it’s it’s in between Seaford –

DB: You’re not suggesting the protesters should buy themselves a street directory; they’re not wasting their time are they?

PH: Well, no, no, well I think there is … it’s a key point if you’re talking about saving the McLaren Vale wine district, um, you know we’re very concerned about the entrance to McLaren Vale and Leon’s made that point strongly and we we agree with him and there does need to be a proper buffer on that road, that once you get out of Noarlunga and you head up into the top of the hill and then down into the the Willunga Basin there into McLaren Vale, you do need to have some protection from urban growth and that’s, I believe it was part of the original plan and we’re certainly we’re certainly we’ll certainly be looking at that and the LMC –

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Paul Holloway will you be taking a more, would you be taking a more, would you be taking a more elastic approach to the Mount Barker protesters if it was a marginal seat, it they had a Leon Bignell um going in to bat for them?

PH: Look it’s not a question of of elastic policies, look we had a Thirty Year Plan and and we had all the discussion then about where the growth should be. As a result of the feedback in Mount Barker we did make changes: we did put more houses in Murray Bridge as a result of that rather than Mount Barker so we had that debate you know more than twelve months ago before the last election –

MA: But but you did sign off on –

PH: Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on Matthew, before the last election we actually um released the Thirty year Plan. It officially became policy back in February this year. There was plenty of time to debate it before the election, and that, that, that’s what set aside the various land, it set out all the maps, and with all the land that would be used for future growth –

MA: And was Buckland Park in that Thirty year Plan?

PH: Of course, yes of course –

MA: Initially?

PH: Aaah, yes –

MA: I thought you had to make an exception for Buckland Park for the Thirty Year Plan –

PH: No, no, no, no Buckland Park was done as a major project because it was some time back. We’re talking two or three years back –

MA: It was approved shortly before the election was it not?

PH: Well, well it was the subject of, well I think well before actually. Um it’s just going through a Development Plan now but the original Major Project -

PH: Oh the Major Project, the Major Project decision was made was was was announced well before: well, well, well before the election –

DB: But the approval was right on the eve of the election –

PH: Well as soon as the Thirty Year Plan came out and Buckland Park yes because it’s been through a very lengthy process as a Major Project; it’s taken something like twelve months or more to go through but it now has to go through the re-zoning process as do all these other bits of land.

But look, look, that debate we we had and I, contrary to what’s been said, I attended public meetings at Mount Barker and so on when we had that debate.

But in relation to McLaren Vale, it’s always been Labor government policy that we would preserve the the Willunga Basin and we intend to do so in a stronger way as Leon’s just mentioned.

MA: Um, Minister thankyou. We do thank you Paul Holloway, Minister for Urban Development and Planning and also for hanging on and listening to the various views there from both McLaren Vale and Mount Barker and Leon Bignell.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tractor Action grinds McLaren Vale to a halt.


Communities directly affected by the South Australian Government's development plans have rallied against housing proposals.

But SA Planning Minister Paul Holloway says they will have to wear population increases to help cater for Adelaide's expansion.

Some were angered by a planned housing estate at Seaford Heights.

"Change the face of McLaren Vale [and it] won't have the appeal for tourists that'll want to come here and spend their dollar here, said one.

The protesters brought McLaren Vale to a standstill as they made clear their views.

Their convoy travelled to a Seaford Heights winery, just metres from where more than 1,000 homes are to be built.

Mount Barker residents are also keeping up the pressure against Government plans to rezone Adelaide Hills farmland for housing.

Opponent Ian Grosser vowed the fight would continue.

"We'll maintain the rage yes. Unfortunately the Planning Minister, despite the opposition, shows no sign of backing down," he said.

Mr Holloway defended expansion plans.

"What we're trying to do is to say 'Well look, if we're going to have the growth, let's try and contain it to a few centres, let's try and make that efficient so that we can provide the infrastructure that's necessary'," he said.

The Minister said the land at Seaford was earmarked for development two decades ago.

Above: The 'cat pumpkin' at the Paxton's rally. Below: The crowd packed into the Paxton's Shearing Shed for speeches by Robert Brokenshire MLC and James himself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meanwhile in the vineyard...

In spring, we see the first shoots appearing on the vines, and they curl to catch the sun.

With the wet conditions we have had there is an even and strong budburst. Many vines are actually pushing extra buds from their cordons. We call these watershoots, or non-count shoots. The 'jargon' term watershoots is due to the thought that wet weather promotes these shoots, the scientific term non-count shoots relates to the fact the pruner 'didn't count on them bursting!'

