McLaren Vale wine tasting and wondering

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Our good friend Wally came for a visit a few weeks ago. We figured it would be a great excuse to wondering around the famous wine making region of McLaren Vale. A few tastings were warranted.

The Vale itself is somewhat tucked away for sight. The Southern Expressway winds its way south from Adelaide and through the region, from which you can glimpse a sight of the vineyards but not entirely see the beauty of the place. Once you enter the Vale properly, you are in the midst of a labyrinth of wineries, small-holding farms and even breweries. Of the latter, we visited the Goodison Brewery and purchased a carton of mixed brews. We were completely blown away by their seasonal Christmas Ale, which tastes a little like the Lions Club Fruit Cakes my dad used to sell when I was growing up.

The wineries are, of course, the main drawcard of the region. In fact, it was the winemakers who put McLaren Vale on the map, so to speak. I have been a fan of the alcoholic grape drink for a long time. My parents are notorious wine aficionados. However, I have always felt that wine drinking is the domain of older, snooty and somewhat arrogant people – not like my parents at all. Perhaps this is our hangover from history. From the days when wine was the drink of the aristocracy, while beer was the bread of the peasants.

We visited a handful of wineries and noticed the staff barely raise their eyebrows at you if you are below the age of 30. They give you a brief run-down of the wine, pour, then walk away. Rarely expressing a smile or any real invitation to partake in the enjoyment of the experience. As a result, we did not buy any bottles from them. We happened to be in the area for a famous wineries open door. This winery only opens to the public three times a year. We visited with the intention of trying such a famous wine. We didn’t make it past the front door. An air of superiority hung around the place which did not invite us in.

In contrast, one winery is throwing that belief in the air though. Alpha Box & Dice is what some may call a ‘hipster’ winery. Their cellar door is full of knick-knacks like pin-ball machines, ukeleles, photographs, stuffed animals and other assortments of paraphernalia. It certainly isn’t a sterile, clean, straight-laced winery like so many others. As such, it naturally draws in an eclectic mix of patrons, from young ‘hipsters’ to middle-aged families and perhaps even the odd snooty aficionado. Their wine is not to be choked on either. Above the bar sits bottles with each letter of the alphabet. The winemakers are in the process of creating a vintage for each letter. Each wine is a special edition, as such, and unique in its own rights. The staff, like the winery itself, are characters on their own. Personable and approachable with wit and coolness. Naturally, we bought what we could from them.

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