It's been years since I last visited the Barossa Valley but I certainly won't be leaving it that long again. The Barossa is one of South Australia's award winning wine regions and is about an hours drive north east of Adelaide. It is of course, incredibly beautiful with vistas of picturesque vineyards at every turn and is absolutely overflowing with artisan talent. It thrills me no end to realise that these qualities are being recognised by those far and wide and a showcase for the region's finest was enjoyed last Sunday at Langmeil Winery in Tanunda.
Hosted by Country Style magazine as part of their 'Campaign For Country', the Makers Table was a special reader event which included a series of four workshops- each presented by local producers- and a long table lunch fit for royalty. The day actually included so very much more but I'll get to that as we move through.
Country Style ambassador and local Barossa producer, Cherie Hausler of Scullery Made ensured we were each greeted on arrival by her warm and contagious smile. By her side stood Barossa Coffee, dedicated to serving up their fine brew so that our morning was off to the right start ;) After a bit of chatting and some intros, we were into it. I'm not entirely sure what the total headcount for the day was but we were placed into four groups to enable a smooth passage throughout.
My workshops began with Will and the making of sourdough bread. William Wood of Careme Pastry is extraordinary and it's entirely possible that I have a wee crush on this man. Or a crush on his knowledge, passion and respect for his craft, at the very least.
He talked of folding and stretching the dough, and gently coaxing it to roll across the bench by allowing the dough to grab rather than the hand pulling, forcing and kneading. He says the dough must not be overworked...
in the artisan world, it is disrespectful to the flour
You can see why I have my crush, can't you?! I shall say no more apart from I now have a jar of the most thriving starter culture you ever did see- so alive that it erupted on me before the day was through!
My next workshop had me stepping through the stable door and into a cave of blooms. Janelle Amos of Self Pollinate immersed us all in the artful practice of nature mandala making.
My work is spontaneous, ephemeral and organic, made and photographed in the natural light of the moment.
Can we just pause here for a moment because I am in love with that word, "ephemeral". It would have to be the most poetic description for something that only lasts for a short time. I get stuck on words like that, I think about them while hanging out the washing or clearing the table. Is that weird? Am I revealing too much ha?! Righto, let's move on shall we..?
During her workshop we each created our own mandalas, enjoying the freedom to use whatever whole or fragmented pieces lay before us. It was a window of joyful meditation in the most divine space imaginable.
Down the table from Janelle, that divine space continued with a little pop-up shop. Just three tables celebrating the creative passions of each artisan and displayed with enough beauty to make your heart ache.
Lunch time! Prepared by Pete Little and Beck Flavel of Little and Often, and using locally made ingredients, it's fair to say that lunch was exquisite. Barrels full of fine vintages, the strum of guitar and a goodies bag bursting with a huge collection of 'take home' delights is what greeted us as we found our seats. Then mouthwatering food, kombucha, wine, fabulous company and the continuation of rich conversation. The whole day was filled with moments to savour and lunch was no exception.
I haven't quite got to Cherie's workshop yet but that's her there (pictured below). I'm jumping in here because it has to be noted that she made those cakes! Look at them, would you!?!!! Oh good golly. I can assure you that they tasted just as amazing.
After lunch it was a workshop with the tea (and cake) queen herself. Cherie is delightful and had us each decanting kombucha into our own little bottle, which we then infused with a choice of flavour; dried quandong, quince, rose, cinnamon...? We then bottled it and skipped merrily away with our own fermented 'elixir of life'. Plus a healthy glob of scoby, in a separate jar and ready to do it's thing in our own brew at home.
And now my final workshop for the day. The making of a copper spoon with my friend and ceramicist, Ilona Glastonbury. Ilona is the creative force behind Otti Made and The Hundred Mile Home and before you hop into bed tonight, I fully support the hour or so you spend ogling her Instagram feed! And take it from me, you wouldn't be the first to weep from the sheer beauty of her pics.
Ilona and her buddy, Pete, gave us each a little pack and demonstration to get us started and then away we went. Hammer hammer, bash bash, file file, polish polish and a little while later, we each had our own shiny copper spoon to take home.
Which brings me to the day's end. I know, I'm sad too. But before I bid you a lovely weekend to come, there is just one more thing I'd like to mention. There was a secret ingredient to this day and although I would have enjoyed myself regardless, this day has claimed a place in my "favourite days of all time" Hall of Fame because of that secret ingredient. It was The People. I have a conflicted relationship with technology and social media in particular but since the time I apprehensively entered the world of Instagram, I have connected with so many like-minded and incredible people. It's a space where you find your Tribe and I am certain that many Instagramers would say the same. It's a virtual land of encouragement, support and inspiration and I have had the greatest of fortune to weave friendships with some true kindred spirits. One of these women happens to be Ilona and once this event was announced, a couple of us local gals and another from Victoria decided we would go along and seize the opportunity to meet in real life. With the four of us all together we greeted one another like the reunion of long lost girlfriends and we all stayed on well after our last workshop, neither one of us quite ready to let the day draw to a close.
Eventually, we did have to drag ourselves away. Though I have this feeling that we have all known each other before. Who knows where, or how, or even which lifetime? For now it shall remain as one of those big Universal mysteries but I think these blossoming friendships could well be the sort to last a lifetime.