McLaren Vale has been having a 'typical spring' where the region has warm and fine weather, interrupted by periods of rainfall. Both rain and shine are welcomed by the vines (and the locals.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seaford Rise Protest - Winemaking Behind the Lens.

The Seaford Heights development is located at the entrance to the gateways to the tourism regions of McLaren Vale, the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. The land adjoins the beginning of the vineyards of the town of McLaren Vale on the Victor Harbor Road and the open spaces of South Road.

"It is the point where suburbia fades away and the holiday experience begins for more people than any other region in South Australia," says wine writer Phillip White.

"Urban sprawl is a worldwide disease, and Australia should be able to manage it far better than it does. Too many wine regions with high quality wines and tourism/lifestyle opportunities fall to ticky-tacky houses and shopping malls. Southern Vales has gone this way. It would be a travesty for the few undeveloped but high quality vineyard areas in McLaren Vale to follow suit," says wine scribe James Halliday.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back in the swing of it... Rocks ain't rocks.

So far so good! Lovely strong growth on the vineyard. The vines are enjoying the moisture from the wettest winter we have had in a long time.

Today I have been out digging in the vineyards of the Sellicks foothills.

Sellicks is farthest point south of the region directly overlooking the ocean beaches - think the Victory Hotel and you understand where I mean.

These foothills extend the length of the base of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges.

The strip of soil here, mostly red loam, has been eroded from these ranges and has pieces of rock mixed into the soil. These rock shards are limestone and dolomite from the Normanville Group of Cambrian Age geology (520 million years old) and older Neoproterozoic Wilpena Group (600 million years old) which is mainly sandstone and quartzite.

This means the area has thin soil and old rocks, which are conducive to small grape crops. The higher the vineyard on the hills the thinner the soil and the harder the vines have to work to produce their crop.

The old rocks also make digging a bit harder.

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Tractor Action - 31st of October.

Dear friends and collegues,

McLaren Vale is at risk of being swallowed up by the suburbs of Adelaide our
food and wine culture is threatened.

The council has said no to Seaford Heights, but the state government is
indifferent to our concerns and there are plans for more subdivision at
Bowering Hill / Maslins Beach in the future.

YOU CAN MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! Our region needs proper planning, not a
system of sprawl out and build services later.

A community event is being planned for Sunday the 31st of October - 'Tractor
Action'. This is a tractor rally down the main street of McLaren Vale -
culminatating in a party at Paxton's Cellar Door.

I believe this is a good way for your voice to be heard I have put up my
hand to help organise.

Do you know someone who can be part of the tractor rally?

We are assembling at 9:30 - 10:00am at the McLaren Vale Oval before
traveling to Paxton's cellar door.

Invitations are for licensed tractors only. We will be working with the
Police on the day to make this a safe event.

Can you help?

To RSVP your road licensed tractor please reply to and I will
let you know more details.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adelaide’s first #flashmob Wine Dinner

McLaren Vale wine producer, Lazy Ballerina, and Adelaide Hills producer, K1 by Geoff Hardy, are to come together at 6.30pm on Friday 1 October to hold Adelaide’s and, possibly Australia’s, first #flashmob wine dinner.

The event, to be held at a secret Adelaide location and limited to just 20 guests, will be heavily promoted through Social Media sites Twitter and Facebook just 24 hours prior to the event.

“It’s a new innovative idea to promote our wine brands by leveraging the massive impact that the social media revolution is having on the South Australian wine community”, said Bec Hardy, co-conspiritor.

“It won’t be your normal stuffy wine dinner but a more relaxed and social event, more reflective of the spontaneity and social aspects of the media we will use to promote the event.”

“It’s really hard to gauge what the reaction will be as this is a first as far as we are aware. We might just end up having dinner alone with 18 spaces at the table – who knows!”

Lazy Ballerina and K1 by Geoff Hardy will provide a range of wines on the night, with guests meeting the cost of a tapas set menu at $60 per person. Bookings are essential and can be made by emailing

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vale Cru tasting at the Victory Hotel - Winemaking Behind the Lens.

Sarah-Jane and Nina manned the Lazy Ballerina tasting. They looked glamourous as always.

I dressed up as a failed french art school dropout. I did do the signs for the event, though.

Dudley Brown from Inkwell Wines had his inaugural 2009 Two Acre Despot Primitivo. He sold out his show stock and had to take manual orders.

Don't you think Inkwell's lables look fantastic? They really stand out in a photograph.

Louise from Battle of Bosworth (left) and co. A great day was had by all and many thanks to Doug for having us and all the organization by Sally Imray, Gill G-G from Fall from Grace and Paul Petagna from Petagna wines.