Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to Grape Wine & Tourism members - from Pip Forrester Chair.

Hello Everyone,

This email is to let you know that our discussions and resistance to the
development of Seaford Heights continues and to advise you of the
details for this year's BankSA Sea and Vines festival.

The Association, The Board and I, as Chair, persist in our engagement in
discussions and negotiations with the other stakeholders; The Southern
Community Coalition, The Friends of Willunga Basin and with The City of

The latest development in the process is the City of Onkaparinga's
response to a letter from the Minister for Planning (Minister Holloway)
which advised of the Minister's amendments to the Seaford Heights
Development Plan Application (DPA) resulting from the consultation
process with numerous community groups, including the McLaren Vale
Grape, Wine and Tourism Association and various government departments.

At its meeting on 15th March the Council resolved as detailed in the
attached letter from Mayor Rosenberg to Minster Rau. In summary the
decision was;

1) That the Council restates its wish for the land to be rezoned 'rural'

2) If rezoning is not approved, the Minister be requested to convene a
'round table' to include all those who had been involved
in previous consultations to consider an alternative development
policy for Seaford Heights appropriate to a transition to
the Willunga Basin and rural areas.

3) That the Minister take note and take action on the responses to the
proposed changes to the Seaford Heights. DPA

4) In the event that the Minister does not approve the request to rezone
the land to rural, the Mayor and CEO of the
City of Onkaparinga express their concern in relation to the Seaford
Heights DPA to the Development Policy Advisory Committee
and to the Environment Resources and Development Committee of

For details on point 3) please see the attached letter to Minister Rau.

This resolution, in large part, reflected the wishes of the three key
community groups; McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association, The
Southern Community Coalition and the Friends of Willunga Basin who as a
result of discussion were in agreement on their position.

Your Association Board, at its recent meeting, has also reiterated that
it's first preference is for the land to be rezoned 'rural' and it's
second preference is for the consultative process to be recommenced.

I will keep you informed about the Minister's response to the Council's
resolution when it is received.

With respect to BankSA Sea and Vines, please also note the attached
summary of the details for the event this year. As those of you who are
involved are aware, we are in the process of evolving this event and as
a result have had numerous meetings leading to several alterations to
the delivery model to meet the needs of all the businesses wishing to
participate as can be seen from the attached summary.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has put in
time and effort to come up with the present solution, especially
Elizabeth Tasker and her team.

The BankSA bookings open on Monday 11th April and all bookings on 14th
April. We anticipate that the brochure will be available by then and the
details will be on the website in the next 10 days.

Best wishes

Pip Forrester
McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism

Saturday, March 26, 2011

From the vineyards up...

This was first published in The Independent Weekly in August 2008.

“Mr. White, I’m not like you”, James Hook said as I settled in his ute. “I am a scientist.” He then took me to show me a thing or two about McLaren Vale, where he worked for the Grape, Wine and Tourism Association.

In this business, you don’t meet many so certain about their roles and their determination to fulfil them. Ian Hickinbotham spoke in such a manner when first introduced some thirty years ago; his son Stephen, was another. Ray Beckwith, too, now in his mid-nineties, is still similarly precise. Probably no other Australians have had such influence on wine as Hick Snr., and Beckwith, with their ground-breaking work on pH and malo-lactic fermentation, now taken for granted by winemakers the whole world over. Had Stephen not been killed in a plane crash, I’m sure he would have gone on to show us another thing or two.

So here was your writer, suss that we’d run out of such people of serious category, and jaundiced by the thousands of cocksure pretenders and self-promoters who fill the vast gaps between. “Their obituaries describe these people as successful businessmen and they pass promptly into oblivion” wrote Walter James of this mob in 1970. I don’t think this will be said of James Hook.

I’d seen Hook the scientist at work when he’d been called in to make an independent judgement on a grape crop. With another viticultural scientist, Derek Cameron, they succinctly disproved an allegation that the crop was diseased. The brewery which had tried to evade its purchasing contract was forced to keep its bargain, and the conscientious, terrified grower stayed in business.

