Sunday Special – Barossa Valley, Australia


Okay, who am I kidding? Wine is on my mind and on this a blog. I have inadvertently started  a wine series, LOL. Today we’re off to the Barossa Valley of Australia, located in South Australia, northeast of Adelaide. A friend of mine said he was heading this way so I thought I’d post about it. And as mentioned previously, my girlfriends and I are on the hunt for a wine vacation.

The Barossa Valley has a rather interesting wine history.  One of the oldest wine producing regions in Australia it dates back to the 1840s with mainly German settlers (and some Brits). When the Barossa Valley was settled it was realized that it was an excellent spot for grape growing. It was through trial and error of wine-making that port-style fortified wines became popular. Later into the mid 1900s when Australia’s wine production shifted towards non-fortified wines the area’s wines lost favour and were used mainly in blends. It seems that the the now popular Shiraz varietals were then considered sub-par. To add to the declining shift, various scenarios and circumstances further threatened the wine industry in the area.  During the 1980s, in an effort to bring about change, a number of winemakers (including Peter Lehmann) opened smaller wineries through the region. That is when the Barossa Valley wines (especially Shiraz) really took off.  Today the Barossa Valley is synonymous with quality wine. 

Reaching the Barossa Valley can be a day trip from Adelaide or you can spend several days in the area. Winery tastings and tours are a must. You can also appease your palate with an abundance of food options. Burn all that off with shopping, walking or cycling. It sounds like this area is a must for wine aficionados. 

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Grape growing in the Barossa Valley (Jacob’s Creek Winery) – Photo credit: Amanda SlaterJacob’s Creek. Vines. Barossa Valley SACC BY-SA 2.0

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Charles Melton Winery. One of many in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Photo credit: Jeff MarquisCharles Melton WinesCC BY 2.0

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Grapes in abundance in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Photo credit: Amanda SlaterWine grapes in Barossa Valley. SACC BY-SA 2.0

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Sunday Special – Mosel Wine Region, Germany


I’ve still got wine on my mind so today we’re going to head to a wine region of Germany that is known for its high quality Riesling varietal of wines: Mosel. This region is located in the west of Germany near the borders of Luxembourg and France, in the valley of the Mosel (Moselle) River and its tributaries of the Suur and Ruwer rivers. The steepness of the hills in this valley make mechanical grape collection near impossible so it must all be done by hand. Although the the hand-picking is seven times slower than with a machine its gentle effect on the grapes is passed through to the wine. This results in Rieslings that are world renown. Wineries are plentiful with the hardest part being how to decide on which ones to go to.

Not only is the Mosel Valley home to numerous wineries it is a beautiful region with some Roman history (it is believed it was the ancient Romans who first introduced wine-making to the area). Make your way through hiking trails that provide lookouts with incredible views and then head to storybook towns and villages lined with cobblestone streets. Relax your way through this region that takes life at much slower pace so you can unwind and relish the experience. A few of my girlfriends and I are tossing about the idea of doing a girl’s wine trip at some point. Perhaps Mosel will be on that list of choices.

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The State Wine Growing Domain in Trier, Germany – Photo is Public Domain

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Cochem, Germany in the Mosel Valley – Photo credit: Kai PilgerCochem and ReichsburgCC BY-SA 4.0

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Mosel Valley, Germany – Photo credit: Michal OsmendaVineyards in Beilstein, MoselCC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Special – Mendoza, Argentina


I’m going to get straight to the point – for this Sunday Special post, Mendoza = wine.

Wine, that delicious libation that is revered by millions. Now I am mainly a beer drinker and love me a decent craft beer to savour most anywhere, however, that does not mean I don’t enjoy wine. In fact, I drank wine more frequently than beer years ago. But as time went on wine decided to not like me. It chose to cause a great deal of congestion and discomfort in my sinuses. And not just a little. If I had more than 2 glasses of the sweet elixir I turned into a snotty-nosed mess for at least a 24-hour period and no amount of decongestants or antihistamines could help. It’s some sort of allergy I guess. So I turned to beer and found my drink (after tea). Now I have found some wine that I react to far less, if at all. Perhaps my allergy/mystery is changing (as some allergies do) or some wines do not contain the item(s) that command my sinuses to over react.  I don’t know but I am glad I have been able to enjoy wine now and again. Some of these “forgiving” wines are from Argentina, so let’s take at look at Mendoza!

