Wine regions are usually beautiful destinations, where vineyard rows carpet scenic valleys and cling to terraced mountainsides, providing inviting vistas. Whether the architecture of the region comprises towering Chateau or squat adobe, they lure the visitor inside to sample what the land has produced and the winemaker has crafted. Despite the occasional tasting room attitude or vin ordinaire, it’s rare that any trip for such a pleasurable pursuit disappoints.
My favorite discoveries are those made off the beaten path. They are harder to get to, but always worth the effort. They have far fewer visitors so you’re not fighting the crowds, and the owners appreciate the lengths you’ve gone to get there. They may not have a cellar door or tasting room, but the welcome mat is out all the same – as long as they know you’re coming – and they make sure your experience is memorable. They may pop the cork on something special or give you a tour. At the very least you’ll have some quality time with the people who own or run the vineyard, who will happily discuss their wines as you taste through the range at your leisure. I am in the wine industry and because of that I have gotten to know vineyard and winery owners and had the good fortune to be hosted very well at the places I have visited, but in the more remote regions I’m talking about here, everyone is given individual attention and recognition. One of these that definitely fits the bill is Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island is 70 miles south of Australia and is actually part of the state of South Australia. It can be reached by flight or high speed ferry from the mainland. In ‘recent times’ it was settled by escaping English convicts, hardy whalers and runaway seaman in the very early 1800’s, but aboriginal settlements go back 16,000 years. Today, the permanent population is about 4,400 and the rest is home to unique wildlife and a pristine environment that the locals take great pains to keep intact. Kangaroos are everywhere, but koalas, fairy penguins, echidnas and many other rare and unusual birds and animals can be readily sighted. It is truly a magical place, long isolated from the rest of Australia where species have flourished virtually undisturbed.
Ah yes, the vineyards! Home to around 25 vineyards, dotted around the island, tucked into protective bays, or providing magnificant cliff views, they are spread out, but still readily accessible due to the size of the island. And of these, Hazyblur has been producing small parcels of world class wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz – since 2001.
The owners, Ross and Robyne Trimboli (Ross is the winemaker) know it is a challenge to grow grapes on the island. Aside from constant assault on the vines by grape-loving kangaroos, it takes 10 hours just to get the grapes from vineyard to winery on the mainland, but like the visitors who make the effort to reach the island and sample their wines, they consider it a privilege to be part of the experience.
Exploring iconic appellations such as Bordeaux, Rioja or Napa are sure to be memorable trips, but getting off the beaten track can reward the adventurous traveler with wine discoveries that never make their way beyond the borders of the particular region and truly local experiences that are unparalleled. What other obscure wine regions would fall into this category, where the environment and the wines qualify as well worth the effort to get there?