And now in McLaren Vale, Hook gradually unfolded a severe arsenal of knowledge and attitude. Not only did he show a rare savvy about vine husbandry, but his deep appreciation of the folly of greed and environmental destruction left most of the wine business for dead.

Then he sent me some shiraz: an understated bottle, displaying a dancer resting on a chair, named Lazy Ballerina after a canopy management where the vine’s canes were organized to resemble the dress of a ballerina. That wine, and another release since, with a little viognier, impressed me very deeply, with its intensity of character, gastronomic intelligence, and promise for the future.

With his parents, James has purchased an unusual, if run-down, European garden on the big bend at the south end of the Kuitpo forest. A new tasting room is nearing completion; the garden is gradually regathering its beauty, its silver birches and healthy river red gums standing in bright contrast to the wall of pines opposite, a carpet of winter blooms spread beneath. A peacock admired himself in the reflecting door as we nudged the glasses last week.

James, the viticulturer, had planned four shiraz wines and managed their vines accordingly. Two were from vineyards he considers sufficiently distinctive and suitable to be released as single vineyard wines, to offer numerous points of difference for discussion about the nature of McLaren Vale shiraz. Another is a cross-vineyard blend, designed to follow the style of his earlier releases; the fourth is a shiraz viognier.

“I have planned these from the vineyards up”, he said, introducing a string of barrel samples. “This exercise is to test my plan, to ensure the wines are sound and true to my original goal, or if any of them require tweaking or blending.”

The wines from Dudley Brown’s Inkwell vineyard, near the Gulf on California Road, was tighter than most shiraz, reflecting an uncommonly dense grape cell structure: elegant, but highly focused and intense. No changes required. Next was the contrasting monster from the piedmont of Sellicks Hill, from the vines of Paul Petagna. Whilst closer to typical Vales shiraz, with its cuddly big chocolate and licorice, this, too, was tight with mighty tannins, and ever so gradually tapered off into a tail uncommonly elegant and refined after such an opening. Right on the knocker.

The blended wine, from various sources, followed closely the earlier Lazy Ballerina style – read masterly - and the last, the shiraz viognier, is a lesson to those who mindlessly blend these varieties in the name of fashion alone. No peach syrup in this baby. Uh-huh. It had all the austere acid and tannin elegance of the first three wines, but with the added tannic finesse that only tiny additions of early-picked, cool-climate, co-fermented viognier have to offer.

Only one barrel was faintly suss, still showing a little lazy malo-lactic ticking away. It’ll be fine when the Lazy Ballerina tasting room opens in the spring. Which is something worth waiting for, given the maker’s success in defining the flavours of his finished wines in advance, then selecting and managing the vineyards to achieve his goal. We have a new benchmark forming up, there in the forest. I’m hooked.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kuitpo Weather.... March 17th.

Kuitpo Year To Date.

Average rainfall to Mar: 77.2mm 22.7 day(s)
Total for 2011: 120.8mm 16 day(s)
Total to this day 2010: 39.6mm 14 day(s)
Wettest day: 46.6mm Feb 19
Lowest temperature: 7.7°C Mar 2
Highest temperature: 39.4°C Jan 31

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

McLaren Valley name change proposal.

An article from the Southern Times Messenger has sparked debate on the Lazy Ballerina Facebook page.

Here are some of the comments -

WBM magazine says - I like McNaren Vale as I heard a Hong Kong VIP call it. The only thing that should be changed is politicans with stupid ideas.

Steve Lindner says - Always a worry when a polly is suggesting change, I've always loved the name, don't change!!

Jessie Morris says - Fair call. I like the fact that McLaren Vale is so different to the Barossa...I don't think SA needs two wine 'valleys'!

Jet Robins says - Not a fan Mr Hook. It's the Vale (plus the Flat). Plus, linguistically I find McLaren Vale easier to reel off.

Chris Dix says - Obviously none of you or politicians are aware of Clare Valley, a historic winemaking region just 120km north of Adelaide....