The Argentinian province of Mendoza is located in the west-central part of the country along the Chilean border in the shadow of the Andes Mountains, near Mount Aconcagua. It is the most important wine region in the country (yay!) producing nearly two-thirds of all the wine produced in Argentina. Some of the varietals that are produced in the region include chardonnay, malbec, torrontés, tempranillo, syrah, and several more. The province’s capital city of the same name is filled with tasting rooms, (wine) tour operators, and restaurants that pair well with whichever wine you sip. 

Now to be fair, the region does offer much more than just wine and wineries. It is a great spot to enjoy the outdoors by way of hiking and trekking, cycling, ice climbing, skiing and snowboarding, and golfing. Adventure seekers can partake in kite surfing, hand-gliding, ziplining, paragliding, kayaking, rock climbing and rappelling, and more. Of course there are spas, hot springs, shopping, and museums. So any way you look at it, Mendoza seems to offer quite a bit and all with a glass of wine if you like. 

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Diamandes Winery, Mendoza – Photo credit: BormidayanzonDiamandes WineryCC BY-SA 4.0

 

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Bodega Salentein Winery, Mendoza – Photo credit: ArgentinaWineTourism…, ALTURA Argentina Wine Tourism – Bodega Salentein – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

Monday Sessions – The Garden Route, South Africa


Hello! Today is the final Monday Session. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the adventures that my friends have had around the globe. I hope they have inspired you to perhaps consider some of the destinations and to have learned a bit more about various aspects of travel. The final session is with my long time friend and sometime travel partner Cat (yes even a solo traveller will partner up for fun adventures). Cat spent much of her youth in Cape Town, South Africa. In April 2016 Cat returned for a class reunion and to spend time with good friends.


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View of Table Mountain from De Grendel Winery

WTW:  You spent much of your youth in South Africa and returned for a class reunion. How long had it been since you were there?
Cat:  30 years!!

WTW:  That is a long time. It’s wonderful that you were able to get back there. What had changed? 
Cat:  It had developed a fair bit, especially the downtown Waterfront area.  I didn’t see much else in Cape Town as I was outside Cape Town for most of my time.

WTW:  What feeling did you have when you returned?  
Cat:  I  felt like I was home again.  I got to see places that I’ve never seen before when I lived there previously.  I was enjoying the culture, the people, and the scenery. It felt like being home and it felt comfortable.

WTW:   It’s your happy place. Which areas Did you visit on this trip?
Cat:  Predominantly Hermanus which is a beach community 3 hours outside of Cape Town.  Then from Hermanus we did the Garden Route which goes up the east coast through Plattenberg Bay, Knysna, and onto Stormsriver where we ended.

WTW:  How did you get around? What type of accommodations did you stay in?
Cat:  My friend’s husband drove us so we did a road trip. We stayed at a golf resort for one of the nights, my friend has a timeshare in the golf resort.  Then for the other two nights we stayed at my friend’s brother-in-law’s vacation home right on the beach.

WTW:  You covered plenty of ground.  Which places did you see or visit that really stood out for you?
Cat:  I went ziplining in Tsitsikamma Park and to Cango Wildlife Park & Conservation Centre where I got to pet a baby cheetah. We did the Cango Caves and saw Knysna Heads which has some beautiful scenery along its the coast.

WTW:  What was your favourite part or favourite memory?
Cat:  Spending time with my best friend of 30 some years.

WTW:  Friends are always the best part.  South Africa has a very large wine industry. Did you take part in any wine tasting and if so can you tell me a bit about your favourites? 
Cat:  We did a couple of wine tours. My favorite was Creation Wines. We did a wine tasting lunch there in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, which is just near Hermanus. That was probably one of my favourites. And also a Graham Beck bubbly which we had sitting on the veranda watching the sunset with the beach and the waves crashing in front of us.

WTW:  Wine is yummy. Your 30-year class reunion was held at a winery. Which one was it & how was it?
Cat: It was as the De Grendel Wine Farm. It was beautiful. Gorgeous views of Table Mountain and from the area called Panorama.

WTW:  Any tips, recommendations for suggestions for anyone wanting to go to Cape Town and area?
Cat: Definitely to get out of Cape Town. Cape Town is beautiful but you also need to see the rest of South Africa. The scenery up both the west coast and the east coast of the Cape is absolutely amazing. You can go from beach to desert within the matter of an hour and it’s absolutely beautiful.

WTW:  Thank you so much Cat. It does sound like a stunning place and I can’t wait to see it – we need to plan a trip soon.  All photos owned & taken by Cat and used with permission.

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Victoria & Albert Waterfront, Cape Town

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Cango Wildlife Ranch & Conservation Centre

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Graham Beck bubbly with the South African sunset