Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White

Today was the Barossa Valley wine tour. I had to catch the 8am bus to insure that I would be were I was supposed to be at 9am when the bus was to pick me up. Normally, I have been catching the 503, but as the 503X pulled up, I figured it would be going to the city too, and it was displaying a name of a street I recognized, so I chanced it an hopped on. The bus just ended up by-passing the Paradise Interchange before taking me to the city, which was ok. I hit the button to be released when I thought I knew where I was and was far enough into the city to walk. It was an awful, disgusting rainy morning, and I began walking in one direction down the main road in town. A few minutes later, upon reaching a round-about that wasn't supposed to be there, I realized I was going the wrong direction. I turned around, fighting rain and oncoming people, and made my way back in the other direction. I eventually, wet and cold, made it to the designated location. Realizing I was still 15 minutes early, I began waiting and people watching. I was being picked up outside of a very ritzy hotel, so it was interesting to stand in my hoodie and backpack and see all the rich people scurry about to their various engagements. A van finally arrived, and tour guide Dallas picked me up. The tour was only an older couple from Sydney and two young guys from Thailand. We stopped first at the "Whispering Wall," which is a dam built in the area that does the neat acoustic trick of being able to reverberate your whispering voice from one side of the dam all the way to the other side so that people waiting and listening on the other side can hear everything you're saying. The old man on the trip was very impressed and demanded to know if it was a trick. It just makes me kind of nervous and wonder if I am in such acoustic spaces and not know it. Sometimes I need to talk about people without them hearing me. So don't be building any acoustic trickery rooms and luring me in, in hopes that I will say something about you and you will catch me. It's not nice.
We visited 4 wineries throughout the day, sampling between 6 and 10 wines at each stop = nicely tipsy bus. The most remarkable one I tried the whole day was a wine from the oldest Shiraz vines in the world. Australia did not have a disease outbreak that Europe had, decimating almost all the Shiraz vines over the region. These old vines were planted in 1843. The older the vines, the more rich the fruit they produce. So we were privileged to sample this $100 bottle of wine, normally not offered for sampling. It was delicious. At one of the wineries, there is a collection of wine produced that has original works on the label from young art students. There is a contest to see whose work will be chosen. The winning artist is granted a scholarship to continue their art education. The lady at the winery, showing us the various labels throughout the years, offered one that had an abstract, almost Picasso-esque painting of a topless woman on it. Since I had introduced myself as being from the States, she decided to give us a piece of trivia about this bottle. "If you notice, the woman on the bottle has her breasts exposed. This had to be covered up when bottles were sold to the United States." Everyone looked at me in almost disgust as if I had made the decision and declared the bottle unfit for American eyes. "Why? Why would they do that?" the older lady on the tour asked me. I shrugged and shook my head. "Puritans," was all I said, sipping my wine. If I had to explain and try to justify or even predict the reasons for all the insane things we do in America just because I'm American, it would be a long day. "I'm not offended by them," I added, just to let them know I was one of "the good ones."

On the way back to the city, I had a discussion with the driver. He had traveled quite a lot, and lived in America for 4 years. We talked about all kinds of things, and even got into politics a little, mostly because he had lived in New Orleans for a while and I asked about if he had followed what went on with Katrina. He said that if you asked him his favorite place and least favorite place, it would both be New Orleans. He said he was shocked by the racism that was still going on down there. He said he was applying for a job, and the man told him he only had "black work," which Dallas thought meant under the table, but meant "black work." According to Dallas, that man was like the great grandson of the Grand Wizard and was still very active in the KKK. He said that the older black men he worked with refused to call him "Dallas," insisting on calling him "Mr. Dallas," even though he was just in his early twenties. I asked what year this was. "1994," he said. I sighed.

We finally got back to the city and they all wished me luck in Coober Pedy (they had very little confidence in me not being swindled into buying fake opals or even surviving two days in that town, but I will show them!) I had wanted to do some gambling since I hadn't yet and I saw a sign for the casino, but I wasn't feeling so great, with so many blancs and shirazs and ports and tauneys swishing around in my stomach, so I ran a few errands and began my bus journey home. I can't believe how cold it is here! It's like winter weather in NC. I booked a kangaroo island tour finally, so I am set to actually see things when I am down there for two days.

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