July 19, Tommy

The Barossa Valley and Renmark

Shiraz vines at Langmeil Winery celebrating their 169th birthday (Photo credit Rachel Kurzeja).

Thursday was an adventure, to say the least.   We traveled nearly 300 kilometers, ferried across the Murray River, drove alongside kangaroos, and found ourselves sleeping in a generator-powered campsite 50 kilometers into the “bush,” which is considered the border of the outback.  It was fun day, full of excitement, but a tiring one at that.

We woke up nice and early, ate breakfast (including the three-day-old pizza that we just couldn’t seem to get rid of), and packed our bags.  We were departing from Adelaide and ready to experience the Australian countryside for a few days.  Our first stop was the Langmeil Winery in the Barossa Valley, which is Australia’s wine country.  There, we met with Jonathon, who spoke about the region’s Germanic history and famous Shiraz red wine.  The vineyard was established in the 1840s and its original vines are still used today, this year being their 169thbirthday.  They’re actually the oldest vines in Australia and continue to serve Langmeil today.  Surprisingly, these vines only stand three to four feet in height above ground, but their roots reach up to sixty feet below.  Over the years, many additional vines have been planted over Langmeil’s eighty-four acres and hopefully one day they can reach these depths as well.

Wine stocked on shelves behind the wine-tasting bar inside the winery (Photo credit Rachel Kurzeja).

As we toured the vineyard Jonathon discussed a recurring theme to help us understand the art of winemaking:  the similarities between human beings and the vines needed for winemaking.  First, “Vines get better with age, just as people are known to.”  The older the vines are, the “wiser” they grow, the better the wine they produce.  Conversely, as these vines age, they lose energy and are unable to produce grapes as often as they once could.  Even so, Langmeil Winery produces forty-thousand cases of wine per year and does so in a very sustainable manner.

It turns out the winery is relatively small compared to others in the area and around the world.  It’s only eighty-four acres, but all of the winery’s grapes are hand-picked and the vines are manicured in a very delicate and personal manner, not by machine.  In addition, grasses protect the vines from weeds and prevent any use of pesticides or insecticides.  Jonathon and the rest of Langmeil are more concerned with the care and production of quality wine than mass producing it in a way that uses synthetic materials and causes degradation to the land.

Furthermore, the winery uses water minimally and only does so with the rainwater it collects throughout the year.  Two large water tanks collect rainwater allowing the vineyard to serve itself water without dependence from any other source.  Most of this water goes into the winemaking process, but a small fraction is used to irrigate the younger vines.  These vines are drip irrigated several times per summer and only until they reach the age of five or six-years-old.  Jonathon mentioned that even the skins of the grapes are used to create ethanol and other fuel sources so that nothing from this winery goes to waste.  Langmeil’s efforts are admirable and were able to show us sustainable work in full swing.

Nick’s 5-kilowatt solar panels at Mallyons on the Murray (Photo credit Rachel Kurzeja).

After finishing up our wine-tasting at the winery, we were on our way to Ngaut Ngaut, but because of some inaccurate navigating on Flick’s GPS, we ended up getting a little lost and needed to skip our trip planned for the aboriginal reserve.  We headed to Flick’s brother Nick’s property, which was a solar-powered organic farm called Mallyons on the Murray that is completely off the grid.  This property sat on a cliff right along the Murray River and overlooked the land for miles.  It was an incredible view and everything the farm housed added even more beauty to the landscape.  His farm has been certified as organic since 1995 and houses all sorts of fruit trees and other crops.  This includes peaches, plums, lemons, grapefruits, oranges, apricots, and more.  Nick spent the time showing us around his farm and teaching us what it takes to operate an organic farm.

Nick demonstrates his plans for planting cucumbers in his hoop houses. Together, the two structures will be able to grow a total of four tons of cucumber plants (Photo credit Rachel Kurzeja).

He described how the process of becoming certified organic actually takes over a year and takes a few steps to receive the full certification, which is very similar to the process in the United States.  It’s quite a daunting process and takes a lot of work, but Nick seemed to be very pleased with the results it has given him and remains devout to its processes.

It was great to tour Nick’s farm because we were able to see a place that operates in both an organic and sustainable manner.  One of the first things he showed us was the solar panels that power the entire property.  These panels have different settings and he angles them in a way that best allows them to hit the sun based on the seasons of the year.  They are able to generate up to five kilowatts of power and Nick hopes to double that in the coming years for full air conditioning and extra power on the land.  In addition to solar power, Nick minimizes watering efforts as well as operations with tractors and other machinery.  His tractor runs on diesel fuel, but he has conducted research to find that it has the capability to run on cooking oil, completely eliminating dependence on fossil fuels.  He hasn’t had the opportunity to take the necessary steps for such operations, but seemed to have high hopes to take those steps when he can in the future.

