Oz: Cruising up river, wine tasting

Today, I woke up at 0615 and by 0630 I was out doing walkabout in Perth city centre. It was an eerie experience, very few people shared the streets with me. Apart from two homeless people, some travelers at the railway station and a surprising number of policemen and policewomen at the said railway station, the streets were empty. Nonetheless, I walked for some two hours finding the Technip and IBM buildings during my travels. Without exception, no shops or eateries were open. Even towards the end of my walk, the only places that were beginning to open their doors were McDonalds and Hungry Jacks (which looks remarkably like Burger King, and I’m guessing that they are one and the same)…so I went hungry and thirsty. On the subject of BK and McDonalds…I note that the prices over in Oz are exactly the same numerical representation as the prices here in the UK, i.e. a A$5.75 meal is £5.75…rip off Britain.

I returned to the hotel and took breakfast with my Spanish amigo Oscar. This was a good thing as the next activity, which promised to provide breakfast, turned out to provide the smallest breakfast possible, consisting of cheese, biscuits and dried fruit. Oscar and I were grateful that we had some real fruit, coffee and pastries in the hotel. After breakfast (the next activity), Richard, Penny, Oscar and I walked down to the Barrack Street piers and picked up a boat that cruised up the Swan River headed towards Guildford and the wineries (vineyards) beyond that. We, Richard, Penny, Oscar, Art, Goshi, Nap, Mat, Peter, Katya, Sabrina, and I blagged the seats at the bow (front) of the boat. The skipper noted via the ship’s microphone system that we might find it cold…cha, not a chance! The sun shone for most of the up river trip, a tan was in the making. The cruise up river was super, the sun was shining, the wine was starting to flow (it was only 1030, lucky I had the hotel breakfast!)

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Whilst heading up river, the skipper noted that one of the Swan river’s wooden bridges was so low, that he had to take in ballast to lower the boat in the water. Indeed, we even came to a complete stop as the skipper’s mate checked the boat’s height against the bridge. Part of me though that this was marketing trick designed to impress us!

The Houghton vineyard. Crisp and clear Chardonnay’s, the Classic was nicely chilled and hit the spot. Previously known as the “burgundy”, the Classic had to be renamed because of a dispute with the French (quelle surprise?) So, five bottles of white, 5 bottles of red, that was our choice. Our group, which included many other tourists, did not finish all the wine – it was interesting noting which wines still had over half a bottle of wine remaining.   The Sandalford vineyard. Sadly, I had already written the Sandalford wines off before I arrived – for me, Australian wine is very much an acquired taste, the few bottles of Sandalford offerings that I had drunk in the UK taught me that it was never going to be a taste that I would or could acquire. That said, Penny bought Richard’s parents a bottle of their A$95 offering (A$5 for a tasting glass)…and that did taste rather good. Three whites, a couple of reds and a liquor port were on offer. Despite my personal disappointment, the rest of the group soon finished off the bottles, leaving little or nothing.

You know, I couldn’t help how much this picture at the Sandalford winery should be the water hole on a lovely golf course:

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I noted that in both vineyards, the bottles that we started with were all we were going to get…once a bottle was finished, another did not appear in its place. Given that there is a wine glut in Australia right now, i.e. there’s too much of the stuff, producers are destroying grape harvests, I found this “one bottle” rule rather surprising. I’m told it takes some five years from vine planting to decent wine production, many newcomers look into the idea but are put off by the lead time, and rightly so. I guess this is something the French get right, they pop out another bottle when the first taster is empty.

Returning home, the trip down river magically seemed to take a lot less time. The aforementioned low bridge was now passable at speed, with no checks necessary. Adam, the Skipper’s mate, entertained us with some Bobby Darin numbers (a tune that stayed in Oscar’s head and mine for some time).

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Mat grabbed this shot of me…nicely done

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Some of the wine that we sampled…