Laura Jackson says - MacLaren Vale - I'm lovin' it. TM

Margot King says - I live in the Barossa and used to live near McLaren Vale. There is no need to change the names. Why do people with nothing better to do think that changing a place name will in any way benefit those who live and work in the region?

Lara Winsor says - It doesn't work, just confuses people more and dilutes the message.
The Atherton Tablelands in North QLD changed it's name to The Cairns Highlands by pollies & tourism 'experts' a few years ago. The locals still call it Tablelands, tourist...s know it as Highlands and confusion abounds! I suggest anyone who gets confused that a town & region have the same name aren't the sort to appreciate to difference between a Cab Sav and a Sav Blanc.

Lazy Ballerina says Coonawarra Valley - just like the Barossa but with more Cabernet.

Rymill Winery says via twitter - Coonawarra Valley? Just like the Barossa? <- Requires one very large iron there, more germans here.

Tim Hardy says - Took the words right out of my mouth Chris and lets not forget Eden Valley. valley count so far 4!!!

Ashley Coats says - Valley Ale?!? Sounds like something teenage girls in the 80's would drink.

Trudi Duffield says - Sounds like a lolly?

Shane Barker says - Just what we need - more confusion!

Yvonne Arnold says - Nah, we've got used to it being a Vale, and its known world wide as McLaren Vale via the wine industry.

Susan Read says - An Italian backpacker friend of mine is still convinced it's called McClaren Valley also my phone's predictive text won't allow the word "Vale".

Karra Yerta Wines says - I'm still trying to process the woman with the chair - :) Can we slow all these changes down a lil bit?:)

Douglas Colin Tapfield says - This is retarded. Is he proposing to keep the the town named McLaren Vale but rename the area McLaren Valley? It's already more confusing.

Matthew Stuckey says - My branding advice would be exactly the contrary. By trying to piggy back on the Barossa's name, the Vale would only lose brand recognition and always come off as the lesser of the two. From a tourism aspect I much prefer McLaren Vale to the Barossa exactly because it is more compact and therefore scenic, you can see most of the vale from up on the hill which is great for touristy wine region photos.
Is this "confusion about the broad area it covers" keeping people awake a night? Why change to pander to the lowest common denominator (people who get confused by the word 'vale' in the obvious context of a valley?

Annika Berlingieri says - McLaren Valley - Where one Valley leads to the Vale???

Dan Procter says - Vale Ale's in trouble, would it be called Valley Ale?

Keith Rutherford says - Don't be ridiculous!!! McLaren Vale is what is has always been known as, don't mess with the brand!!! Change Barossa Valley to Barossa Vale instead!!!

Keith Rutherford says - It is the start of March, not the 1st of April, by the way.... Someone is a bit early for April Fools Day!!!

Lazy Ballerina says - McLaren Valley? Secret valley?

Travis William Armener says - Considering, geographically, that McLaren Vale isn't actually a valley, it seems a bit stupid. Changing the name "just because" seems pointless, and we will just be tagged as, "riding the coat tails" of the Barossa. I think politicians should concentrate on more important issues, like saving McLaren Vale from urban sprawl. Stopping Seaford Heights seems like a much more important issue to be working on!

John Maddock says -It's all about the brand!

Need to be careful about messing with the brand. McLaren Vale is now an international brand that has a high value. It is a given that the brand encompasses more than the people, produce and experiences of a town. One... of the strengths of a vale is that it extends into the hills and valleys that surround it.
King Island is a stunning success of a brand but it has come to mean much more than just the richness and purity of its dairy produce. Tasmania's north and north/west has particularly benefited from strength and drawing power of the brand.
What about Clare Valley .... mmm riesling:)

Sandra Sharp says -Think Mr Bignell needs to find something else to do with his time. Surely his energy could be better spent in lobbying for McLaren Vale to be recognised as a region (as the Barossa is) and then we would get better funding instead of being lumped in with the Fleurieu Peninsula.