More often than not,when I’m away somewhere, I tend to wake up really early. Crazy-early. Like at dawn. I don’t get it. Unless, of course, there was some serious boozing going on the night prior. So there I was in my hotel room, wide awake at 6.30am and ready for the day. As the sun rose over Kingscote, soaking the old sandstone buildings in a warm glow, I ducked across the road for an early breakfast.
The air was still a bit crisp as I did a post-brekkie walk around the wharf and aside from a couple of locals out for some early fishing, the waterfront was all mine.
With an hour to spare before I was due to meet the others, I grabbed the keys to the car and drove up the hill to do a little exploring. Not a great deal to see other than more of the rugged coastline and a sprawling waterside vineyard.
Catching up with the rest of our media group a little later, our small entourage hit the road and aimed for Emu Bay, about 15 minutes from Kingscote. It’s a sleepy little place with a cluster of holiday homes overlooking the wind-swept white sandy beach.
We stop in at Emu Bay Lavender where, you guessed it, lavender is grown. Weathered old grain and wool machinery dot the green and purple fields, and at its centre is a cafe and gift shop. Lavender lovers can go crazy on crafts, cosmetics, candles, preserves, cookies and ice cream. It’s like a lavender bomb has gone off in there.
I couldn’t get enough of the delicious Malbec at our dinner the night before, so I was pretty chuffed that we were visiting where it is produced. The Islander Estate Vineyards was established by Bordeaux-born winemaker Jacques Lurton in 2001 near the centre of the island, sometime after he fell in love with the island on his 1997 honeymoon. The climatic conditions here are near perfect for the variety of grapes that are grown on the 25 acres of vineyards. Sangiovese, a small amount of sauvignon blanc, shiraz, a big chunk of cabernet franc (the flagship grape), malbec, semillon, viognier, grenache
General manager Yale Norris kindly showed us around a bit, starting at the fermentation vessels where all the hand-picked grapes are deposited after being stemmed and crushed. The unique concrete vessels were brought to Australia from France, where they’re quite common across continental Europe. The walls of the vessels are about 30 cm thick, so the outside temperature has no effect on the wine inside as it ferments.
Fermentation takes between 10 days and two weeks, depending on the variety. Once the CO² subsides the tanks are locked down for malolactic fermentation, a process that converts the malic acid into lactic acid, giving a softer mouth-feel. This is when it goes through a press and into barrels where, of course, we had a chance to taste some of the wares.
The lunch venue was a little seafood joint on Stokes Bay, a part of the north coast that reminded me of the northern California coastline. If you’re lucky enough, as we were, you could spot a live wallaby being fed french fries by clueless tourists. Native animals shouldn’t be fed deep-fried potatoes, people, so don’t go and do it yourself.
Rockpool Cafe is nothing more than a wooden shed with seating attached; a glorified fish & chip shop, of sorts. This was just what I was craving. Asian-style prawns, garlic butter & white wine prawn skewers, salt & pepper prawn skewers …
… crumbed fish & chips, seafood cone and salt & pepper squid. A glass of booze and copious amounts of fries.
Heading back towards Kingscote, we stopped in at Island Pure, the first sheep dairy and cheese factory to establish on KI. The sheep, or “the girls” as they’re referred to, have a very good life here. Grazing is down by the Cygnet River beneath huge gum trees, they’re sheared regularly and milked twice a day. Some very happy girls.
At the back of the shop you can peer through the window and, providing you’re there at 3pm, witness some feeding and milking action. Samples of the cheese Island Pure produces can be tasted as well. Manchego, kefalotori, fetta, haloumi, ricotta and even yoghurt. I’ve never tasted ricotta with such depth of flavour as I did here. Good work, girls!
hnf travelled to Kangaroo Island courtesy of South Australia Tourism