Our group holds the Michigan State flag at the top of Nick’s property, which overlooks the Murray River. Some of his fruit trees are pictured in the background (Photo credit Rachel Kurzeja).

Both places we visited gave a lot of insight on the sustainability efforts taking place in Australia.  Jonathon, at Langmeil Winery, and Nick, at Mallyons on the Murray, put a lot of effort into keeping their work as sustainable as possible and it was quite admirable to see.  Today’s travel made for a great learning experience, as well as an awesome day for photographs!  Until next time, G’day mates!

Pre-Departure Blog
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The Australian Countryside

After an eventful start to our week in Adelaide, our travels will continue as we head northeast to Barossa Valley on Thursday morning and end up at Calperum Station in Renmark by nightfall.  Throughout the day, we will see 17,000 acres of vineyards, explore an aboriginal reserve along the Murray River, and tour a solar powered organic farm in the afternoon.  As in Adelaide, we’ll experience the cool, wet climate of South Australia’s winter months, but see a completely different side of Australia than the first few days.  We’ll be leaving the city and embracing country life in-full as we persist with our travels down under!

Our first stop is the Langmeil Winery, which is roughly fifty miles northeast of Adelaide.  This land was purchased by a German man named Christian Auricht in the early 1840s, where he and his family lived and farmed for generations.  In 1843, they planted their first vineyard and in 1932, Christian’s grandson established the very first winery, which we’ll be visiting.  New owners came and went as the wine business fell on poor times over the next several decades, but 1996 brought the promising new ownership of Richard Lindner, Carl Lindner, and Christ Bitter.

These men restored the surrounding village, giving it back the Langmeil name of the past.  These men are still the operators of the historic Langmeil Winery and are dedicated to facilitating it with a sustainable approach.  This holds true from a technological and production standpoint.  Currently, solar water units supply hot water for the entire winery and sprays such as pesticides and insecticides are used as little as possible.  In addition, the winery minimizes waste to the best of its ability, using leftover grape skins for the production of ethanol, and large rainwater tanks are used to minimize reliance on the State water supply.

The preservation of history continues as our day goes on and we travel to the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve.  This reserve is located in Nildottie, South Australia, which is roughly seventy miles southeast of the Barossa Valley Region.  There, we will be part of a guided tour to learn about Aboriginal culture, specifically seeing the land of the Nganguraku People.  We will study their ancient society, viewing rock art and learning the importance of their ancestral heritage.  In addition, we’ll climb a boardwalk that weaves up cliffs along the riverbed and have the opportunity to view the beautiful scenery surrounding the Murray River.

We will then head north another fifty miles to Morgan, South Australia.  There, we will go to Mallyons on the Murray: Bush Café and Organic Farm, which houses an entirely solar-powered farm.  The farmland covers eighteen acres of entirely organic crops, including 500 assorted fruit trees.  In addition, this farm holds a domestic water license to pump its own water directly from the Murray River.  The property also holds its original barn, built in 1840 of limestone, and its original house, built in 1860 of limestone.  A large shed is on the grounds as well, powered by three kilowatts of solar energy, which is enough to carry out all of the farm’s power-concerned needs.

After a long day of traveling, we still won’t be done!  The last leg of the day’s trip is a seventy-mile ride eastward to Calperum Station in Renmark, South Australia where we will stay for the next two nights.  Calperum Station is a reservation operated by the Australian Government under the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population, and Communities.  It is a vast area of wetlands and floodplains that stretches over an area of approximately 600,000 acres.

Our day in Barossa Valley, Calperum Station, and everything in between will definitely be busy and full of excitement, and I think it’s a safe assumption that the entire group will be worn out by day’s end.  Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see all that the Australian countryside has to offer!

Citations

“About Us.” Langmeil Barossa. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.langmeilwinery.com.au/&gt;.

“Attractions.” South Australia Murraylands. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.murraylands.info/attractions/results.aspx?dw_op=gp&dw_pid=9040049&gt;.

“Climate of Australia.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Australia&gt;.

“Google Maps.” Google Maps. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://maps.google.com/&gt;.

“Lot 2.” Mallyons on the Murray. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.mallyonsonthemurray.com.au/index.php?p=1_7&gt;.

“Mallyons on the Murray.” Australia Travel Information and Holiday Guides. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.about-australia.com/attractions/mallyons-on-the-murray/&gt;.

“Parks and Reserves.” Parks and Reserves. Australian Government, 12 May 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/biosphere/riverland/index.html&gt;.

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2 responses to “July 19, Tommy

  1. Good grief, such ambitious plans – so much packed into a day! We can’t wait to read the blog reports to follow your travels!

  2. Sarah Lindlbauer

    Sounds like a great day! I can’t believe the history of the vines. Reminds me of when me and your mom went to the off-the-grid winery in Pennsylvania! Hope you are getting time to relax and enjoy everything too.

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