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Vineyard or Cellar Door?

Now I'm certainly not a wine connoisseur, not a heavy drinker by any means and I have never stocked a large cellar nor even dabbled in the trading of rare or exclusive wines, but I do like a modest drop of red or white wine with dinner and over the years I have acquired a palate for certain favourite varieties and blends from preferred growing regions - and I am always willing to try something new! Like so many countries nowadays, Australia has developed a huge wine industry with many of its offerings being globally very successful. And with so much locally produced wines readily available at such competitive prices, we really are spoilt for choice!

When we sold our business some years ago, I had the idea I would devote the top paddock of our 10 acre hobby farm to growing grapes....a vineyard, no less. I had idealistically thought this would provide me, and hopefully both of us, with a substantial pastime in retirement, maximising our enjoyment of our home in the country and possibly creating another (lucrative?) business venture for us in the process. I had read of several success stories of professional people who'd made the tree-change in retirement, gone bush and set up successful vineyards, so I did not think for a minute that this was beyond our capability!

My research for this dream retirement project was extensive and I was so convinced it would materialise, I had amassed quite a library of books and journals on viticulture - the science, production and study of grapes and winemaking - from grape to cellar door. As I read more, the more intent I became on making it a reality. I had the post-hole digger accessory with augur for my tractor so setting up the rows of posts (for the vine trellises) would not be an issue and I also had the single tyne ripper with mole & pipe adaptor - sounds complex but it really is not - which enables not only the furrows to be dug but also puts in the buried irrigation lines at the same time. I had also read how to build the trellises for the vines to grow on and how to plant the vines. To complete the equation, a longstanding friend who has a working vineyard among his investment portfolio, had offered me some cuttings pruned from his vines to get me started - so even a good starting stock was not going to be a problem. It looked like "all my ducks were lined up" and all that remained was for me to make a start!

So why did it never eventuate? For several reasons

  1. I got prostate cancer which virtually put me "on hold" for a whole year - She (my rock) not only looked after me in my post-surgery convalescence but also mowed the extensive lawns around the house and whilst we had someone else come in to slash the outer paddocks, She essentially single-handedly ran the property.

  2. When I recovered, my physical capacity had diminished marginally but mentally, my retirement priorities had shifted significantly - hence our recent downsize and renovation - I really no longer wanted to "slave away" endlessly at rural activities

  3. Oh, and I had read one article during my convalescence about a successful dentist who had embarked on this same pursuit as a hobby while running his dental practice - it took him 14 years to get a commercial crop sufficient to produce even a modest vintage. This changed the whole equation for me - I could be dead before I would see the fruits (pun - get it?) of my labours.

So what was the next best thing? In assessing our downsize, we were thinking regional rather than suburban and whilst the presence of wineries was not a criterion on our lifestyle or environment wishlist, it happens that we have relocated to a regional township which is literally surrounded by vineyards/wineries. Indeed we are again spoilt for choice, so much so that we've had two very delightful but unexpected lunches in the past week at cellar door restaurants of two very beautiful vineyards, each within 10 kilometres of our home! These are just 2 of many more we've yet to experience. How good is that! And our downsized accommodation has meant a much smaller wine rack (only 12 bottles) compared to our former farmhouse where we had a small (cellar) room off the kitchen with a whole wall devoted to a wine rack that accommodated 100 bottles. But with a prolific array of vineyards around us all producing high quality cold-country grapes, it really is no difficulty whatsoever for us in our retirement to try new wines and to keep the small wine rack continuously replenished - no hardship at all. The photos here are taken from our vineyard lunch (alfresco) table yesterday in the autumn sunshine with "H" lying beside us and surreptitiously getting the occasional table morsel from me. It really does not get any better than this

But we do caution you to drink your favourite wines in complete moderation - our doctors will always encourage us to keep our intake to a minimum in retirement - make sure you are not compromising any medications you may be prescribed. and be very careful not to over-indulge. But I do subscribe to enjoying a glass of good wine, in good company of course, and only when not having to drive.

So, responsibly savour a modest glass of your favourite, be it a merlot, cab sav, chardonnay, pinot grigio or semillon - or is it a pinot noir? - with your partner as you are able - we do!

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!

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